Leading scorer Robert Franks returning to Washington State to finish out college career

Washington State forward Robert Franks (3) and Saint Mary's center Evan Fitzner (21) in actions during an NCAA college basketball game between Washington State and Saint Mary's at the Wooden Legacy tournament Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, in Fullerton, Calif. (Ringo H.W. Chiu / COURTESY PHOTO)

PULLMAN – Robert Franks had Washington State basketball fans waiting on pins and needles, but on the final day players are permitted to withdraw from the NBA Draft, the Cougars’ top scorer and the Pac-12’s reigning Most Improved Player announced he’ll be returning to Pullman for his senior season.

Franks declared for the Draft in late March without an agent, giving himself the opportunity to test NBA waters without fully committing to a professional career. But the junior forward thanked Cougar fans in a Twitter post and said he had “intentions to” hire an agent and “I’m ready to pursue my dreams.”

The next day, Franks told The Spokesman-Review “(I’m) pretty confident in getting an invite (to the NBA Combine) and leaning toward signing with an agent.”

But Franks didn’t receive one of the 69 Combine invited, perhaps swaying his decision and ultimately leading to his return to school.

The vision is clear .. 🏁 #cmon3🙇🏾‍♂️

A post shared by Robert Christopher Franks jr💫 (@_robo22) on

Franks’ return is monumental for a WSU team that lost two players to graduation, Drick Bernstine and Steven Shpreyregin, and four other non-seniors, including standout point guard Malachi Flynn.

As a junior, Franks’ numbers ballooned and the Vancouver, Washington, native posted the Pac-12’s seventh-best scoring average at 17.4 points per game – from 6.4 ppg as a sophomore – and nearly doubled his rebounding average, with 6.3 boards per game.

His productivity was partially a byproduct of increased floor time. After averaging 16.4 minutes per game, mostly off the bench, his sophomore season, Franks played 33 mpg in 2017-18 and started in all 30 of the games in which he appeared.

He earned the Pac-12’s Most Improved award – the second WSU player in three years to do so after Josh Hawkinson – and was named All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention. Franks also became one of the conference’s premier 3-point shooters, making 66 of them on 40.5 percent from behind the arc.

Had Franks opted to leave for the NBA, WSU coach Ernie Kent would’ve had one final scholarship to fill, but barring any unforeseen transfers or exits, the Cougars’ 2018-19 roster is set. Kent added a legion of junior college transfers, Jervae Robinson, Ahmed Ali, Marvin Cannon and Isaiah Wade, one high school product, CJ Elleby, and Jaz Kunc, who comes to WSU from Impact Academy – a preparatory school in Florida.

I PROMISE things just got super scary with that man @RoBo_22 coming back… @WSUMensHoops gonna shock a lot of people believe that‼️

— carter skaggs (@CarterSkaggs35) May 30, 2018

Franks was one of five Pac-12 players to withdraw from the NBA Draft. UCLA’s Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, Washington’s Noah Dickerson and Utah’s Sedrick Barefield all chose to return to school for the 2018-19 season. The most shocking news on deadline day came from Stanford’s Reid Travis, who won’t puruse the NBA, but will leave the Cardinal and head elsewhere for his senior season. The All-Pac-12 First Team selection has been heavily linked to Kentucky.