Transfers Rare Under Donovan

Florida's list of incoming basketball players grew by one over the weekend, but there was no new signing involved. For the first time since Jason Williams, Billy Donovan has opted to let a player transfer in from another program.

Former Georgetown big man Vernon Macklin will have two years to play for the Gators after sitting out the upcoming season, but that doesn't mean he won't be a major contributor in 2008-09. Donovan has looked at players from other schools before, but opted not to offer a scholarship (LSU's Ross Neltner) or failed to land the player (Indiana's Luke Recker). With so many kids interested in Florida after the recent back-to-back championships, what makes Macklin a fit for the Gators now? The answer may be as much in what he can add this year as what he will once he gets on the court.

While it's not a given that Florida will lose Marreese Speights to the NBA draft, most projections continue to have him in the first round. Barring an injury or negative feedback from teams about his workouts changing that, it's hard to imagine Speights in a Gator uniform for another year. That will put considerable pressure on front court signees Kenny Kadji and Eloy Vargas to perform at a high level right away.

Donovan has lamented that the development of Speights and freshman Alex Tyus was slowed in the past season by a lack of big bodies in practice. Assuming Speights is gone, there would have been no big man with meaningful experience for the freshmen to learn against this season. That's where Macklin comes in.

Macklin was a McDonald's All-American before arriving at Georgetown. His game appears to be a better fit for a fast paced team like Florida than the slow down style of the Hoyas. Macklin wound up spending the last two years backing up Roy Hibbert at the center spot. While he can't play until 2009-10, the experience gained from going against Hibbert in practice and competing in the Big East's physical style of play during the season should allow Macklin to be a key teaching tool for Donovan's staff immediately. When he can take to the court a year later to join Tyus and the two freshmen, Florida should have the interior depth the 2008 team clearly lacked.

Tennessee made use of a pair of transfers on their way to a number two seed and an SEC championship this past season. Iowa's Tyler Smith and Arizona's J.P. Prince were key contributors to the Volunteers run. When coaches take the right guys, transfers can be a difference maker for a team. No matter how talented they are, guys with off court question marks are likely to burn you. That's something Kansas transfer Ben Davis demonstrated during Lon Kruger's time at Florida (he never played a game before being booted) and Williams did under Donovan (gone before the end of his first season). Macklin appears to be leaving Georgetown for the right kind of reasons, which could make him a huge pickup for Florida.

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