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North Carolina Star Pulls Out of NBA Draft, Will Return to School

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UNC basketball got a major addition to their team for next season, but it didn’t come in the form of a top recruit.

The Tarheels’ leading rebounder and second-leading scorer from last season, Luke Maye, has decided to withdraw his name from the 2018 NBA draft and will return to school for his senior season.

Maye participated in the pre-draft process, which included working out for various NBA teams like the Atlanta Hawks.

But Maye was not invited to the NBA combine in Chicago last week, which was a clear sign that he wasn’t high on the list of available draft prospects.

Thus, Maye decided to return to school, and he explained his decision in an Instagram post.

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“I am looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that I will face and there is no better group to do it with than my teammates and the Carolina family!” he wrote. “Let’s finish our legacy the right way!”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BjKQyX7hiqb/?hl=en&taken-by=luke_maye32

According to ESPN, Maye was the 127th-ranked prospect, with only 60 draft slots available. He was projected to go undrafted, but would have likely received a Summer League invite to prove he belongs in the NBA.

Maye dipping his toe into the draft waters is similar to what former Tar Heel Justin Jackson did two years ago.

With Maye returning, is UNC a favorite to make it to the Final Four next season?

The then-junior entered the draft process to get a feel for what NBA teams wanted to see from him. Jackson then withdrew from the draft but improved his game during his senior season and ended up being the 15th overall pick in the 2017 draft.

Maye, meanwhile, led the ACC in rebounds and finished fourth in points scored last season, which was his first as a starter. His veteran leadership will be needed as the Tar Heels lost Theo Pinson and Joel Berry, both of whom completed their eligibility.

Maye will be on the shortlist for the best returning player in college basketball next season. Of the 15 players who were selected as Associated Press All-American teams last season, he is just one of three returning to school, per ESPN.

The others are junior Carsen Edwards of Purdue and junior Kyle Guy of Virginia.

UNC will have three returning starters from last year’s squad, which earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament before being upset in the second round by No. 7 Texas A&M.

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Head coach Roy Williams will also have a loaded freshman class that includes highly regarded recruits Coby White and Nassir Little.

With the May 30 deadline to withdraw from the NBA draft quickly approaching, we can expect to hear about more prospects pulling out in the coming days.

The only caveat is that the players can’t have signed with an agent, which is why Maye was able to return. A player who signs with an agent loses his amateur eligibility, though some coaches are trying to change that rule.

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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