South Carolina basketball: AJ Lawson returning for junior year

South Carolina basketball player AJ Lawson will be returning to Columbia next season.

Frank Martin and the Gamecocks received a huge boost on Wednesday when junior guard AJ Lawson announced that he’ll be removing his name from NBA draft consideration and returning to Columbia for the 2020 college basketball season. He had until August 3rd to make his final decision.

Lawson broke the news via Twitter with a message that read:

I’m happy to announce that I am withdrawing my name from the NBA Draft and returning to school for my junior season as a Gamecock! I want to thank all of the teams that gave me the opportunity to speak with them over the last couple of months, and I’m excited to be back in Columbia and ready to get to work for the season ahead!

The announcement immediately turns South Carolina into an SEC threat and a legitimate NCAA tournament team. Lawson led the Gamecocks in scoring a season ago, and with his return, Frank Martin’s group gets eight of its top ten scorers back from last year’s team. It should be coach Martin’s deepest group since the Final Four run in 2017.

This was Lawson’s second time going through the draft process, as he also entered his name following a stellar freshman season that saw him earn all-SEC honors. He would ultimately withdraw his name from consideration. While it was expected that the guard would make the same decision this time around, it’s certainly nice for Gamecock fans to finally hear him announce it to the public.

South Carolina won 18 games in 2019, and looked like they were headed to the NIT prior to the season being cut short due to Coronavirus. This year’s group will look to eclipse that win total in 2020 as the Gamecocks try to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

For his career, Lawson has averaged 13.4 points per game on 41% shooting. With another solid campaign, we could see his name appearing on NBA draft boards yet again next year.

Next: 3 questions for Gamecock basketball in 2020
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