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UCLA center Adem Bona laces up in the NCAA Tournament.

Adem Bona withdraws from the 2023 NBA Draft: Could the UCLA big man win Defensive Player of the Year?

Adem Bona added himself to the heavy news cycle during the final day of NBA draft declarations, when prospects could rescind their declaration. He decided to return to UCLA for his sophomore season.

Adem Bona withdraws from the 2023 NBA draft

Northwestern v UCLA

Adem Bona was considered a mid-second round prospect by most NBA draft sites, including ESPN and CBS. After testing the waters, getting interviewed by NBA teams and experiencing the draft combine, Bona withdrew his name.

That has been a common theme of the past 24 hours, with Kentucky's Anthony Reeves, Texas' Dillon Mitchell, Creighton's Trey Alexander and Purdue's Zach Edey announcing they'd return to college.


Bona's return to UCLA is only matched by the Edey, who was the consensus player of the year last season.

What does Adem Bona's return mean for UCLA Basketball?


Adem Bona returns to a stacked UCLA squad that was anticipated to be land in the top 10 preseason rankings before he made his decision. With Bona, UCLA's ranking and expectations are sure to soar.

Bona is a bona fide 7-footer who has incredble agility and explosiveness. He was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, also making the All-Pac 12 first team in the process.

It didn't always seem that way.


In the first month of the season, Bona struggled to stay on the court, whether it be for foul troubles or struggling to catch in-cut passes and lobs that led to far too many turnovers. It took over 20 games, but Bona began to gain the trust of his coach.

Denver vs. UCLA

Just as Bona was improving almost at a possession-by-posession basis, he injured his shoulder in the PAC-12 tournament in a win over Oregon in the Semifinals. Not only did that injury plague UCLA, losing the Championship to USC, it kept Adem Bona in-and-out of the lineup.

Could the UCLA big man win Defensive Player of the Year?

Northwestern v UCLA

As a Freshman, Adem Bona ran away with the Pac 12 Freshman player of the year while also making first team defensive in the PAC 12. He doubled his blocks in the month of February and looked to be on a limitless upward trend when he injured his shoulder, ultimately missing most of the NCAA Tournament. Bona got surgery on a Torn Labrum following the season.


Because of his upward trend, there is little reason to believe that Adem Bona, with an improved roster, cannot at least contend for Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore.

Comparing him to Zach Edey, another center, Bona only needs to improve his blocks by one more every other game to reach Edey's total.

In all likelihood, it will be Bona's offense that will determine if he can contend for the award. The better he is at the charity stripe and overall field-goal percentage, along with fouling considerably less on defense, the more Bona will remain on the court. Pushing his minutes to 30 a game will assuredly bring him the statistics to warrant a DPOY consideration.


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Edited by
Joseph Schiefelbein
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