Thursday July 18th, 2024 6:06AM

UConn's Karaban, Alabama's Sears and Arizona's Love back in college after withdrawing from NBA draft

By The Associated Press

Two of last year's Final Four teams are returning key pieces for next season.

UConn forward Alex Karaban is heading back to campus for a try at a third straight national title and Alabama guard Mark Sears also will be back after withdrawing from the NBA draft Wednesday.

The 6-foot-8 third-year sophomore has started in 77 of his 78 games since joining the Huskies. He averaged 13.3 points and 5.1 rebounds last season as UConn went 37-3 and became the first team with consecutive NCAA Tournament titles since Florida in 2006 and 2007.

No program has won three in a row since UCLA won seven straight from 1967-73.

“While I've enjoyed the draft process, Storrs is home,” Karaban, from Southborough, Massachusetts, posted on social media. “Let's run it back!”

Sears was a second-team AP All-American last season after becoming the first Division I player in the last 31 seasons to have 795 points, 150 rebounds, 145 assists and 95 three-pointers in a season. The 6-1 guard was a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award as the nation's top point guard following a 2023-24 season in which he averaged 21.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.6 steals per game.

Sears averaged 24.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game during the NCAA Tournament while helping lead the Crimson Tide to the Final Four for the first time.

Sears announced his decision on social media with a post saying: “last dance #rolltide.”

Arizona also got a big boost with shooting guard Caleb Love's decision to withdraw from the NBA draft to rejoin the Wildcats.

An explosive 6-4 guard, Love was the Pac-12 player of the year and a Naismith Award semifinalist after leading Arizona with 18 points per game and 92 made 3-pointers.

Love arrived at Arizona prior to last season after spending the previous three at North Carolina, where he built a reputation as a big-shot maker during the Tar Heel's run to the 2022 national title game.

The Wildcats announced Love's return with a social media post declaring: “He's back. #OneLove.”

Also withdrawing was Clemson guard Chase Hunter, who helped the Tigers reach the Elite Eight last season.

Hunter, a 6-foot-4 senior from Atlanta, averaged 12.9 points a game and led the Tigers with 116 assists. He had declared for the NBA draft last month, but was not invited to the league's draft combine.

Hunter played a big role in Clemson's run to the Elite Eight, where he averaged 17.8 points in four games and was named to the All-West Region team.


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