McCullar to return to Jayhawks next season; Self says it is the biggest win of the offseason for KU

Kansas guard Kevin McCullar Jr. (15) dances after getting a bucket and a foul during the first half on Saturday, March 18, 2023 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Nick Krug

The Kansas basketball team got a big boost on Wednesday — and this time it didn’t come from the transfer portal. Instead, it came from a star staying.

Kevin McCullar Jr. announced that he would return to KU next season and remove his name from the NBA Draft. The return of the redshirt senior fills an immediate hole on the KU roster, especially after KU unexpectedly saw big man Ernest Udeh enter the portal.

Plus, it brings back one of the nation’s best defenders, who also has shown he can get hot offensively. McCullar is a two-time Naismith Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist. Last season for the Jayhawks, he averaged 10.7 points per game and 7 rebounds per contest, which was fourth in the Big 12. He also was the only player in the Big 12 to rank in the top five in both rebound and steal averages.

A transfer from Texas Tech, McCullar wanted to test the NBA Draft waters, but ultimately pulled out of the draft after competing at the NBA Combine earlier this month.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” coach Bill Self said. “We’ve had a lot of good things happen through recruiting this offseason, but nothing that has transpired this offseason was bigger for KU basketball than having a seasoned veteran like Kevin McCullar return to our program.”

McCullar, in a release from KU, didn’t specifically address his decision to pull out of the draft, but instead expressed excitement about returning to KU and a team that many believe will be ranked as the preseason No. 1 team in the country.

“How about one more year Jayhawk nation,” McCullar said. “To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog.

Self briefly touched on McCullar’s NBA prospects.

“”Kevin went through the pre-draft process, which is designed to do exactly what it did,” Self said. “Even though he has improved his status as an NBA prospect, there is still work to be done and he has informed us that he is going to return to Kansas for his last year of college.”

With McCullar’s return, KU suddenly has three of its starters returning from last year’s squad that took a No. 1 seed into the NCAA tournament. McCullar, listed as a 6-foot-6 guard, will again team up with point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. and forward KJ Adams Jr.. But the trio will now have 7-foot-1 Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, who averaged 17.2 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per contest last year, to work with. Dickinson, regarded as the No. 1 transfer portal player, is expected to give the Jayhawks and inside presence that it lacked last season.


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