Maten pulls out of NBA Draft, returning to UGA

With senior power forward Yante Maten returning to school, Georgia is one of many SEC teams with high hopes for the 2017-18 season.

Published on Wednesday, 5/24/17, at 3:25 p.m. Eastern.

Yante Maten announced Tuesday night that he’s returning to Georgia for his senior season after testing the waters of the NBA Draft.

Maten announced his decision on Instagram: “I’ve had a good experience working out with teams, and it has helped my development out tremendously,” Maten wrote. “But I have talked it over with my family and decided to return to the University of Georgia for my senior year. Go dawgs!!”

Maten’s decision to return is crucial for head coach Mark Fox, who enters his ninth season in Athens most likely needing an NCAA Tournament bid to hang around for a 10th year. Fox has taken UGA to the postseason four straight times, winning 19 games or more each season, but three of those campaigns have ended in the NIT.

Fox has a 145-118 (55.1%) overall record at Georgia, going 70-68 (50.7%) in SEC play. He has taken the Bulldogs to only two NCAA Tournaments. With that said, this space has had Fox’s back for a long time. The former two-time WAC Coach of the Year during his five-year tenure at Nevada is an outstanding game coach and, unlike many others in his business, runs a clean program.

Fox took the Wolf Pack to three NCAA Tournaments and five postseason events, winning four regular-season titles in the process. When he was hired by former Georgia AD Damon ‘Red Panties’ Evans, the main question was how long it would take him to establish recruiting relationships in the South. That’s because Fox is from the Midwest and had spent his entire life West of the Mississippi before arriving in Athens.

Fox is beginning to have more success on the recruiting trail. He inked four-star recruit Rayshaun Hammonds in this year’s class. Hammonds, who picked UGA over Alabama, UConn, Miami, Memphis and Texas, is a 6’8” power forward who should make an instant impact as a freshman.

Maten averaged 18.6 points and 6.8 rebounds as a junior. He missed the last four games of the regular season with a knee injury that kept him out for the last 38 minutes of a heartbreaking home loss to Kentucky. If UGA had won that game, it might have heard its named called on Selection Sunday. The Bulldogs also lost overtime games at Florida and at Kentucky, in addition to gut-wrenching road losses decided in the finals seconds at South Carolina and Texas A&M.

J.J. Frazier is UGA’s only significant loss, but the speedy southpaw was a four-year starter who is one of the greatest players in the program’s history. The Bulldogs, who have 200/1 odds to win the 2018 NCAA Tournament at, return four starters and a number of key reserves. With the addition of Hammonds and Maten coming back, they’ll have an excellent shot at the NCAA Tournament berth that has been so narrowly elusive the last two seasons.

In other SEC news, Alabama’s Braxton Key is coming back to school, too. Key, who averaged team-highs in points (12.0 PPG) and minutes played (29.8 MPG) as a true freshman, started 30 of 34 games.

Avery Johnson has the nation’s sixth-ranked recruiting class coming to Tuscaloosa. This group includes Collin Sexton, who is currently listed as the No. 6 overall pick in’s latest 2018 mock. Sexton is joined by another five-star recruit in John Petty. Johnson’s class also has a pair of four-star players in Herb Jones and Alex Reese.

Texas transfer Tevin Mack is also joining the Crimson Tide, though he’ll have to sit out the 2017-18 campaign. Mack, who averaged 14.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game before being suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules in early January, will have two years of eligibility remaining starting in ’18-19.

The Tide has 65/1 odds to win the 2018 NCAA Tourney at Sportsbook.

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