Sandro Mamukelashvili announced on his Instagram page that he would not be entering the NBA Draft on Aug. 1, opting instead to return to Seton Hall to play out his senior year with the Pirates.
A leader in the locker room, Mamukelashvili’s decision to stay in South Orange paints a better picture for Seton Hall’s chances of making another NCAA Tournament berth and potential Big East title.
Throughout the entirety of his decision-making process, the Georgian forward has been in constant contact with head coach Kevin Willard about the next steps in his career. Former teammate Myles Powell – who also dipped his toes in the NBA Draft at the end of his junior year – has also provided a helping hand to Mamukelashvili throughout the process.
“Coach wanted me to what’s best for me and my career,” Mamukelashvili said. “We talked about me leaving, and we talked about me coming back. He didn’t encourage me to do nothing. He just said to open my heart and whatever I wanted to do they were going to support me.
“He said if I came back, I needed to have the mindset of a leader and the guy who would help his teammates get better. And if I leave, I should be ready to be a pro player.”
Mamukelashvili continued, “Myles told me that if I came back, I would not regret the decision. He said he did the right thing coming back for his senior year. He loved it. He also believes in me and thinks I can accomplish so much more coming back. Just having him in my corner telling me what he went through helps me a lot to have a clear mind for when I decided.”
The decision to turn professional in any sport is a difficult decision, but to turn down the opportunity ahead of what may go down as an asterisk season made it even more difficult.
Seton Hall has opted to continue with all fall sports programs as well as the other 11 Big East schools for the year, but the potential postponement of even in-conference games is still possible.
Mamukelashvili’s interviews with scouts and general managers made the prospect of entering the draft even more tantalizing at points. Having met with representatives from 17 different teams, Mamukelashvili said the compliments were appreciated but the constructive criticisms are what will make him a better player heading into the 2020-21 season. His professionalism and leadership were two points of improvement he said were harped on heavily by those with whom he met.
“It’s my last go-around like everyone says,” Mamukelashvili said. “First of all, I want to get my diploma. That’s what I really want to do, and my family’s really big on my education so I’m really excited just to come back and get my diploma. I really want to have a season. Of course, it’s hard, but right now I want to tell everyone to wear their masks and stay as protected as they can.”
Justin Sousa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @JustinSousa99.