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Caleb McConnell declares for 2022 NBA Draft, return for final year still possible

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The Big Ten DPOY left the door open for a return for his fifth year.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Caleb McConnell has declared for the 2022 NBA Draft while maintaining his eligibility for next season.

McConnell took to social media on Monday night to make the announcement. The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year will test the waters of the draft process but could still return for his fifth and final season of eligibility.

This season, McConnell became the first Scarlet Knight in program history to win a major award in the Big Ten this season. He averaged 2.2 steals per contest to lead the conference on the way to his DPOY honor and All-Big Ten Defensive Team nod. McConnell is currently ninth in Rutgers’ history with 150 steals.

“Caleb McConnell has been the ultimate ambassador for our program on and off the court,” head coach Steve Pikiell said. “I want to congratulate Caleb on what he has given the Rutgers program in his four seasons as a Scarlet Knight. He is an unbelievable person and has one of our best all-around players on both sides of the floor. He chose Rutgers and has helped our program become what it is today. I have watched him grow from a freshman to an elite defender on any level. I truly believe he is not only the best defender in the Big Ten Conference, but the best defender in the country. I wish Caleb and his family the best in exploring the 2022 NBA Draft process.”

McConnell averaged 7.1 points this season along with 5.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists. He shot 39.7% from the field and 27% from three-point range.

McConnell’s best offensive performance of the season came on the biggest stage during the First Four. Rutgers took on Notre Dame and McConnell finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 10-for-12 from the field.

In addition to McConnell, Rutgers has seen both Ron Harper Jr. and Jaden Jones declare for the draft. Harper Jr. is the most likely to potentially land with an NBA team and is unlikely to return. Jones and McConnell are testing the draft waters and could decide to utilize their eligibility for next season. Whether any of the three return to Rutgers next season remains to be seen. Geo Baker, Luke Nathan and Ralph Gonzales-Agee do not have any eligibility left and will not return.

With Derek Simpson and Antoine Woolfork signed for the 2022 recruiting class, there are potentially four open scholarships remaining for next season.