[Updated: 5:20 p.m., 5-29-18] After going through a handful of NBA workouts, Florida guard Jalen Hudson decided the right move was to build off of his high-scoring junior campaign with the Gators.
The 6-foot-6 Hudson will be back in a Gator uniform for his senior season after pulling his name from the draft Tuesday. He averaged a team-high 15.5 points last season, scoring 20 or more points eight times during the 2017-18 season. That included a career-high 35 points against Gonzaga last November at the PK80 Tournament in Portland. Hudson was for the most part efficient in 2017-18, shooting 45.4 percent from the floor and 40.2 percent from 3-point range.
“Exciting day for the Gators and for Jalen,” Florida coach Mike White said at the SEC spring meetings in Destin.
In league play, Hudson earned SEC player of the week honors three times while averaging 13.8 points per game.
With Hudson’s return, the Gators won’t be short on experience heading into the 2018-19 season. Including Hudson, Florida will bring back four players with a combined 218 career starts. That list includes senior guard KeVaughn Allen, a three-year starter, along with senior center Kevarrius Hayes and redshirt junior forward Keith Stone.
The Gators could use that experience in an improved SEC. Defending SEC co-champion Auburn had three players — point guard Jared Harper, shooting guard Bryce Brown and center Austin Wiley — announce they are returning to school after putting their names in for the draft. Auburn guard Mustapha Heron also pulled his name from the draft but is seeking a hardship waiver to transfer to a school closer to his native Connecticut. SEC co-champion Tennessee also is bringing back all five of its starters in 2018-19.
Hudson took part in predraft workouts with the Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets in early May, but had been practicing and working out with UF throughout the predraft process. Some mock draft websites projected Hudson as a second-round pick in April, but his stock fell as more players declared for the draft
Hudson is the first UF player to return after putting his name in the draft since former forward Alex Tyus, who came back for his senior season in 2010-11 to help lead the Gators to an Elite Eight appearance.
“There’s nothing wrong with not being a guaranteed first-round pick right now,” White said in Destin. “That wasn’t expected a year ago. But he made a lot of headway. He built his brand. He helped the Gators have a good year.”