Updated: Jul 22, 2019
The Florida Gators enter year five under head coach Mike White who will be feeling immense pressure this upcoming season because expectations are higher than ever for this Gator squad.
The Florida Gators enter year five under head coach Mike White who will be feeling immense pressure this upcoming season because expectations are higher than ever for this Gator squad. White is returning three young starters for next season along with bringing in the No. 7 recruiting class in the nation. Not only that, but during the offseason the Gators landed the best big man on the market in Kerry Blackshear Jr. These offseason moves have put UF in position to make a legitimate tournament run in March.
While Blackshear was the shining prospect acquired in the transfer market it is important not to overlook transfer Anthony Duruji, a junior from Louisiana Tech. Duruji will have two years of eligibility but will not be available until the ‘20-21 season due to transfer rules. When able to play, he will be a solid presence on the floor standing at 6ft 7in and weighing 211 pounds. Duruji provides solid defensive pressure with his ability to block shots and as a sophomore posted 12.2 ppg and 6.2 rpg.
The big splash this offseason came with Kerry Blackshear transferring from Virginia Tech. He will be eligible immediately next season as a grad transfer and will produce right away. Blackshear will start most likely at the center/power forward position. He adds much needed versatility as a big man who averaged 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game last year at an efficient 50% field goal rate. When playing he will be able to spread the floor and allow shooters with space to shoot through his unique passing abilities. This was a huge win for Mike White and the Gator squad heading into next season.
The 2019 recruiting class had 6 players in total highlighted by three top 50 players in Scottie Lewis, Tre Mann, and Omar payne. Lewis and Mann will have the best opportunities to showcase their talents right away in Gainesville. Scottie, a 5 star SF, has explosive bounce with lightning quick speed and will for sure be highlighted on sportscenter for his wild dunks and crazy athletic plays. While he does need to develop his jump shot more, Lewis projects as a one year player who will most likely jump into the draft due to his talent and upside. Tre, a 5 star SG, will be used for his ability to shoot the ball as he shot 36% from behind the arc and 53% from 2pt range in highschool. His raw talent will earn him solid playing time next year alongside sophomore guards Nembhard and Locke. Omar, a 4 star C, has tremendous upside and will have the chance to develop behind Blackshear, Gak, and Basset. With Payne not starting immediately he will have the chance to learn the system as well as get some minutes off the bench allowing him to have a larger contribution in a year.
Finishing out the class is Jason Jitoboh, Ques glover, and Alex Klatsky; all are projects that will most likely not see important playing time for a year or two but add depth at the center and guard positions. The talent from this class gives the Gators the necessary assets to contend for an SEC title and make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
The Gators return Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke, and Keyontae Johnson. These three sophomore starters will be expected to produce at a high level of play behind there strong freshman seasons. The main dilemma Mike White will face this year will be how to maximize the talent in the rotation. It will be interesting to see how he mixes the lineup together throughout the year to put the team in the best position to win. A new way-too-early top 25 done by Jeff Borzello, a writer for ESPN, has Florida jumping up all the way to No. 4 in the rankings.
With the SEC having so many talented teams UF will be put through the gauntlet during the regular season. They must consistently shoot from 3pt range and improve on the defensive side of the ball if this team wants to win the SEC. The past couple season Florida has been crippled by poor depth from the PF and C positions. Inexperience and injuries really hurt this teams chances the past couple seasons and Mike White knows that he needs high production from Blackshear to have a successful year. Coach White is not on the hot seat right now, but he cannot continue to coast on 20 win seasons. Gator fans are eager for championships and with how this upcoming season looks Mike White must deliver. With the mix of talented young players and veterans don’t be surprised if you see this team in the Elite 8 or maybe even in the Final 4 this year.