EJ Onu, a two-time NAIA All-American, will use his extra year of eligibility and explore the transfer market, he told ESPN Friday.
"I believe I'm an NBA talent, and I have a lot of things to prove and show that no matter what level you play at, you can play with anyone," the 6-foot-11 Onu said.
Onu's Shawnee State team won the NAIA national championship at the end of March under NAIA Coach of the Year DeLano Thomas. He is coming off an outstanding senior season at the Ohio school, averaging 16.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.5 blocks while shooting 67% from 2-point range and 40% from 3 on four attempts per game. He was named Mid-South Conference Player of the Year and won his third consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award.
Onu has also declared for the 2021 NBA draft but is doing so while maintaining his NCAA eligibility.
"I am keeping my eligibility open because coming back to college could be a great tool to play at the D1 level and gain experience if the NBA draft didn't work out in my favor," he said.
Onu can take advantage of the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted all winter sport athletes and play a fifth season as a grad transfer.
At 240 pounds with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, Onu's combination of size, length, rim-protection prowess and 3-point range will make him one of the most coveted big men on the transfer market. Texas Tech, Indiana, Ohio State and LSU are some of the schools that have already expressed interest in recruiting him, with more expected as the news spreads of his availability.
"If I return to school, I'm looking for a team in which I can be myself and play how I play and win games," Onu said. "The big factor in my decision is my development; how ready a team could get me for the next level."
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service utilized by NBA, NCAA and international teams.