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Calathes leaves Florida ... for Greece

For the past few months, the assumption was that there were just two options for Florida’s Nick Calathes:

1. Stay in the NBA draft and hire an agent.2. Return to Florida for his junior season.

Well, the decision is in, and Calathes will …(drumroll) … do neither of the above. The guard instead will sign with a professional team in Greece, under the condition that he withdraw from the draft.

This is quite an interesting twist, considering Calathes was being discussed as a late first-round pick, or at least a certain second-rounder. Panathinaikos, the reigning Euroleague champion, will reportedly pay Calathes about what a mid first-round pick would get.

This news shows that Europe, or at least playing somewhere overseas, is becoming more of a viable option for young American players. Calathes may have connections – he played for the Greek Olympic team last summer – but other players have not: Josh Childress signed with a Greek team last year rather than return to the NBA, and high school players like Jeremy Tyler (skipping his senior year) and Brandon Jennings (expected to be a lottery pick) have gone the European route.

The value of the dollar has a lot to do with this, as I can personally attest having visited Greece last summer. But it also shows that younger American players are much more open to playing overseas when they still have college eligibility remaining, and European teams are willing to pay them a lot of money.

Calathes’ departure means Florida will have a tougher task getting back to the NCAA tournament, which it has missed the past two seasons. The Gators do add guard Kenny Boynton, rated a top 10 recruit, and big man Vernon Macklin, a highly-touted transfer from Georgetown. The returning core includes forward Alex Tyus, guard Erving Walker and forwards Dan Werner and Chandler Parsons.

How Boynton and Macklin fit in, and how good they are, will have a lot to say on whether the Gators get back on the snide.