Chris Smith is returning for one final go at UCLA. That’s right, in a message from the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player from 2019, Smith said there’s unfinished business to attend to and that he has officially withdrawn his name from the pool of athletes for the 2020 NBA Draft.
In the message, Smith writes:
“I’m returning for my senior year, because I’d really like to finish what I’ve started at UCLA. We have some unfinished business and I want one last run with my teammates and coaches. These guys mean the world to me. It’s also very important to me to finish up strong in the classroom and earn my degree.”
Smith’s father, Sean, also made an announcement through the Los Angeles Times, saying “Chris is returning to school due to too much uncertainty on both sides of the coin.”
He also said that “He’ll finish his degree and work to improve the areas he needs to improve on.”
Smith has had quite the upward trajectory that seemingly culminated last year with him finishing as the Bruins’ leading scorer and landing on the All-Pac-12 First Team. He averaged 13.1 points per game and another 5.4 rebounds per outing. He was projected as a possible second-round draft selection, and though it’s no guarantee that he’ll help his case for the NBA Draft by returning, if his trajectory has anything to say about it, he almost certainly will.
His return also means that the core five players from head coach Mick Cronin’s team last season will be returning in addition to touted freshman Jaylen Clark and Kentucky transfer Johnny Juzang, who was granted immediate eligibility to play this season.
“Chris is one of the best kids I’ve ever coached — he’s always got a positive attitude, he allows me to coach him and he’s just a great kid — so selfishly for me just to be able to be around him for another season, I’m happy about it,” Cronin said. “From start to finish this year, hopefully he can play with more consistency and show that he’s a first-round talent. I think there’s people that think that but they weren’t convinced of it in the draft and coming back’s going to give him the opportunity to convince people.”
The Bruins should certainly enter the 2020-21 season as favorites in the Pac-12 and certainly ready to make noise in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.