After a breakout season that saw him score 16.2 points per game (eighth-most in the Big Ten) and earn First Team All-Big Ten honors, Ohio State sophomore forward E.J. Liddell has elected to withdraw his name from the NBA Draft and return to the Buckeye basketball program for at least one more season.
Liddell announced on March 31 that he was entering the draft, while maintaining his eligibility and not hiring an agent. This gave him the flexibility to get feedback from NBA coaches, scouts, and executives to see what his stock is, while still having the option to return to Ohio State if he deemed that stock to be too low.
As many predicted, Liddell announced today that he will withdraw from the draft and return to Ohio State, re-joining a very strong roster that also returns starters Justice Sueing (10.7 PTS, 5.5 REB) and Kyle Young (8.6 PTS, 5.5 REB). The Buckeyes also added two former Big Ten foes to their roster in point guard Jamari Wheeler (Penn State) and center Joey Brunk (Indiana).
Liddell was not projected to be drafted in any mock draft by the major media outlets. Both ESPN and The Athletic have him ranked outside their top 100 prospects, which would place him in the fourth round-ish if the NBA Draft was four rounds. Unfortunately for Liddell, the draft only lasts two rounds, and his odds of being taken during those two rounds didn’t look exceptionally great. As we saw in the NCAA Tournament loss to Oral Roberts, Liddell’s passing — especially out of traps and double teams — could still use some improvement. His three-point shot, while certainly improved from his freshman year, also needs to improve if he wants to thrive in the NBA as a 6-foot-7 forward.
Liddell recently participated in the NBA G-League’s Elite Camp, where he competed against 39 other NBA prospects who were not invited to the NBA Combine. The camp lasted for three days and consisted of both five-on-five games and strength/agility drills. Liddell struggled in live action, scoring just five points on 2-9 shooting across two games. He was 1-5 from three-point range and also pulled down 11 rebounds.
Ohio State will likely enter next season in the top 25 of the AP Poll and should be competitive atop the conference, despite the loss of last year’s leading scorer Duane Washington Jr. departing for the NBA Draft. After earning All-Big Ten honors last season, Liddell will be one of the most talented players in a loaded B1G next season, and has a shot at being Ohio State’s first Big Ten Player of the Year since Keita Bates-Diop four seasons ago.
With Liddell returning, he will likely slot back into the starting lineup alongside Wheeler, Sueing, Young, and one of Malaki Branham/Meechie Johnson.