Future still looks great for Gator basketball

The season is upon us, but recruiting is a year-round venture for Florida head coach Billy Donovan and his staff. Basketball tends to be a full year ahead in recruiting, and the ability to watch prospects in the summer at various AAU-style camps and tournaments seems to make it easier to find players who will fit your program.

With that in mind, Florida basketball looks to be in great shape, thanks to a trio of commitments for the class of 2015, as well as another prospect who is a very good possibility to be on board if a few things happen in the future.

For the 2015-16 season, the Gators look to have the possibility of four returning shooting guards on a roster that can always change in many different ways… injuries, transfers, etc. For now, the four likely returnees for the 2015-16 season are Michael Frazier (SR), Eli Carter (SR), Dillon Graham (JR), and Brandone Francis (FR).

There is the possibility that Carter won’t be able to play much more basketball because of his injury and a subsequent lack of healing. Graham has been seldom used, but that isn’t necessarily indicative of what can happen in this or next season. Still, don’t expect all four of the above to be back in 2015-16.

With that in mind, the Gators looked to secure the services of one of the best shooting guards in the country, and landed a commitment from North Little Rock (Ark.) shooting guard KeVaughn Allen (6-2, 175). More of a drive-to-the-basket guy, Scout.com’s #17 shooting guard and the 56th overall player in the 2015 class is a good one, according to Scout.com National Analyst Brian Snow.

“KeVaughn had a great showing at the Nike Peach Jam and that really got people excited,” Snow told Fightin’ Gators. “Allen is someone who is an excellent defender, a very good athlete, and a tough kid who can get to the rim. When he starts making outside shots consistently, like he was at the Peach Jam… that is when he is nearly impossible to defend.”

Snow thinks Allen is a great fit for what Florida wants to do.

“Billy Donovan will love his toughness and versatility on the defensive end, and I think you will see him fit right in,” Snow said.

In the frontcourt the numbers are a lot different. At the center and power forward spots, Florida is pretty interchangeable, as those players are asked to play both spots. UF will return just three in 2015-16, and that’s if they all stick around. Chris Walker (JR), John Egbunu (JR), and Devin Robinson (SO) will have to carry a heavy load, but hopefully will have some help from younger guys.

Most believe this is Walker’s last year on campus, and that with his size and athletic ability he will be off to the NBA. That is the likely scenario, which would leave Egbunu (who must sit out this season) and Robinson, who we haven’t seen play at the collegiate level. Getting a couple of frontcourt players was a must in the class and the Gators have done just that.

Kevarrius Hayes (6-9, 205) of Live Oak (Fla.) Suwannee was the first one to jump into the recruiting class and could be a monster rebounder and space-eater for the Gators. He’s the 25th-rated center for Scout and looks to have a lot of upside.

“This is a kid who looks the part at a high level when he walks in the gym,” Snow said of Hayes. “He is a long-armed kid with good size and looks like a player, and on top of that he is a tremendous athlete. That said, he is very raw, and hasn't been a consistent producer throughout his high school career.”

Snow believes the Gators love Hayes, but are in a luxury position with him at this point.

“The potential is huge here,” Snow said. “I think Florida views this as a lottery ticket. If he works out and things click, you have a potential superstar. If not, you have plenty of other bodies in front of him to earn the minutes. It wouldn't surprise me if Hayes is a redshirt candidate as a freshman.”

Florida also landed a blue-chipper at center in Montverde (Fla.) Academy 4-star Noah Dickerson (6-8, 250). Dickerson previously committed to Georgetown, but shied away from that commitment a month or so before committing to Donovan and company. Scout’s #17 center and 67th overall rated player has tremendous size and strength.

“Noah is a good low-post scorer who has excellent footwork and hands,” Snow said. “Despite being a below-the-rim player and slightly undersized for the center position, he is quite productive. Now he absolutely must rebound the ball better, but on offense he can be a force with his skill.”

Snow believes that Dickerson already has the offensive tools to see the court as a freshman.

“He is different than what Florida has typically had at the center position, but his ability to score should help him get on the floor early in his college career,” he said.

This report was written early last month for the magazine and the following has changed as Keith Stone has committed to the Gators already.

There is another player who possibly could end up in the class, but Florida likely will have to wait on the decision of a couple of players from the current roster to see if they will be heading elsewhere after this season. The NCAA mandates that men’s basketball rosters in Division I have only 13 scholarship players. With 12 on scholarship and no scholarship seniors on the roster this year, UF would be over the cap by two if everyone decided to return and everyone signed as expected. Attrition is expected, howver, and there probably will be enough to fit in one more recruit.

At this point, that last one would be small forward Keith Stone (6-7, 240) of Deerfield Beach (Fla.) Zion Lutheran Christian. He is listed as a three-star prospect by Scout, and the Gator staff loves him as a prospect who can play their style of basketball and really punish people with his offensive game. Stone has tremendous quickness and athleticism for his size, can score with either hand and knows how to get to the rim.


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