Davion Mintz to return to UK for 2021-22 season

Sports

(AP Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Davion Mintz, Kentucky men’s basketball’s leader in scoring, 3-point shooting and assists in 2020-21, will return to UK for his final season of eligibility for the 2021-22 year.

After going through the NBA Draft evaluation process, Mintz will withdraw his name from the 2021 NBA Draft less than a week prior to the July 7 NCAA deadline.

“First of all, I want to thank everyone for the support they have provided me the last couple of months while I pursued my dream of playing professionally,” Mintz said. “I really appreciate the support from my coaches, my teammates and my family while I went through this process. I wanted to give it a real shot and I feel like I did that. I know that I am ready and closer to my ultimate goal of playing in the NBA.

“Having said that, my heart has guided me back to Kentucky for one more year. I want another season on the national stage to prove that I am ready to play at the highest level. I can’t wait to get back to Lexington with my teammates and experience the full effect of Big Blue Nation. It’s time to get back to work.”

Mintz will be the first Wildcat to return to school after leading the team in scoring average the previous season since Randolph Morris led the 2005-06 squad and came back to Kentucky for the 2006-07 season.

“I am so happy for Davion because he was able to explore all of his options and decided to come back to a place that he loves,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “He is one of the most appreciative players I have coached in my time here. I said to his parents after last season, ‘I can coach him for the next 10 years.’ He is that kind of person, player and leader. Our team is different than last season and there is more competition, but there is no question that Davion makes us better. He improved so much from the start of last season to the end and I can’t wait to see that continued growth in his second year with us.”

Mintz’s return bolsters what was already shaping up to be a loaded 2021-22 roster. Returning eligible players from last season’s team already included guard Dontaie Allen and forwards Keion Brooks Jr., Jacob Toppin and Lance Ware. Calipari added high-impact transfers CJ Fredrick (Iowa), Kellan Grady (Davidson) and Sahvir Wheeler (Georgia), plus Oscar Tshiebwe (West Virginia) will be eligible to play after joining the team in late January.

Additionally, UK has another highly ranked recruiting class that includes guard TyTy Washington and forwards Daimion Collins and Bryce Hopkins, all consensus top-40 players in the class of 2021.

Mintz’s return will officially make this the most experienced team of what will be the 13th season of the Calipari era. UK’s 2021-22 roster currently features a sixth-year graduate, a fifth-year graduate, a redshirt junior, six juniors, a redshirt sophomore, two sophomores and three freshmen.

Production wise, it will also be among the most prolific returning teams of the Calipari era. With Mintz back in the fold, Kentucky will return 42.1% of its minutes, 41.9% of its scoring, 39.0% of the rebounds, 42.4% of the assists and 60.6% of the 3-pointers from a season ago.

For comparison, the only two Calipari-coached Kentucky teams that returned more minutes and more points (in terms of percentages) than the 2021-22 team is slated to return were the 2011-12 national championship squad and the 2014-15 Final Four team that started the season 38-0.

Adding the Wildcats’ four transfers to the equation, Kentucky’s current 2021-22 roster includes 13,385 minutes, 5,203 points, 1,917 rebounds, 1,132 assists and 543 total 3-pointers in college basketball production.

Mintz announced in early May he was entering the 2021 NBA Draft. Under NCAA rules, he could sign with an NCAA-certified agent, receive feedback and return to school so long as he withdrew his name 10 days following the NBA Combine (July 7).

The 6-foot-3 guard will return to Kentucky after leading the team in total points (288), 3-pointers (56), assists (77) and double-figure scoring games (17). He averaged 11.5 points per game, including 16.7 points per outing over the last six games, shot 37.8% from behind the arc and dished out a team-best 3.1 assists per game.

For a player many envisioned as a complementary piece at the beginning of the 2020-21 season, Mintz was a vital and indispensable part of last season’s team both as a leader and as a central part of the offense.

Mintz got it done everywhere down the stretch as he finished 2020-21 with six straight games in double figures, including two with 20 or more points, and 23 combined assists in the final three contests as he took on an increased role at point guard. The stretch began when he caught fire from behind the arc as Mintz made multiple 3-pointers in 12 of the final 13 games and 33 over that 13-game span.

Beyond the leadership attributes Mintz brought, it was his ability to step up and take the tough shot in big situations – “daggers” as Calipari liked to call them – that endeared him to UK fans. He hit clutch shots at home and on the road vs. Vanderbilt, vs. Arkansas and a game winner against Auburn. Mintz provided what was the feel-good moment of the 2020-21 season when he hit five 3-pointers in just over three and a half minutes early in the second half to turn a tight game into a double-digit rout.

Mintz began his career at Creighton, appearing in 97 career games with 79 starts for the Bluejays. In 2018-19, he started all 35 games in the backcourt, averaging 9.7 points, 3.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds in 28.8 minutes per game. As a sophomore, in 2017-18, he led the Big East in assist-to-turnover ratio. He redshirted in 2019-20 due to an ankle injury.

One of three team captains this past season for Kentucky, Mintz was one of 30 candidates for the Senior CLASS Award, which honors student-athletes who excel in four core areas: character, competition, classroom and community service.

Mintz is expected to return to Lexington, Kentucky, soon and join the team for summer practice, workouts and class.

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