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Thursday, April 5, 2007
Florida's four juniors to enter NBA draft

By Andy Katz
ESPN.com

Florida coach Billy Donovan told ESPN.com that juniors and likely first-round draft picks Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Taurean Green will declare for the draft by the April 29 deadline and sign with agents, preventing them from returning for their senior season.

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A four-spot of scholarships became available at Florida on Thursday. And Billy Donovan's decision to remain the Gators' coach might mean unsigned power forward Patrick Patterson is not far behind. Blog Insider

A number of NBA sources consider Horford, Noah and Brewer potential top 10 picks, while Green is expected to go somewhere in the first round. All four decided against testing the draft process last year after winning a national title. All but Brewer are the sons of professional athletes.

Donovan said he returned to the team hotel in the early hours Tuesday after the Gators won their second straight national championship, met with his four heralded juniors and was pretty direct.

"What do you guys think about doing it three times?" he asked.

"All of their shoulders slumped down," Donovan said. "They said, 'We're exhausted.'"

The Gators are also bidding farewell to senior starting guard Lee Humphrey and reserve forward Chris Richard, meaning they will lose the top six players off a championship-level team.

Joakim Noah, Taurean Green, Corey Brewer and Lee Humphrey
The Florida juniors and lone senior Lee Humphrey are the only starting five to ever win back-to-back NCAA titles.

"I told Jeremy [Foley, Florida's athletic director] that we're back to starting over," Donovan said. "We'll have a total new team, and for the staff we're excited about the challenge. We'll have a great opportunity. But there will be a real, real major drop-off."

Donovan said the four juniors assured him that they would stay in school and finish the semester. Under the NCAA's new academic restrictions, a school can be penalized if students leave for the NBA and aren't in good academic standing.

"I told them that this was critical for me," Donovan said. "It's the best thing for them, if they want to graduate later, and for the institution. I don't anticipate any of them dropping out of school."

The Gators will return key reserve guard Walter Hodge, a rising junior point, as well as freshmen Marreese Speights, Dan Werner, Brandon Powell and Joanthan Mitchell. Speights played key minutes against Ohio State's Greg Oden in the national title game Monday in Atlanta. Werner had earned quality time at various points this season.

The Gators signed four players early, including stud shooting guard Nick Calathes out of Winter Park, Fla. The other three -- small forward Chandler Parsons (same school as Calathes), power forward Alex Tyus (Cincinnati) and shooting guard Adam Allen (Milton, Fla.) will also get a long look and likely will have to play, according to Donovan.

The Gators are also in the mix for two of the top unsigned players in the class of 2007 in forward Patrick Patterson of Huntington, W.Va., and point guard Jai Lucas of Houston, the son of former NBA coach John Lucas.

"We've got a good nucleus of young kids," Donovan said. "But they're all unproven. This will be a big offseason. If I could change anything I would have liked to take a trip to Canada [over Labor Day] this season instead of last."

Teams are allowed a foreign trip once every four years.

Donovan may also be looking for an assistant coach. Top assistant Donnie Jones is expected to be named the Marshall coach later this week after meeting with athletic director Bob Marcum on Wednesday.

"There's a lot going on here," Donovan said.

Senior writer Andy Katz covers college basketball for ESPN.com.