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Reports: Florida’s Andrew Nembhard declares for 2020 NBA Draft, preserves right to return

The third of Florida’s three potential early departures may yet go pro — or not.

NCAA Basketball: Florida at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

When Scottie Lewis and Keyontae Johnson announced their respective decisions to return to the Florida Gators for the 2020-21 academic year, it was thought likely that they would be joined by point guard Andrew Nembhard.

But that may not be the case.

Per a report from prolific Twitter user and college basketball reporter Jon Rothstein, Nembhard has, in fact, chosen to enter the 2020 NBA Draft.

The decision, its timing, and what Nembhard could hope to gain from this choice are all somewhat puzzling.

Nembhard went through the pre-draft process for the 2019 NBA Draft, but did not receive an invitation to that year’s Scouting Combine, which likely helped guide his decision to ultimately return to school for his sophomore season.

But he also did not dramatically improve during that sophomore campaign: While he scored 11.2 points per game, a bump up from his 8.0 as a freshman, he added a mere 0.2 assists per game (5.4 to 5.6), averaged half a turnover more per contest, and saw most of his other pure rate stats remain static.

Worse, while he improved as a finisher and boosted his shooting percentage on twos, his three-point shot went from being an acceptably accurate 35 percent to a slightly more troubling 31 percent, something that might give pause to NBA evaluators who could see his lack of speed as a problem he will need to compensate for with consistent shooting. There’s an element of small sample size to that perimeter shooting — Nembhard was 35 for 101 as a freshman, 32 for 104 as a sophomore — but his overall profile is that of a decent shooter who many would have hoped would be dead-eye accurate.

Then again, Nembhard has mostly been considered a fringe NBA prospect since arriving at Florida rather than a sure draftee, and he certainly has the skills to have a long and lucrative career in professional basketball even if it doesn’t include an NBA stint. Declaring for the draft doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s following a binary path of trying to get drafted or return to Florida, not when there are European teams that could see him as the second coming of Nick Calathes, whose European career has been stellar.

Finally, while Rothstein’s reporting does not mention whether Nembhard has hired an agent, leaving open the possibility that he had not and will return to Florida, Stadium’s Jeff Goodman reports that he has — only that he’s signed with an NCAA-certified agent, preserving his right to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

And from this vantage, returning still looks like Nembhard’s best move.

He’ll have his best chance yet to dish to talented scorers in 2020-21 with Johnson and Lewis back and possibly better, and he’ll also have a veteran point guard, Tyree Appleby, behind him on the bench, making the prospect of clocking 13 outings of 35 or more minutes — as he did last year — much less likely.

A fresher Nembhard who can do less pacing of himself and play faster could be a more effective player; being able to work as an off-guard with Appleby and/or Ques Glover and Tre Mann creating for him could also help him improve as a shooter. There’s room for him to grow before hitting the professional ranks, and enough space between him and the ceiling of his talents to think he could develop into a legitimate NBA prospect.

Nembhard likely would not have declared for the NBA Draft a second time were he not keenly interested in the feedback he will get from the process. He would also likely not have taken care to hire an NCAA-approved agent to preserve his chances of coming back to school if that were not a legitimate option. And so it’s probably right to consider him torn.

What he eventually decides will be very significant for Florida next fall and spring.