by Bill DiFilippo

Had he declared for the 2014 NBA Draft, Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell likely would have been a first round pick.

However, Harrell announced today via his Twitter account that he will return to school for his junior year.

Harrell averaged 14.0 points and 8.4 rebounds per game last year for the AAC Champion Cardinals. He also was one of the best dunkers in America, and seemed to throw down the hammer at least once a game.

Via The Courrier-Journal:

“This is obviously great news,” said UofL Coach Rick Pitino. “Like Gorgui Dieng, he will benefit tremendously from playing his junior season. We hope, like Russ Smith, that he can become a first-team All-America selection.

“Montrezl is a Louisville man and we’re all very excited to have Montrezl as a co-captain with Wayne Blackshear.”

There was a sense among those around the program that Harrell was struggling with the decision more than the outside world understood. The prospect of returning to school, playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference and working his way higher up the NBA draft board were all enticing possibilities to Harrell, who originally signed with Virginia Tech before coach Seth Greenberg was fired in 2012.

The return of Harrell is huge for the Cardinals, as the team is losing several major contributors due to graduation, including leading scorer Russ Smith and Luke Hancock.