Today, in the first of two parts I ask Telep about Florida's four-man recruiting class for the upcoming season. Keep in mind we talk about Walter Hodge and returning guard Taurean Green as if Anthony Roberson turns pro and those two are competing for the point guard position.
LV: What do you think about the final member of Florida's recruiting class, guard Walter Hodge from Florida Air Academy?
DT: I think baseline to baseline Walter Hodge can really handle the ball. We have him amongst our top 75 prospects.
LV: How about Florida's other guard signee Derwin Kitchen?
DT: Here's a kid who's won multiple state championships and can play multiple roles for the Gators as a "two" and maybe a point as well. So I think the two of them make a really, really nice back court.
LV: Kitchen is a kid who made a buzzer beater to win a state title as a sophomore. In your experience what does that tell you about a kid who steps up in the clutch like that?
DT: I think it tells you he's gonna fight. When your back is against the wall and you need a bucket in a crucial situation it's good to know you've got a fighter, a gritty kid on your side. I think there's a lot to be said for kids who are used to winning. Kitchen is a kid who has won a pair of championships, and Walter Hodge got himself one this year. I think that's an intangible that we don't account for enough, myself included, when we are looking at these guys. We need to give credit for how often their teams come out on the winning edge and were they responsible for that outcome. With both of these guys they score very well in that department.
LV: Going back to Hodge, the Gators brought in Taurean Green last year to play some point. How would you compare Hodge to Green and how competitive will their battle at point guard be?
DT: I think Walter Hodge is a guy who definitely pushes Taurean Green. Speed is such a thing with him, and he's really wired to score even more than Taurean is. It'll be interesting how that goes because you got one guy who's a year older, but I think Walter Hodge with the strides he's made in his game the past ten months I wouldn't put anything past him.
LV: Florida's other two incoming guys were not has highly regarded as those two and many consider them to be reaches. What's your view of David Huertas and Jimmy Sutton?
DT: Well with Huertas he's had some problems with injuries and health issues this year. What his role is going to be is to make shots. If the Gators can get him open looks he can knock them down. I think he falls more into that shooter, maybe even a specialist role for the Gators. Florida has always done well with perimeter guys who can stick threes so if Huertas can get healthy by the fall he can help. Jimmy Sutton is just a big human being and it's hard to recruit size like that. I think he's a year away from developing offensively. I don't think he's Florida's go to guy, but as a presence and a big guy he definitely adds depth to their front court.
LV: Lets talk a little about Sutton, I saw him a year ago and saw good shot blocking instincts, a strong rebounder and good athlete but offensively it was only put backs. Has he changed much from that?
DT: That's an area where he is going to have to develop. Florida does a nice job with its individual instruction and he's a kid who should really benefit from that. But again, we're not talking about a guy who's expected to come in and lead the charge. I think the way you described him is exactly what they hope to get out of him as a freshman until they can develop an offensively identity for him.
LV: You mentioned Huertas as a specialist. When I've seen him play he hasn't shown me all that much shooting range, certainly not Matt Walsh type range. Are you saying he can be that kind of long-range shooter?
DT: He's not the same kind of player Matt Walsh is. Walsh is a more versatile, multi-position type guy. I think Huertas does have college three-point range and I think when he's healthy he can really shoot that thing.
Dave Telep and I share the view that the backcourt of Kitchen and Hodge has the potential to really make an impact on the UF program from day one. I don't agree with him about Kitchen playing both the "two" and the point. He's a two guard through and through. Hodge is a point, period. I look for Huertas to get his minutes backing up Corey Brewer at the "3" while Sutton is part of a conga-line of big guys who at the very least will make it tough on opponents with their numbers alone.
In our next segment, Telep looks at the three guys who have committed to Billy Donovan in the years to come and some other names you might see the Gators trying to add to the mix for the November signing period.