When you're a McDonald's All-American and projected lottery pick coming out of high school, the last thing you ever expect to be is a sophomore in college. So Scottie Lewis, quite reasonably, always assumed he'd enter the 2020 NBA Draft, presumably after a terrific freshman season for a great college team. But he didn't have a terrific freshman season. And his team wasn't great. (Those two things were connected, by the way.) So the one-time projected lottery pick turned into a likely second-round pick. And when you combine that fact with the uncertainty surrounding this draft, Scottie Lewis, on Monday, did a sensible thing: he announced he's returning to Florida for a sophomore year he didn't previously plan to play.
It's a mature decision.
To be clear, I would've also understood if Lewis had decided to jump into the 2020 NBA Draft with both feet because he would've been selected and likely received a contract. Odds are, he would've been fine. So there was no disastrous option in front of him. But, that said, returning to Florida does seem like the more sensible option, if only because there are currently way more questions than answers about the future.
Here's one: Are we even going to have a draft on June 25?
Obviously, you can't have a draft until you have a draft order, and you can't have a draft order until a season is completed (or until the NBA sets the order in some unprecedented way). Will that be done in time to pick players on June 25? I asked two NBA front-office members that question Monday; both metaphorically shrugged their shoulders. So there's at least a chance the draft could be pushed deeper into the calendar.
Will there be a combine?
Will there be predraft workouts?
Right now, nobody knows for sure. So if you're a likely second-round pick who is on the fence about staying or going like Lewis was, and who has a real chance to improve your position with another year of school like Lewis will, and who doesn't want to have your time in college remembered as nothing but disappointing like Lewis would've, why not just stay in school?
Why race into an uncertain world?
Why run from a good thing straight into an unknown?
Ultimately, these are the questions Scottie Lewis spent the past few days asking himself before deciding the pros of remaining in school outweigh any cons, and I won't be surprised if more prospects in similar situations reach similar conclusions. It's one thing if you're a lock first-rounder or somebody who is just ready to get on with your life, in whatever form, for better or worse. In that case, by all means, take off. But if you're conflicted on what to do, and you have a good thing in place, staying put is totally logical.
"The best is yet to come," Lewis tweeted Monday.
For what it's worth, I'd bet on that being true. Coaches have often said the biggest room for improvement is between a person's freshman and sophomore seasons, and that's why it's reasonable to assume Lewis will look more like he was supposed to look this season next season. Yes, the 6-foot-5 guard only averaged 8.5 points per game this season while shooting just 44.1% from the field, but it should be noted that he averaged 13.0 points while shooting 55.9% from the field in the Gators' final four games -- a stretch that included a 19-point effort against Kentucky. Translation: Lewis was playing better when Florida's season, and everybody's season, abruptly ended because of the coronavirus pandemic that's ravaged the country.
In a perfect world, Scottie Lewis will pick right up where he left off when his sophomore season begins and give Florida a chance to compete at the top of the SEC with Kentucky, Tennessee, LSU and Arkansas. In a perfect world, he'll be so impressive while doing it that he once again becomes a projected lottery pick.
That's my hope, at least.
Because I pull for people to be rewarded for being smart.
And, in these uncertain times, what Scottie Lewis announced Monday seems smart -- not to mention mature and admirable. I've been doing this long enough to know it's not easy for one-time lottery picks to commit to a second year of college they never anticipated doing. Being honest with yourself after a tough freshman season, reevaluating things and making a sensible longterm decision is so difficult for most. But Scottie Lewis just did it. And his ability and willingness to do it speaks well of him, I think.