Although Billy Donovan will certainly miss the experience and leadership of his four seniors next season, there will be no shortage of talent. If everyone comes back who is supposed to, then the Gators will be taller with more depth in the post and should be as good, or better, from the outside.
From a talent standpoint, the Gators are going to be fine. Chemistry? That’s something that could be a work in progress unless the Gators have a summer like the one of 2005 when those daily pickup games and time spent together translated into the kind of team connection that propelled the Gators to two straight national championships.
Because they’re losing the four seniors, don’t expect the Gators to start the season in the top 10, but they will be in the top 25 for sure. If Donovan can get the team chemistry working, this is a team that could indeed challenge for the Southeastern Conference championship next year.
Here is a look at next season’s roster based on who’s here on April 6, 2014:
Damontre Harris (6-10, 230), C/PF: Harris is back in Billy Donovan’s good graces since returning to the team in January and academically he’s in good shape. He will have to work hard this summer to compensate for missing two seasons of basketball, but he is a legitimate rim protector who finished second in the SEC in blocked shots as a sophomore at South Carolina two years ago when he made All-SEC Defensive Team.
Michael Frazier II (6-4, 199), SG/SF: Frazier is one of the best pure shooters in the country and he has turned himself into a more than adequate defender who can handle both a two guard and a small forward. In the offseason he has to develop an effective game off the dribble that will allow him to get his own shot and prevent opponents from taking him out of the game.
Dorian Finney-Smith (6-8, 214), PF/C/SF: Finney-Smith is a superb rebounder and defender, but he’s got to spend the summer working on his offensive deficiencies. As well as he offensive rebounds, he has to become a better finisher around the rim. There is no reason why he shouldn’t average double figures just with the garbage he gets on the offensive boards. He’s also got to work on that hitch in his shot that makes him such a streaky 3-point shooter.
DeVon Walker (6-6, 200), SG/SF: When his shot stopped dropping in the final four weeks of the season, Walker’s confidence went south. In the offseason he has to learn how to play hard and contribute even when his shot isn’t falling. There will be minutes to be had at small forward but he’s got to have the confidence to play well even when he isn’t hitting shots and he needs to add another 15-20 pounds of muscle.
Alex Murphy (6-9, 230), PF/C: There is a very good chance that Murphy’s appeal to the NCAA will allow him to play in November instead of waiting for the semester break. He’s a better rebounder and inside player than older brother Erik but not as good a shooter from the 3-point line. He is a very tough rebounder and above average defender.
Eli Carter (6-2, 200), SG: If he’s healthy and has the elevation back on his shot, then the Gators have a potential consistent scorer who can take over games when he gets it going. Carter scored 799 points in two seasons at Rutgers before transferring to Florida. He took a medical redshirt this season because his broken leg hadn’t healed. He’s healed, healthy and getting his game back now.
Kasey Hill (6-1, 181), PG: There is no question he will be a star. It’s a matter of when not if. Hill is the fastest guard in the SEC from end to end dribbling the ball and he’s shown the ability to score in transition. In the offseason, he’s got to continue to work on harnessing his speed and playing under control, plus he’s got to develop a consistent jumper, maybe not from the 3-point line but at least mid-range.
Chris Walker (6-10, 220), PF/C: First off, people who are extremely close to him say he is not going anywhere, that he will be back at Florida next season. The difference in the Chris Walker we’ve seen this year and the Chris Walker we will see next year should be measured by light years. He is an athletic freak who will benefit with the offseason coaching and the time he will spend in the weight room. From a potential standpoint, he could be one of the best players in the SEC and perhaps even the nation next year if he puts in the time and effort in the offseason.
Dillon Graham (6-4, 190), SG/PG: He had surgery on both hips and is ahead of schedule on his rehab. Graham is an excellent ballhandler and passer to go with an outstanding basketball IQ. His jump shot should return to form now that he can go without pain for the first time in three years.
Chris Chiozza (5-10, 160), PG: Like Hill, Chiozza is a blur going end to end with or without the ball in his hands. Even though he’s not very big he is a ferocious defender, particularly in the press. Chiozza is a pass-first point guard who will have to learn how to get his shot off against taller players at the next level but he will be able to contribute early.
Brandone Francis (6-6, 220), SG/SF: Francis is continuing to grow and fill out. He has a streaky outside shot, but he’s at his best slashing to the basket where he’s strong enough to absorb contact and still finish. He is physically capable of handling small forwards defensively and he’s quick enough to be a mismatch on the offensive end. He will benefit greatly from the strength and conditioning program in the summer.
Devin Robinson (6-9, 195) (SF/PF): Robinson has the range on his jumper to be a stretch four and the length and leaping ability to be a shot blocker on the inside. He is a hybrid wing/high post who should be able to contribute offensively immediately. He needs the summer in the weight room to add the strength he will need to score on the inside in the SEC.
POTENTIAL SPRING SIGNEE
TREY MOURNING (6-10, 225, Miami, FL Ransom Everglades): If the name has a familiar sound, it should. He is the son of former NBA great Alonzo Mourning. He’s a late bloomer who was considered a bit of a project prior to a breakout senior season in which he averaged more than 30 points a game. Mourning camped at Florida last summer and was in attendance when the Gators beat Kentucky on senior day. Supposedly, he’s down to Florida and Georgetown, his dad’s alma mater. It’s going to be a close call but Florida appears to be in really good shape.