Maldonado to test NBA waters, could return to Wyoming
LARAMIE -- Hunter Maldonado could return to the Wyoming lineup next season.
But first, he announced on Tuesday morning, he wants to test the NBA waters and go through the evaluation process.
"This season was one of the most special seasons in my career and in Cowboy basketball history," Maldonado said in a tweet. "While it didn't end the way we wanted, thank you for all the love and support throughout the season. After taking time to consult with the people closest to me I know I must do what is best for my future. My dream has always been to play at the highest level possible.
"I have decided to get evaluated in the NBA Draft process while still maintaining my Covid year of eligibility allowing me to come back and go for one last ride next year!"
So, what does this all mean?
The Colorado Springs product can hire an NCAA-certified agent that can aid in the process of gathering information whether or not to enter the draft. Since 2016, players have been able to evaluate their stock by attending the NBA Combine. They can also do private workouts for teams.
That timeframe begins in April and can conclude up to 10 days after the combine, which is scheduled to take place May 16-22 in Chicago.
An Undergraduate Advisory Committee, comprised of NBA team executives, can notify in writing whether the player will be taken in the lottery, drafted in the first or second round -- including the second half of the second round -- or not selected at all.
Maldonado will need to make his ultimate decision, per NCAA rules, by June 1 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.
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Wyoming head coach Jeff Linder said after the Cowboys 66-58 loss to Indiana last Tuesday in the First Four game of the NCAA Tournament in Dayton, Ohio, that he would support Maldonado's decision either way.
His statement indicated he has already entertained the thought of his return.
"If he did come back, I mean, we have a lot of the right pieces and could be really special again," Linder said.
Wyoming finished the 2021-22 campaign 25-9 overall and claimed an at-large bid to the Big Dance on Selection Sunday, the 16th trip to March Madness in school history.
Maldonado was the only player in the nation to average 18.5 points and nearly six rebounds per game last season to go along with 6.3 assists. The first team All-Mountain West selection -- by the coaches and media -- led the conference in minutes per outing at 37.3.
He also landed in the Top 15 in scoring (6th), rebounding (11th), field-goal percentage (6th), free-throw percentage (11th), assists (2nd), steals (10th) and assist/ turnover ratio (6th).
His best offensive outing of the season came in an 84-78 overtime victory over Border War rival Colorado State on Jan. 31 in Laramie. That night, Maldonado netted a career-high 35 points on 12-of-19 shooting. The previous game, he scored 31 in his hometown, including a buzzer-beating layup to sink Air Force, 63-61.
After Marcus Williams transferred to Texas A&M in the offseason, Linder slid Maldonado from the small forward spot to point guard, a position the 6-foot-7, 203-pound senior hadn't played during his five-year tenure on the high plains.
Maldonado responded by becoming one of the top post players in the country, alongside forward Graham Ike.
Since arriving on campus back in 2017, Maldonado has averaged 13.3 points per game in addition to 5.2 rebounds and four assists a night. He became the program's all-time assists leader with 508, surpassing Sean Dent’s final mark of 502.
In a home loss to San Diego State in late February, Maldonado notched just the third triple-double in Wyoming history, scoring 13 points, pulling down 11 boards and dishing out the same number of assists. Maldonado joins Theo Ratliff and Justin Williams in that rarified air.
Maldonado is the ninth leading scorer in program history with 1,707 points.
Wyoming lost three players to the NCAA Transfer Portal last week -- John Grigsby, Deng Dut and Eoin Nelson -- and senior guard Drake Jeffries announced he would forgo his final season of eligibility in hopes of playing professional basketball.
Hunter Thompson, the third senior on last season's squad, has yet to publicly announce his plans for 2022-23.