Justin Jackson will return to the North Carolina men’s basketball team for his junior season, the team announced Monday.
The decision comes one day after the end of the NBA Draft Combine and nine days before his final chance to withdraw from the draft and retain his college eligibility.
“I’m glad I had the chance to enter the draft and attend the combine where I was able to meet with a number of NBA executives and test my game against some of the top players in the country,” Jackson said in a statement. “But after discussing it with my parents and coaches and praying over this decision, the best choice for my basketball future is to return to school and play for the Tar Heels next season.”
This year, the NCAA adopted a new rule allowing student-athletes to declare for the draft, participate in the combine and try out with one team without losing their remaining eligibility — as long as they don’t sign with an agent.
On April 22, Jackson and forward Kennedy Meeks declared for the draft but did not sign with agents. On May 4, Meeks announced his return to UNC — but Jackson elected to compete in the combine before withdrawing his name.
“Justin certainly did the right thing in entering the draft because it helped him and his family make the decision with the most complete information possible,” Coach Roy Williams said in a statement. “Justin is a terrific player and an even finer young man and he’s going to be a big part of our basketball team next year.”
Jackson averaged 12.2 points and 3.9 rebounds per game at the wing position during the 2015-16 season, and has scored in double figures in 50 of the 78 games he has played in his first two years with the Tar Heels.
The Tomball, Texas native was a five-star prospect when he joined the Tar Heels, and the rising junior is projected to be a first-round draft pick if he declares for next year’s draft.
“My dream certainly is to play in the NBA and going through the draft process this year was another step toward reaching that goal, but I’ve loved my first two years at Carolina and am excited about the upcoming season,” Jackson said in a statement.
“It’s going to be a fun year. I will be another year closer to earning my degree and can continue to develop as a person and a player.”