Gonzaga boosted by Corey Kispert's decision to return

Gilder's lob to Kispert caps Gonzaga's win over Pepperdine (0:16)

Admon Gilder throws a lob to Corey Kispert for a bucket, capping Gonzaga's 89-77 victory over Pepperdine. (0:16)

Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert is withdrawing his name from the NBA draft and will return to the Bulldogs for his senior season, putting them in contention to be the preseason No. 1 team in the country.

Kispert was a potential second-round pick, ranking No. 47 overall and No. 6 among small forwards in ESPN's NBA draft rankings. But he, like teammate Joel Ayayi last week, is heading back to Spokane, Washington, to compete for a national championship.

"What I take away most from the draft process is that my goals are right on my doorstep. Playing and succeeding in the NBA has always been the biggest dream in my life, and thanks to the feedback I received, going forward and making those dreams a reality is a very real possibility for me this year," Kispert said in a statement. "However, with that being said, the Gonzaga Bulldogs have some unfinished business to attend to.

"I am very happy to announce that I will be coming back to school and joining Gonzaga for the 2020-2021 season. Returning to school gives me the best opportunity to not only improve my game to be ready for the NBA, but also to give my best and final shot at the national championship that we have been coming so close to for years.

"I am so excited to get to work with the phenomenal team we have this year. And of course, I look forward to playing for the greatest basketball fans and community in the country. We will see you all very soon."

A first-team All-West Coast Conference selection last season, Kispert averaged 13.9 points and 4.0 rebounds and shot 43.8% from 3-point range. He hit the 20-point mark on five occasions, including a 26-point effort against North Carolina in December and a 20-point performance against Saint Mary's in the regular-season finale.

With Kispert and Ayayi back in the fold, coach Mark Few has a team with a legitimate case to be the preseason No. 1. The Bulldogs lost Ryan Woolridge and Killian Tillie to graduation, and WCC Player of the Year Filip Petrusev signed with a professional team overseas. But they welcome one of the nation's top recruiting classes, led by elite guard Jalen Suggs, and rising sophomores Drew Timme and Anton Watson will likely move into the starting lineup.