WACO, Texas - Cory Jefferson announced that he will return to the Baylor men's basketball program for his senior season during a press conference on Thursday.
Jefferson, a fourth-year junior who is on track to receive his Baylor degree in August, will complete his collegiate eligibility instead of entering the 2013 NBA Draft.
"Everybody on the team, everyone in the community, they love Cory and at the same time respect him enough to let him make a decision that is what he thought was best for his future," head coach Scott Drew said. "We're glad it's with us, and I know the team is really excited because everyone loves being a teammate of Cory's."
The Killeen, Texas, native had a breakout season in 2012-13 after starting just one of the first 55 career games over his first three years in Waco. Jefferson averaged 13.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks while starting all 37 games and leading the Bears to the 2013 NIT Championship.
Jefferson played in 21 games off the bench as a freshman in 2009-10, then sat out the 2010-11 season as a redshirt. He played in 34 games and made one start as a redshirt sophomore in 2011-12, but he was limited to 10.5 minutes per game while playing behind three eventual NBA Draft picks.
"Everything went into this decision - it's probably one of the biggest decisions of my life," Jefferson said. "Before this, the toughest decision was to redshirt, but that decision was a breeze compared to this one. It was a lot of thinking, and a lot of praying constantly. Prayer was the biggest one."
Jefferson entered the 2012-13 season with a career high of 25 minutes played in a game, but he topped that number 27 times while averaging 27.9 minutes per game as a junior. In addition to leading the Big 12 with a 61.0 field goal percentage, he ranked second in the league in offensive rebounds per game (2.7), third in blocks per game (1.9), fourth in total rebounds per game (8.0) and double-doubles (10) and 11th in points per game (13.3).
A 2013 honorable mention All-Big 12 selection, Jefferson earned a spot on the NIT All-Tournament Team after averaging a team-leading 21.2 points while shooting 71.9 percent from the floor during the Bears' 5-0 run through the NIT.
Jefferson's 71 blocks ranked fifth on Baylor's single-season list, his 61.0 field goal percentage was the sixth-best single-season number in program history, and his 295 rebounds were the 10th-most in a season at Baylor. He ranks fifth in career blocks (117), sixth in career field goal percentage (.580), sixth in Big 12 wins (28) and eighth in total wins (69).
ESPN's Ken Pomeroy projects Jefferson as one of five first-team All-Americans for the 2013-14 season, and he's the only Big 12 player among Pomeroy's 10 projected All-Americans. Had he entered the 2013 NBA Draft, Jefferson was projected as a late first-round pick by NBADraftInsider.com, which had him ranked No. 26 on its big board.
"Cory is somebody that being a fifth year senior, everybody listens to and respects him," Drew said. "This is a great opportunity for him to be more vocal. I know that is something Cory is looking forward to doing because he cares a lot about Baylor University and cares about his teammates."
Baylor won its first national postseason tournament in the program's 107-year history with the 2013 NIT title. The Bears also recorded their fifth 20-win season in the last six years and improved their postseason record to 15-3 over the last five seasons, which gave Baylor the nation's best winning percentage among teams with at least three postseason appearances during that span.