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Padding the Stats: B1G Draft Decision Day

May 31, 2023

Decision day has arrived for the Big Ten basketball players who are currently in the 2023 NBA Draft pool.

The early entry withdrawal deadline is today, May 31, at 10:59 p.m. CT. As of Thursday night, there were 10 players still weighing the decision to return to their Big Ten team or remain in the draft.

Before we dive into the decisions, it’s worth mentioning those that have already made that call. Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino are off to the NBA, as are Michigan’s Jett Howard and Kube Bufkin. Iowa’s Kris Murray is making the leap as well. With the exception of Jackson-Davis, the rest of them are likely first-round picks.

Michigan State’s Joey Hauser and Ohio States Justice Seeing are both passing on their COVID seasons despite being likely to go undrafted. Penn State’s Seth Lundy also passed on his fifth season, though he performed well at the Combine and has a chance to crack the second round.

The big winner from the early decisions was Northwestern as Boo Buie announced his return. Penn State also benefited from Kansas City transfer RayQwandis Mitchell who initially entered both the portal and the draft but plans to join the Nittany Lions.

The most relevant of the 10 for Hail Varsity’s readers is obviously Keisei Tominaga. The 6-foot-2 guard from Nebraska participated in his first NBA workout on Tuesday, with the Indiana Pacers.

Tominaga did not receive an invitation to the NBA Combine or the G League Elite Camp. He’s not on The Athletic NBA Draft writer Sam Vecenie’s 100-player big board. All signs point to Tominaga returning for his fifth season of college basketball (and his third with Nebraska).

A return for Tominaga would be a huge boost for Fred Hoiberg who lost his two main playmakers from last season in Sam Griesel and Derrick Walker. Tominaga broke out down the stretch, averaging 20.3 points on 55.7% shooting (43.1% 3-point shooting) over his last nine games. He showed he’s much more than just a 3-point shooter.

If Tominaga returns and shows that he wasn’t just a flash in the pan, that he can sustain his efficient volume scoring over the course of an entire season, he’ll have a chance to put himself on the radar for postseason conference honors and set himself up for an even brighter professional future.

** Update: Tominaga is back.

Looking beyond Lincoln, the biggest decision in all of college basketball will also have major ramifications for the Big Ten. The reigning National Player of the Year, Purdue’s Zach Edey, has yet to announce his decision.

From an individual standpoint, it’s hard to do more than Edey did last year during his breakout campaign. He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks while shooting 60.7% from the field. He measured in at 7-foot-3.25 without shoes at the NBA Combine, with a 7-foot, 10.5-inch wingspan — truly remarkable dimensions. That being said, Vecenie has him at 59 on his big board, and he didn’t make Vecenie’s post-lottery mock draft. His game and size play a lot better at the college level than in today’s NBA. 

If he returns to college, the Boilermakers will return nearly their entire rotation from the Big Ten champion (both regular season and tournament) that went 29-6 but lost in the first round as a No. 1 seed. 

** Update: Edey is returning to Purdue and the rest of the Big Ten will have to deal with the 7-foot-4 behemoth for at least one more season.

Ohio State’s Brice Sensabaugh seems draft-bound as he’s a likely first-round pick after leading Big Ten freshmen in scoring at 16.3 points per game. 

** Update: Sensabaugh is staying in the draft.

Northwestern’s Chase Audige, on the other hand, doesn’t appear on Vecenie’s top-100 board or in his mock draft. He’s likely weighing overseas or G League opportunities against a sixth year of college. The Wildcats finished tied with Indiana for second in the Big Ten, and if Audige — the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year who also averaged 14.3 points per game — joins his backcourt mate Buie in returning to Evanston, the Wildcats could make another run at a conference title.

** Update: Audige opted to remain in the draft and forgo his final season of eligibility, a tough blow for the Wildcats.

There are also three teams waiting to hear from a pair of players.

Illinois sent a pair of players to this year’s Combine in Terrance Shannon Jr. and Coleman Hawkins. Vecenie has Shannon at 36 and Coleman at 57 on his big board, and he has Shannon going at No. 39 in his mock draft while Coleman isn’t listed. It seems like Shannon is likely all in on the draft process, but Hawkins returning to pair with Dain Dainja in the frontcourt would be a great place for Brad Underwood to start, and the Illini also added a pair of transfer wings from the portal.

** Update: Both Shannon and Hawkins will return to Illinois, a huge win for Underwood and the Illini.

Tyson Walker has already announced he’s returning to East Lansing for his COVID year, but the other members of Michigan State’s starting backcourt — point guard A.J. Hoggard and sharp-shooter Jaden Akins — both entered the draft, but neither shows up on Vecenie’s Big Board. They seem like safe bets to return, which would give Tom Izzo four returning starters plus his sixth man in Malik Hall, who also announced his return for a fifth season.

** Update: Akins and Hoggard both withdrew from the draft and will return to Michigan State.

Finally, Rutgers has two players with decisions to make in big man Clifford Omoruyi and playmaking wing Paul Mulcahy. Neither is likely to get drafted (Omoruyi is 84th on Vecenie’s board, Mulch unlisted). The Scale Knights have had a rough spring with recruiting decommitments and second-leading scorer Cam Spencer making a late entry into the transfer portal.

** Update: Omoruyi opted to return to Rutgers. No word on Mulcahy.

One other noteworthy decision belongs to a nonconference foe. Creighton 7-footer Ryan Kalkbrenner announced he was returning to school for another year on Tuesday, but guard Trey Alexander has not yet made his declaration. He attended the Combine alongside Kalkbrenner (and Arthur Kaluma, who also entered the portal) and is getting second-round buzz in various mock drafts. If Alexander joins Kalkbrenner and Baylor Scheierman in returning to Creighton to play with a group of portal additions led by former Utah State point guard Steven Ashworth, the Jays will be poised for another deep postseason run.

** Update: Alexander is returning to Creighton, making the Bluejays a likely top-10 team.

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