The Florida Gators had already scratched one big name off their potential 2018-19 men’s basketball roster on Tuesday, as big man John Egbunu made the decision to go pro rather than seek a sixth year of eligibility.
And now the Gators are set to lose another, as redshirt junior wing Jalen Hudson has announced his intention to enter the NBA Draft — without hiring an agent — via Instagram.
The news of Hudson declaring for the draft was first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, and later confirmed by Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun.
Hudson, a 6’6” guard/forward from Richmond, transferred to Florida in 2016 after spending his first two collegiate years at Virginia Tech. After sitting out the 2016-17 season due to NCAA transfer rules — and garnering the hype that several other sit-out transfers in Florida’s recent history have — Hudson became an integral part of the 2017-18 Gators, as perhaps Mike White’s best individual scorer and a virtual sixth starter.
Hudson only made 19 starts in 34 games for Florida, but he led the team in scoring at 15.5 points per game despite playing only the fourth-most minutes on the team, with his excellent shooting — just over 40 percent from three, and just over 50 percent on twos — making him a dangerous perimeter option with the potential for flame-throwing runs. He was also the Gators’ best driver in 2017-18, though a spotty stroke from the free-throw line mitigated the value of his drives and a spate of missed dunks became almost legendary, and he improved as a defender as the season wore on, most memorably recording a block to help preserve a rare Florida win at Kentucky.
All that, and some prodigious athleticism, has positioned Hudson as a potential second-round selection in the 2018 NBA Draft. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony — whose former site, DraftExpress, was considered the industry leader in NBA Draft projection — has Hudson ranked as his No. 39 prospect for the 2018 NBA Draft, and slotted him in as the No. 38 pick in a mock draft published last week.
Being selected in the second round would likely mean Hudson would not sign a guaranteed contract with an NBA team, but it would be a better initial fate than the one that has befallen every player to leave Florida since Bradley Beal. No Gator has been drafted since Beal went No. 3 to the Washington Wizards in 2012, with early entrants Michael Frazier II and Devin Robinson each going undrafted.
Frazier and Robinson have both played professionally since then, and Robinson and Dorian Finney-Smith — also undrafted, though not an early entrant — have each played in NBA games in the 2017-18 season. Hudson being picked would give him a much easier road to the Association than the ones his fellow Gators have recently trod.
Of course, there still remains the possibility, if a remote one, that Hudson could return to Florida for a senior season. Robinson memorably returned for a junior season after suffering a foot injury during his draft preparations, and injury or an unexpectedly cool reception from the NBA could steer Hudson back to Gainesville.
And thanks to new rules making it easier for prospects to test the waters and opt out of the draft pool, he will have until June 11 to make a final decision on his future.
Most likely, though, is Hudson following through on his departure from Florida — and Mike White needing to cobble a 2018-19 team together despite losing four of six leading scorers from this year’s team.