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Feb 7, 2018; Gainesville, FL, USA; LSU Florida Gators guard Jalen Hudson (3) drives to the basket as LSU Tigers guard Skylar Mays (4) defends during the second half at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Later, Gator? Jalen Hudson Pulls Out of NBA Draft, Will Return to Florida

Jalen Hudson may have just made Mike White’s day.

According to CBS’s Jon Rothstein, the Florida Gators’ shooting guard has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and will return to Gainesville to round out his collegiate career.

The decision might kickstart his professional hopes.

Hudson, a fifth-year senior, was one of UF’s primary offensive weapons during the 2017-18 campaign. He led UF in scoring, averaging 15.5 points per game, while shooting 40.4 percent from beyond the three-point line. The former Virginia Tech standout also coughed up 40 turnovers in 34 games, second-lowest among Gators who averaged more than 20 minutes per game.

Now, the offense is his to run.

A New Hope

The offseason hasn’t been particularly kind to the Florida Gators.

After crashing out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round, UF lost two of its top-three leading scorers — all-time assists leader Chris Chiozza and graduate transfer Egor Koulechov — to graduation. Together, the pair accounted for roughly a third of Florida’s total scoring.

Hudson’s return prevents Mike White’s squad from hemorrhaging points. Including Hudson, only two other players returning from last season’s team scored more than 300 points on the year. Outside of that group, Hudson scored more points than the next six-highest scorers combined.

His presence as a senior leader should also give Florida’s young talent room to perform. Underclass guards Mike Okauru and Deaundrae Ballard showed flashes of promise during their freshmen seasons, and with Chiozza and Koulechov gone, they’ll be expected to rotate into the starting five and contribute in the backcourt.

Furthermore, the addition of five-star recruit Andrew Nembhard, as well as four-star pick-ups Noah Locke and Keyontae Johnson, ought to line the Gator bench with extra scoring depth. Hudson’s continued dominance, and a return to form from KeVaughn Allen, should give these young guys extra time to develop.

If it all comes together, Gator fans may have another tournament run in store.

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