By Kevin McPherson

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas sophomore big man and 2021-22 first team All SEC selection Jaylin Williams announced on Monday that he will enter the NBA Draft pool for underclassmen but will not hire an agent while leaving the door open for a return to the Hogs in ’22-23.

“I am announcing my intention to enter the 2022 NBA Draft process,” Williams said. “However, I will not be hiring an agent to keep my eligibility with the University of Arkansas intact. I look forward to learning from the upcoming process, going through the interviews, gathering feedback and building relationships with NBA coaches and front office personnel.

“My gratitude to Coach (Eric) Musselman and the staff goes beyond words for helping me be in this position. I will keep all my options open and, after going through the process and talking with my family, my support group and the Arkansas coaching staff, I will make an informed decision when the appropriate time comes.”

Williams (6-10 forward / center, native of Fort Smith) currently has 2022 mock NBA Draft projections ranging from late first round to mid-to-late second round. Draft analyst Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype and USA Today’s For the Win recently projected Williams to go 2th overall (late first round), while DraftExpress/ESPN recently slotted Williams as the 45th pick (mid-second round).

The entry deadline for underclassmen to declare is April 24, and Williams can participate in the NBA Draft Combine (May 16-22) if invited. The deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft is June 1.

Named to the ’21-22 SEC All Defensive team in addition to being named first team All SEC, Williams had a total of 16 double-doubles as he averaged 10.9 points, 9.8 rebounds (ranked 2nd in the SEC), 2.6 assists (ranked 20th in the SEC and tops among the league’s frontcourt players), 1.1 blocks (ranked 7th in the SEC), 1.3 steals (ranked tied for 20th in the SEC and was tops among league players 6-10 or taller), and team-high 54 charges drawn (led Division 1 basketball). He shot 46.1% from the field, including 23.9% from 3, and 72.9% from the free throw line. His 364 rebounds in ’21-22 established a school record for most rebounds in a single season.

Williams played in all 18 SEC games in ’21-22, averaging a double-double in league play with 13.6 points and 10.2 rebounds as he notched 11 SEC games with double-figures in both scoring and rebounding. Williams’ 183 rebounds in league games also established a school single-season record.

In his two seasons at Arkansas, Williams was a key cog in Hog squads that reached back-to-back NCAA Tournament Elite Eights. He recored a double-double in each of the team’s four NCAAT games in ’21-22 as he was named to the NCAAT West Region all tournament team.

Should he return to Arkansas, Williams will gain an extra year of eligibility due to the NCAA’s covid-19 exception granted to all D1 players, meaning he still has three seasons to play in college.