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Jaylin Williams will remain in the 2022 NBA Draft and forgo his remaining college eligibility, he announced Saturday.
The decision comes after several weeks of testing the waters, which included training in Miami and attending the combine in Chicago earlier this month. He had until June 1 to withdraw his name and return to Arkansas.
At the start of the NBA Draft Combine, Williams told Andy Katz of NCAA.com that he “wants to hear a guarantee before” making a final decision and he must have received that despite being widely projected to go in the middle of the second round in mock drafts.
It marks the fourth straight year the Razorbacks have had a player leave school early to pursue a professional career, as Williams follows Moses Moody (2021), Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones (2020), and Daniel Gafford (2019).
“To Razorback Nation, thank you!” Williams wrote in a statement on Twitter. “For a kid that grew up in Fort Smith, Arkansas, it has been nothing but a dream come true these past two years. All of the love has been felt. From court rushes to the March Madness runs, we could’ve never done it without all of you!”
“We hope he does great,” head coach Eric Musselman said in a radio interview earlier this month. “That’s great for the program. Moses Moody playing for us for one year (and) being a lottery pick is a big selling point with recruiting. … We want (Williams) to get drafted as high as he possibly can.”
Part of the heralded 2020 class that helped restore the Arkansas program, Williams will end his college career having helped the Razorbacks to a 53-16 record and back-to-back Elite Eights — snapping a 25-year drought of not reaching the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
Despite being a four-star prospect and the No. 59 overall recruit in the country coming out of Fort Smith Northside, Williams did not play much early on as a freshman. In fact, he didn’t see the floor in six games and played less than 10 minutes in nine others.
However, his role expanded down the stretch, as he became a key player off the bench and even started the final three games of the NCAA Tournament.
That set the stage for a breakout sophomore year in which he earned first-team All-SEC and SEC All-Defensive Team honors. He nearly averaged a double-double for the season, finishing with 10.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.
While he was good from the start, Williams’ game evolved throughout the season and he was even better in SEC play, averaging 13.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks against conference foes.
(READ NEXT: 2021-22 Season in Review – Jaylin Williams)
He ended up notching a double-double in 16 of the final 23 games of the season, while also shattering the UA single-season record with 364 rebounds and leading the NCAA with 54 charges drawn. Four of those double-doubles came in the NCAA Tournament, tying Corliss Williamson’s UA career record for the big dance.
At the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, Williams stood out in scrimmage settings because of his motor, physicality and vocalness, plus he showcased an improved 3-point shot.
“I noticed Williams’ shooting stroke during the drills on Wednesday, and it was evident that he has been working on his shot,” wrote Kyle Irving of The Sporting News. “With his size and mobility, I find it hard to believe he can’t find a home as a potential small-ball five in the NBA.”
The Razorbacks seemingly planned for the loss of Williams based on their move in the portal. The first four transfers they landed — Trevon Brazile from Missouri, twins Makhi and Makhel Mitchell from Rhode Island, and Jalen Graham from Arizona State — were forwards listed at 6-foot-9 or taller.
Their most recent addition, guard Ricky Council IV from Wichita State, also seemed to indicate Williams was moving on, as he put Arkansas at 14 scholarships. With him remaining in the NBA Draft, the Razorbacks are right at the 13-man limit.
Click here for a look at how the 2022-23 roster has evolved and reached this point.