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Cody Riley will return to UCLA for one more season after withdrawing from NBA draft

UCLA forward Cody Riley looks to pass the ball during an Elite 8 game against Michigan.
UCLA forward Cody Riley has decided to return to the Bruins for his final season of eligibility.
(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

For the second time since his arrival at UCLA, Cody Riley sought an evaluation of his NBA draft prospects.

What happened was familiar: The feedback made him decide to return for another season as a Bruin.

Riley will come back for his redshirt senior season after withdrawing his name from consideration for the July 29 NBA draft.

“I’ve enjoyed the process and want to thank the NBA teams for the positive feedback I have received,” Riley said on the same day he worked out for the Lakers. “I am very excited to announce that I am returning to UCLA. My goals of graduating and helping UCLA and my teammates chase a championship have me more motivated than I have ever been. I can’t wait for our first official summer workout soon. Let’s get it!”

The 6-foot-9 power forward’s decision was expected after he was not among the 69 players invited to participate in the NBA draft combine and his name was not listed on mock draft boards.

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Several NBA executives recently told The Times that Riley’s game was more suited to playing professionally overseas because of his lack of explosive athleticism and relatively lumbering style for his size.

But there was no debating Riley’s value to the Bruins last season, particularly after fellow power forward Jalen Hill departed the team in early February because of anxiety and depression. Riley became the team’s primary big man on its way to the Final Four, blocking four shots during a victory over Alabama and logging a double-double against Gonzaga in an epic national semifinal.

UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond closes a high-stress year and pushes forward to help the Bruins rebound from COVID-19 pandemic financial losses.

During the season, Riley averaged 10 points and 5.4 rebounds per game while making 53.8% of his shots, all career highs.

“We are very excited that Cody will be with the Bruins for another year,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said in a statement. “He is one of the hardest-working players I have ever coached. His work ethic this spring, with both skill and body development, has been awesome. He leads by example and we are a much better team with him wearing the best four letters in sports!”

Riley had also declared for the NBA draft in 2018 before playing his first game at UCLA, a move that led to his return to Westwood. At the time, Riley was serving a season-long suspension for a shoplifting incident in China before the team’s season opener. His minutes and his production have enjoyed a steady uptick during each of his first three college seasons.

Riley has developed a consistent mid-range jumper to go with improved low-post moves and made 66.3% of his free throws last season, up 52.3% as a freshman.

His role could change next season with the arrival of Myles Johnson, a shot-blocking graduate transfer from Rutgers who could serve as the Bruins’ primary rim protector. The 6-11 Johnson ranked second in the Big Ten Conference last season with 2.43 blocks, more than three times Riley’s average of 0.7 blocks per game.

Riley’s return removes some of the lingering mystery surrounding the composition of next season’s roster. Chris Smith has said he will not return to UCLA, but the Bruins are still waiting to learn whether sophomore guard Johnny Juzang will remain in the NBA draft or return for another college season.


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