Georgia basketball fans got some exciting news on Tuesday when star forward Yante Maten announced that he would withdraw from the NBA Draft and remain at Georgia for his senior year.
Maten was a major force for the Bulldogs this year along with senior J.J. Frazier, who graduated and played his final game at Georgia in 2017. Despite a short time out for a knee injury at the end of the regular season, Maten averaged 29.0 minutes per game and 18.2 points per game for the 2016-2017 season. He was named to the first-team All-SEC for the 2016-2017 season.
Following the end of last season, his third year of eligibility, Maten announced that he would declare for the NBA Draft to evaluate his options in the 2017 draft. He worked out with the Denver Nuggets and the Boston Celtics but ultimately decided to withdraw. He did not receive an invitation to the 2017 NBA Combine.
Much to the delight of many Georgia fans, Maten announced via an Instagram post on Wednesday that he would be returning to Georgia for his senior season.
The return of Yante Maten bodes well for the 2017-2018 Bulldogs, who will now start next season with Maten, forward Derek Ogbeide, and Isaac Kante, an incoming freshman forward who signed with the team in early May. Ogbeide averaged 7.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, and often stepped up to score a lot in Maten’s absence at the end of the regular season. Kante averaged 11.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game during his senior season of high school at Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut.
Incoming freshman guard Teshaun Hightower will also join the team in 2017. Hightower, who signed with Georgia in April of this year, averaged 19.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game during his senior season at Mt. Zion Prep School in Baltimore. If he is successful at Georgia, Hightower could be a much-needed replacement for Frazier at guard.
Maten’s return to the Bulldogs will help the team remain a strong power in the SEC in the 2017-2018 season. While Georgia had a strong team last season and could force close games against teams like Kentucky and South Carolina, the strength of the SEC conference and the difficulty of the team’s schedule made it hard for them to make a run at the SEC Tournament or an NCAA Tournament bid. The Bulldogs were never able to lock down a signature win in the conference, and thus were deemed unworthy by the NCAA Tournament selection committee, leaving them as one of the first few teams left out of the tournament.
With Maten, Ogbeide, Kante, Hightower and others, Georgia may have a shot at locking down some more signature wins in 2017-2018. If they can beat the best teams in the conference, the Bulldogs have the potential to earn an NCAA Tournament spot for the first time since 2015.