The immediate problem for Billy Donovan and his Florida basketball staff has nothing to do with recruiting although the next moves will certainly have recruiting implications for the class of 2016. First and foremost, the Gators have a roster problem that has to be resolved. With four national letters of intent signed for a very talented incoming freshman class, the Gators are at 14 scholarships, one over the limit. How the Gators get to the magic NCAA required limit of 13 will impact next year’s recruiting.
For example, it has been speculated that Eli Carter, a fifth-year senior who will graduate, might choose to transfer closer to home in New Jersey for his senior year. If that’s the case and there is no other attrition, the Gators would have two available scholarships for the class of 2016, of which one is already set aside for John Mooney (6-9, 225, Altamonte Springs, FL Lake Brantley), who has been committed to UF since his sophomore year.
If Carter stays, then someone else on the current roster would have to transfer out or leave the team under other circumstances. Carter, Dorian Finney-Smith and Alex Murphy are all seniors next season so the Gators would have two additional scholarships in addition to Mooney available for 2016.
There is some speculation that the roster might be trimmed by two or possibly three, that there could be a combination of Carter leaving and/or two academic casualties. Academics and NCAA issues kept Chris Walker sidelined for more than a semester back in 2013-14 and Brandone Francis had to take a redshirt while getting his academics up to NCAA approved standards all of last season. If the Gators lost two to academics and Carter were to stay, then there would be four additional scholarships in addition to Mooney available for 2016.
Because the numbers issues always have a way of working themselves out and the 2015-16 season has yet to be played, a safe bet would be that the Gators will bring in a class of four and possibly five for 2016.
Here is a look at the current roster and prospects that the Gators are in the process of evaluating, most of whom have UF offers:
Eli Carter (6-2, 200, RSR)
Dorian Finney-Smith (6-8, 218, RSR)
Alex Murphy (6-8, 225, RSR)
DeVon Walker (6-6, 203, RJR)
Kasey Hill (6-1, 171, JR)
Chris Walker (6-10, 220, JR)
* Schuyler Rimmer (6-10, 250, JR)
John Egbunu (6-11, 266, RSO)
Chris Chiozza (6-0, 160, SO)
Devin Robinson (6-8, 180, SO)
Brandone Francis (6-5, 210, RFR)
Kevarrius Hayes (6-9, 210, FR)
Noah Dickerson (6-8, 240, FR)
Keith Stone (6-7, 230, FR)
Kevaughn Allen (6-3, 190, FR)
* Non-scholarship transfer from Stanford; eligible second semester
Today started the only extended open recruiting period of the spring in which coaches can watch a prospect on his campus. After this six-day window expires at midnight next Wednesday, there is a window of opportunity from next Friday to Sunday (April 22-24) at NCAA certified tournaments such as the Nike EYBL stop in Lexington, Kentucky. That’s the last time coaches will be able to see and evaluate prospects until June when the camp season begins and kids will be on campus. Coaches are not allowed to evaluate players at off-campus camps such as LeBron James Skills Academy or NBA Players Association Development Camp.
In July, there are three evaluation periods – July 8-12; July 15-19; and July 22-26 – that coincide with Nike, adidas, Under Armour and AAU showcase events.
Lamonte Turner (6-1, 175, Huntsville, AL/Jacksonville, FL Arlington Country Day): Loves the Gators. Frequently attends UF games. Best friends with Brandone Francis. Super quick, excellent distributor. Auburn, Alabama, Wichita State and Miami are in the conversation.
Eric Hester (6-4, 175, Olsmar, FL Oldsmar Christian): Recruiting has gone through the roof since he switched from the wing to the point. Better than average jump shooter who can get to the rim. Florida is in very good shape. Miami, Louisville, FSU, South Florida and Indiana are in the mix. Plays for Team Breakdown on the Under Armour circuit.
De’Aaron Fox (6-3, 165, Katy, TX Cypress Lakes): Super quick slasher, he’s a top priority for both Shaka Smart at Texas and Billy Kennedy at A&M. Very doubtful he leaves the state. Plays on the Nike EYBL circuit for Houston Hoops.
Derryk Thornton Jr. (6-2, 175, Chatsworth, CA/Henderson, NV Findlay Prep): He’s a priority for Duke, Louisville, Arizona, UCLA and Kentucky. He’s interested in Florida, but that’s about as far as it will probably go. There is a possibility that Thornton will reclassify for 2015 and sign with either Louisville or Duke, both of whom lost their point guards to early entry NBA.
Jaylen Fisher (6-2, 170, Arlington, TN Bolton): The Gators have had a lot of success in Tennessee (Lee Humphrey, Corey Brewer, Casey Prather). His strengths are getting into the paint where he can finish and distribute. Weakness is his outside shot. Rick Barnes has made him a priority recruit at Tennessee. Florida is probably next tier with Memphis, Ole Miss and UConn. Plays for Team Thad on the Under Armour circuit.
Malik Monk (6-3, 175, Bentonville, AR): Super athletic wing who is as comfortable slashing to the rim as he is creating his own shot off the dribble. He’s easily one of the five or six best prospects in the country. His dad played football at Arkansas and was a graduate assistant there while earning his MBA. While everyone expects Malik to stay home and play the Hogs, it’s worth noting that brother Marcus Monk played for UF assistant John Pelphrey when Pelphrey was the Arkansas head coach and he still calls Pelphrey his mentor. Plays for Arkansas Wings on the Nike circuit.
Josh Langford (6-6, 200, Madison, AL): He loves Anthony Grant and was interested in the Gators even before Grant was fired at Alabama. He is a do-it-all player who can defend three positions. He plays AAU ball for the Atlanta Celtics, which works against the Gators. He’s a top priority for both Alabama and Auburn. Because the Atlanta Celtics are an adidas program, watch for Louisville and Kansas to get visits.
Rawle Alkins (6-4, 185, Middle Village, NY Christ the King): He’s one of the best at getting to the rim but he’s also got a nice shot with range to the 3-point line. He’s one of the most physical guards in the country. Even though he plays on the adidas circuit, the Gators have a real shot with him because of long standing relationships at Christ the King, which sent Erving Walker to UF. The usual adidas suspects (Indiana, Kansas, Louisville and NC State) are working him. He’s picked up interest but no offer yet from Duke and Kentucky.
Shawn Montague (6-6, 190, Yorktown Heights, NY Canterbury School): This is a plan B or plan C type, a late bloomer whose best offer so far is Seton Hall. Florida has not offered. Plays for the independent Minutemen AAU basketball program out of Yonkers.
K.J. Santos (6-8, 200, Geneva, IL/South Kent, CT South Kent School): This is a plan B that could garner more interest as the summer goes along. Plays with the Illinois Wolves on the Under Armour circuit so he gets very good coaching and plays in the tough New England prep school league in the fall and winter. He’s got a really nice jump shot and is a 2/3 combo. He has offers from DePaul and Iowa. He’s interested in Florida but has no offer.
John Mooney (6-9, 225, Altamonte Springs, FL Lake Brantley): He’s a stretch 4/big 3 type who has a nice feel for the game. He’s an outstanding passer who can run the floor, play some defense and has been very well coached. Plays AAU ball with Florida Elite on the adidas circuit.
Braxton Blackwell (6-8, 220, Nashville, TN Christ Presbyterian): He’s not a great shooter, but he excels at everything else. Think of him as a point forward. At an adidas event down in Tavares last year, Blackwell said his top schools were Florida, Indiana, Louisville and North Carolina. He plays for the Atlanta Celtics so it would be an upset if he came to Florida, but he does really like Billy Donovan and John Pelphrey. Louisville and Indiana probably have the edge since they’re adidas schools.
Maverick Rowan (6-6, 190, Fort Lauderdale, FL Cardinal Mooney): Was once committed to Pitt. One of the best knockdown shooters in the country. He’s got serious range. Offensive ability trumps the fact he’s a below average defender. He plays on the adidas AAU circuit and general consensus is he’s a lock for Louisville.
Troy Baxter (6-7, 190, Gainesville, FL The Rock): He is a Plan B or C who has no Florida offer, but he’s athletic enough that coaches keep an eye on him. If he were a better shooter he would have a ton of offers. Best offers so far are Arkansas, Kansas State, South Florida and Tennessee.
Kendrick Gray (6-6, 200, Burlington, VT Rice Memorial): Another plan B or Plan C type with interest in UF but no offer. He will be seen plenty by UF coaches because he plays for New England Playaz along with Tomas Murphy, Erik and Alex’s little brother, a 2017 who has grown to 6-9 already.
Dewan Huell (6-10, 215, Miami, FL Norland): He’s grown an inch since last year and added another 20 pounds. He has terrific hands and is a tremendous off the ball shot blocker. Florida has been in on him for two years now and the Gators improved their chances of landing him when Anthony Grant joined the staff. Plays for Team Breakdown on the Under Armour circuit, same program that sent Kenny Boynton to UF. Miami, FSU, Louisville and South Carolina are also in the mix.
Juwan Durham (6-10, 200, Tampa, Fl Tampa Prep): Durham is an excellent student. He’d love to get an offer from Duke like former Tampa Prep star Casey Sanders (Duke, 1995-99) but hasn’t gotten one yet. He tore an ACL back in February but is reportedly ahead of schedule on his rehab. He’s rail thin but plays more physically than his frame would indicate. Stretch four on the offensive end, shot blocker supreme on the defensive end. Florida, Louisville, FSU and Georgia Tech are at the top of the list at this point.
Darius Hicks (6-7, 220, Quitman, MS): He is a rebounding machine with a nice midrange shot. He decommitted Mississippi State when Rick Ray was fired and Ben Howland has been trying hard to make up ground. He has a UF offer that is now enhanced by Anthony Grant’s presence. Alabama was Hicks’ second choice when Grant was the coach in Tuscaloosa. Ole Miss and FSU are working him hard.
Tyler Cook (6-7, 240, St. Louis, MO Chaminade Prep): He’s from the school that sent David Lee and Brad Beal to Florida. He’s a physical low blocks presence who runs the floor extremely well and fits best in a face paced offensive scheme. Plays for the St. Louis Eagles AAU team (Lee and Beal did also) on the Nike circuit. Iowa State, Illinois and Arkansas have been all over him recently.
Nolan Narain (6-10, 215, Hamilton, Ontario/LaPorte, IN La Lumiere School): He scores well around the basket and has good shot blocking skills. He has a Florida offer but there is a real chance he’s going to wind up at Gonzaga, which is a popular destination for Canadian big guys. Illinois and Creighton are also very much on his radar. Plays AAU for Uplay Canada on the adidas circuit.
Javin Montgomery-DeLaurier (6-9, 210, Charlottesville, VA St. Anne’s Belfield School): He doesn’t have a Florida offer although he has expressed interest in the Gators. Texas, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech and Clemson have offered. Good chance he goes to either Princeton or Harvard. He’s a great student.
Lauri Markkanen (6-10, 215, Vantaan, Finland Helskinki Basketball Academy): He doesn’t have an offer but that could change. He really stood out at the Basketball Without Borders camp. His brother played at Kansas for Roy Williams so the Tar Heels are involved in his recruitment along with the Gators, Arizona, Texas A&M and St. John’s.
Tony Bradley (6-9, 235, Bartow, FL): The Gators are in a real battle with North Carolina for Bradley, who stood out at the first Nike EYBL event in Hampton, Virginia with averages of 13 points and 9 rebounds per game. He will camp at Florida in June so the Gators will have a chance to make up some ground, but UF, Miami and Kansas are all on his second tier at the moment. He plays for Each1 Teach1 AAU which sent Joel Berry to UNC.
Udoka Azbuike (6-10, 265, Lagos, Nigeria/Jacksonville, FL Potters House Christian): He’s got offers from everyone on the planet but he might be a done deal to FSU. Leonard Hamilton reportedly helped him locate to Potter’s House in Jacksonville and there is a strong relationship with FSU assistant Stan Jones. Also, he is friends with Nigerian Michael Ojo, who will be a senior at FSU this year. Florida, Kentucky, Duke and everybody else is trailing. Plays for Georgia Stars on the Nike EYBL circuit.
Isaac Humphries (7-0, 245, Sydney, Australia/LaPorte, IN La Lumiere School): He’s a great student and one of the most fundamentally sound big men in the country. He has tremendous size and is an excellent scorer in the low blocks. Florida, Arizona and Kansas are highly involved, but New Mexico, which employs a former coach from LaLumiere School may have the advantage. Plays for Indy Spiece Heat on the Nike EYBL circuit.
Nick Rakocevic (6-10, 200, Chicago, IL St. Joseph): The Gators offered early and are still in the game although he’s now a priority recruit for Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa. He’s a stretch four with a lot of upside if he will add some muscle. Plays for Mac Irvin Fire on the Nike EYBL circuit.
Rodney Miller (6-11, 245, Laurelton, NY/Mouth of Wilson, VA Oak Hill Academy): He’s got tremendous upside. He’s huge and still growing. Runs the floor well and can use both hands around the rim. Florida has not offered and probably won’t. It’s likely he will commit to Wake Forest and Danny Manning very soon.