After the initial reporting that Jalen Hudson would rejoin the Florida Gators for his senior season broke on Tuesday, both Hudson and the program that was going to be ecstatic to have him back were curiously quiet for many hours.
Turns out there was no need to worry: In an Instagram video posted late Tuesday and a joyous release published early Wednesday, Hudson and Florida both confirmed his return to the Gators.
“I’d like to thank all the NBA teams for allowing me to work out and spend some time with them as I was weighing my options for the NBA Draft,” Hudson said. “I’ve learned a lot throughout this process. After much thought and prayer, I’ve decided to return to Florida to graduate and to play my senior season. I’m excited to play with my teammates again in front of Gator Nation and ultimately fulfill my dreams in playing in the NBA. Go Gators!”
”It’s an exciting day for the Gators and for Jalen,” head coach Mike White told reporters at the Southeastern Conference spring meetings in Destin, Fla. “He made a lot of headway [last season]. 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, and he’s gotten a lot of feedback from the NBA knowing what he’s got to improve upon to potentially put himself in a better spot this time next year.”
Hudson had announced his intentions to enter the 2018 NBA Draft in March, but apparently did not make the sort of headway hoped for during the pre-draft process, and is opting to withdraw his name from Draft consideration just prior to the deadline for doing so and retaining collegiate eligibility.
And while White’s spin on Hudson’s inability to convince a team to draft him — and, to be clear, that’s spin, even if it’s honest — undersells what will likely be the immense difficulty of Hudson convincing a team to draft him in 2019, when he will be a relatively ancient 23 prior to the Draft, it’s true that Hudson has plenty to work on despite leading Florida in scoring a year ago. He could stand to get stronger and better off the dribble, and probably needs to become either a consistent producer on the offensive end or a committed defender — or both — to have a legitimate shot at sticking around in the NBA.
Hudson may very well have a better chance of developing those skills at Florida, where he is in line to potentially lead the Gators, than on an NBA G League roster or in a foreign professional league. But his floor is high enough — he’ll play professional basketball somewhere, barring injury — that it isn’t a huge financial risk to remain an amateur for another year, and the upside of Hudson staying and improving — potentially earning first-round consideration in a weaker 2019 NBA Draft class — is considerable.
And that means fans can cheer for Hudson, who instantly becomes Florida’s most exciting player next season, without fearing that his dreams have been dashed.