Big man Hunter Dickinson returning to Michigan for junior season

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

The big man is still on campus.

Michigan center Hunter Dickinson announced on social media that he’s coming back to Ann Arbor for his junior season and putting his pro pursuits on hold once again.

Michigan center Hunter Dickinson (1) goes to the basket with Villanova forward Eric Dixon (43) defending during the team's Sweet 16 matchup last month.

“I ain’t done yet,” Dickinson wrote in a Twitter post.

Dickinson’s return is huge news for the Wolverines, whom he helped lead to back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in his two seasons. Dickinson, a two-time All-Big Ten selection, was one of the best freshmen in the country in 2020-21 and followed that up with an impressive sophomore campaign, averaging a team-high 18.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while shooting a team-best 56.3% from the floor in 32 contests.

Even though the 7-foot-1 left-hander expanded his game — finishing with his right hand in the post and knocking down 21 3-pointers — and improved much of his offensive numbers, his back-to-the-basket prowess doesn't mesh with the modern NBA's style of play. His name doesn’t appear in draft projections by prominent outlets, and he isn’t ranked among ESPN’s top 100 draft prospects.

“Dickinson, I like him. I've scouted him," Michigan legend and Hall of Fame coach Rudy Tomjanovich said in February. "Last year, I was working for Minnesota for a couple drafts and was impressed by him. … He's got an inside game. He's got an outside game. He's aggressive. I like that he takes it to them, and he's a pretty good passer too.

"If it was a different era, he would be right there at the top. But the way the game is played in the NBA, it's hard to really get — they just don't use big men that much. And I will say this, it's not easy when everybody knows you have a big man and you're trying to throw it in (with) the way they can set the defenses now."

Dickinson declared for the draft last offseason before withdrawing. There was speculation he was going to go through the pre-draft process a second time, but he chose to return to Michigan — where he can cash in on his stardom with NIL rights — and opted to not submit his name before Sunday’s early entry deadline.

Michigan was also awaiting NBA Draft decisions from freshman forwards Moussa Diabate and Caleb Houstan on Sunday, the final day for underclassmen to submit their names into the draft.

More: Forward Brandon Johns Jr. becomes second ex-Wolverine to transfer to VCU this offseason

However, the 11:59 p.m. deadline passed without an announcement from the Michigan men's basketball program or Diabate and Houstan, who both aren't active on social media. The NBA will release a full entry list in the coming days.

Both Houstan’s and Diabate’s rookie seasons were a mixed bag, and, like Dickinson, neither of them appears in the most recent two-round mock drafts by Bleacher Report, ESPN, Sports Illustrated and The Athletic. When it comes to draft prospect big boards and rankings, Houstan is listed anywhere from No. 37 (CBS Sports) to No. 64 (ESPN) while Diabate’s range is between No. 50 (The Athletic) and No. 69 (ESPN).

Houstan, 19, was one of two Wolverines to start all 34 games and he averaged 10.1 points and four rebounds in 32 minutes, but his all-around game and defense were underwhelming. He made a team-high 60 3-pointers and shot 35.5% from deep but had noticeable shooting splits — 47.7% at home, 29% on the road and 26.2% at neutral sites. The Wolverines were 11-1 when he scored at least 13 points.

Diabate, 20, began the season on the bench before taking over Brandon Johns Jr.’s spot as the starting four. He was named to the All-Big Ten freshman team after averaging nine points and six rebounds in 24.8 minutes and shooting 54.2% from the field over 32 appearances, with 26 starts. Diabate's athleticism and wiry frame made him a menace on the glass on both ends, but he wasn’t much of a scoring threat away from the basket and he had some tough defensive outings against the better forwards in the Big Ten.

Michigan has to replace its starting backcourt, with Eli Brooks exhausting his eligibility and DeVante’ Jones passing on the extra COVID-19 year to pursue his NBA dream. But with Dickinson's announcement, the Wolverines will at least bring back their leading scorer in 2022-23.

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins