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Rickea Jackson will skip WNBA draft to stay at Tennessee

Rickea Jackson will return to Tennessee for her fifth year of eligibility. (David Yeazell/USA TODAY Sports)

Despite Rickea Jackson’s status as one of the best players in the 2023 WNBA draft class, she plans to return to Tennessee for another season, she announced Monday.

A top transfer to the Volunteers ahead of the 2022-23 season, Jackson will use her extra year of COVID-19 eligibility to remain with the team. Just Women’s Sports analyst Rachel Galligan had projected Jackson as the No. 3 overall pick in April’s draft, but instead the senior forward will join the stacked 2024 class.

“I appreciated all the support from our amazing fans for making this transition to the University of Tennessee so worth it,” she said in a statement posted to her Twitter account. “But we are not done yet. I’m coming back for another year!”

Jackson got off to a rocky start at Tennessee. She was benched for two games in December in a “coach’s decision,” then came off the bench upon her return before working her way back to the starting lineup.

Vols coach Kellie Harper did not provide a reason for Jackson’s benching, but said upon Jackson’s return in December, “I thought she bounced back after mistakes.”

Since then, she has come into her own for Tennessee. She leads the team with 19.6 points per game and also contributes 6.2 rebounds per game. She was a first-team All-SEC seelction.

Tennessee received a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Vols will host No. 13 seed St. Louis in the first round.