ESPN has high expectations for Florida basketball next season but for the Gators to live up to their all-too-early top five billing, either Devin Robinson or John Egbunu – or both – are going to have to come back.
Robinson has already declared for the NBA Draft but he’s not hiring an agent so he could return if he gets too much negative feedback from the scouts. Egbunu, who was a fourth year junior last year, is recovering from a torn ACL, but Mike White indicated Tuesday that he expects Egbunu to test the NBA waters, also.
“John hasn’t made a decision yet, but I think he’ll probably test the waters and see what type of feedback he gets,” White said.
Egbunu has NBA size but he’s still very raw and there are injury concerns. He missed the last few games of the 2016 season with a thumb injury that required surgery and now the ACL that will keep him from working out for scouts. Anyone who drafts him is going solely on potential. Egbunu gets his degree in May and will have to apply for grad school to come back to UF.
Of the two, Egbunu is the one who seems likely to come back. The rehab process for an ACL is tedious and if he stays at UF he’s got (trainer) Duke Werner, one of the best in the business to get him back in shape. If either Egbunu or Robinson come back the Gators will be at the scholarship limit (13). If both of them come back the Gators are one over the NCAA limit and if both of them go then White has an open scholarship that he can offer to Juwan Durham (6-10, 210), a Tampa native who announced he’s transferring out of UConn. Durham suffered a torn ACL his senior year at Tampa prep and spent the last season recovering. He needs the transfer year to add the 20 pounds that will allow him to play at a high level in Division I.
With Canyon Barry’s eligibility exhausted and Robinson probably gone, White is going to have to find scoring to replace those two. Virginia Tech transfer Jalen Hudson (redshirted last year) could be that guy, but White says Hudson’s court time next season will have everything to do with his defensive improvement.
“My challenge to Jalen is to defend and rebound at a higher level,” White said, noting the Gators finished fifth nationally in defensive efficiency while stating an unwillingness for UF to drop 20-30 spots. “ . . . I’m going to play guys based on how they defend and how they rebound and if he (Hudson) earns minutes, I know he’ll score. I know he’ll have some big games for us offensively per minute, depending upon how many minutes that he earns.”
The backcourt is set with Chris Chiozza at the point and KeVaughn Allen on the wing with Eric Hester backing up both of them. If Egbunu comes back he won’t be available until December or January at the earliest, which means Kevarrius Hayes and either sophomore Gorjok Gak or Keith Stone will be the inside guys. Hudson figures to be the wing if Robinson doesn’t come back.
But what if Robinson does come back?
“Obviously a big recruiting coup this spring would be if Devin re-committed to being a Gator,” White said while admitting he would be “somewhat surprised.” John Gasaway of ESPN.com Insider rates Robinson as the 12th best player in college basketball in 2017-18 if he does return to college.
Here is the 2017-18 roster:
REDSHIRT SENIOR (1): John Egbunu (6-11, 260)
SENIORS (2): * Devin Robinson (6-8, 200); Chris Chiozza (6-0, 160)
* Declared for NBA Draft, will not hire an agent
REDSHIRT JUNIOR (1): Jalen Hudson (6-6, 190)
JUNIORS (2): KeVaughn Allen (6-2, 183); Kevarrius Hayes (6-9, 218)
REDSHIRT SOPHOMORE (1): Keith Stone (6-8, 240)
SOPHOMORES (2): Eric Hester (6-3, 170); Gorjok Gak (6-11, 231)
REDSHIRT FRESHMAN (1): Dontay Bassett (6-9, 222)
INCOMING FRESHMEN (4): DeAundre Ballard (6-6, 200); Chase Johnson (6-9, 215); Isaiah Stokes (6-9, 275); ** Michael Okauru (6-4, 185)
** Committed to the Gators, expected to sign his LOI in the next two weeks.
A couple of notes about the incoming recruiting class: Stokes is recovering from ACL surgery which prompted White to say, “I’m not sure how much of an impact he’s going to make next year or if he will even play next year, those are decisions that him and Duke Werner will probably end up making next fall” … About wing DeAundre Ballard, White said, “You can see a little bit of Sindarius Thornwell in him” … White said that with time he expects Chase Johnson to become “more of a pure stretch four than what he is right now.”
WHAT ABOUT THE CLASS OF 2018?
Egbunu (if he comes back) and Chiozza will graduate next year and if Robinson returns, he will create a third opening for the 2018 class. There is a possibility that either Hudson or Allen will leave early for the NBA. Hudson is a potential scoring machine whose draft stock could rise dramatically. If Allen’s ball handling improves, this will be a contract year for him.
Figure the Gators will sign at least three, but four is entirely possible.
Eleven 2018 possibilities:
Elijah Weaver (6-5, 190, Oldsmar, FL Oldsmar Christian): What you have to like about Weaver as a point is that he’s so physically strong that when he gets into the paint he can absorb contact and score. If there is a problem with his game it’s that when he gets in the lane he’s too busy looking to score instead of setting up teammates. If he ever gets that down pat, he’ll be a beast. He’s from the same school that gave the Gators Eric Hester and Dontay Bassett. The Gators have his ear, but Louisville and Villanova might have his heart. He plays AAU ball for Team Breakdown which sent Kenny Boynton and Hester to UF.
Will Richardson (6-4, 180, Hinesville, GA Liberty County): He’s long, lean and very quick. He has outstanding range and if he hits his first 3-ball, he might hit the next nine. By taking Liberty County to the Georgia high school Final Four he went fro mid-major to power conference prospect. Georgia and Georgia Tech were on him early, but the Gators have come on strong lately. He has already visited Gainesville and came away impressed. Keep an eye on Auburn. Bruce Pearl is working him hard and has a connection with Liberty Count from his Tennessee days. Pearl came in and stole Jordan McRae from Billy Donovan when it seemed he was a lock to the Gators.
Devon Dotson (6-2, 175, Charlotte, NC Providence Day): He’s so quick end to end that he might remind you of Chris Chiozza. Against the press, just give him the ball and get out of the way. He will get the ball past midcourt. He’s a terrific press defender. Kansas is the early leader but Florida is right there. North Carolina and North Carolina State really haven’t started working him yet.
Alex Lomax (6-0, 190, Memphis, TN East): He’s from Chris Chiozza’s old stomping grounds in Memphis, which is also a place where the Florida staff has very good connections. This is a point guard who takes control of everyone on the floor and leads flawlessly as in he doesn’t turn the ball over. He doesn’t have Chiozza’s quickness but he’s probably a better outside shooter. This looks like a Memphis, Missouri and Florida recruiting battle.
Michael Devoe (6-3, 165, Orlando, FL Oak Ridge): Devoe picked up an offer from UF last week. He plays AAU ball for Nike South Beach. He plays the point in high school but he’s such a good shooter that he projects more as a combo at the next level. He’s a lefty shooter who doesn’t get much elevation on his jumper but he goes on streaks when it seems he can’t miss. Virginia, LSU, Georgia and Miami have offered.
Keldon Johnson (6-6, 210, South Hill, VA/Huntington, WV Huntington Prep): He was a teammate of Florida signee Chase Johnson; plays AAU ball with Boo Williams. He’s grown a couple of inches this year and probably has another inch or two in him. He probably won’t ever be an elite scorer, but he’s a box score stuffer. At the end of the game you look at the box score and he’s done well in every category. He’s really good just not spectacular. He’s the kind of player who could lead a team in assists while playing the wing. The Gators are very much in it along with Louisville, Virginia and Virginia Tech. Georgetown could become a player. There has always been a connection between Boo Williams and Georgetown.
Nassir Little (6-6, 210, Jacksonville, FL/Orlando, FL Orlando Christian Prep): He plays high school ball for Reggie Kohn, who coached Gators Nick Calathes and Chandler Parsons in high school. He plays AAU ball for Showtime Ballers. He is a small forward who plays larger than 6-6. He gets to the rim easily to the point he sometimes neglects his outside shot. Florida, Florida State, Louisville, Auburn and Cincinnati are the prime time players, but Florida is thought to have the advantage.
Darius Days (6-7, 218, Gainesville, FL The Rock): This is somewhat of a late bloomer from the same school that gave the Gators Scottie Wilbekin. He plays AAU ball for the Florida Vipers and he will be watched closely this summer. From an athletic standpoint, he could really blow up on the AAU circuit. He runs the floor, plays above the rim and oozes potential. Memphis, Southern Cal and Virginia are all over him. The Gators have quietly made inroads. If UF offers, he’ll probably take it.
Emmitt Williams (6-8, 210, Lehigh Acres, FL/Bradenton, FL IMG Academy): He was a teammate of Florida signee Isaiah Stokes so there is a connection to UF. Prior to his firing, Williams was looking very strongly to LSU, but with Johnny Jones gone, Florida seems to be the leader. He’s very comfortable at the high post where he can leak out to the wing or shoot the 3-ball straight ahead. He runs the baseline very well. He is a strong rebounder and shot blocker but can be a little lazy as a defender. Louisville, FSU and Kansas are also recruiting him.
Silvio De Sousa (6-9, 240, Luanda, Angola/Bradenton, FL IMG Academy): He may be only 18 years old, but he’s a man already. He looks like a guy who’s going to rip the rim right off the backboard every time he dunks. He’s got a decent midrange jumper, too. If he ever commits to being a serious defender he’s got the skills to dominate. On the plus side, he’s a teammate of Williams and former teammate of Stokes at IMG. On the negative side, he plays AAU ball for Each1Teach1, which hasn’t exactly been kind to the Florida program over the years. The big three in his recruiting game are Maryland, Louisville and Florida.
Moses Brown (7-1, 220, Briarwood, NY Archbishop Molloy): He’s a big guy who runs the floor and plays hard at both ends. The only knock on him is that he has to add 20-30 pounds of muscle and that won’t happen overnight. Maryland has been on him from the start and most folks think he’s leaning to the Terps. Kentucky is making a hard play, too, along with Duke and Kansas. Then there are the Gators. Everything and everybody says Florida doesn’t have a chance but stranger things have happened. Watch this one.
ESPN ALL-TOO-EARLY TOP 25 BASKETBALL FOR 2017-18
2. North Carolina
6. Wichita State
8. West Virginia
12. Michigan State
15. Saint Mary’s
18. Notre Dame
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Kentucky’s Malik Monk declared for the NBA Tuesday. He will hire an agent. Still no word about Bam Adebayo.
After so many folks complained, the Big Ten has elected to scale back plans for Friday night football games. The league had planned to broadcast six Friday games in 2017 but already two of those games have been moved to Saturday and more could be changed.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Tony Romo never got the Dallas Cowboys to a Super Bowl and spent a lot of his career coming back from serious injuries. Will he be remembered as a great quarterback or simply one that was overhyped to the very end of his NFL career?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Back in 1972 Todd Rundgren was scheduled for an afternoon concert at the Savannah Civic Center. Twelve people (I was one along with my date) showed up. I’m not kidding. It blew my mind that Rundgren played the entire concert. He’s still around and I presume playing to larger audiences. He kicks off his 2017 tour on April 29. He will play five Florida dates in May including Jacksonville, Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, St. Petersburg and Orlando. I found this video of Rundgren’s Nearly Human concert tour from 1990.