JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Arkansas Razorbacks lost to North Carolina 87-78 in the NCAA Tournament Saturday night, but they might not lose sophomore forward Bobby Portis.
"I'm leaning toward coming back just because we lost, and I hate losing," Portis said after having 18 points, 14 rebounds and 5 steals against North Carolina. "I don't want to end my Razorback career as a loser.
"I don't even want to take this jersey off right now. I have to wait a whole 200 days just to put it back on. That hurts me. I love the Arkansas Razorbacks. I want to be a Hog forever."
College underclassmen who declare for the NBA Draft have until April 12 to withdraw according to the NCAA's website.
Portis, who averaged 17.5 points and 8.9 rebounds in leading the Razorbacks to a 27-9 record, is projected to be selected between the 15th and 25th picks in the first round by various websites.
But Portis, the SEC Player of the Year, said before he makes any decision he needs to discuss what he should do with his mother, Tina Edwards, Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson and former Razorbacks All-American Corliss Williamson, the Sacramento Kings assistant coach who was Portis' AAU coach.
"I just want to try to make sure I make the right decision," Portis said. "It's not just me anymore. It's about my family and about the Razorbacks.
"It's a process. You can't rush it."
Portis, from Little Rock Hall, refers to Williamson as his mentor and said he considers him to be a father figure.
Williamson was a two-time SEC Player of the Year in 1994 and 1995. No other Razorback had won the award until Portis this season.
Williamson left Arkansas after his junior season and was a first-round NBA Draft pick (13th overall) by the Sacramento Kings. He played 12 seasons with the NBA and won a championship with the Detroit Pistons.
Arkansas honored Williamson this season by unveiling a banner with his No. 34 jersey in Walton Arena.
"I want to be the greatest Razorback of all time," Portis said. "I want to beat out my mentor.
"Corliss Williamson is an Arkansas son, and I want that to be me when I come back 20 years from now.
"I want people to say, 'Bobby Portis, a son of Arkansas.' "
Razorbacks junior guard Michael Qualls, who had 27 points and 10 rebounds against North Carolina, declined to comment on whether he'll return for his senior season. He averaged 15.7 points and 5.3 rebounds.
"It hurts right now," Qualls said of the season-ending loss. "It's probably going to hurt even more later when you realize that we're not playing anymore."
Anderson said he'll talk with Portis and Qualls soon about their decisions.
"We haven't had that conversation yet," Anderson said. "These guys just lost on the big stage. They're very, very disappointed, so the worst thing to do is go to them right now.
"But we'll sit down and talk, and it will be a productive dialogue I'm sure."
Arkansas' players figure to be among the most anxious people to learn what Portis and Qualls will do about next season.
"That's on them, whatever they decide to do," freshman guard Anton Beard said. "If they come back, we're going to keep pushing with them. If they decide to leave, then we've got nothing but good hopes for them and wish them the best."
Sports on 03/23/2015