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Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks declare for NBA draft, leave option to return to UNC

North Carolina coach Roy Williams talks with players Justin Jackson (44), Kennedy Meeks (3) and Marcus Paige (5) after taking them out of the game in the second half.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams talks with players Justin Jackson (44), Kennedy Meeks (3) and Marcus Paige (5) after taking them out of the game in the second half. Raleigh

North Carolina sophomore Justin Jackson and junior Kennedy Meeks have both declared their eligibility for the NBA draft but they are leaving open the option to return to school, the university announced on Friday.

Their declaration for the draft allows Jackson and Meeks to take advantage of a new rule and go through the NBA's pre-draft process while still returning to school as long as they don't sign with an agent. Neither player has signed with an agent.

Any college underclassman who declares for the draft and doesn't sign with an agent has until 10 days after the NBA draft combine to withdraw from the draft and return to school. This year the deadline to withdraw from the draft is May 25.

Both Jackson and Meeks will have until then to decide whether they want to remain in the draft pool. Between now and then both players will have the chance to participate in the NBA combine, if they're invited, and to tryout with one NBA team.

An NCAA rule passed in January allows underclassmen to declare for the draft, participate in the combine and try out with one NBA team before returning to school, as long as they don't sign with an agent. Players can repeat the process after their freshman, sophomore and junior seasons.

While Jackson and Meeks will take advantage of the option, UNC sophomore Joel Berry and junior Isaiah Hicks won't. They have decided not to declare for the draft and they will return to school next season.

Jackson, a 6-foot-8 wing forward, averaged 12.2 points and 3.9 rebounds last season. Meeks, a 6-foot-10 forward, averaged 9.2 points and 5.2 rebounds. They've both been regular starters the past two seasons and both helped lead UNC to the ACC championship and Final Four last season.

UNC coach Roy Williams in a statement offered his “complete support” of Jackson and Meeks.

“Any player who is thinking about playing in the NBA next season should gather as much information as they can about their possible draft position,” Williams said. “We will continue to support and assist them over the next month to obtain the information that will help them decide whether they should remain in the draft or return to UNC next season.”

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