- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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Give Matt Walsh credit for not ducking Billy Donovan.
Donovan said Walsh drove the three hours from the IMG Academy in Bradenton to the Florida campus in Gainesville Sunday to let him know about the worst-kept secret in the program.
Walsh was staying in the NBA draft, despite no guarantee that he will even be drafted, let alone be a first-round pick. Walsh either wasn't invited or chose not to attend the Chicago predraft camp. He worked out at the IMG Academy and went on team workouts instead.
Walsh's father said Tuesday his son signed with agent Jason Levien, eliminating any chance of
returning for his senior season
Levien also represents former Gators player Udonis Haslem of the
"That was part of it, because Matt really respects Udonis,"
Mike Walsh told Florida Today. "And when he spoke to Udonis about
Jason, he was very high on him."
Earlier Monday, Donovan talked to Walsh's junior classmate, Anthony Roberson, who was finishing up the physical portion of the Chicago predraft camp. Donovan expects Roberson to stay in the draft, too.
"For Matt and Anthony, it's hard to come this far down the road," Donovan said Monday afternoon from Gainesville. "They've got to come back for the right reasons rather than have to come back. I'm OK with this as long as they understand the risks.
"If Matt had said, 'Coach, I'm leaving and I'm going in the first round,' then I'd have a problem," Donovan said. "He's getting the feedback that he can play in the NBA. He understands that if he goes, that there is risk in being a mid- to late second-round pick with no guaranteed money. I think Anthony's going to go he told you that in Chicago but he'll play that to the last day."
Donovan's right about Roberson, who told ESPN.com in Chicago that he would likely stay in the draft.
"Basically, I'm not counting or hoping or holding on to a thread that one of them will come back," Donovan said. "My plans are that both are gone. But this didn't end on a sour note, nor do I feel like I didn't help them. Anthony [and senior David Lee] appreciated me going to Chicago and Matt was appreciative of our conversation."
The communication between these early entrants and their coach is in stark contrast to what is going on at Kentucky and Auburn, where the appearances of acrimony exist.
Kentucky freshman Randolph Morris faxed his intention to declare for the draft to head coach Tubby Smith. According to Morris, they haven't spoken since. Auburn freshman Toney Douglas held a rather contentious news conference, with his father claiming he wasn't being used properly, upon declaring for the draft. Douglas was in Chicago last week for a workout and without a guarantee, but still is not ready to commit to returning to school just yet.
Donovan said Walsh told him he felt like he had fulfilled what he sought out to do in three years with the Gators. Walsh, who missed four games last season with an ankle injury, averaged 19.3 points and shot 44.8 percent on 3s in the SEC tournament. The Gators won the SEC tournament title. Walsh was second in scoring on the team, averaging 14.6 points a game.
Donovan is used to this, having previously lost Mike Miller and Donnell Harvey early to the NBA draft.
Now that Lee, Walsh and likely Roberson will be gone, Donovan said he will go with this lineup next year: Taurean Green (who'll be a sophomore) at the point, junior Lee Humphrey at shooting guard, sophomore Corey Brewer at small forward, either sophomore Joakim Noah or senior Adrian Moss at power forward and sophomore Al Horford at center. Junior forward Chris Richard and incoming freshman guards Walter Hodge and Derwin Kitchen would be the top players off the bench.
"This hurts us because we're losing three all-conference players and I'm not sure anybody is losing what we lose [to the draft]," Donovan said. "But we can regroup and I really like the guys we have in our program."
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.