Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia forward Esa Ahmad (23) has appeared in 89 games with 82 starts, averaging 8.6 points and four rebounds over his career.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Forward Esa Ahmad plans to return for his senior season at West Virginia after withdrawing his name from the NBA draft.

Unlike teammates Jevon Carter and sophomore Sagaba Konate, Ahmad was not invited to the draft combine slated for later this month in Chicago. A 6-foot-8 forward, Ahmad averaged 10.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in 21 games as a junior after serving an NCAA-mandated half-season suspension.

ESPN’s Jeff Goodman first reported Ahmad’s decision Tuesday, and the school later confirmed it.

“We are pleased that Esa will be back for his senior season,” coach Bob Huggins said. “Esa was able to explore his options and gain valuable feedback from NBA professionals that will help him in the future.”

A four-star Rivals signee in 2016, Ahmad has appeared in 89 college games with 82 starts while struggling with inconsistency. He is a career 8.6 points-per-game scorer while shooting 49 percent overall, 32 percent from 3-point range and 67 percent at the foul line.

Still, Ahmad’s versatility could be crucial next season as the Mountaineers prepare for life after Carter, the two-time national defensive player of the year and the team’s alpha dog. At 27 minutes per game, he has more playing time than any of West Virginia’s returnees.

The Mountaineers continue to await a decision from Konate, who reportedly is giving serious consideration to the draft. The center who blocked 116 shots last season — second-most in the nation — has until June 11 to withdraw.