Basketball confidential: A week for good news?

The next seven days could produce plenty of good news for Florida coach Billy Donovan, who waits confirmation from the NCAA Clearinghouse that McDonald’s All-American will be eligible to play for the Gators and that Alex Murphy, younger brother of Erik, will transfer to Florida from Duke.

Donovan indicated Thursday night in Jacksonville that Walker’s status is any day now. The 6-10, 220-pound forward/center from Bonifay has completed all the required academic work and it is expected the clearinghouse will give him the okay, although his first game could be delayed because he took an unofficial visit to Kansas last year that was paid for by an AAU benefactor who has been banned by the NCAA for five years.

Murphy left Duke a week ago and there is reason to believe that Florida will be his destination. When he signed with the Blue Devils out of high school, Murphy chose Duke over the Gators. He has a similar offensive skill set to older brother Erik Murphy, who scored more than 1,000 points in his Florida career and is a rookie with the Chicago Bulls this season, but Alex is thought to be a more physical rebounder and a better defender.

Combined with the three-man recruiting class already signed for 2014, the additions of Walker and Murphy would give the Gators 11 scholarship players for 2014. It is expected that Florida will try to sign at least one big man in the spring, possibly Trey Mourning (6-9, 210, Miami, FL Ransom Everglades).


Brandone Francis (6-6, 210, La Romana, Dominican Republic/Jacksonville, FL Arlington Country Day): Francis has grown an inch and a half since the summer and could be 6-7 by the time he gets to Florida. He had 17 points, four rebounds, one assist, three steals and a blocked shot as ACD improved to 7-1 Thursday night.

Chris Chiozza (5-11, 160, Memphis, TN White Station): Chiozza is a McDonald’s All-American nominee. White Station is off to a 6-0 start with Chiozza averaging nearly 10 points and 10 assists per game.

Devin Robinson (6-8, 190, Chesterfield, VA Christchurch School): Robinson is averaging 22.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.4 points, 2.0 steals and 2.8 blocked shots per game for Christchurch, which is off to a 4-1 start.


Alex Murphy (6-9, 230, South Kingston, RI DUKE TRANSFER): There is nothing official yet, but it would be somewhat of an upset if Murphy doesn’t transfer to Florida. He will be eligible second semester of the 2014-15 season, but will be able to provide a big body for practice and will get a chance to learn the offense and defense in the spring semester.

Trey Mourning (6-9, 210, Miami, FL Ransom Everglades): Yes, the name does sound familiar and yes, he’s Alonzo Mourning’s son. Georgetown isn’t going to offer and the parental units are starting to warm up to Florida as an academic institution. They like Harvard, but Tommy Amaker has a nearly full roster. Trey shoots the 3-ball well and it’s encouraging to see him willing to bang a bit more. He camped at Florida in the summer and made a very good impression on the UF coaching staff.


Kevarrius Hayes (6-9, 200, Live Oak, FL Suwannee County): He brings his game to Buchholz Saturday night. His offensive game has expanded to the point that he’s no longer restricted to a five-foot radius of the basket. Shot blocking and rebounding are still his calling cards, but his offensive development is well worth noting. He will play for Nike Team Florida again this summer.


Antonio Blakeney (6-4, 180, Orlando, FL Oak Ridge): Blakeney was at the Florida-Kansas game Tuesday night and was an excited presence in the locker room after the game. He plays for a dysfunctional high school team, but there are no doubts he has the skills to be an elite player at the next level. UCF, Louisville, Missouri, North Carolina and Florida State are also on his list, but he’s trending Florida.

Alex Owens (6-9, 240, Orlando, FL Oak Ridge): He committed to UCF and then de-committed. He still has UCF on his radar but says that it’s a three-team race that includes Florida and Louisville. He’s grown an inch since the summer. He might have the best hands of any kid in the country. Right now he seems to be trending Florida but Louisville is consistently in his ear.

Ted Kapita (6-9, 220, Kinshasha, Congo/Melbourne, FL Florida Air Academy): He’s from the same high school that produced Walter Hodge and Will Yeguete. Imagine Yeguete with a strong offensive game and you’ve got Kapita. He has re-classified once from 2014 to 2015 and could actually reclassify back to 2014 if he can get his core courses complete. He’s Florida’s to lose at this point in the recruiting game.

Haanif Cheatham (6-5, 180, Fort Lauderdale, FL Pembroke Pines Charter): He’s a lefty with a nice outside stroke and a willingness to get in the lane and finish while absorbing contact. He’s a combo guard who could evolve into a point. Georgia, Miami, Pitt, Vanderbilt and Baylor have offered. Florida wants to scout him a bit more before making an offer, but Cheatham is prominent on the UF radar. He plays AAU ball for Nike Team Florida.

Chance McSpadden (6-3, 175, Winter Haven, FL): There were reports that he had committed to UCF, but says he thought about it and decided to remain open for offers. Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and Clemson have offered and are actively recruiting him. He’s from the same AAU program that produced Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete, DeVon Walker and current 2015 commit Kevarrius Hayes. He’s a distributor who has the ability to score once he gets in the lane.

Daniel Giddens (6-10, 220, Marietta, GA Wheeler): He can run the floor and play in transition. He’s a very good finisher at or above the rim and is mobile enough to play in the press. Good help defender who needs better on ball defense skills. It’s a concern that he plays AAU ball for the Worldwide Renegades. Alabama, Clemson, Florida and Georgia are the leaders.

Jarrad Reuter (6-8, 240, Rochester, MA Tabor Academy): He is from the same AAU program that produced Erik and Alex Murphy, Kaleb Tarczewski (Arizona) and Nate Lubick (Georgetown). He’s the ultimate garbage scorer who hangs around the basket and shows up where the ball is. Florida is very much in it with UConn, Boston College and Indiana.

Cheick Diallo (6-9, 215, Bamako, Mali/Centereach, NY Our Savior New American): He is a shot rejecter in the Jarvis Varnado mold. He’s 6-9 with a 7-1 wingspan. He doesn’t have much of an offensive game but he can run, rebound and impact games with his defense. Florida has offered and is one of the leaders along with Arizona, UConn, Indiana, Louisville and St. John’s.

Diamond Stone (6-10, 252, Milwaukee, WI Dominican):  Nobody really gave the Gators a chance for Kevon Looney last year, but the Gators were a finalist for Wisconsin’s best prospect. Stone is a better prospect than Looney and while the Gators are thought to trail Arizona, UConn, Duke, Wisconsin and Georgetown, the dialogue is active and the interest is real. He is a power guy with an outside shot and maybe the best passer among all the bigs in 2015.

Jessie Govan (6-10, 263, Manhassett, NY Wings Academy): He has grown two inches and added 25 pounds since last year. He is a true center with space eater size and he’s got grades. Louisville and UConn were on him first but Florida, Duke, Arizona and Kansas are all making a pitch. His offensive game is limited to power stuff around the rim. He rebounds and he runs.

Andrew Fleming (6-4, 185, Nashville, TN Ensworth): Fleming is an elite shooter who scores in bunches. He plays AAU ball with the St. Louis Eagles, the same program that produced David Lee and most recently, Bradley Beal. There is no shortage of offers but Florida and Vanderbilt are the early leaders. Butler was in great shape until Andrew Stevens resigned to go coach the Boston Celtics.

Cameron Walker (6-7, 190, Santa Maria, CA Righeti): He has great academics, which is why Harvard, Vanderbilt and Stanford want him. He’s also got the ability to go inside and out, runs the floor like a gazelle and is a perfect guy on the press. UCLA and Southern Cal are both hot after him, but it’s 50-50 whether he stays west coast or goes east.

NEXT WEEK: An early look at how the 2016 recruiting board is shaping up.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.