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Michigan Wolverines basketball freshman center Hunter Dickinson declared for the NBA Draft this week just in the nick of time, with the deadline for declaration being May 30.

In his announcement, Dickinson made it clear that he will retain his eligibility, and that a return to play for head coach Juwan Howard and the Wolverines is still a possibility. One of the reasons why he took so long to declare, he told Big Ten Network’s Andy Katz, was because of how much he has enjoyed his experience at Michigan.

“The decision for me to enter the draft was a really tough one, because I think it was just two great situations for me to either stay in college for another year or to try to enter the NBA and become a professional athlete,” the 7-foot-1 star said. “Both decisions were decisions that I was okay with, and so that’s why it took me so long. My heart was with the NBA, and that’s where I wanted to go.

“The window is definitely open [to returning] — that’s why I was big on trying to get an NCAA-certified agent. I wanted guidance in the process, but I also wanted to be able to retain my eligibility — that was a very important thing for me, so I can have that safety net of always having the opportunity or option to come back to school.”

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Michigan Wolverines basketball freshman Hunter Dickinson has until July 7 to withdraw his name from the 2021 NBA Draft.
Michigan Wolverines basketball freshman Hunter Dickinson has until July 7 to withdraw his name from the 2021 NBA Draft. (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The opportunity to return to school will be there until July 7, which is the NCAA’s deadline for players who still have their amateur eligibility to withdraw their name from the draft. Dickinson is hoping for an invite to the NBA Combine, which will be held in Chicago from June 21-27.

He’s excited to get feedback on his game from NBA organizations, and if he hears what he wants to hear, he’ll stick in the draft and take his chances. With that said, he’s calculated — just like he was during the prep recruiting process — and will weigh all of his options heavily.

“I would like to be a first-round pick — that’s my goal,” Dickinson said. “I’m not trying to be a late second round to undrafted guy, just because I have that year to come back. So I’m not trying to force going to the NBA, but if the opportunity presents itself, then I’ll certainly take advantage of it.”

Dickinson was the No. 40 overall player in his class and No. 7 center per, but he outperformed expectations mightily from the moment he stepped foot on campus last summer. In 2020-21, he was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a second-team All-America pick. The Alexandria, Va., native led Michigan in scoring (14.1 points per game) and rebounds (7.1), while shooting an efficient 59.8 percent from the field.

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He credits much of his development to Howard and fifth-year senior forward Austin Davis, a team captain who taught him the ropes.

“They did so much for me,” Dickinson said. “The staff, obviously Coach Howard, I’ve probably said it a million times, how much he’s helped me this year.

“I also have to give a big shout out to Austin Davis. I just texted him today actually, and told him how much he meant for me and my development this year. Without him, there’s no way I would’ve been able to do the things I did on the court.

“That just comes from playing against him every day, but also having him be a big brother to me and take me under his wing, give me all the knowledge that he’s gained over the past five years that he’s been in college. He was very important for me. Him and Juwan both were two humongous people in my process of my development as a player this year.”

If Dickinson does return to Michigan for next season, he has high expectations once again, after helping lead the squad to a Big Ten regular-season title and Elite Eight appearance this past season.

“I mean, shoot, I think we’ll be …. I wouldn’t say last year was ‘championship or bust,’ but it pretty much was for us,” Dickinson said. “I think with the talent we got coming back and then the class coming in, Coach Howard’s not trying to settle for anything less than a national championship.

“It’s our culture, it’s in our DNA — we want to win the national championship. That’s why he came back to college, to win a national championship for Michigan. And that’s what all of the players want as well.”

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