By R.L. Bynum
Carolina fans may not know by Monday if Caleb Love will return for his junior season but they’ll know if he’s decided to enter the NBA draft process.
The deadline for players to enter the draft is Sunday at 11:59 p.m. and those who do so then have until June 1 at 11:59 p.m. to withdraw their names.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Love decided to enter the draft process to get a good gauge on his NBA stock. He could go to the draft combine and get feedback from scouts about what he must do to improve his standing.
“If it’s not meant for me to go this year, then I’m going to come back,” Love told Inside Carolina at a barnstorming tour stop on April 13 in Gastonia. “I’m taking it day by day, getting all the feedback that I can, and then I’ll make a decision.”
Sources tell The Athletic that Love is genuinely torn about what to do.
With NIL money out there for him if he returns to the Tar Heels and the prospect of being able to possibly move up to a more lucrative draft position with another solid college season, returning makes a lot of sense.
And, of course, the lure of making another run at a national title has to be appealing as well.
Of the mock NBA drafts, Love’s highest projection is No. 27 in the first round to Milwaukee on a Fox Sports list released April 5. He’s listed as No. 29 in the first round to Memphis on NBAdraft.net.
Other projections have Love projected to go in the second round, with Sports Illustrated listing him as No. 49 to Minnesota. Bleacher Report earlier had that same projection but Love is no longer listed in its latest list.
SB Nation and CBS Sports only list the first round and Love didn’t make either of those lists.
Love, who averaged 15.9 points and scored 93 3-pointers last season, had sensational second-half scoring surges in several games last season but will be best remembered for his crucial late 3-pointer in an 81–77 national semifinal victory over Duke in New Orleans.
The Tar Heels finished 29–10 but may not have even made the Final Four if not for his late back-to-back 3-pointers in their 73–66 Sweet 16 victory over UCLA in Philadelphia. He scored 27 of his career-high 30 points in the second half.
In UNC’s victories, Love averaged a team-leading 17.4 points but averaged a fourth-best 11.7 points in their losses. He made 40 consecutive free-throw attempts before missing against Virginia in the ACC tournament to fall one shy of tying assistant coach Jeff Lebo’s school record set in 1989.
He’s one of 18 UNC players to earn make the all-regional and all-Final Four teams.
Photo via @UNC_Basketball