It’s an annual dance brought on by the silly one-and-done rule: Elite college basketball players talk about how much they love their school, how tough it would be to leave (even as they are skipping classes in the spring semester that they don’t intend to finish), but their dream has always been to go to the NBA and they are going to pursue it.
Joel Embiid was a one-and-done player for Kansas. Except he says he almost wasn’t one-and-done, he came very close to staying a Jayhawk for another season, as reported by David Skretta at NBC Sports Philadelphia.
“It was a great feeling,” Embiid said of Kansas after the workout, sweat still dripping from his face. “When I was here, I don’t think anybody knows this story, but I actually decided to stay. I loved this place so much. I was actually pushed to leave. But I loved this place so much.”
So who did the pushing?
“I’m not going to say,” he said with another smile, “but it was a tough choice. I still have a lot of love for Kansas, and every time I have a chance to represent, I’m going to do it.”
That doesn’t sound like hyperbole. Embiid landed at Kansas fairly fresh out of his native Cameroon and started to develop there, and he averaged 11.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. There’s also a sense of unfinished business, remember a stress fracture in his back late in the season kept him out of the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAA tournament. He may well have wanted to return.
But having just signed a $148 million contract extension with the Sixers, he’s probably pretty happy with his decision to head to the NBA.