FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
Florida's roller-coaster ride of a season came to an end when Michigan defeated them 64-49 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Looking ahead to next season, with six departures via graduation and transfer, the team will certainly have a new look.
Inside the Gators takes a look at how the 2019-20 Florida Gators men’s basketball team.
The Gators will lose three seniors, who all had respectable careers in the Orange and Blue. KeVaughn Allen leaves the program as a 1,000-point scorer. Jalen Hudson was another offensive weapon and grew into a leader down the stretch. The last senior is Kevarrius Hayes. He’s been the Gators primary big over the past couple seasons and his size will desperately be missed as the current outlook of next year’s squad lacks size.
The Gators are losing two scorers, but they should be able to fill the void Allen and Hudson leave behind. Noah Locke and Keyontae Johnson have shown they could potentially be relied on heavily for offense. And he may be a pass-first guy, but Andrew Nembhard’s scoring increased down the stretch and you would think he’s capable of making a leap next year.
Losing Hayes however, might be harder for the Gators to replace. As it stands now, the only big-men the team really have are Dontay Bassett and Gorjok Gak. Bassett has been pretty inconsistent as a Gator and Gak didn’t play at all this season. The Gators also have Isaiah Stokes, who at 6-foot-8, is a bit smaller. However, Stokes will really have to make some leaps this offseason conditioning wise to even be a candidate for playing time. We’ve seem glimpses of his offensive game and he’s gotten in better shape, but there’s still a ways to go.
The outlook of the Gators next roster with the losses of the seniors wasn’t looking all that bad. But then it got a whole lot trickier this week.
The Gators saw three players announce their intent to transfer out of the program in nearly a 24-hour span. Keith Stone, Mike Okauru and Deaundrae Ballard all entered their names into the transfer portal this week.
Okaru and Ballard’s transfers may not come as a surprise, since they didn’t play much of a factor this year. Stone was having a down year compared to his 2017-2018 numbers before he tore his ACL. There was no guaranteeing Stone would return to 100%, but losing him with Florida’s given depth at the forward position could definitely sting.
As the program see’s three seniors depart, it will welcome the services of four soon-to-be freshmen. The Gators incoming signing class is Mike White’s best during his tenure at Florida. The Gators class is currently ranked as the 6th best signing class according to the 247Sports Team Rankings Composite – with just few uncommitted prospects left.
The Gators class is highlighted by two McDonalds All-Americans, five-star prospects Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann. Lewis, a 6-foot-5 wing, is the 12th ranked player in the country per 247Sports Player Rankings Composite, while Mann, a sharpshooting guard, is 26th.
Also in signed in the class is Omar Payne. The 6-foot-9 center is the 43rd ranked player in the country. And the Gators picked up a commitment last Wednesday from 6-foot-11, three-star center Jason Jitoboh.
Looking at the Gators roster for next season, one could assume these freshmen will need to be ready to play. They’re highly ranked and we’ve seen plenty of true freshmen around the country burst onto the scene over the past few years. In the case of Lewis and Mann, they’ll likely have the chance to do that.
Lewis is a promising two-way prospect. He can score any way you need him to do and might even be a better defender. That could be the reason Lewis gets to start next season. Nonetheless, he’ll play a big role for Florida in 2019.
The same goes for Mann, it will just be a matter of how White uses him. Assuming Nembhard comes back, the starting point guard position is locked up. However, Mann is capable enough of playing valuable minutes at the two, due to his scoring ability. And when Nembhard needs a rest, Mann will be a nice asset to have running the second team.
Where Payne fits in will have to be a waiting game. He has good size and his defensive game is his strength. However, his offensive game is a work and progress and something he will need to improve on to be an immediate factor.
Jitoboh suffered an injury during his senior year, which not only slowed down his recruitment, but caused him to pack on some pounds. He might need some more time to develop, but getting Jitoboh is the first step in the Gators fixing their lack of size for 2019.
Jitoboh may need a redshirt year, but definitely has a high upside.
Before this week, you could’ve guessed that Mike White would be pursuing grad-transfer options to fill the scholarship spot left by the departure of Chase Johnson. Now with three more spots open, expect White to aggressively pursue grad and other transfers.
White and the Gators have landed some impact grad transfers in his time at Florida that have made a difference. Now this offseason, the Gators are in the need for some guys who can come in right away and contribute.
The grad transfer market will become clearer once the season comes to an end. But if years in the past are any indication, there will be some impact grad transfers hitting the market. And White and the Gators might be as desperate as you can get for grad transfers.
- Related: Five grad-transfer possibliities
Projected Depth Chart (As of Today)
- Andrew Nembhard, PG
- Noah Locke, G
- Keyontae Johnson, F
- Isaiah Stokes, F
- Dontay Bassett, F
- Tre Mann, PG
- Noah Locke, G
- Scottie Lewis, F
- Omar Payne, F
- Jason Jitoboh, C
Backcourt Play: The Gators may struggle with depth in the front court, but fortunately for them, they’ll have plenty of options in the backcourt. Andrew Nembhard has shown he has all the tools you could want from a point guard and would be a shock if he didn’t progress. Add Noah Locke, Keyontae Johnson, Scottie Lewis and/or Tre Mann around him on the perimeter and the Gators have some solid scoring options out of their backcourt.
Three-Point Shooting: This goes with the strength above, but this group projects to be a pretty good team from beyond the arc. Locke showed how lights out of a shooter he can be before he got banged up during the season. Both Nembhard and Johnson improved from beyond the arc over the course of the year. And Mann is a shoot-first guard with range and Lewis can do it all.
Defense: This should come as no surprise, as Mike White’s teams usually thrive on the defensive side. The Gators are losing some good defenders, but the players they have returning should be able to fill in. Also, the freshman the Gators have coming in are notable defenders, especially Lewis and Payne.
Front Court Play: Lacking depth at the front court could really hurt the Gators. And none of the guys they have on the roster is a real proven commodity. Isaiah Stokes will need to make a leap and he seems to be capable of doing so. However, the Gators will need more out of the front court in 2019 to have a better season.
Depth: This adds into the Gators front court dilemma. But depth as a whole (for now), is a concern for the Gators. As it stands, the Gators can’t even field a two-deep roster and only have nine projected players on the roster. It’s an issue for now, but one that should be resolved with the Gators having three open scholarship spots. That being said, it will be critical for the Gators to fill those openings with the right pieces. If Mike White fails to do that, it could be detrimental to the team’s success in 2019-20.