Gophers men’s basketball followers were prepared for one early NBA departure — dominant big man Daniel Oturu — but two? Guard Marcus Carr?

That wasn’t really on the radar for most of us until Monday night when Carr posted on Instagram that he is declaring for the June NBA draft.

Though Carr said he is not hiring an agent, thus making him eligible to return — and our Marcus Fuller reports per sources that Richard Pitino has been told Carr wants to return to the Gophers next season even though he is gathering information about his pro career — the end of his Instagram post was the one that really caught my eye: “No matter what happens, my time here at the University of Minnesota has provided me with an unbelievable opportunity and it will forever hold a special place in my heart.”

Those seem to be the words of someone who is giving at least some serious weight to leaving.

While some of the key numbers in the decision are 15.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists — all of Carr’s averages with the Gophers last year, in his first year after transferring from Pitt — some more important numbers are probably these: 21 and 3.

The 21 represents Carr’s age when the NBA Draft is slated to be held in late June. And the three is the number of years he’s been in school — one at Pitt, one sitting out after transferring and one with the Gophers. Though he’s relatively young for having been in college three years already (he doesn’t turn 21 until early June), a quick look at the top of the NBA prospect list shows that Carr is already “old” for a first-round pick.

Only two players in this first round mock draft are older than Carr, and only two have been in college for three years. The rest are freshmen, sophomores or international players. Carr doesn’t figure to get drafted even if he does leave, but even getting a jump on his pro career overseas or in the G-League could have appeal.

Carr is in a similar position in some ways to Amir Coffey a season ago. Coffey left the Gophers after his junior year despite not having much draft buzz and ended up getting a two-way contract with the NBA’s Clippers after going undrafted.

Those situations aren’t perfect matches. Coffey was comparatively a full year older than Carr at the time of his decision, and Coffey was also comparatively more accomplished. But just as Coffey might have looked at his situation and decided he couldn’t help himself any more by staying in school, Carr might be doing the same.

The other factor that could weigh in Carr’s decision is the relative uncertainty of all sports right now because of the coronavirus pandemic. What will the college or NBA seasons look like next year? Will they go on as planned? Will they be interrupted or otherwise impacted? Will they be wiped out altogether?

We can hope it’s the first answer, but at this point we don’t really know. And maybe that uncertainty is pushing Carr to at least want to get on the radar of professional teams now — instead of a year from now, after a year of uncertainty.

In any event just like Coffey’s decision, Carr’s announcement Monday makes more sense when you take everything into account. He could very well return, which would obviously be a boon to the Gophers’ hopes next season. But there are also viable reasons he won’t return.

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