St. John's Red Storm PF Julian Champagnie to withdraw from NBA draft

St. John's power forward Julian Champagnie will withdraw from the NBA draft and return to school for his junior season, he told ESPN on Sunday.

"This was an extremely difficult decision," Champagnie said. "It's been a lingering thought for months now. I enjoyed the process, but I didn't put myself in the spot I wanted to, partially because of a wrist injury I suffered early on that set me back mentally and physically. I didn't shoot as well as I wanted to it. I am not sure exactly where I would have gotten drafted, what part of the second round. Being in that spot in the draft, I felt it wouldn't hurt me to go back to school."

The NCAA deadline for players to withdraw from the NBA draft and maintain college eligibility is Wednesday.

Champagnie, a 6-foot-8 junior-to-be, was named All-Big East and the conference's Most Improved Player after a breakout season in which he averaged 19.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 1.3 assists and 1 block in 33 minutes per game, shooting 38% from 3-point range.

Champagnie was invited to the NBA combine in Chicago and had a solid showing, scoring 22 points in 52 minutes. His size, skill and ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor, along with his instincts and feel for the game, are intriguing to NBA teams, as is his youth.

He said NBA scouts told him in private interviews that they'd like to see him improve his perimeter defense and overall versatility to increase his standing in their eyes next season.

Champagnie, who turned 20 last week, is one of the youngest sophomores in his class, younger than several freshmen currently projected to be drafted. His twin brother, Justin, who attended Pitt and was named first team All-ACC, also declared for the NBA draft but has already announced he'll be keeping his name in the pool at the withdrawal deadline.

"A lot of NBA teams told me that next year I'll be much more of a priority guy for them," Julian Champagnie said. "COVID hurt my draft stock because people didn't get to see me in person. I need to add more to my repertoire and become more versatile. Because I'm so laid back off the court people think that I don't have the best motor and that I take plays off. I need to show teams that I can defend my position consistently one-on-one."

Champagnie returns to a St. John's team that finished 16-11 last season and came a few wins short of securing an NCAA tournament bid after a slow start to Big East play. Returning Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Posh Alexander, but very little else from last season's roster, St. John's will rely heavily on transfers, having secured commitments from players from Hofstra (Tareq Coburn), Vermont (Stef Smith), Rutgers (Montez Mathis), Fordham (Joel Soriano) and Purdue (Aaron Wheeler) to create an almost entirely new team.

"I don't know how next year will shape out. We'll have a bigger team," Champagnie said. "We have more talent and more height. I'm hoping to move from the 4 to the 3. We'll do what we need to win games. But I made it clear that a big reason I'm coming back is not to play the 5 next year. I need to show people I worked on my game.

"Guarding perimeter players and being a perimeter player. I need to play the wing, not be sitting in the paint guarding 4s and 5s. That won't help my draft stock. We've been having those conversations. I think they are hearing me out. Obviously, there are some situations where we'll need to go small at the end of games. I'll cross that bridge when we get there. Winning is going to be a big key. I want to win more games, get to the tournament and try to win a championship."

Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service used by NBA, NCAA and international teams.