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May 14, 2011

Who surprised most by returning to school?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a current topic in the sport.

Today's question: Which underclassman surprised you the most by staying in school?

David Fox's answer:
Jared Sullinger was the highest-rated player - as a collegian and as a prospect - to stay in to school. Covering him in the NCAA tournament, though, Sullinger struck me as someone who didn't seem eager to leave behind the college experience, in part because of his older brother's experience at Ohio State. I'm most surprised by Baylor's Perry Jones, who, as with Sullinger, was ranked near the top of the draft. But unlike Sullinger, he didn't have a great freshman season. As with Georgia Tech's Derrick Favors a year ago, Jones didn't play on a team that fed into his talents. With LaceDarius Dunn gone, Jones should be the star at Baylor. If he doesn't deliver on a great season, he's taking a big risk in returning to school.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I was surprised by quite a few decisions to remain in school. The 2011 draft is considered relatively weak, while the 2012 draft shaped up as a stronger one, so I thought more underclassmen would hit the road. I think the biggest surprise to me was Harrison Barnes' decision to stay at North Carolina. Barnes might have been the most highly hyped freshman ever - remember, he was a first-team preseason All-America pick - and, generally, highly hyped freshmen leave school as soon as they can. Barnes had an uneven freshman season, not really hitting his stride until late January. But he was excellent down the stretch, and I thought that would propel him to the NBA. Instead, he stayed at UNC for his sophomore season.

Jason King's answer:
I was surprised by Terrence Jones' decision to return to Kentucky. I'm not saying I think he made the wrong choice; I just pegged him as a one-and-done guy from the get-go. All of the mock drafts had Jones being one of the first 10-12 players selected. Considering all the talent in the 2012 draft, it will tough for Jones to improve his stock even if he has a strong sophomore season. That being said, I commend Jones for his decision. He clearly sensed he wasn't quite ready to be an impact player in the NBA and realized how beneficial another year of school could be. It was a mature line of thinking that, unfortunately, isn't followed by many of today's elite freshmen. Jones already was a fan favorite in Lexington, but he'll really be shown some love when he takes the court next season. His decision was refreshing and good for college basketball.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I always consider it a major surprise when a probable lottery pick chooses to return to school. When a potential top-three or -five selection delays the start of his pro career, it's all the more stunning. That's what made Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger's decision such a shock. He was universally considered a one-and-done college player until he announced after the Buckeyes' NCAA regional semifinal loss to Kentucky that he planned to return to school. When he first made that proclamation, I assumed he was acting in the heat of the moment and eventually would change his mind. We saw that scenario unfold with Texas forward Tristan Thompson, who decided to enter the draft after announcing during the tournament that he would return for his sophomore season. I don't fault Thompson for changing his mind, and I certainly wouldn't have faulted Sullinger if he'd done the same. But the Ohio State star never went back on his word. North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes' decision to return for his sophomore year also was a bit of a surprise, but the Tar Heels' history shows that their top underclassmen often have delayed the start of their pro careers. North Carolina won the 2009 national championship largely because Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green chose to return to school for one more shot at a title before turning pro. Sullinger's choice was even more unusual because Ohio State has a long history of producing one-and-one players such as Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Daequan Cook, Kosta Koufos and B.J. Mullens.

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