Mann will hire an agent approved by the NBA, according to quotes given to ESPN, which would allow him to return to Florida should he not be satisfied with his standing after partaking in the pre-Draft process — something that he did a year ago, after declaring for the Draft coming off a disappointing freshman season.
But this is not then, and Mann is now pursuing his professional dream after a stellar sophomore season in which he blossomed into Florida’s best player and go-to scorer after Keyontae Johnson collapsed in the Gators’ fourth game of the season, ultimately leading Florida to the 2021 NCAA Tournament and a fifth-place finish in the SEC while also earning First-Team All-SEC honors from the conference’s coaches.
Mann scored 16.0 points, snagged 5.6 rebounds, and dished 3.5 assists per game in 2020-21, also connecting on 45 threes at a 40 percent clip, and both a reported offseason growth spurt that took him from 6’3” to a listed 6’5” and significant improvement on the defensive end helped round out a profile that was skewed toward offense. Mann’s late-season hot streak — he scored 19 or more points in six of his last seven games, averaging 20.9 points per contest and drilling 42 percent of his threes over that span — had also sent him soaring up Draft boards, with ESPN’s Draft rankings now slotting him at No. 15; just six weeks ago, he was seen as a second-round prospect.
Put simply, Mann is a pro-to-be, one who will become the first Gator taken in the NBA Draft under Mike White barring the sort of unforeseen tragedy or injury that only something like Johnson’s collapse forces one to consider. His ceiling is also quite high: If he can develop further as a creator, maintain accuracy on his sweet shot while adding distance to it, and stay an average-or-better defender in NBA play, there’s little reason to bet against him thriving in today’s wide-open NBA ecosystem, which rewards offensively gifted guards like Mann more than any other archtype.
And Florida’s clearly anticipated his departure:
What Florida will do to replace Mann in 2021-22 is harder to say. Tyree Appleby appears likely to return and become the Gators’ starting point guard, but his streaky shooting and alarming turnover rate do not make that role his beyond a shadow of a doubt, and Florida is likely to be active on the transfer market — which, this year, is very likely to feature players who can play right away, thanks to the expected passage of a one-time transfer exception by the NCAA — in search of guard depth, given that only Appleby and Ques Glover — equally erratic as a distributor — are set to play point for the Gators.
Replacing Mann’s scoring may be slightly less difficult, as Appleby has shown he can create for himself, and top-50 prospect Kowacie Reeves of Georgia is set to join Florida’s backcourt as an athletic scorer, and improvement from prospective returnees like Scottie Lewis and Samson Ruzhentsev could produce more reliable scoring punch elsewhere in the Gators’ rotation.
Still, Florida topping out at a second-round exit from the NCAA Tournament with Mann in the fold — and, at the end of this year, reaching his stride — is sure to rankle the many disgruntled Florida fans who feel as though White underperformed with Mann in his arsenal, maybe most notably in the second half against Oral Roberts in which Mann largely did not factor into Florida’s scoring down the stretch. And with Johnson’s status shrouded in doubt, Mann departing leaves Florida with no other surefire NBA prospects — a scary thought for some who worry about the program further regressing from its current plateau.
A long offseason with plenty of fan discontent is ahead for Florida — but the program knows that as surely as it knew Mann was NBA-bound.
How these months away from the court go will substantially shape the Gators’ future.