Key Departures: Tre Mann (NBA); Noah Locke (–>Louisville); Scottie Lewis (NBA); Omar Payne (–>Illinois); Ques Glover (–>Samford)
New In Town: Myreon Jones (<–Penn St); Phlan Fleming (<–Charleston So); Brandon McKissic (<–UMKC); CJ Felder (<–BC); Toungthach Gatkek (JUCO); Kowacie Reeves (#41); Elijah Kennedy (NR)
State of the Program:
Mike White has done a tremendous job at churning out solid but not elite level seasons in his tenure at Florida. It’s a tough task for anyone to follow someone as accomplished as Billy Donovan at this level, but White does have 5 tournament bids in 6 years, and has a perfect record in the first round in March plus an elite 8 trip. What he’s yet to do is to win an SEC title or crack through to the Final Four, which would be the final step in rebounding this program to the level it was at under Donovan. White has proven he can recruit well, but he hasn’t been able to find the right amount of retention in order to build that elite level of team. Last season looked to be his best shot before the tragic collapse of Keyontae Johnson knocked them down a peg. Once again White will be forced to deal with turnover, as losses of 5 rotation players will make it difficult again for this Gator program to take the next step. What he does get back is a couple key returning pieces in Colin Castleton (SR), Tyree Appleby (SR), Anthony Duruji (SR) and potentially Keyontae Johnson (SR) who is still awaiting medical approval to return to the court. The rest of the rotation will come from transfers and a Freshman, as White joins the rest of the Country in playing the transfer free agency game.
Leading this talented transfer group is G Myreon Jones (SR) out of Penn St. Jones is a pure scorer as he put up 15 ppg last year on nearly 40% from 3. He can get hot and explode, but is not much of a playmaker. He will compete with the other transfer guards for a spot next to Appleby in the backcourt. G Phlan Fleming (SR) out of Charleston Southern was a 2x All-Big South selection and 2x Big South DPOY. He averaged 20 ppg as a lethal downhill attacker last season, and while his 3 point % is low he was forced to take a ton of contested 3’s so his efficiency should increase with the increased talent around him. He was one of the best two-way players at the mid-major level and should come in to fill that role for the Gators, and because of his defensive abilities may beat out Jones. UMKC G Brandon McKissic (SR) comes in with a similar profile as a two-way player as he was an All-Summit selection, 2x All-Defense selection and the Summit DPOY last season. He’s a much better shooter that Fleming, at 39% over 4 years from 3 and was incredibly efficient overall. Both McKissic and Fleming are not going to be names that make waves but they have a chance to be very productive for White. BC sends over F CJ Felder (JR) who comes in looking to earn a backup role in the frontcourt. Felder is a slasher that excels at finishing strong in the paint and blocks shots well despite only being 6’7”. He started shooting more 3’s in his SO season and while he wasn’t highly efficient if he’s able to improve as a stretch 4 he can be a crucial piece for the Gators. The last transfer is Toungthach Gatkek (SO) from the JUCO ranks as he comes in looking to compete for a backup C spot. He’s a lanky big man that excels in the paint on both ends, and will compete with Jason Jitoboh (SO) for the backup big role. The lone FR with a chance to play this year is 6’5” G Kowacie Reeves (#41). Reeves is a wiry lanky athlete who excels when attacking the rim as he uses his athleticism and fluidity with the ball to evade and finish through defenders. His jump shot looks good and could develop to great, as he will look to compete as a backup this season and likely explode in his SO campaign. He has the physical gifts that will allow him to elevate himself into a 1st round pick one day if he works on his offensive game.
For White this is another solid group, with a chance to be a legitimate National contender if Keyontae Johnson gets the all clear to play. Without him they should still be very competitive and make the tournament, as this group of transfers paired with the returning starters gives the Gators a lot of talent. The group of Appleby, Jones, Fleming, McKissic and Reeves give the Gators one of the deeper backcourt units that I’ve seen, and while they don’t have the top-end elite scorer, all 5 of those guys can make plays and could be a terrifying defensive group. The weakness for the Gators comes in the frontcourt behind Duruji and especially Castleton. Florida may be forced to play very small if Castleton gets in foul trouble as Gatkek and Jitoboh are largely unproven as big men. Getting Johnson back could help that situation as far as rebounding, but without him depth up front will be a concern. I would expect this Florida team to dig a little deeper on D, especially with these Guards they brought in as they have multiple former DOPY awards in this group and they were top-25 defensively in White’s first 4 seasons. This should make up for some of the offensive weapons lost, and ensure they are competitive and go dancing regardless of the status of Keyontae, but with him they become a legitimate Final Four threat.