The future of the 2017-18 Texas Longhorns basketball program depends in large part on the upcoming decision from freshman guard Andrew Jones, who currently has his name entered into the 2017 NBA Draft.
However, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported on Thursday morning that the 6’4, 190-pounder is “leaning towards returning” for his sophomore season.
Jones, who attended the NBA Combine and worked out for several teams in recent days, has said that he wants a first-round draft grade in order to officially leave school.
When the Metroplex product originally made his decision to enter the draft, he indicated that he was more interested in receiving feedback about areas for improvement than he was seriously considering staying in the draft.
“Andrew’s done a great job of saying, ‘I just want to learn. Saying I just wanted feedback. I want people to tell me what areas of my game do I need to improve on, what areas of my game you do like.’ He’s really gone into this process with big eyes and big ears,” head coach Shaka Smart said on Thursday.
Since there are no indications that teams are interested in selecting Jones in the first round — DraftExpress currently ranks him No. 54 among the top-100 prospects — conventional wisdom holds that he will return to school for at least one more season.
And the ‘Horns may have recently gained an advantage with Jones — the Thursday signing of No. 2 prospect Mohamed Bamba, whose addition significantly bolsters next season’s projections.
Assuming that Jones returns.
Smart believes that Bamba’s decision could impact the talented guard. At the least, Smart is holding out hope that it will have an impact.
“You’ll have to ask him, I hope so,” Smart said. “He and Mo communicated throughout this process. The one thing about Andrew is he’s really confident. He’s a guy that has a belief that is a real positive quality and I think a guy like Mo can sense that.”
Given that the news from Goodman that Jones is likely to return broke just before the news about Bamba became public, there’s a reasonable chance that Bamba’s decision is helping convince Jones to return to school.
Stay tuned — Jones has to make a decision in the coming days.