Versatile Mooney is “a good fit”

The latest Gator comes with an upside that’s through the roof. “His versatility upside is as good as anybody we’ve had come through our program and that includes Chandler (Parsons),” Tom Topping says about John Mooney (6-8, 220, Altamonte Springs, FL Lake Brantley). “He’s stronger and more physical on the inside but Chandler was more of a finesse guy on the outside but both of them have so many of the same skills in that they can play and defend multiple positions, knock down the open shot from the outside, get you points inside and neither one of them is afraid to take the last shot. They want the ball for the last shot. They want that kind of pressure.”

Mooney committed to Billy Donovan on an unofficial visit to Florida Saturday. This came after a week when there was no shortage of coaches from major college programs at Lake Brantley to watch him work out. Recruited by Matt McCall, Donovan sealed the deal Saturday and got the commitment, Florida’s first for the recruiting class of 2016.

It’s a good fit for Florida. Mooney’s older sister Caitlin is a Florida grad and was UF’s 2011 Homecoming Queen.

“This was a no-brainer for Florida,” Topping said. “Here’s a kid with tremendous upside, great size – and he’s only going to get bigger – and great grades. He’s a Gator fan and he’s got family connections since his older sister was Homecoming Queen a couple years ago. It’s just a great fit all the way around.”

Topping said that Donovan made it easy for Mooney to commit.

“Billy is such a straight shooter with kids,” Topping said. “He’s had such great success in doing it the right way that he’s built up some real equity and he can be totally honest with a kid. When he tells a kid this is the way it’s going to be, the kid can believe it. Billy doesn’t sugar coat anything and that’s just what Johnny needed to hear and that’s why he committed.”

Mooney played as a 6-6, 200-pound ninth grader at Lake Brantley last season, but he started coming into his own during the summer playing for Topping’s Nike Team Florida 15-year-old team. Topping says it was a spring and summer of constant improvement, the kind that had the college coaches eager to get to Lake Brantley in September during the evaluation period.

In addition to the improvement came a growth spurt. Mooney is 6-8, 220 now and Topping expects him to grow at least another two inches.

“Every time I see him, something is different,” Topping said. “Either he’s thicker, taller or wider in the shoulders and sometimes it’s all three. He’s still growing. Physically, he’s going to be a monster.

”One of the things I like about him is that he doesn’t mind the contact inside.”

The size is impressive, but what Topping loves about Mooney is the versatility. Mooney is as comfortable banging away on the inside as he is stepping outside where his range extends beyond the 3-point line. He’s a very good ball handler, an unselfish passer and he’s got a very high basketball IQ, much like former Gator Erik Murphy, who was drafted by the Chicago Bulls last June.

Mooney is the second commitment the Gators have gotten recently from Topping’s Nike Team Florida program. The Gators got a commitment in late spring from Kevarrius Hayes (6-9, 195, Live Oak, FL Suwannee), a Jarvis Varnado-like shot blocker who will be part of Florida’s recruiting class of 2015.

“Johnny is the seventh player we’ve had who will be a Gator,” Topping said. Along with Hayes, Topping’s program has produced current Gators Will Yeguete and Scottie Wilbekin and former Gators Parsons, Nick Calathes and Walter Hodge. Parsons (Houston Rockets) and Calathes (Memphis Grizzlies) are in the NBA while Hodge is an all-star in the Polish League.

Mooney’s older brother Brendan is a 6-7 freshman forward on scholarship at Division II Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama.

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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.