Justin Jackson returning to UNC

After taking advantage of a new rule that allowed him to go through the NBA draft combine Justin Jackson has decided to return to North Carolina for his junior season.

The school announced Jackson's return in a statement on Monday night. Jackson's decision to come back to school means that the Tar Heels will lose no underclassman from a team that reached the national championship game, where it lost on a last-second shot against Villanova.

Jackson, a two-year starter at UNC, announced last month that he intended to take advantage of a new NCAA rule that allows underclassman to go through part of the pre-draft process and return to school as long as they don't sign with an agent. He had until May 25 to withdraw from the NBA draft.

Jackson made his decision to return to UNC after participating last week in the NBA draft combine in Chicago, where in two scrimmages he made five of his 14 attempts from the field. Jackson entered the combine surrounded by questions about his ability to make outside shots.

Jackson in a statement said the “best choice” for his basketball future was to return to UNC.

“My dream certainly is to play in the NBA and going through the draft process this year was another step toward reaching that goal,” he said. “But I’ve loved my first two years at Carolina and am excited about the upcoming season.”

With Jackson coming back UNC is returning every key contributor from last season outside of seniors Brice Johnson, Marcus Paige and Joel James. Johnson and Paige led the Tar Heels to both the ACC regular-season and tournament championships.

After the season ended there were questions about whether underclassmen Joel Berry, Jackson, Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks would return – or whether they'd at least go through the pre-draft process. Berry and Hicks decided to stay in school without declaring for the draft.

Meeks, the rising senior forward, declared his eligibility for the draft but wasn't invited to the combine. He then decided to come back to school. Eventually Jackson, who has averaged 11.5 points per game in his two seasons at UNC, reached the same decision.

“Justin certainly did the right thing in entering the draft,” UNC coach Roy Williams said in a statement, “because it helped him and his family make the decision with the most complete information possible.”