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Justin Jackson Withdraws from 2016 NBA Draft: Latest Comments and Reaction

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 16, 2016

North Carolina's Justin Jackson reacts during the second half of a regional final men's college basketball game against Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament, Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke/Associated Press

The North Carolina Tar Heels announced Monday night that Justin Jackson withdrew his name from 2016 NBA draft consideration and will return for his junior season.

Jackson released a statement regarding the decision:

I’m glad I had the chance to enter the Draft and attend the Combine where I was able to meet with a number of NBA executives and test my game against some of the top players in the country, but after discussing it with my parents and coaches and praying over this decision, the best choice for my basketball future is to return to school and play for the Tar Heels next season. My dream certainly is to play in the NBA and going through the draft process this year was another step toward reaching that goal, but I’ve loved my first two years at Carolina and am excited about the upcoming season. It’s going to be a fun year, I will be another year closer to earning my degree and can continue to develop as a person and a player.

An NCAA rule change allowed Jackson up to 10 days following the combine to remove himself from the draft pool and retain his eligibility. He didn't hire an agent, either, which provided him the opportunity to return to school.

Judging by the assessments provided to ESPN's Jeff Goodman, Jackson was smart to return to school:

Jeff Goodman @GoodmanESPN

NBA guys said that Justin Jackson needs to be more consistent with perimeter shot, extend range, add strength, improve defense.

ESPN's Seth Greenberg also believes playing at least one more year in Chapel Hill is in the player's best interest:

Seth Greenberg @SethOnHoops

Justin Jackson should have a monster year for @UNC_Basketball Consistency will be the key. Has every tangible and intangible!

Jackson averaged 12.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game for UNC in 2015-16. He boasts three-point range, but he'd help his draft stock if he can hit a higher percentage of his attempts in 2016-17. He shot just 29.2 percent beyond the arc last year.

According to Sports-Reference.com, Jackson's true shooting percentage fell from .547 to .528 in his first two years, while his effective field-goal percentage dropped 12 percentage points from .520 to .508. By becoming a more efficient scorer, he could position himself as a first-rounder this time next year. ESPN.com's Chad Ford ranked him 75th overall in the 2016 class.

Getting Jackson back is a massive boost for the Tar Heels, who were already buoyed by Kennedy Meeks' decision to return as well. Head coach Roy Williams will have to replace graduating seniors Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige, but Meeks and Jackson can help fill the void those two leave. Williams is also welcoming in a recruiting class that ranked ninth in 247Sports' composite team rankings.

Expecting any team to reach back-to-back title games is always a bit unrealistic, so North Carolina will have a hard time matching its success on the hardwood in 2015-16. With Jackson back in the fold, though, the Tar Heels' chances of repeating last year's runner-up finish or even going a step further undoubtedly improved.

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