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Johnathan Williams withdraws from NBA Draft, will return to Gonzaga

UPDATED: Wed., May 24, 2017

Johnathan Williams has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and will return for his senior season at Gonzaga, The Spokesman-Review has learned.

Williams declared for the draft last month but didn’t hire an agent, retaining the option of returning to GU.

Wednesday was the deadline for underclassmen to pull out of the draft. Williams took his decision down to the wire because he had workouts with Toronto on Monday and Denver on Tuesday.

Williams will be Gonzaga’s top returning scorer (10.2 points) and shot-blocker (36). He was the team’s top rebounder (6.4). He averaged 10.6 points and 7.8 rebounds in WCC games and earned first-team honors.

The 6-foot-9 forward stabilizes a frontcourt that lost 7-footers Przemek Karnowski (graduation), Zach Collins (NBA Draft) and Ryan Edwards, who elected not to play his senior season.

Karnowski won the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award given to the nation’s top center. Collins is projected as a lottery pick.

Williams was instrumental in Gonzaga’s run to the national championship game. He had 19 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in the rout over Xavier that propelled the Zags to their first Final Four.

Williams, named most outstanding player of the West Regional in San Jose, averaged 10.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in six NCAA Tournament games. The Memphis native made 56 percent of his shots.

ESPN.com’s Chad Ford noted that Williams put up solid numbers as a junior but most scouts saw him going undrafted if he had remained in the draft.

The Zags lost three starters – Karnowski, Jordan Mathews (graduation) and Nigel Williams-Goss (NBA Draft) – from their 37-win squad.

Williams, Josh Perkins and Silas Melson are the team’s most experienced returning players.

Williams’ return is big to a frontcourt that is talented but young and largely unproven. Killian Tillie, a rising sophomore, was a contributor in the rotation last season. Rui Hachimura and Jacob Larsen, who missed last season with an ACL injury, could take on important roles.

The Zags are also in the mix for Cal graduate transfer Kameron Rooks, a 7-1 center who averaged 4.9 points and 4.5 rebounds last season.

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