Charles Bassey will return for sophomore season

WKU freshman center Charles Bassey (23) slams home a dunk over North Texas Zachary Thomas (24) in day two of the C-USA Tournament at the Ford Center at The Star march 14 in Frisco, Texas. Bassey accumulated 9 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks in the 67-51 Hilltopper victory. 

Drake Kizer

Charles Bassey will remove himself from the 2019 NBA Draft and return for his sophomore season at WKU, the men’s basketball program confirmed Wednesday night.

The star freshman’s decision was first reported by Jon Rothstein, who posted a tweet just before Wednesday night turned to Thursday morning. Rothstein’s tweet came one day after Jeff Goodman reported Bassey was expected to remain in the draft “barring a last-second change of heart.”

College underclassmen had until midnight Wednesday to exit the draft pool and return to school without adversely affecting their eligibility, and the 6-foot-11-inch, 245-pound big man decided to stay in college.

Bassey announced his intentions to enter his name in the NBA Draft on April 19, but the program made it clear Bassey would not sign with an agent, maintaining his NCAA eligibility and his ability to return to school if he chose.

The likelihood of Bassey returning to the collegiate ranks decreased significantly on May 8, when the Nigeria native was invited to participate in the 2019 NBA Draft Combine. Out of 66 total players invited to the event, Bassey was one of only 24 college freshmen to receive a nod from the NBA.

But there seemed to be no consensus on whether or not Bassey would actually hear his name called at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. HoopsHype provided an expected range for each player in this year’s draft on May 15 by aggregating the results from all of the most notable recent mock draft projections, and Bassey’s aggregate ranking was No. 42 overall.

ESPN had Bassey picked 52nd, The Athletic slotted him 60th, while Bleacher Report and The Ringer didn’t include him at all. Sports Illustrated’s 2019 NBA Mock Draft 8.0 had Bassey getting picked with the 56th pick, while had Bassey going 19th overall.

ESPN ranked Bassey ranked as the No. 78 overall prospect in its latest prospect rankings, but the NBA Draft features only 60 selections. The big man was ranked as the No. 12 center in the draft class. 

Bassey dominated Conference USA in his freshman year at WKU, averaging 14.6 points, 10 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game during the 2018-19 season.

Bassey also had a penchant for showing out against his toughest opponents, averaging 17.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.4 steals against notable stars like Ethan Happ, Daniel Gafford, Tacko Fall, Sagaba Konate and Noah Dickerson.

After leading the league in double-doubles and racking up 10 C-USA Freshman of the Week Awards, Bassey was named C-USA Freshman of the Year and C-USA Defensive Player of the year. He was also named to the All-C-USA First Team, C-USA All-Defensive Team and C-USA All-Freshman Team.

WKU’s record books were rewritten during Bassey’s historic run, as the young center set the program’s freshman block record and scored the second-most points by a freshman in program history. Bassey also finished as a top-five finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award.

If Bassey had remained in the draft pool, he would have had a chance to become the first one-and-done in WKU basketball history.

Bassey could’ve also had a shot at becoming the first Hilltopper drafted since Jeremy Evans was picked 55th overall in 2010 by the Utah Jazz, and only the third drafted since 1996, joining Evans and Courtney Lee, the 22nd pick in 2008 by the Orlando Magic.

However, Bassey will hold off on professional opportunities for at least one more year and return to a WKU roster loaded with incumbent and incoming talent. Though head coach Rick Stansbury lost Matt HortonDalano Banton and Jake Ohmer to the transfer portal this offseason, the Hilltoppers are welcoming several new faces.

With Bassey now officially in the fold for next year, the program will look to break through with a conference title in the regular season or the C-USA Tournament after falling short in the championship round the last two years. 

Sports Editor Drake Kizer can be reached at 270-745-2653 and [email protected]. Follow Drake on Twitter at @drakekizer_.