After a surprise run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, we examine what is in store for the Florida Gators men’s basketball program for the 2017-18 season.
WHO WAS LOST:
Florida loses four players to graduation. Kasey Hill, Justin Leon, Canyon Barry, and Schuyler Rimmer have all exhausted their eligibility. At this point, we have not heard the decisions of KeVaughn Allen and Devin Robinson, who could enter the NBA Draft. We are writing this with the idea that both will return.
WHO IS GAINED:
Mike White has proven himself as an excellent recruiter, having signed the number 10 ranked class according to ESPN. While each of the four recruits in the 2017 class will have a chance to be productive as freshmen, the biggest contributions will likely come from players who were on the roster, but were unable to play in 2016-17.
Jalen Hudson (6-6 190, G) transferred to Florida from Virginia Tech last year. Hudson, a redshirt junior next year, started 27 games for the Hokies in his two years there. Hudson has the ability to be a dynamic scorer and showed that in games against Princeton (28 points), Louisville (27 points), and NC State (23 points). He averaged 8.4 points and 2.3 rebounds per game while at Virginia Tech. Hudson has two years of eligibility left after sitting out the required one year per NCAA rules.
Dontay Bassett (6-9 222, F) was sidelined for his freshman year after being diagnosed with a stress fracture. Bassett had sucessful surgery and took a redshirt. Bassett was a three-star recruit who chose Florida over Colorado. Bassett adds size to a team that could be much better positioned with John Egbunu expected to miss the beginning of 2017-18.
THE 2017 RECRUITING CLASS:
The Gators addressed their needs in the 2017 recruiting cycle. For each player that left the program, a new recruit has been brought in. (In order of their ESPN ranking):
Isaiah Stokes (6-8 273, C) adds immediate size to the Gators lineup. The four-star recruit is the younger brother of NBA forward Jarnell Stokes. Stokes is the #59 ranked player in the ESPN 100 rankings. Stokes signed with Florida over North Carolina, Tennessee, TCU, and others.
DeAundrae Ballard (6’6 195, G) is a scoring guard that can get hot quick. Ballard scored 42 points against #2 ranked St. Francis. Ballard played high school ball at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, the same school that produced NBA center Dwight Howard. Ballard is ranked #64 in the ESPN 100 rankings. Ballard is another player who could make an immediate impact for the Gators.
Chase Johnson (6-8 210, F) is another signee ranked inside the ESPN 100 at #98. As a junior at Ripley High School Johnson averaged 17 points and 9 rebounds per game. Johnson transferred to Huntington (WV) Prep School to prepare for the next level. Johnson held offers from Arizona, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Virginia, but ultimately chose Florida.
Michael Okauru (6-4 175, G) is an athletic point guard. Mike White has a reputation of turning a point guard into a star. Okauru’s size will allow White to use him in a variety of ways. Okauru is regarded as a terrific defender, something that White will value greatly.
(Okauru has been committed to Florida since December, but has not signed officially at the time of this publication.)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
Center: Isaiah Stokes / John Egbunu
Forward: Kevarrius Hayes
Forward: Devin Robinson
Guard: KeVaughn Allen
Guard: Chris Chiozza
If Robinson and Allen return next season, there is no reason that Florida shouldn’t be a favorite to make a Final Four appearance. Mike White has proven himself as a coach in the SEC as well as on the national stage with the Elite Eight appearance this year.
Florida is as deep as any team in the country, and will likely have a solid 10-man rotation. If Florida learns how to play Vanderbilt, the SEC is there for the taking.
Mike White very quietly has built a sleeping giant in Gainesville. His ability to recruit and scour the transfer wire has helped aid his efforts. It’s a pretty incredible feat for White. White came in after a legend left. Billy Donovan did a lot of great things for the University of Florida, but he didn’t exactly leave this program in great shape. A lot of coaches would have failed under similar circumstances. White has not only succeeded, but he’s put his staple on the program.