BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum officially withdrew from the NBA Draft on Monday and will return to Lehigh for his senior season. McCollum declared for the draft on March 27, but did not hire an agent which allowed him to gather information and feedback from NBA executives before making a final decision prior to the first day of the spring National Letter of Intent period. The Canton, Ohio native has already been a key part of two Patriot League Championship teams and enters his senior year as the second leading scorer in program history.
“A number of things went into my decision,” said McCollum. “I had to sit down with my family and go over the positives and negatives of coming back. It was a process that required a great deal of thought, but in the end, we felt like it was best to return for my senior year, to earn my degree and make sure I prepare myself for a future outside of basketball.”
“I was very supportive of C.J.’s exploration of professional basketball opportunities,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “He’s been an extremely productive performer and has consistently exhibited a great deal of character. I wanted what was best for him, whatever opportunity that might ultimately be.
“From receiving more feedback and examining this process a little more closely, it became apparent that C.J. will have the opportunity to play professional basketball in the future,” Reed continued. “However, he also expressed a deep desire to get his degree and finish out his collegiate career with his teammates.”
McCollum averaged 21.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season, shooting 44.3 percent from the field along with a team-leading 124 assists. He currently owns 2,074 career points, good for second in school history and third in league history, just 150 behind the Patriot League mark (2,224).
“I got a lot of great feedback,” said McCollum. “It was definitely a tough decision, but I look forward to the upcoming season. I feel like I have unfinished business left here at Lehigh; we can definitely make another run. I’m excited to see what happens.”
The Mountain Hawks finished 2011-12 with a 27-8 record, highlighted by a thrilling win at Bucknell in the Patriot League Championship Game before defeating second-seeded Duke, 75-70, for the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament victory. McCollum scored 30 points in that game to lead the charge.
“We’re very excited for next season,” said Reed. “We believe we have a strong nucleus of returning players who were major contributors to a very successful season. The returning experience, along with the influx of new talent and continued opportunities for greater roles, should present us the chance to seek our aspirations of conference championships and postseason play.”
McCollum has earned a number of accolades, most notably, earning AP Honorable Mention All-America laurels for the second time in his career, along with his freshman campaign when he won his first Patriot League Player of the Year award.
“It’s definitely a tough process,” said McCollum. “With the changes that the NCAA made, it makes things a lot harder for underclassmen declaring for the draft. We couldn’t get in any workouts unless we were staying in the draft and hiring an agent. That was definitely tough, but getting feedback was an invaluable opportunity and will help down the road.”
“This process should provide a great deal of confidence for C.J.,” said Reed. “He’s very well regarded on a national level. I also believe he’s had the proper mindset throughout to try and find opportunities for individual growth and individual development. His commitment as a basketball player has never been questioned. Having feedback that will help fuel his improvement will only strengthen his growth going into next year and beyond.”