Now that he’s got an open scholarship to play with, Mike White has a couple of intriguing options to fill out Florida’s basketball roster for 2017-18.
With Devin Robinson hiring an agent to pursue a pro career on top of the transfer by Eric Hester, Florida has one open scholarship. John Egbunu could also declare for the NBA but he’s recovering from ACL surgery and would be far better served to stay at UF. Although the NBA drafts on potential and at 6-11, 260, Egbunu reeks of potential, I’ve been hearing that most of the feedback from the league tells Egbunu he should keep working with Duke Werner to rehab his knee and play however much he can play as a senior at UF in 2017-18.
Assuming Egbunu stays in school and White only has one scholarship to play with, the prospects that offer instant help to replace Robinson’s 11.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game are Rice graduate transfer Egor Koulechov and Pitt grad transfer Cameron Johnson.
Of the two, Koulechov apparently would be considered a very warm to hot prospect while Johnson might be simply lip service.
Koulechov, who just completed an official visit to Oklahoma, is scheduled to visit Florida next weekend according to Evan Daniels of Scout.com. A 6-5, 210-pound small forward, Koulechov is coming off a season in which he averaged 18.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game for Rice in Conference USA. Koulechov shot a sizzling 47.4% from the 3-point line and shot 81.9% from the foul line.
Koulechev, who played high school basketball at Sagemont School in Weston, Florida, originally signed with Arizona State but transferred after one season in which he averaged 3.7 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. As a third-year sophomore at Rice (2015-16) he averaged 16.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. His career averages at Rice are 17.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. He scored 1,172 points in two seasons.
Born in Russia, Koulechev grew up in Israel where he picked up plenty of international experience playing with the Israeli under 18 and under 20 national teams.
Florida has also been talking to Pitt graduate transfer Cameron Johnson (6-8, 210) but that doesn’t seem likely to get anywhere past the casual discussion stage. Johnson enjoyed a breakout season in 2016-17, averaging 11.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 41.5% from the 3-point line. Florida and South Carolina reportedly have offered but Johnson seems far more interested in listening to Oregon, UCLA and Illinois. Kentucky is possibility but the Wildcats are hoping to pull off a 1-2 recruiting coup of Mohamed Bamba and Kevin Knox, which would bring them to 13 scholarship players.
A third possibility should the Gators whiff on Koulechov (or Johnson although I think that’s remote) would be to go after a point guard since Chris Chiozza will be a senior and his only backup will be freshman Michael Okauru. Most of the prep point guards have already been signed and the ones that are still available would seem to be projects and unlikely to be ready to play extensively for at least a couple of years. That brings us to the possibility that White and staff could go after a juco transfer point guard. Dating back to their days at Louisiana Tech, White and his staff have extensive junior college connections. Justin Leon was a juco who originally signed with Louisiana Tech, then followed White to Florida.
A couple of jucos who have SEC ability that are still available are Chris Darrington of Vincennes (6-1, 175) and Chris McNeal of Indian Hills, Iowa (5-11, 165).
Predictions: Egbunu will stay and Koulechov will sign with the Gators.
BARNHILL NO-HITS KENTUCKY
Kelly Barnhill had quite the weekend in Lexington. Friday night she pitched a 2-hitter and struck out 15 to lead the 3rd-ranked Gators (40-3, 15-2 SEC) to a 4-0 win over the 22nd-ranked Kentucky Wildcats (26-13, 6-9 SEC). She followed that up Sunday afternoon with her second career no-hitter as she struck out 15 once again to lead the Gators to a 2-0 win over the Wildcats. Only a sixth inning walk stood in the way of a perfect game for Barnhill. The two wins this weekend were the ninth and tenth games this season in which Barnhill has struck out at least 10.
Catcher Janell Wheaton provided all the offense Gators needed Sunday with a pair of run-scoring singles.
For her career, Barnhill is now 33-1 with a 0.77 ERA. She has struck out 369 batters in 218 innings. Her ERA is the lowest in school history, bettering the 0.99 of the great Stacey Nelson.
The weekend wasn’t perfect for the Gators, who dropped a 5-1 decision to the Wildcats Saturday evening.
Next up for the Gators is a midweek non-conference encounter with UCF Wednesday evening at Katie Seashole Presley Stadium. The Gators will return to SEC play next weekend when Ole Miss (30-13, 6-9 SEC) comes to town.
ALEX MCMURTRY WINS NCAA ALL-AROUND TITLE, GATORS FINISH 3RD
What a weekend it was for Alex McMurtry, who won the all-around title at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis on Friday, then put together an incredible Saturday night that included a 10 on the uneven bars to help the Gators to a third place finish behind Oklahoma and LSU. Heading into the championships, Oklahoma, LSU and Florida were ranked 1-2-3.
McMurtry’s winning all-around score of 39.8125 Friday night was the highest score in the history of the NCAA semifinals. She followed that up with a 39.80 on Saturday, the third best score in Super Six history.
At Saturday’s Super Six, nobody was going to beat Oklahoma, which totaled 198.3875 but the Gators had a chance to slip into second. It took a brilliant beam finish by LSU (49.7250) and Florida having to eat a 9.8125 on the vault for LSU (197.735) to slip past Florida (197.000) for second place.
The Gators will probably be pegged as the team to beat in 2018 since the entire roster returns. McMurtry will head into next season with seven career 10s, just one behind Gator Bridget Sloan, one of the greatest gymnasts in collegiate history.
WOMEN’S TENNIS FALLS TO VANDERBILT
With the Southeastern Conference championship on the line Sunday, Florida’s top-ranked women’s tennis team (20-2, 11-2 SEC) dropped a 4-2 match to 5th-ranked Vanderbilt in Nashville. The Gators finished the SEC regular season tied with Georgia for second while Vanderbilt claimed the championship. Next weekend the Gators will return to Nashville for the SEC Tournament.
HAVE THE BATS AWAKENED?
Although the bats were silenced Saturday when Vanderbilt shut down the 10th-ranked Gators (24-12, 8-7 SEC), 2-0, Florida put together its two most impressive offensive outings of the season Thursday, when they scored the game’s final seven runs to knock off the Commodores, 10-6, and Saturday when they pounded out 20 hits in a 20-8 rout.
Thursday, the Gators trailed 6-3, through six innings but they blew the game wide open in the top of the ninth when they scored five runs. Ryan Larson went 5-5, part of a weekend in which he went 7-13, to lead the comeback win that was sealed when freshman Austin Langworthy hit an opposite field double down the left field line to drive in three runs.
After being shutout on three hits by Kyle Wright on Friday, the Gators erupted Saturday in their most impressive offensive showing all season as the ball left the yard four times (JJ Schwarz, Nelson Maldonado and Dalton Guthrie twice) and Schwarz, Maldonado and Mike Kolozsvary all drove in four runs. Florida scored four in the first and eight in the third.
This was a critical series for the Gators, who moved into a second place tie in the SEC East with South Carolina (22-13, 8-7 SEC), two games behind division leading Kentucky (25-12, 10-5 SEC). The Gators return home this weekend where they’ve been dominant (16-5) to face 11th-ranked South Carolina, which actually has the best road record (6-2) in the conference. The Gators have the starting pitching to make a run for the SEC title but the two big questions are the bullpen and the bats. Considering so many proven hitters have been in the tank most of the season, it only figures that at some point they’ll catch fire. The first and third games with Vandy, which has a quality pitching staff, might be a true indicator that the hitting is starting to come around.
If the hitting continues to improve and Kevin O’Sullivan can find some decent setup people for closer Michael Byrne, the Gators might have found the formula to live up to the preseason expectations.
According to Phil Steele, Michigan will have the fewest returning starters (5) of an Division I team. The Gators will open their season with Michigan at Jerry’s World in Arlington, Texas on September 2.
Louisville QB Lamar Jackson, who finished with 1,571 yards rushing 3,543 yards passing and 51 total touchdowns in a sophomore Heisman Trophy season, has been given a plan for improvement by coach Bobby Petrino: (1) Improve on progression reads; (2) improve on sets in the pocket; (3) improve on seeing the defense and understanding coverages; (4) get better protected; (5) get better at throwing the ball away; (6) better ball security; and (7) get to 100 percent on run reads.
The 2007 quarterback draft class is being called the worst in NFL history by ESPN. Drafted #1 by the Oakland Raiders was JaMarcus Russell, followed by Brady Quinn (Browns) at #22. It just got worse from there. Nine others were drafted and not a one of them had a memorable career. They combined for a career 47-92 won-loss record.
Tom Fornell of CBSSports.com listed five teams poised to take a step back in 2017: (1) Western Michigan; (2) Penn State; (3) Colorado; (4) Temple; and (5) West Virginia.
When he was fired by Indiana, Tom Crean was considered a very hot name to land a job quickly. He was mentioned by Missouri, LSU and Georgetown among others. He will spend 2017-18 collecting buyout money from Indiana and probably doing some analyst work for ESPN.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
You are the GM of the Cleveland Browns, who need help everywhere. Do you (1) trade the overall #1 pick for a quarterback; (2) trade the overall #1 pick for more draft choices; (3) go ahead and draft Myles Garrett at #1; or (4) draft quarterback Mitch Trubisky?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Capgator tipped me off last week about Parker Millsap, an incredible young talent who has turned out three albums and has drawn comparisons to a young Elvis. He sings, plays guitar, banjo and harmonica. There is a lot of gospel in his style and that kind of raw energy that Elvis had when he first came along (some of us older guys remember that!). Today’s music is a live performance by Millsap from 2015 from Raleigh, North Carolina.