Junior forward Julian Champagnie has withdrawn his name from the NBA Draft, citing a desire to “return to school” in hopes of playing for New York next year. Champagnie was the Red Storm’s leading scorer this past season, averaging over 17 points per game, but he chose to forego the NBA Draft and return to St. John’s for his junior season to improve his game.

Before announcing his decision to withdraw from the NBA Draft, Julian Champagnie joined the “I Love St. John’s” Facebook page, and he talked a little bit about his decision in a post on that page. “I have decided to join the NBA draft pool,” he wrote. “I am going to take some time off and think about some things. … I am not sure what to do with my career. I am going to take a few months to figure it out and see what happens, but for the time being I am just going to play ball. I want to thank the people who have supported me and my family. Especially the Red Storm and the St. John’s fans here. I will be back out there soon.”

St John’s forward Julian Champagni is forgoing the NBA draft and returning to school for his junior season, he told ESPN on Sunday.

The decision was extremely difficult, Champagni said. This thought had been haunting me for months. I enjoyed the process, but I wasn’t where I wanted to be, in part because of a wrist injury I suffered in the beginning that affected me mentally and physically. I didn’t shoot as well as I would have liked. I don’t know exactly where I would have been drafted, in what part of the second round. When I was at this stage of the project, I didn’t think it would hurt to go back to school.

Wednesday is the deadline for NCAA players to withdraw from the NBA draft and retain their college eligibility.

Champagni, a 6-foot-7 junior, was named Big East Player of the Year and conference MVP after a stellar season in which he averaged 19.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 1.3 assists and 1 block in 33 minutes per game while shooting 38 percent from three-point range.

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Champagni was invited to the NBA Combine in Chicago and performed well: He scored 22 points in 52 minutes. His size, skill and ability to affect play on both ends of the court, as well as his instincts and feel for the game, intrigue NBA teams as much as his youth.

He said NBA scouts have told him in private conversations that they would like to see him improve his perimeter defense and overall versatility to raise his profile in their eyes next season.

Champagni, who turned 20 last week, is one of the youngest sophomores in his class and younger than several freshmen currently selected for recruitment. His twin brother Justin, who went to Pitt and was named First-Team All-ACC, has also applied for the NBA Draft but has already announced that he will hold his name back until the application deadline.

Many NBA teams have told me that I will be a much bigger priority for them next year, Julian Champagni said. COVID cracked my draft case because people couldn’t see me in person. I need to expand my repertoire and become more versatile. Because I’m so quiet off the field, people think I don’t have the best bike and that I’m distracted by the races. I need to show teams that I can consistently defend my one-on-one position.

Champagni returns to a St. Louis team St. John’s finished 16-11 last season and was just a few wins away from qualifying for the NCAA Tournament after a slow start in the Big East. Rookie of the year and Defensive Player of the Year Posh Alexander returns, but has almost nothing to do with last season’s team. St. John’s will lean heavily on transfers and has commitments from players from Hofstra (Tarek Coburn), Vermont (Steph Smith), Rutgers (Montez Mathis), Fordham (Joel Soriano) and Purdue (Aaron Wheeler) to form an almost entirely new team.

I don’t know how it will be next year. We’re going to have a great team, Champagni said. We have more talent and growth. I hope to go from 4 to 3. We’re going to do what we need to do to win games. But I have made it clear that the main reason I am back is not to play in the top five next year. I need to show people that I’ve been working on my game.

Guard the perimeter players and be a perimeter player. I need to play on the wing and not sit in the box and defend the 4s and 5s. This is not good for my design stock. We’ve had these conversations before. I think they can hear me. Clearly, in some situations, we need to start small at the end of the game. I’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. A victory will do much good. I want to win more games, get in the tournament and try to win a championship.

Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analysis service used by NBA, NCAA and international teams.

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