Hunter Dickinson made his basketball future official earlier this week when he dropped out of the 2021 NBA Draft and returned to Michigan for one more season. This was not a surprise to anyone who followed the mock drafts or paid attention to industry chatter about his draft stock, but the decision was never as cut and dry as you might think.
“I think probably at the beginning when I made the decision, I was leaning towards leaving and becoming a professional athlete,” Dickinson told the media earlier this week. “(When) I hadn’t reached the actual NBA combine is probably when it went to actual 50/50 for me. And then, just kept thinking about the opportunity for me here for another year to experience the college experience that I didn’t get to experience last year. That kind of started to push it toward coming back for another year.
“Once I really thought about it, I didn’t really — I always said from the start that I didn’t want to be a mid-to-late second-round pick. I just wanted to stay true to myself and stay true to what I was saying from the beginning, that I wanted to be a first-round pick. If coming back, if that’s what I gotta do, that’s what I gotta do.”
Dickinson’s return to Michigan allows him to improve on the aspects of his game — such as expanding the range of his offense — while remaining in school and a featured part of his team in 2021-22. The door has also swung wide open for him to make money while in school given the recent NIL (name, image and likeness) rules that went into effect.
It might be the best of all possible worlds right now for Dickinson’s future.
“For sure. That’s something that I thought of,” Dickinson said. “Being able to make money off your name, image and likeness is definitely a bonus for me. With the kind of caliber of player that I am, with the kind of notoriety I have — and the school, alumni and the brand of Michigan itself — I felt like I’m in a really good position and I have a really good opportunity ahead of me to benefit and capitalize on a lot of stuff. That was definitely a bonus for me, being able to make a little bit of money while being in school was a bonus as well.”
It is not all about the money, though. Dickinson’s return to Michigan gives him a chance to experience a college lifestyle that was taken from everyone last year due to COVID-19. The chance to be a part of the on-campus experience and be present with fans in the building is an exciting one.
“All that stuff. That was a part of the reason I went to Michigan, the social life here. Michigan is just a special place, the community and stuff like that. Obviously, football games are something that everybody in Ann Arbor loves to go to. Obviously having fans at your games is something special, having a crowded arena supporting you is a very good feeling to have.
“Also, going around campus and having people know who you are and want to take pictures with you is special and fun for me and something I enjoy doing. That was definitely something that I thought of.”