Ohio State star E.J. Liddell is declaring for the 2021 NBA draft but leaving the door open for a return to the Buckeyes.
"Reaching the NBA has always been a dream of mine ever since I started playing basketball with my first YMCA team," Liddell said Wednesday. "Timing is everything, trust I won't rush."
Last season, Liddell averaged 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game while shooting 47.4 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from beyond the arc.
The sophomore's campaign ended on a low note after the second-seeded Buckeyes were eliminated by No. 15 Oral Roberts in the first round of the NCAA men's tournament. Following the defeat, Liddell drew attention toward the threatening messages he received on social media (warning: contains slurs and profanity):
ESPN's Myron Medcalf reported the team reached out to police about the messages. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and head coach Chris Holtmann both issued statements of support:
Allowing himself the opportunity to suit back up for the Buckeyes is a smart move because Liddell is far from a first-round lock.
In his most recent big board, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman didn't list the Buckeyes forward among his top 50 players. He isn't ranked in ESPN.com's top 100 prospects, and The Athletic's Sam Vecenie slotted him in at 109th on March 1.
If he were to go undrafted, Liddell could work on his game in the NBA G League or head overseas. Former OSU star Jae'Sean Tate didn't hear his name called in 2018 and has since become a regular in the Houston Rockets rotation.
But Liddell would probably only help his draft stock by spending his junior year in Columbus, Ohio.