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Reports: Tre Mann to enter 2020 NBA Draft, retain collegiate eligibility

And this is why there’s a pre-draft process for prospects to go through...

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

It was a mild surprise on Sunday when reports surfaced that Florida Gators sophomore Andrew Nembhard would once again explore the NBA Draft ahead of the 2020 version of the league’s entry process.

That Florida freshman Tre Mann chose to follow Nembhard’s lead and also declare for the 2020 NBA Draft — even if he’s doing so without jeopardizing his collegiate eligibiity — is closer to shocking.

Graham Hall of The Gainesville Sun reports that Mann will retain his collegiate eligibility despite the early entry. It’s unclear whether he will be doing so via eschewing professional representation or through taking advantage of a recent NCAA rules change and hiring an NCAA-approved agent — like Nembhard.

And that’s probably a really good idea for Mann, who would be making a mistake by turning professional after just one season of college hoops.

Mann, a consensus top-50 recruit in the 2019 recruiting class reputed to be an elite-level shooter, came off the bench for almost all of his freshman season in orange and blue and took much of the year to develop into even a useful reserve. Mann didn’t hit two threes in a single game until January 28 — his seventh game launching three or more triples to that point in the year — and never scored double-digit points in consecutive games.

He also only played sparingly as a backup ball-handler — a role he’ll likely have to be good at to have a legitimate shot at making the NBA, given his wiry 6’4”, 170-pound frame — and generally not well, averaging more than one turnover and less than one assist per contest.

Still, there were flashes of excellence for Mann as the season wore on. He scored 13 points in both a decimation of Providence and a close loss at Kentucky, and had 11 points in Florida’s home comeback against Georgia. Mann drilled at least one three in six of Florida’s final eight games, and while he shot just 32 percent from distance in SEC play, that was a massive improvement on the form he showed prior to it.

Those flashes could be built on to make for a consistent and potent sophomore campaign as a Florida reserve. They were not, however, the foundation for a logical jump to the professional ranks — and so it has to be expected that Mann is likely to get negative feedback from the NBA and ultimately return to college, unless he is hell-bent on making the NBA through its developmental G League or playing overseas.

There’s always the possibility that an NBA team could fall in love with Mann’s skills and shot — which Florida coaches repeatedly insisted was that of one of the best shooters they’ve seen in practice last year — and decide to draft him. In a deep draft class, and during a pre-draft process likely lighter on in-person work than usual thanks to the pandemic of coronavirus, Mann’s chances of doing the requisite impressing for that seem somewhat remote to me.

But the risk inherent in going through the pre-draft process and returning to college is small — sure, Mann could sustain an injury like Devin Robinson did during his first exploration of the NBA Draft process, but he could as easily do that playing pickup basketball this summer. And even a small chance of making a team swoon is a small chance of making dreams come true.

I would expect Mann to ultimately return to Florida, however — hopefully, with the knowledge that he’s got significant work to do to make the NBA, and a fire lit under him to do that work and help the Gators win at the same time.