OLATHE — As the minutes and seconds ticked off the clock nearing last week’s NBA draft withdrawal deadline, Xavier Sneed kept the public in suspense. Expected to be the senior star for Kansas State next season, Sneed had until 10:59 p.m. to decide whether to remain in the draft or return for a final go-round. Throughout the day, others in the same position announced their decisions.
Sneed was one of the final two to reveal his choice, along with Virginia center Mamadi Diakite.
At 9:19 p.m., an hour and 40 minutes before the deadline, Sneed sent out a tweet: He was back.
Though Sneed’s coaches and teammates said they knew earlier in the day — associate head coach Chris Lowery said the Wildcats heard about Sneed’s plans at approximately 6 p.m. local time, though he was on the West Coast, as was Sneed, at the time of the announcement — that didn’t make it any less tense for them.
“I was jumping for joy,” rising junior guard Mike McGuirl said at a KC Catbackers event last week. “I wasn’t as excited as I was relieved. A lot of people were on edge, (like), ‘Is he really going to go? Wow, this might happen.’”
Prior to the reveal, McGuirl said plenty of good-natured ribbing took place in a team group chat.
Sneed played up the drama, posting a GIF in the chat that read “Decision time.” Incoming freshman DaJuan Gordon tried to force the issue.
“Little DaJuan was like, ‘Make your move,” McGuirl recalled, “and (Sneed) said, “I’m back.”
Then he flexed his senior rank.
“He kicked DaJuan from the group chat,” McGuirl said. “That was really funny. I’m just glad for him to be back. He had a great opportunity, and he made the best decision for himself. We are excited about what’s ahead.”
Sneed returning to K-State after withdrawing from the draft is exactly what two of last season’s seniors, Kamau Stokes (2017) and Barry Brown (2018), did the prior two years. Though Sneed was expected to withdraw by the deadline, Lowery said it wasn’t as close to a certainty as many on the outside may have believed.
“Just talking to him, he really wanted to come back,” Lowery said, “but he also wanted to be a pro. His mom wanted that business degree. When it came down to it, I think that was a big part of it.”
Throughout the process, Lowery, head coach Bruce Weber and the rest of the staff remained in Sneed’s ears. They kept telling him what he wanted to hear.
It’s your turn. It’s your team.
After years of deferring to Brown, Stokes and Dean Wade, Sneed now is the Wildcats’ marquee player.
“I think the biggest thing for him was just realizing his value and knowing that he was going to come back and be one of the better players in the league as well,” Lowery said. “That’s something that he has always wanted.”