Although a decision on where to go to college might not happen for another few months, Austin Grandstaff (6-5-1/2, 190, Rockwall, TX) can tell you the one thing that will factor most heavily into his decision.
“Wherever I go, they have to be winners,” Grandstaff said Wednesday evening. “I’ve got this thing about losing. I hate it. I get this chip on my shoulder that won’t go away when I lose and it makes me think about all the things I have to do to make sure that never happens again.”
Grandstaff is a hot commodity on the basketball recruiting trail. What turned him from a very good prospect into one nearly every team in the top 25 made a priority recruit is that he went from shooter to scorer as a high school junior.
He’s always had the shot and when he gets on a roll, it’s not unusual to see him knock down several 3-balls in a row, but last season he became that guy who could get in the paint, draw contact and still finish. It’s one of the reasons he averaged nearly 28 points a game and had consecutive scoring outbursts of 51 and 45 points.
“That’s what people always categorized me as [a shooter] but now I’m a scorer and not just a shooter,” Grandstaff said. “On my high school team I ran the point a lot and it helped me become an all-around scorer who could drive and pull up, go all the way to the rim or step back and shoot.
“It’s all about mismatches and understanding who’s guarding you. If he’s smaller I can use my size and shoot over him. If he’s bigger and slower, I can drive around him and once I’m in the lane make a decision whether to pull up or absorb some contact and get to the line.”
The process of becoming a scorer also has something to do with the work in the weight room and the natural growth cycle. Since last summer, Grandstaff has grown a full inch to 6-5-1/2. He’s also put on close to 15 pounds of muscle. He’s 190 now and has the frame to add more muscle.
“It’s crazy how much easier the game gets when you’re stronger,” Grandstaff said. “When you’re strong, you’ve got a lot more options.”
Grandstaff, who will spend the summer playing for his dad, Wes, for Team Texas Elite on the Nike AAU circuit, says he is in no hurry to make a final decision about where he will play college basketball. He was committed to Oklahoma State but thought things through and backed out back in February. He realizes now that he committed way too early.
“Someone told me you never marry the first girl you meet,” Grandstaff said. “I went to Stillwater and fell in love with the campus, but I’ll probably love every campus I visit.”
There are plenty of offers on the table but realistically, it’s a four-team race right now. Florida is there among the leaders along with Ohio State, North Carolina and Oklahoma.
Grandstaff talked about his four heaviest pursuers:
FLORIDA: “I like Coach (Billy) Donovan a lot. He’s really straightforward. He told me who he’s recruiting and why. When we watched film he told me how I fit in with what they’re doing. I also have a great relationship with Coach (Matt) McCall. It’s a great campus and they are a great program.
OHIO STATE: “I really like Coach (Thad) Matta. He came down here and we talked for about an hour. I’m going to visit their campus on May 2. My friend Mickey (Mitchell) is going there, too, so that’s a plus.”
NORTH CAROLINA: “I’ve know Coach (Roy) Williams forever it seems. He used to come here all the time to recruit players when he was at Kansas. I’ve talked a lot to (assistant coach) Hubert Davis. They’re going to be watching me closely this spring and summer.”
OKLAHOMA: “It’s the closest school to home. My grandparents went to school there. So did Willie Warren. He played for my dad and he’s like a big brother to me. We talk just about every day. I like the way Coach (Lon) Kruger uses his guards. I like their style of play.”
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Currently, the Gators have 12 on scholarship. They could fill the roster by adding Tre Mourning (6-10, 225, Miami, FL Ransom Everglades) but it’s more likely that he winds up at Georgetown. Reportedly, there is intense pressure being applied to dad Alonzo Mourning from former Georgetown coach and mentor John Thompson. His mom would be very happy to see him play in Gainesville, but it seems more and more unlikely.
If the Gators don’t land Mourning, there is always the possibility they might could take a fifth-year transfer who has graduated and has only one year of eligibility remaining but for Donovan to take that route it would have to be a player who not only has the ability to blend in with the team immediately, but a high enough basketball IQ that he wouldn’t require much coaching to be able to help. Of the possible fifth-year transfers that have already declared their intentions, about the only one that would seem to fit a Florida need might be Jeff Martin, who will graduate from Xavier in May and then find a new school. Martin is a 6-6 small forward with good slashing ability and a good 3-point shot (hit 37.3% last season). He averaged 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for the Musketeers.
The other choice would be hold the scholarship. Florida will have one senior next year – Damontre Harris – and if Chris Walker has the kind of season that most expect, he’s probably gone to the NBA. That would leave the Gators with three available scholarships unless someone currently on the roster elects to transfer. Kevarrius Hayes (6-9, 200, Live Oak, FL Suwannee County) is already committed to the Gators so that leaves two. Since both Dorian Finney-Smith and Alex Murphy are both juniors, expect the Gators to take two bigs and one perimeter guy if there are three scholarships available, two bigs, a shooter and a point if there are four.
THE UNOFFICIAL 2015 FLORIDA RECRUITING BOARD
Elijah Thomas (6-9, 230, Lancaster, TX): AAU Team Texas. Florida, Illinois, Memphis and Ohio State are his leaders. He will remind you a lot of Patric Young the way he plays great position defense even though he’s not a great shot blocker. He’s got a total power game down low and knows how to score with either hand. Thomas is an AAU teammate of Austin Grandstaff.
Thomas Bryant (6-10, 220, Rochester, NY/Huntington, WV Huntington Prep): AAU: Team Scan; Florida, Miami, Ohio State, Seton Hall and Syracuse are his leaders. He’s a long, athletic power forward who runs the floor very well. He sometimes gets enamored with his jumper when he needs to be spending time in the paint. Florida is his leader but Syracuse will make a big play before all this is through.
Noah Dickerson (6-8, 255, Atlanta, GA/Montverde, FL Montverde Academy: AAU: Georgia Stars; Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Georgetown, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Michigan are all working him hard. Think Jarnell Stokes. He’s a wide body who lives in the paint and cleans up on the boards. Florida is in really good shape with him.
Ted Kapita (6-9, 225, Brazzaville, Congo/Melbourne, FL Florida Air): AAU: None. Florida, Florida State, UCF, Texas, Georgetown and Kansas are all after him. He won’t play AAU ball but will stay at Florida Air where he will get plenty of competition during the summer from the former players who come back. He has a wing span reported to be 7-6 and athleticism that will allow him to play any style. Florida has a built-in advantage because Will Yegeute and Walter Hodge are both friends and former Florida Air players.
Daniel Giddens (6-9, 215, Marietta, GA Wheeler): AAU: Worldwide Renegades; The teams after him the hardest are Ohio State, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana and Kansas. He’s a volume shot blocker whose offensive game needs a lot of work. He’s with the Renegades on the AAU circuit and that has never worked well for the Gators.
Alex Owens (6-9, 240, Orlando, FL Oak Ridge): AAU: Each 1 Teach 1; Cincinnati, Florida, Georgia, Louisville, Maryland, USF, UCF make his list although you have to wonder if he’s really serious about the Gators. His hands are as strong as any in the country. He is a volume rebounder who doesn’t always finish. That will have to change. Louisville looks like the team to beat.
Jarred Reuter (6-8, 225, Rochester, MA Tabor Academy): AAU: New England Playaz; Boston College, UConn, Florida, Indiana and Providence. He’s got a game similar to Georgis Niang of Iowa State in that he plays below the rim but physically overpowers opponents and scores. He’s from the same AAU program that produced the Murphy brothers.
Austin Grandstaff (6-5-1/2, 190, Rockwall, TX): AAU: Texas Elite; Florida, Ohio State, North Carolina and Oklahoma are pushing hard, but he’s considered a hard lean to Florida right about now. Grandstaff averaged 27 points per game last season with a high of 51. He can get points in bunches.
Antonio Blakeney (6-4, 175, Orlando, FL Oak Ridge): AAU: Each 1 Teach 1; Arkansas, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Kansas and Louisville are all pushing hard. Florida is right there with Louisville although Arkansas has really come on strong lately.
Chance McSpadden (6-4, 180, Winter Haven, FL): AAU: Nike Team Florida; Florida, Alabama, Clemson, UCF, West Virginia and Harvard are after him. He’s a lefty shooter who plays great defense and could project as a point at the next level. Florida is recruiting him as a combo who could play minutes at the point.
Isaiah Briscoe (6-3, 210, Union, NJ Roselle Catholic): AAU: New Jersey Playaz; Arizona, Baylor, UConn, Florida, Florida State, Indiana are recruiting him. Arizona and UConn are his leaders right now. He’s more scorer than shooter but he excels at getting to the foul line.
Julius Johnson (6-3, 200, Cocoa, FL/Melbourne, FL Florida Air Academy): AAU: None; Texas, Florida, Georgetown, Kansas. Johnson is a scorer (26 points per game) and a combo guard but some of the schools recruiting him are talking about changing him to a point. He’s a streaky shooter from the outside, a slasher who knows how to finish after getting fouled. Texas has been recruiting him the hardest and the longest.
Rex Pflueger (6-5, 180, Santa Ana, CA Mater Dei): AAU: Oakland Soldiers. Florida is right there along with Stanford, California, Harvard, Notre Dame and UCLA. He’s a terrific ball handler and passer who is best in transition. It’s going to be hard to get him off the west coast.
King McClure (6-3, 210, Dallas, TX Triple A Academy): AAU: Texas Titans; Arkansas, Baylor, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky and Texas are the teams that are going to be in it until the end. He’s more scorer than shooter who doesn’t have to have his jumper going to get his points.
Haanif Cheatham (6-6, 185, Fort Lauderdale, FL Pembroke Pines Charter): AAU: Nike Team Florida; Pittsburgh, Maryland, Wake Forest, Purdue and VCU have all offered. Florida is recruiting him but hasn’t offered yet. He’s a lefty shooter who plays the wing but handles the ball well enough to project as a point at the next level.