Kansas guard Kevin McCullar Jr. announced Wednesday that he is returning to the Jayhawks for the 2023-24 season to use his final year of eligibility after going through the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. McCullar started 33 games for the Jayhawks last season after transferring in following three seasons at Texas Tech. He immediately emerged as Kansas' top defender and a reliable secondary option on offense.
"How about one more year Jayhawk nation," McCullar said in KU's announcement of his decision. "To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog. Rock Chalk! Let's do it!"
McCullar struggled at the combine with CBS Sports NBA Draft writer Kyle Boone noting that "there's not a lot of optimism about what he can bring to the table in the NBA." At the collegiate level, however, McCullar is a proven commodity who will further boost a Kansas team that was already ranked No. 1 in Gary Parrish's Top 25 And 1 ahead of this season.
"This is a big day for Kansas basketball," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "We've had a lot of good things happen through recruiting this offseason, but nothing that has transpired this offseason was bigger for KU basketball than having a seasoned veteran like Kevin McCullar return to our program."
Solid Kansas offseason
The Jayhawks lost leading scorers Jalen Wilson and Gradey Dick to the NBA Draft after a 28-8 season in which they won the outright Big 12 regular-season title. Losing McCullar as well would have meant replacing three starters.
But the month of May has been excellent for the Jayhawks. First, former Michigan center Hunter Dickinson, the No. 1 ranked player in the CBS Sports Transfer Rankings, committed to Kansas. Couple that with McCullar's return, and the outline of the team's 2023-24 nucleus is clear.
Dajuan Harris, McCullar and K.J. Adams Jr. are returning starters, and the Jayhawks have upgraded at the center position in a significant way with Dickinson. The fifth starting spot will likely be a competition between members of the nation's No. 7-ranked freshman class and a pair of transfers in Arterio Morris (Texas) and Nicolas Timberlake (Towson).
McCullar's role this season
With Dick and Wilson providing so much offense from the wing last season, McCullar could focus on being a lockdown defender without needing to shoulder too heavy of a scoring load. He still averaged a career-best 10.7 points per game, but his role could expand in the season ahead.
KU will almost certainly play through Dickinson in the post more than it played through any of its bigs last season, but McCullar's vast experience and traditional offensive game put him in line to claim a heightened offensive role on the perimeter. Though just a 29.8% career 3-point shooter, McCullar is efficient inside the arc and has the size and skill to elevate for looks late in the shot clock in a way that differentiates him from other players on the roster.
Don't expect a leap quite as significant as the one Wilson took this past season while becoming Kansas' leading scorer, but don't be surprised if McCullar takes his offensive game to the next level in his final college season.