Maryland forward Jalen Smith will return to school for his sophomore season rather than declare for the NBA Draft, the university announced Monday.
Smith was voted to the All-Big Ten freshman team after averaging 11.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game for the Terrapins.
Smith, nicknamed “Stix,” was mentioned in some NBA mock drafts early in the season, but the decision was likely made in part to improve his draft stock for 2020.
“I’m excited to return to Maryland for my sophomore year and advance my education as I continue to develop both on and off the court with my teammates and coaching staff,” Smith said in a statement via Maryland’s athletic department. “This past season was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for our team. I’m appreciative of Coach (Mark) Turgeon, the staff, my teammates and Terp Nation for all of their support.”
Turgeon also commended Smith’s decision.
“I am proud of Jalen’s decision to remain in school and develop his game while continuing his education,” Turgeon said in a statement. “Jalen did so many great things for our program this season and his potential was on full display in the NCAA Tournament. He has the opportunity to take his game to another level as he works with our strength and coaching staff this offseason. Jalen is a special individual from a great family and we are excited to have him return to College Park.”
The Baltimore native was clutch during the NCAA Tournament. He posted 19 points and 12 rebounds in Maryland’s opening-round win over Belmont and added 15 points, eight rebounds and five blocks in the second round against LSU.
Now Terrapin fans’ eyes will turn to sophomore Bruno Fernando, who has yet to declare for the NBA Draft, but is expected to do so. Maryland’s star 6-foot-10 center tested the draft waters after his freshman campaign, but elected to return after the NBA combine.
A recent Bleacher Report mock draft projected Fernando as the 11th overall pick. The first-team All-Big Ten selection tied for second in the nation with 22 double-doubles and averaged 13.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and nearly 2 blocks per game.
This year’s freshman class of Smith, Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins and others was a crucial reason Maryland bounced back this past season from missing the postseason altogether a year ago. Maryland was more often than not ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 and drew a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Even if Fernando leaves, the Terrapins are likely set up for another run at the NCAA Tournament next year.