Jalen Hudson announces return to UF for senior campaign

With Jalen Hudson returning for his senior season, Florida will be a preseason Top 20 team for the 2018-19 campaign.

Published on Wednesday, 5/30/18, at 9:16 a.m. Eastern.

One day before Wednesday’s deadline for early entrants to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft, Florida star guard Jalen Hudson announced his intentions to return for his senior season.

Hudson tested the waters without signing with an agent and some draftniks had him pegged to be a mid-to-late second round pick. He worked out for a bunch of teams but wasn’t invited to the NBA Draft Combine.

Nevertheless, most in the know felt like Hudson was gone. Therefore, this is surprisingly great news for the Florida men’s basketball program.

“Exciting day for the Gators and for Jalen,” UF head coach Mike White told media members at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin.

Hudson averaged 15.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per game for the Gators in 2017-18. He scored 23 points in UF’s 69-66 season-ending loss to Texas Tech in the Round of 32.

“There’s nothing wrong with not being a guaranteed first-round pick right now,” White said. “That wasn’t expected a year ago. But he made a lot of headway. He built his brand. He helped the Gators have a good year. There should be a lot of positivity that he’s feeling right now.

“He’s got a lot of feedback from the NBA knowing what he’s got to prove upon to potentially put him in a better spot next year.”

Hudson reportedly met with White on Monday and after spending another night consulting with his family, came to his final decision Tuesday morning.

UF’s starting lineup will most likely look like this in 18-19:
PG: Andrew Nembhard
SG: KeVaughn Allen
G/F: Jalen Hudson
PF: Keith Stone
C: Kevarrius Hayes

That’s three seniors, a fourth-year junior (Stone) and a true freshman in Nembhard, a pass-first PG who is White’s first five-star signee.

Depth in the backcourt will be provided by true freshman shooting guard Noah Locke, true sophomore Mike Okauru and true sophomore DeAundre Ballard who, like Hudson, can play the two or the three.

Chase Johnson and Isaiah Stokes are ‘bigs’ that were injured as true freshman last year but are ready to contribute this upcoming season. Dontay Bassett was playing well during a late-season surge before a concussion slowed him down. He’ll get major minutes this year and can play all three positions in the frontcourt if needed. Bassett is a high-energy player that crashed the boards hard at both ends.

Rising junior center Gorjok Gak has played sparingly due to injuries his first two seasons. However, he has great size and has demonstrated enough skill to provide quality minutes when healthy. After knee surgery a few months ago, Gak should be as healthy as he’s ever been since arriving on campus.

UF’s 2018 recruiting class was ranked as the nation’s 16th-best at Rivals.com . In addition to Locke and Nembhard, 6’5″ wing Keyontae Johnson rounds out the class’s trio. Johnson was a four-star signee along with Locke.

In its latest future odds to win the 2019 national title, Florida had 40/1 odds at The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas. Sportsbook.ag has the Gators with 50/1 odds this morning.

In other good news for SEC schools, players like Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield, LSU’s Tremont Waters and Auburn’s Aubrey Wiley, Jared Harper and Bryce Brown each decided to pull out of the Draft and return to school.

Although the return of that trio is great news for Bruce Pearl, Mustapha Heron withdrew from the Draft also but has curiously elected to transfer to another school.

ZAGSBLOG.com was the first report on Heron’s desire to transfer closer to home (Connecticut), where his mother recent suffered a massive concussion. Heron will reportedly visit St. John’s today and plans to file a hardship waiver with the NCAA in hopes of becoming eligible right away.

Heron averaged 16.4 points and 5.3 rebounds for the Tigers as a sophomore.

Chris Mullin already was on the receiving end of good news yesterday when Shamori Ponds announced he was returning to school. If the Red Storm can add Heron and he gets the waiver, they could be a factor in the Big East.

Remember, Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman stayed in the Draft.

In another huge development, Stanford center Reid Travis pulled out of the Draft but has announced he’s leave the Palo Alto as a grad transfer. According to multiple reports, Kentucky is the favorite to land Travis, who averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds for the Cardinal this past year. He was likely to be named the Pac-12’s Preseason Player of the Year.

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