Arella Guirantes bypasses WNBA draft to return to Rutgers

Arella Guirantes will return for her final season at Rutgers instead of entering the WNBA draft, answering one of the only remaining questions about the pool of players that will be available in a draft that will be conducted virtually on April 17.

The Big Ten's leading scorer this past season, ranking ninth nationally at 20.6 points per game, Guirantes, a 5-foot-11 guard, was widely projected as a late-first or early second-round pick in the 12-team draft.

Guirantes indicated in a statement that she only reached her decision Tuesday, the deadline to enter. Players must declare at least 10 days prior to the draft. She said she relied on a favorite bible verse to decide.

"I was going to make a decision to get it over with, but this decision is what I'm supposed to be going through," Guirantes said in the statement. "What I needed to do was be faithful toward my goals. I want to be the Big Ten Player of the Year, a first team All-American and win a championship with Rutgers basketball.

"This is what I'm supposed to go through to be prepared for those moments."

A redshirt junior who sat out the 2017-18 season at Rutgers as a transfer from Texas Tech, Guirantes was eligible to declare for the draft as a player four years out of high school.

She was a first-team all-conference selection for the Scarlet Knights this past season, one of five players to earn that distinction unanimously in the Big Ten. Along with Michigan's Naz Hillmon, Indiana's Ali Patberg and Northwestern's Lindsey Pulliam, she should enter the 2020-21 season among the favorites to achieve her goal of winning Big Ten Player of the Year.

Guirantes was also an honorable mention AP All-American this season. Nine of the 15 players ahead of her on the three All-America teams were seniors or otherwise entered the WNBA draft.

She will join Kentucky's Rhyne Howard, Iowa State's Ashley Joens and Arizona's Aari McDonald as the only returning players in Power 5 conferences who averaged at least 20 points per game during the 2019-20 season.

"Arella is the perfect leader to bring Rutgers women's basketball to the next level as we continue our resurgence as a national power," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said in a statement. "We appreciate her dedication to our program and her commitment to excellence. Her work ethic and competitive drive is second to none, and we are excited to welcome her back for her senior season."

Rutgers was 22-9 this season, including 11-7 in the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights were poised to make the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season with Guirantes after missing the tournament in five of the previous six seasons.