Devan Downey had three options, and only one was good for the South Carolina basketball team.
In the end, Downey chose USC, and the Gamecocks now are in position to build on last season.
The star guard announced Saturday that he was withdrawing from the NBA draft and would return for his senior season. In so doing, he passed on a chance to make at least six figures in Europe, according to sources close to the player.
Downey withdrew two days before the deadline and two days after teammate Dominique Archie also announced he was pulling out of the draft.
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“I want to thank my coaches, teammates and fans for being so supportive throughout the process,” Downey said in a statement released by the team. “It was a great experience for me, but the best decision for me right now is to come back to school.”
The Chester native has earned first-team All-SEC honors each of the past two seasons. He also has been among the league’s leaders in scoring, steals and assists.
The returns of both Downey and Archie put the Gamecocks in good position to improve on last season, when they went 21-10 overall and 10-6 in the SEC, advancing to the NIT. They will enter next season with a chance to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004.
Kentucky will be the favorite to win the East with Vanderbilt, Tennessee and a Downey-led South Carolina expected to be in the mix.
“Devan and I have been on the same page throughout the process,” USC coach Darrin Horn said in a statement. “The feedback he received from several NBA teams and personnel will continue to help him grow as a basketball player.”
When he initially declared for the draft in April, Downey was considered unlikely to be chosen. But he was called to a flurry of workouts with NBA teams, including three this week, the final one with Milwaukee on Thursday.
That made him a possible second-round pick, according to ESPN.com.
Downey’s plan had been to meet with family and advisers and make a decision today. But he had decided to return to school by Friday, according to a source close to the player.
After sleeping on the decision, Downey met with Horn at the Colonial Center late Saturday afternoon.
Pro teams from France, Italy, Turkey and Russia had expressed an interest in Downey, according to a source close to the player. A six-figure offer from one of the teams had been discussed.
But Downey’s ultimate goal remains the NBA, sources said, and he felt playing his senior year would enhance his chances of moving into the first round next year.
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