Buddy Hield to return to Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma Sooners guard Buddy Hield, the Big 12 Player of the Year, announced Friday that he is returning for his senior season despite being projected as a possible first-round NBA draft pick.

The 6-foot-4 junior, who hails from the Bahamas, averaged 17.4 points and 5.4 rebounds this past season. His return makes Lon Kruger and the Sooners a legitimate preseason top 10 team and a contender for the Big 12 title.

"It's fantastic for the program," Kruger said. "I'm most happy for Buddy. He's meant so much to the program. He had a plan from the start. As soon as the season was over, he had a plan of what he was going to consider throughout this process. The maturity with which he's approached this is really admirable. He's grown every year and has so many things in the right order."

Hield said he wanted to go pro, but after talking to family, friends and coaches, he decided that returning would be the best choice.

"You have to be smart," Hield said. "You can't go in there and a take a gamble and bury yourself. I just know the best decision was to come back and improve. That way when the time comes, I'll be ready."

Oklahoma goes into the season with three senior starters -- Hield, guard Isaiah Cousins and big man Ryan Spangler -- and junior point guard Jordan Woodard.

"I feel like the best is yet to come with this team," Hield said. "My main goal is to go to the Final Four. Why not go there? It's my last year. Be the best player and I can be and help this program go forward."

Hield was productive and versatile in leading Oklahoma to a 24-11 record last season and a Sweet 16 berth.

According to several NBA executives, Hield was projected as a late first-round or early second-round pick.

Hield said he wants to improve his ballhandling before next year's NBA draft. He said he looks forward to getting his degree in human relations.

"It's kind of embarrassing for me, because I'm always in the gym, but I never really work on my ball handling," Hield said. "I always work on my shooting. I need to accept the challenge and work on things I need to get better at. I'm ready to make that next jump in my game."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.