basketball Edit

Isaiah Joe withdraws from NBA Draft, returning to Arkansas

Isaiah Joe will return to Arkansas for his junior season.
Isaiah Joe will return to Arkansas for his junior season. (Arkansas Athletics)

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FAYETTEVILLE — With two days to spare, Isaiah Joe has withdrawn from the 2020 NBA Draft and will return to Arkansas for his junior season, he announced Saturday afternoon.

The sharpshooter from Fort Smith originally declared for the draft three months ago, but left the door open for such a move by not hiring an agent. In a normal year, Joe would have made needed to make a final decision much sooner, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic pushed everything back.

His decision to pull out of the draft comes just ahead of the Aug. 3 deadline to maintain his college eligibility and a few days after he was invited to participate in the NBA Draft Combine.

“I know a lot of people have been waiting to hear my decision, but this has definitely been one not to be rushed,” Joe wrote on Twitter. “After all things considered, I have decided to play my next season at the University of Arkansas and continue my dream as a Hog!”

After a freshman season in which he made a UA single-season record 113 three-pointers, Joe was widely projected as a first-round pick in 2020.

He followed that up with a sophomore campaign in which he averaged 16.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.4 steals. His scoring ranked seventh in the SEC, while leading the conference with 94 three-pointers.

However, a knee injury suffered in the middle of SEC play required a minor procedure that forced him to miss multiple games. The Razorbacks beat TCU without Joe, but later lost five straight games during his absence.

His three-point shooting percentage dipped from 41.4 percent as a freshman to 34.2 percent last season and most mock drafts and big boards had him slotted as a fringe second-round pick.

Even with his drop in efficiency, Joe is sill one of the most prolific shooters in UA history. In just two seasons, he already ranks seventh on Arkansas’ all-time list with 203 career three-pointers. His 3.44 threes per game are by far the most in school history, well ahead of Rotnei Clarke’s 2.98.

By returning to school for another year, he’ll likely have a chance to climb into second place on the career three-pointers list. Joe needs just 72 to jump Lee Mayberry, Todd Day, Anthlon Bell, Scotty Thurman and Clarke. Pat Bradley holds the career record with 366 - 163 ahead of Joe - but he did that in four years.

"We are so excited to have Isaiah back,” head coach Eric Musselman said in a statement. “He received incredible feedback from the NBA and got valuable experience with NBA interviews. We know how hard of a decision this was for Isaiah and his family. Zai’s goal is to have a long NBA career and we can’t wait to continue helping him reach his dream.”

Joe’s return also means the Razorbacks won’t have to replace all three of their top scorers from the 2019-20 season. He finished second - behind Mason Jones, who has declared for the draft and signed with an agent, and ahead of Jimmy Whitt Jr., who was a senior.

Arkansas is also at its maximum of 13 scholarship players. Joe is one of only three - alongside Desi Sills and Ethan Henderson - who have actually played a game in an Arkansas uniform.

The other 10 players are newcomers. That includes four Rivals150 signees, three sit-out transfers who will be eligible to play this season and three graduate transfers.