Star UCLA freshman Adem Bona returning for sophomore season

ByJonathan Givony ESPN logo
Thursday, June 1, 2023

UCLA's Adem Bona will withdraw his name from the 2023 NBA draft and return to school for his sophomore season, he told ESPN on Wednesday.

"I have a great relationship with the coaching staff; I love my teammates and I love this school," Bona said. "I know UCLA is the right program for me and I love it here. I believe I have the tools to go pro now, but I know there are some aspects of my game I need to improve on. This process is just as much about timing as it is about skill, so I need to prepare and put myself in the perfect situation when turning pro, and I don't think the time is now. "

Bona, the No. 48 prospect in the ESPN 100, was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and to the All-Defensive team after averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 23 minutes per game, shooting 68% from the field.

"We are all very excited about Adem continuing his career in Westwood," Bruins coach Mick Cronin said in a statement Wednesday morning. "Adem is a vibrant, high-character young man who we all love being around every day. He improved immensely during his freshman season, showing his toughness and love for his team by competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could. Adem wants to develop further, which will help him have a long NBA career, and he wisely used this pre-draft process. We are going to see great things from Adem next season, and we also appreciate his loyalty to UCLA."

Bona injured his shoulder in the Pac-12 tournament semifinal diving on the floor for a loose ball, causing him to miss the Pac-12 championship game, which the Bruins lost to Arizona, as well as the opening game of the NCAA tournament. Bona elected to play in a round-of-32 win against Northwestern, reaggravating the injury and missing UCLA's Sweet 16 loss to Gonzaga.

Bona had surgery for a shoulder labrum tear in early April that ultimately prevented him from conducting individual team workouts and derailed his chances of gaining enough traction to hear his name called in the first round, contributing to his decision to return to UCLA.

"It was great knowing there are a lot of teams that believe in me and know that I'm able to play at the next level," Bona said. "Having the chance to talk with teams, getting their opinions of me as a person and also as a basketball player really motivated me, but also equipped me with the tools necessary to have a strong season."

Bona says his expectation is he will be back on the court this summer and cleared for full basketball activity in October, allowing him to have a productive sophomore season that could propel him back into first-round consideration in a weaker 2024 draft pool.

"The goal yesterday is still the same today," Bona said. "Last year my goal was to win as many games as possible and also the big goal was the national championship. Individually I want to show everyone that I'm the best defensive player in the Pac-12, an All-American-level player and the best big in the country."

Coming off an outstanding season in which it won the Pac-12 regular-season championship, earned a No. 2 tournament seed and finished with a 31-6 record, UCLA is undergoing a major transition this offseason, having already lost its top five scorers in Jaime Jaquez, Tyger Campbell, Jaylen Clark, Amari Bailey and David Singleton. Retaining Bona was extremely important considering how little continuity the Bruins will have.

"I believe my role on the team is going to be crucial because we lost most of our veterans," Bona said. "I'm going to take on a bigger role this year and show the country aspects of my game that you didn't get the chance to see last year."

Head coach Mick Cronin has reeled in a highly regarded freshman from Real Madrid in 6-foot-7 Slovenian guard Jan Vide, who led the FIBA U17 World Cup in scoring last summer and was named MVP of the Adidas Next Generation Tournament finals conducted earlier this month at the Euroleague Final Four, to help ease the blow of losing so much firepower. He also landed three four-star recruits in Sebastian Mack, Devin Williams and Brandon Williams, as well as French guard Ilane Fibleuil from INSEP Academy in Paris. Utah transfer Lazar Stefanovic will also be called upon to be an important contributor.

The Bruins still have several scholarships to fill as they round out their roster for next season.

Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of, a private scouting and analytics service used by NBA, NCAA and international teams.

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