When a coaching staff moves from the mid-major to high-major ranks in an offseason it can often be a little late for them to start making a push for players in the upcoming class. Todd Golden hasn’t completely shied away from that and has pursued some quality targets in 2023, but he has more so made his primary effort to recruit kids from the 2024 class and beyond. This is a strategy that was also employed by Florida’s previous staff under Mike White, who came to Gainesville and didn’t start trying to recruit the upcoming year’s class a ton–they focused on high school freshmen and sophomores.
That resulted in them landing Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann at a time where the college basketball landscape on the whole didn’t think 5-stars would be choosing Florida, so there is proven merit in the strategy.
Golden isn’t just focusing on any players in the 2024 class–he is looking for stars and future NBA players. Here are some of the names the staff has been in contact with over the last couple of weeks.
Naas Cunningham is currently the third ranked player in the 2024 class, though he has spent time in the number one spot and could ultimately end up back in that position. This will be a unique recruitment as Cunningham is currently in the Overtime Elite League and is the first player to go into that system without taking a salary in order to maintain his college eligibility. A 6’7” wing that clearly looks like an NBA player, the Gators will be going against just about all the big names to land him. Cunningham is originally from New Jersey where Florida’s previous staff has had success and it will be interesting to see if the current staff can maintain the connections. Overtime Elite’s facility is located in Atlanta, and the Gators will certainly make plenty of visits over the next two years.
In some closer to home news, multiple coaches headed to Montverde to see Asa Newell and Liam McNeely, the 13th and 21st ranked players in the 2024 class. Newell recently made an unofficial visit to Florida so the Gators are making sure to stay close to him while also seeing an exciting talent in McNeely. Newell is 6’9” with power and athleticism while McNeely is a 6’7” more skilled power forward type and seeing them play together has the kind of connection that will have fans salivating at the idea of a package deal. McNeely is expected to take an unofficial visit to Florida sometime in the next month or so, making him and Newell in-state targets worth keeping a close eye on.
A tough to miss target the Gators went to see recently in Marietta, Georgia is Peyton Marshall who sticks out because he is already listed, as a high school junior, at 6’10” and 310 pounds. Watching him play is mesmorizing as he simultaneously looks like every bit of that height and weight while also somehow…not looking like it? Yes, he is absolutely gigantic, almost Jason Jitoboh-like. However, his movement skills, fluidity, and energy levels are like a player much lighter. His body will almost certainly make some changes before he ends up in college as he tries to keep that physical domination while also staying healthy and remaining agile enough to stay with smaller players, but he is clearly a tantalizing talent who is ranked 84th in the class.
Golden has largely made recruiting Florida and the southeast a priority but that doesn’t mean he’ll go across the country to seek out a player he thinks is elite and that’s just what he did in pursuing Newport Coast, California’s Carter Bryant–the 23rd ranked player in 2024. Bryant is a silky scorer at 6’8” and 225 pounds who has a bit of Kevin Durant and Brandon Ingram in him–a lanky wing who shoots over defenders and seemingly hits every turnaround jumper he takes. Golden, as well as assistant Carlin Hartman, have west coast ties and will make Bryant the top target outside of the southeast for the Gators.
As Malik Grady points out, the Gators have been absolutely attacking the top 50 players in 2024:
Just exactly how it works out for the Gators we will see, but right now there is a lot of excitement about the players that Golden and his staff are not only contacting and offering but getting visits from, and they are determined to get elite, future-NBA talent into Gainesville and 2024 could end up being a remarkable class.