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Gators lose another as Scottie Lewis opts for NBA draft

The guard is the latest on a growing list of departures for Florida.
Scottie Lewis (23) celebrates with Noah Locke (10) after forcing Xavier to call a timeout in the final of the Charleston Classic on Nov. 24, 2019, in Charleston, S.C.
Scottie Lewis (23) celebrates with Noah Locke (10) after forcing Xavier to call a timeout in the final of the Charleston Classic on Nov. 24, 2019, in Charleston, S.C. [ MIC SMITH | AP ]
Published Apr. 2
Updated Apr. 2

GAINESVILLE — Guard Scottie Lewis became the sixth player to leave Florida’s men’s basketball team in a little more than a week when he declared for the NBA draft Thursday night.

Lewis announced on Instagram that he would hire an agent and made it clear he did not plan to return to school.

“I know that I will be moving on to a new place and if god is willing to a new team but please know that Gainesville and the Stephen O’Connell arena will always have a special place in my heart!” he wrote.

A McDonald’s All-American from Hazlet, N.J., Lewis started 31 of 51 games in two seasons at Florida. He averaged 8.2 points and 3.4 rebounds, and was best known for his defense. He had 69 steals and 58 blocks.

Though he flashed at times, he never came close to reaching the expectations that came with being coach Mike White’s top recruit in six seasons. He was ESPN’s ninth-rated high school prospect in 2018-19.

Lewis is the latest on a growing list of departures in Gainesville and around the country as teams everywhere deal with defections and rebuilds as players take advantage of lenient NCAA transfer rules and a portal that has ballooned to more than 1,200 guys seeking new places to play.

Star point guard and leading scorer Tre Mann started the exodus last week by entering the NBA draft with plans of hiring an agent. Starting shooting guard Noah Locke, forward Omar Payne, backup point guard Ques Glover and reserve forward Osayi Osifo entered the transfer portal in hopes of finding more playing time or a more prominent role elsewhere.

The Gators shouldn’t have much trouble replacing any of the four transfers. Locke was a slow-footed, one-dimensional shooter. Payne, Glover and Osifo were backups who rarely made the Gators better when they were on the floor.

Lewis surely would have had a chance to become the centerpiece of Florida’s retooled team next season.

“From the moment my father placed a ball in my hands, I knew I wanted to strive for nothing but greatness,” he wrote. “Playing in the NBA has always been my main priority in life.

“And with that being said, I am happy to announce that I have made the decision to take the next step in my career by signing with (an) agent and declaring for the NBA draft!”

An outspoken advocate for equality and ending racial injustice, Lewis also thanked his coaches, his parents and his teammates.

He might not be the last to say goodbye.

Forward Colin Castleton, the team’s second-leading scorer, entered his name in the NBA draft to get feedback on his skills. But he did not hire an agent and is expected to return.

Guard Niels Lane and forward Samson Ruzhentsev are still weighing their options, according to the team’s website.

And it’s unclear what the future holds for talented swingman Keyontae Johnson, who has not been cleared to practice or play since collapsing on the court during a game in December. The cause of his face-first fall and his current condition have not been released publicly.

The Gators will be active in the transfer portal to rebuild their roster, especially since White signed just one recruit in the 2021 class: talented guard Kowacie Reeves.

––– By Mark Long

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