E.J. Liddell opts out of NBA Draft waters, Buckeyes reclaim star player

E.J. Liddell opts out of NBA Draft waters, Buckeyes reclaim star player

Pete Nakos4 months
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E.J. Liddell 4 by Birm-Lettermen Row
E.J. Liddell has made his decision on the NBA Draft. (Birm/Lettermen row)

COLUMBUS — E.J. Liddell is done testing the NBA Draft waters.

He is coming back to Ohio State for another season.

Liddell announced Saturday on Twitter he’s removing his name from the NBA Draft, forgoing his professional aspirations to return to Columbus. The 6-foot-7, 240-pound forward led the Buckeyes in rebounds and finished as the team’s second-leading scorer this past season.

He decided to enter his name into the NBA Draft in late March, leaving the option to return for another season open by not signing with an agent. Liddell went through draft workouts and the NBA combine, receiving feedback from the NBA. But the former Buckeyes player never took off, not mentioned on many NBA mock drafts.

The first-team All-Big Ten selection led Ohio State to the Big Ten Tournament championship game this past season, where the Buckeyes fell to Illinois in overtime. Liddell and Ohio State still had big aspirations in the NCAA Tournament with their No. 2 seeding. The Buckeyes were shocked in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, falling to Oral Roberts despite Liddell’s impressive 23-point and 14-rebound performance.

Chris Holtmann never pushed for Liddell to make a fast decision. With the NBA Draft withdrawal date set for July 19, Holtmann allowed both Liddell and Duane Washington Jr. to make smart, educated decisions.

E.J. Liddell-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State basketball

E.J. Liddell is returning to Columbus. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

“I’m trying to give them the absolute truth from what I hear from NBA personnel,” Holtmann said in April. “That’s really what I am trying to do and separate any kind of personal feeling one way or the other. I’m really trying as much as possible to look through what is best for both of those young men right now.

“They are both great kids with great families. I am confident that while the decision is not imminent for either guy, I think they’ll make a decision they feel is best for them and I’m going to support them along the way.”

Ohio State now reclaims its star player, who has three years of eligibility remaining. Liddell was the Buckeyes go-to, reliable scorer last season. And even when he struggled to score, he dominated the boards while his teammates picked up the pace.

While he heard feedback in the NBA Draft process, Holtmann built up his roster. The Buckeyes added Penn State guard Jamari Wheeler and Indiana center Joey Brunk. Neither will challenge Liddell for the title of the team’s star player, but they’ll give the Buckeyes depth and a boost on defense.

Returning to Columbus for Liddell means a chance to improve his draft stock. But it also means Ohio State will again contend for a Big Ten title and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

“If everybody puts in the work they did in the offseason, it’s going to be pretty hard to beat us,” Liddell said.