NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round-Houston vs Texas A&M

Houston star Jamal Shead will forgo his final season of collegiate eligibility and enter the NBA Draft, he announced Thursday. The 6-foot-1 point guard earned First Team All-America honors from CBS Sports in the 2023-24 season while leading the Cougars to a Big 12 regular-season title and No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

"I feel like it's my time to move on and go chase my dreams a little bit," Shead told KPRC, Houston's NBC affiliate. "These have been some of the best four years of my life with the best people I've met in my life, with family that have embraced me with love. It was a big decision. Me and my family and coach talked over it, and I feel like right now is just that time."

Shead is not a lock to be selected in the first round, but he had little left to prove after playing a key role for Houston over the past four seasons. After coming off the bench as a freshman, Shead started 106 games over the past three seasons and blossomed into one of the country's top point guards.

The former three-star prospect averaged 12.9 points, 6.3 assists and 2.2 steals per game during the 2023-24 season. His campaign came to an end in the first half of Houston's Sweet 16 loss to Duke when he suffered an ankle injury that crippled the Cougars. Houston made the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament each of Shead's four seasons and reached the Final Four during his freshman year.

Jamal Shead's NBA Draft projection

Shead ranks No. 38 in the 2024 NBA Draft Prospect Rankings from CBS Sports. As a relatively small guard with just a 29.6% career 3-point shooting mark, he will face plenty of skepticism during the NBA Draft process. But as the Big 12 Player of the Year and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Shead brings intangibles to the table that can't be measured at the combine. He is an unselfish playmaker with great feel and better defensive upside than most players his size. Houston coach Kelvin Sampson raved over the years about Shead's leadership skills and basketball IQ. Don't be surprised if Shead slips to the second round but manages to carve out a role in the league.

Impact on Houston

Shead's departure stings, but the Cougars have been getting good news from elsewhere on the roster. Emanuel Sharp, L.J. Cryer and J'Wan Roberts have each indicated they plan to return for the 2024-25 season after playing pivotal roles. Replacing Shead's leadership won't be easy, but Sampson appears to be on track to have the critical mass of returning veterans that is vitally important in the mass transfer era.