Baylor sophomore Jared Butler withdraws from draft

Baylor guard Jared Butler will withdraw from the NBA draft and return to school, he told ESPN on Monday.

"After going through this process, making an important decision for the rest of my life, I truly felt like I couldn't go wrong with either decision," Butler told ESPN. "It came down to making the most out of my development as a player and as an adult. In the end, I felt like coming back to school would set me up in both aspects in a way that I couldn't deny. Even though the opportunity to reach my dream of playing in the NBA was readily at hand, I think next year it will still be there, possibly even with greater opportunities."

The NCAA deadline for players to withdraw from the NBA draft and maintain college eligibility is Monday.

"This decision was extremely difficult because of the relationships I've built in Waco, the tremendous will to win a national championship for Baylor, the unprecedented time of the coronavirus and my ultimate dream of playing in the NBA all in one equation," Butler said. "But I think through it all I came to have great peace of mind in what I wanted to do and what's best for me right now."

Butler, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, was ranked as the No. 46 prospect in the ESPN 100. He averaged 16 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game for Baylor, which was projected as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament when the season was canceled. A deep tournament run would have undoubtedly benefited Butler, who had a breakout season, being named to the Big 12's all-conference first team and a third-team All-American.

"The feedback I received from NBA teams was really helpful," Butler said. "I think I created relationships with the 20-plus teams I interviewed with and made a good impression on all of them. I had some great conversations, met some great people on Zoom and learned a lot from it. They highlighted my strengths and weaknesses, which was really helpful in critiquing my own game."

Butler staying is further good news after Bears junior MaCio Teague, who was 10th in the Big 12 at 13.9 points per game, said last month that he is also returning to Baylor after floating his name for the draft. Teague was a second-team All-Big 12 pick.

The NBA draft, originally scheduled for June 25, was postponed to Oct. 16. NBA front offices have been preparing to make decisions about prospects without a traditional pre-draft process -- which typically includes access to private workouts, a draft combine or pro days -- due to the limitations likely to be in place because of the risks associated with the pandemic, particularly commercial travel.

Butler will enter next season projected as a potential first-round pick and NCAA Player of the Year candidate on a Baylor squad that returns almost its entire rotation from last season. ESPN's Jeff Borzello has Baylor ranked No. 3 in his preseason Top 25, and the Bears will likely get some votes for No. 1.

"We have a team that can contend for a national championship and a Big 12 championship," Butler said. "From a personal standpoint, improving my game in all facets, especially my shooting percentages and assist-to-turnover ratio. I think Baylor basketball will be exciting to watch, and I couldn't be more excited to be a part of it.

"I'm not a big believer in hype before the season, but just from a rational standpoint, the hype that we are getting is definitely realistic for us and it's our job to make sure we don't come back as the same team -- but better. The personal accolades will come with winning, so winning is my first and foremost concern, and I think we have a great shot at winning at a high level so it definitely played a huge part."

Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service used by NBA, NCAA and international teams.