Hunter Dickinson undecided on NBA draft or stay in Michigan

SAN ANTONIO — Hunter Dickinson said he let down his Michigan teammates with the way he played in a season-ending loss to Villanova on Thursday. Will he play another game with them?

Dickinson is a sophomore who entered the NBA Draft after his freshman season before deciding to stay at Michigan. He said at the time that it would be his last college season, but that was clearly not set in stone.

When asked after Thursday’s Sweet 16 loss if he had thought about his future, Dickinson said he hadn’t.

“Right now the only thing I can think about is how I let my team down and how I failed them,” the 7-foot-1 center said, standing with a small group of reporters before leaving AT&T Center. “I just didn’t step in when they needed me.”

11-seeded Michigan lost 63-55 to 2-seeded Villanova to be kicked out of the NCAA Tournament after a surprising run.

Dickinson was Michigan’s leading scorer (18.7 ppg) and leading rebounder (8.7) for the season, and he was again against Villanova, finishing with 15 points and 15 rebounds. But he was just 6 of 16 from the field and missed several close-range shots that he usually converts.

He acknowledged he may have been accelerated by Villanova, who deployed undersized but fiery defenders on him.

Michigan made it to the Elite Eight last year before losing a close, low-scoring game. Dickinson thought about turning pro, but decided to stay in school, in part to chase after a national championship.

“If I were to come back, yes, there would definitely be unfinished business,” Dickinson said. “I haven’t thought of any of that yet. My team’s feelings of failure are the most important things taking up space in my head right now.

To be clear, Dickinson alone didn’t cost Michigan this game, and neither his teammates who spoke with the media nor head coach Juwan Howard suggested as much. Michigan shot 34 percent from the field and went 7 of 14 from the foul line (Dickinson was 3 of 4).

He was asked about his future because college players, except immediately after the game, don’t typically meet the media in the weeks following the end of a season. Dickinson answered questions graciously, as he has done throughout his career. He said he had yet to think about the factors that would lead to his decision.

ESPN’s latest draft, released in late February, did not include Dickinson – or any Wolverines – among the 58 selections. (Two teams were docked for violating league rules.)

Michigan freshmen Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabaté could consider turning pro. Both are considered NBA prospects.

A former high-level executive for an NBA team who is still involved in the league told MLive during this NCAA tournament that Dickinson will have to decide whether he wants to continue playing college ball or go to the foreigner. The source said Dickinson’s lack of lateral quickness would make him a defensive liability in the NBA.

Villanova coach Jay Wright was impressed. He said the Big East Conference helps prepare his team for the NCAA Tournament. “I have to admit, though, that we haven’t met anyone like Hunter Dickinson,” Wright said. “Man, this guy is a handful. He has size, girth, strength, skill, intelligence, competitiveness. We’ve come across some good ones in the middle, but I think this is the best we’ve come across this year.

Dickinson said last summer he pulled his name from the draft because he wasn’t convinced he would be a first-round pick. He said NBA teams wanted to see him prove he could make 3-pointers in games, and he did, going 21 for 64 (33%) on the year.

Michigan will lose its starting backcourt of Eli Brooks and, barring an unforeseen event, DeVante’ Jones, both fifth-year players. Senior Brandon Johns Jr., who played 17 minutes on Thursday, is also expected to leave.

“I don’t know what the future holds for this team,” Dickinson said, “but I have so much faith in this man, Juwan, that whatever he has next year, he’s going to make the most of it. “

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