Ohio State Buckeyes power forward E.J. Liddell withdraws from NBA draft to return for junior season

Ohio State power forward E.J. Liddell will withdraw from the NBA draft and return to school, he told ESPN Saturday.

"This was a pretty difficult decision," Liddell told ESPN. "No one in my family has ever been this close to getting to a professional league. After many conversations with my parents and coaches, I understood that returning was the best thing for me. Anyone can get signed to play in the NBA. I absolutely could have gotten a contract. But it's not about getting in the NBA, it's about staying in for the long-term."

The NCAA deadline for players to withdraw from the NBA draft and maintain college eligibility is Wednesday. Liddell, a 6-foot-7 junior-to-be, was named First Team All-Big Ten after a breakout season in which he averaged 16.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 blocks in 29 minutes per game -- a key reason why Ohio State was able to secure a No. 2 seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

Liddell didn't have a great showing at the G League Elite Camp in Chicago last week and says he's been told he will need to continue to increase his shooting range and defensive versatility to improve his standing with NBA scouts. A strong candidate for preseason Big Ten Player of the Year honors, and a potential All-American if he makes another jump in productivity, Liddell will be a focal point of an Ohio State team that was ranked fifth in Jeff Borzello's Top-25 preseason rankings last week.

Liddell said the ability for college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness played a significant role in his decision to return to Ohio State, which has one of the biggest alumni bases in America.

"That changes the game really," Liddell said. "It's good that I could be making money. That should have been happening for a long time. The coaches are telling me that being the face of this team and one of the most publicized guys in the conference, I could make a really good profit off that. How much, I'm not sure yet. I haven't looked into that enough yet."

After spending most of his time as an undersized center, Ohio State has added several pieces to its roster that should allow Liddell to slide to the power forward position.

"This past year we were shorthanded at the center position," Liddell said. "I did what I was told to try and win games. This year I'll be taking on the challenge of guarding point guards in practice and will learn how to move my feet better. Playing the four is what I'm going to do at the next level. I'm looking forward to showing my full skill-set.

"We have a lot of guys on our roster. We are three deep at every position. For us to be good, everyone needs to do their best when their name is called. Everyone needs to challenge each other in practice. We have a lot of new faces, a lot of transfers."

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.