Contributors, Justin Jackson, Men's Basketball, WVU Sports

COLUMN: Jared Butler’s NBA decision is a gamble either way and that may not be the best news for WVU’s Oscar Tshiebwe

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — I would not want to be in Jared Butler’s shoes these days for one simple reason:

He has all of the pertinent information right in front of him, yet there is no clearly defined answer.

That is not a good position for the Baylor star point guard to be in these unprecedented days.

Only a minor miracle would propel him up into the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft on Oct. 16, so keeping his name in the draft past Monday’s deadline could be a real gamble.

Butler has to know that, whether it comes from his discussions with NBA people or through his draft grade from the NBA’s Underclassmen Advisory Committee or even by clicking on any of the hundreds of NBA mock drafts found online.

If the junior-to-be were to return to the Bears, then Butler is likely the hands-on favorite to win Big 12 Player of the Year and Baylor becomes one of the favorites in Las Vegas to win the national championship.

This, too, Butler has to know.

Baylor was 26-4 before the 2019-20 college basketball season was shut down by COVID-19.

If Butler were to return for his junior season, the Bears would be returning four starters and seven of its top nine players.

The one graduated starter — forward Freddie Gillespie — will likely have his spot filled by former all-Big 12 player Tristan Clark, who would be two years removed from a knee injury that cost him most of his sophomore season.

On paper, maybe only Gonzaga — and even that may be a big maybe if Butler remains in school — has more potential to win the NCAA title.

Now, we have all of this information and it sounds like the choice to return to Baylor is the better option.

Except who out there can guarantee that there will even be college basketball games played for the 2020-21 season?

Who can guarantee that the 2021 NCAA tournament won’t be shut down just as it was in 2020?

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby can’t guarantee a basketball season. Dr. Anthony Fauci can’t guarantee it will be safe to play games come November or even by next January.

True, college hoops teams began preseason workouts last month.

At WVU, it’s men’s and women’s hoops players have been tested and quarantined when necessary, but that is only a positive step moving forward, not a guarantee that the season will be played.

So, in Butler’s case, it can be a gamble either way.

That’s not how the system should be designed for a young man who has a bright future in the sport of basketball.

This should not be a damned if you do, damned if you don’t type of deal.

By now you may be asking why as a WVU fan should I care about a player from Baylor?

WVU forward Oscar Tshiebwe withdrew his name from the 2020 NBA Draft, but if the 2020-21 college basketball season is altered by COVID-19, Tshiebwe could be put in a tough situation in considering his options for the 2021 draft. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Because even though Oscar Tshiebwe already withdrew his name from the 2020 draft, the WVU sophomore forward is still in the same sort of boat as Butler if there is no 2020-21 college basketball season.

Or even if there is a partial season, that’s still a lesser amount of games to show off individual improvement to NBA scouts.

I have no idea where Tshiebwe is projected for the 2021 draft, but the last thing any college prospect would want is less time to prepare for it.

Say, just as an example, Tshiebwe would get off to a slow start in a shortened season. How much would that hurt his draft stock?

If there is no season, would Tshiebwe put all of his eggs in trying to make an impression at the 2021 combine and then simply go pro without having played as a sophomore?

These are probably some of the same questions Butler is asking himself.

Is it worth maybe spending an extra two years in college or taking your chances on the draft right now and hoping for the best?

Or do you go back to school and keep your fingers crossed a full season will be played?

In our current time surrounded by the coronavirus, either way offers little comfort, and that’s most unfortunate.

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