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Tony Snell probably won’t return to New Mexico, stay in NBA Draft

Apr 8, 2013, 5:00 PM EDT

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(CLICK HERE to follow along with who is turning pro and who is returning to school.)

New Mexico guard Tony Snell will reportedly make his decision to enter the NBA Draft permanent.

The Albuquerque Journal is reporting that the 6-7, 200-pound junior forward will make his announcement official, according to a former coach.

Snell averaged 12.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists this season for the Lobos, who won the Mountain West Conference regular season and tournament titles this before being ousted by Harvard in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Snell also shot 39 percent from three-point range and 84.3 percent from the free throw line this season.

This seemed like the one obstacle newly-minted coach Craig Neal has to deal with. New Mexico still returns four starters next season, including much-improved big man Alex Kirk and guard Kendall Williams, who has been as consistent a scorer as anyone in his three seasons on the team. Demetrius Walker announced he would leave the team prior to former coach Steve Alford’s departure to take the helm at UCLA.

It also doesn’t seem like Alford leaving and Neal coming in has much to do with Snell’s decision.

“Tony loves Noodles,” Marvin Lea, a family friend and Snell’s former club coach, told the Albuquerque Journal, referring to the nickname many use for Neal. “When he was hired, it made Tony really take a hard, long look at this decision, but Neal has been great throughout this. With the feedback he was getting and providing to Tony and other feedback we’ve heard, Tony is confident with his choice to go to the NBA now.”

Lea added that Snell hiring an agent is “just a matter of time.”

Snell announced he would test the waters of the draft a week ago, and it seemed like a 50/50 shot that he actually went. He’s improved every season at New Mexico, going from 4.4 points per game to 10.5 to his current average over the past three years. He was also the MWC Tournament Most Valuable Player this season.

The Lobos have too much coming back to worry, but Snell would’ve made them the overwhelming favorites to repeat in the MWC. Now, while still the favorites, San Diego State and possibly Boise State could be a bit closer.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

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