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Florida Basketball

Florida Basketball: A look ahead

April 30, 2020
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THREE-PART SERIES: FORMER FIVE-STARS WITH AN ASTERISK

There’s no way around it, the 2019-20 season for the Florida Gators men’s basketball team was a let-down. Entering the season as the sixth-ranked team in preseason polls, the Gators couldn’t quite live up to the hype that surrounded them.

The Gators finished the shortened season with a record of 19-12 (11-7 SEC) and was in the position to earn a bid in the NCAA tournament. But now, the curtain has closed for the 19-20 season as the Gators gear toward next year, whenever that may happen.

With sports as we know them currently at a standstill, the one thing sports junkies have to do is look forward.

Inside the Gators  goes in-depth as to what the 2020-21 Florida Gators may look next season.

Who’s Gone

Being a relatively young team this past season, the Gators only had one senior, grad-transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. The Virginia Tech transfer was destined to be the difference-maker for Florida, as he was selected SEC Preseason Player of the Year, but Blackshear didn’t live up to the label. Starting his Florida career, the offensive-savvy big looked the part, but as the season went on, he started to settle for too many three-pointers and couldn’t stay out of foul trouble.

After seeing a number of transfers after the 2018 season, the Gators saw two players leave the program via transfer. After being injured a majority of the season, Dontay Bassett announced his transfer to Weber State. Another injury-plagued player, Gorjok Gak, transferred to California Baptist University after announcing his intent to leave the program during the middle of the season. Gak didn’t play in 2019 and had surgery on his shoulder.

Now this is where things get interesting for the Gators.

For the second straight year, point guard Andrew Nembhard entered his name in the NBA Draft. As a sophomore, Nembhard’s scoring, assists, and rebound averages increased, but so did his turnovers. Over the course of the year, the Ontario native took games over, but also had games where he looked lost down the stretch. Nembhard could just be doing the same as he did when he entered his name in the draft a year ago and receiving feedback from NBA teams.

Nembhard’s decision to enter his name in his draft didn’t come as much of a surprise, but the shock came later that day, when Tre Mann also entered his name into the draft. The highly-touted recruit struggling early in his time with the Gators. The Gainesville native only averaged 5.3 points on the year and averaged around 18-minutes on the court per game. There’s no denying the potential Mann has, but he is still a far way from putting it all together. His decision is concerning because you have to wonder what could be going on besides the scenes with Mann.

The two can still pull their names from the draft and return to school before the June 15th deadline, but as of now, they have to be considered ‘gone’.

Fresh Faces

Every year, you’re going to get some fresh faces that hopefully play key roles. The Gators will have a number of fresh faces see the court next year, but two of them were waiting for their time on the Florida bench.

Transferring to Florida before the 2019 season, guard Tyree Appelby and forward Anthony Duruji will be eligible to play in 2020. Depending on the decisions of Nembhard and Mann, we could see Appelby as the primary ball-handler for the Gators in 2020.

Coming to Florida by way of Cleveland State, Appelby is a two-guard who knows how to score. In his time at Cleveland State, Appelby scored 899 points (14.3 PPG), dished out 297 assists and started 54 of his 63 games there. Appelby had 14 games of 20-plus points before transferring to Florida.

As for Duruji, the athletic forward by way of Louisiana Tech should add more frontcourt depth for Florida in 2020. Before transferring, Duruji averaged 9.7 PPG while pulling down 5.1 rebounds. He will also add another great defender into the mix for Mike White, blocking 85 shots during his time at La. Tech.

After a Top-10 signing class a year ago, the Gators 2020 class took a bit of a drop (32nd nationally per 247Sports), but filled some needs. The class is led by small forward Samsom Ruzhentsev, the 49th ranked player nationally. At 6-foot-7, Ruzhentsev has the ability to score inside and is a volume shooter who can stretch the floor.

Mike White’s newest signing class is rounded out with Niels Lane, a four-star shooting guard from New Jersey and Osayi Osifo, a three-star JUCO prospect from Eastern Florida State College.

And the newest Gator came this past weekend, when Colin Castelton announced his transfer from Michigan to Florida. The former 4-star recruit and Daytona Beach native averaged 3.1 points this past year. His eligibility is still in question, but at 6’10, Castleton gives the Gators some much-needed height.

Projected Depth Chart (As of Today)

Starters

  • Tyree Appelby, PG
  • Noah Locke, Guard
  • Scottie Lewis, Guard
  • Keyontae Johnson, Forward
  • Omar Payne, Forward

Bench

  • Ques Glover, PG
  • Niels Lane, Guard
  • Samson Ruzhentsev, Forward
  • Anthony Duruji, Forward
  • Jason Jitoboh, Center

Perceived Strengths

Returning Talent: There’s no way around it, this next Gators team will lean heavily on the veterans who decided to come back to school. Keyontae Johnson’s decision to stay at Florida for at least another year changed the direction of this team significantly. Earning All-SEC honors, Johnson should be in player of the year contention in the SEC next year. Scottie Lewis also made the decision to wait on the NBA Draft for another year in Gainesville. Lewis’ all-around game improved throughout the year.

Perceived Weaknesses

Guard Depth: What seemed to be a strength a year ago, with the losses of Nembhard and Mann (as of now), the Gators are lacking a number of guards. Should those two not return, Florida will only have five guards on a roster that will have to find a new primary ball-handler.

Young, Again: Once again in 2020, the Gators are destined to be a relatively young team, having no seniors on the roster. With a handful of juniors, the Gators will need one of them to step up as the leader. One can point to Keyontae Johnson having that role, and he likely will, but others who have been there like Noah Locke also need to step up.

READ OUR ANONYMOUS PLAYER Q&A FOR THOUGHTS ON COX, LINGARD & MUCH MORE

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