Basketball Confidential: Hits and misses

Injuries and suspensions continue to take their toll on the Florida Gators, who will have to make it through the 2012-14 season with a maximum of nine scholarship players after freshman Chris Walker is granted clearance to play by the NCAA. Florida’s roster of available players the rest of the way breaks down like this: four seniors, three sophomores and two freshmen if Walker is cleared. If Walker isn’t cleared the Gators will go the rest of the season with eight scholarship players and will be dependent on walk-ons Jacob Kurtz and Billy Donovan III to provide some minutes of relief off the bench.

So, how did the Gators get into this predicament?

If Billy Donovan had everybody healthy and off scholarship he would be looking at a 12-man roster that would be considered one of the deepest and most talented in the country, but Eli Carter and Dillon Graham will be taking medical redshirts, Damontre Harris is still suspended with apparently no end in sight, and Walker is waiting to hear in the next few days that he is good to go by the NCAA.

In Part I of this Basketball Confidential, here is a look at the Florida roster and how it was built, taking a long look at who the Gators missed on in the recruiting process and who they could have had with perhaps a change in priorities. Tomorrow, in Part II, a look at the 2014 recruiting classes and beyond, plus a look at the signing classes from all schools in the SEC.

SENIORS (4): Patric Young (6-9, 240); Will Yeguete (6-8, 230); Casey Prather (6-6, 212); Scottie Wilbekin (6-2, 176)

JUNIORS (2): * Eli Carter (6-2, 200); * * Damontre Harris (6-10, 228)

* Will take a medical redshirt

* * Indefinitely suspended

SOPHOMORES (4): Michael Frazier (6-4, 199); * Dillon Graham (6-4, 185); DeVon Walker (6-6, 195); Dorian Finney-Smith (6-8, 214)

* Will take a medical redshirt

FRESHMEN (2): Kasey Hill (6-1, 181); * Chris Walker (6-10, 210)

* Waiting for NCAA clearance



Patric Young (6-9, 245, Jacksonville, FL Providence); Casey Prather (6-6, 200, Jackson, TN North Side); Will Yeguete (6-7, 210, Bordeaux, France/Melbourne, FL Florida Air Academy); Scottie Wilbekin (6-2, 175, Gainesville, Florida The Rock School); Cody Larson (6-9, 225, Sioux Falls, SD Roosevelt); Mike Rosario (6-3, 185, Newark, NJ RUTGERS TRANSFER)

McDonald’s All-Americans: Young, Rosario

Top 100 Recruits: Young, Prather, Rosario

Big Misses: Brandon Knight (6-3, 180, Ft. Lauderdale, FL Pine Crest); Ray McCallum (6-1, 175, Beverly Hills, MI Detroit Country Day); Fab Melo (7-0, 270, Juiz de Forza, Brazil/Weston, FL Sagemont); Damontre Harris (6-10, 230, Fayetteville, NC Trinity Christian); Tobias Harris (Dix Hills, NY Half Hollow Hills); C.J. Leslie (6-8, 190, Raleigh, NC Word of God); James Bell (6-5, 210, Jacksonville, FL/Montverde, FL Montverde Academy); Ricardo Ratliffe (6-9, 225, Portsmouth, VA/Ocala, FL College of Central Florida); C.J. Fair (6-7, 190 Baltimore, MD/Wolfeboro, NH Brewster Academy); Phil Pressey (5-10, 155, Dallas, TX Episcopal); Vander Blue (6-3, 185, Madison, WI Memorial); Jeremy Lamb (6-4, 170, Norcross, GA); Jordan McRae (6-5, 175, Hinesville, GA Liberty County)

The Gators Could Have Had: Will Sheehy (6-6, 190, Weston, FL Sagemont); Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Cocoa Beach, FL/Jacksonville, FL Arlington Country Day)

In Retrospect: With the exception of Larson, this has been a highly productive class. The way Prather is playing this season, he’s got a chance to make All-SEC. Young is a three-year starter and two-time SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, who passed up first round NBA Draft money to come back his senior year.  Young made second team All-SEC last season. Yeguete is an outstanding rebounder and has developed a well-earned reputation as an accomplished defender off the bench. In the offseason, he is being groomed to play for the French Olympic team.  Wilbekin made All-SEC defensive team last year and is in his second year as a starter at the point. Rosario was Florida’s leading scorer in 2013 when he made second team All-SEC and is now playing professionally in Puerto Rico.  Larson was a late addition to the class who was never a contributor and after running into problems off the court, ended up transferring to South Dakota State.

The Gators wasted a lot of recruiting capital on Brandon Knight, who signed with Kentucky, and should have paid more attention to Jordan McRae, who had an All-SEC season a year ago and is considered the SEC’s best outside scoring threat at Tennessee. Will Sheehy and Justin Jackson both would have been Gators if offered. Sheehy (Indiana) probably hurts the most because he’s turned into an outstanding three-point shooter. Jackson (Cincinnati) was too much like Yeguete, all defense and hustle but not a lot of scoring punch. Had the Gators pushed harder, they could have had Damontre Harris out of high school. His best friend, Xavier Nixon, was his pipeline to Gainesville, but the Gators had bigger fish to fry.



Bradley Beal (6-3, 205, St. Louis, MO Chaminade Prep); Walter Pitchford (6-10, 220, Grand Rapids, MI Summit Christian Academy)

McDonald’s All-American: Beal

Top 100 recruit: Beal

Big Misses: Austin Rivers (6-3, 200, Winter Park, FL); Adonis Thomas (6-6, 210, Memphis, TN Melrose); Dorian Finney-Smith (6-8, 210, Portsmouth, VA I.C. Norcum); Rakeem Christmas (6-9, 222, Philadelphia, PA Academy of the New Church); Wayne Blackshear (6-5, 210, Chicago, IL Morgan Park); Rodney Hood (6-7, 190, Meridian, MS); Amir Williams (6-10, 220, Birmingham, MI Detroit Country Day); Sam Thompson (6-7, 190, Chicago, IL Whitney Young); Johnny O’Bryant (6-10, 245, Cleveland, MS East Side); Antwan Space (6-8, 200, DeSoto, TX); Malcolm Brogdon (6-5, 205, Norcross, GA Greater Atlanta Christian); Mikael Hopkins (6-8, 210, Hyattsville, MD DeMatha Catholic); Kedren Johnson (6-3, 200, Lewisburg, TN Marshall County);

The Gators Could Have Had: Shane Larkin (5-11, 180, Orlando, FL Dr. Phillips); Will Cummings (6-0, 160, Jacksonville, FL Providence)

In Retrospect: Bradley Beal was everything the Gators could have asked for and then some, which is why he was a one and done to the NBA. Beal was Florida’s second leading scorer and leading rebounder in an All-SEC freshman season. Pitchford was totally in over his head and transferred out after one year.

Florida’s flirtations with Austin Rivers (Duke) cost Shane Larkin, who had his fill of playing with Rivers on the AAU circuit. He signed with DePaul, changed his mind and went to Miami where he was last year’s ACC Player of the Year.  The Gators led for a long time for Rodney Hood, who spent his freshman year at Mississippi State, then transferred to Duke, where he is having an outstanding redshirt sophomore season. Adonis Thomas loved Gainesville and loved Donovan, but the pressure to stay home in Memphis was too great. Another point guard the Gators could have signed was Kedren Johnson (Vanderbilt). The Gators didn’t pay enough attention to him during the summer before his senior year when he was ready to bleed orange and blue. O’Bryant told everyone he was down to Ole Miss and Florida, then confused everyone by signing with LSU. Finney-Smith, who has since transferred to Florida, says he made a mistake not signing with the Gators in the first place. Cummings, who was a backcourt mate with Scottie Wilbekin on the AAU circuit with Nike Team Florida, signed with Temple, but would have signed with Florida if the Gators had pushed harder.



Michael Frazier (6-4, 200, Tampa, FL/Montverde, FL Montverde Academy); Dillion Graham (6-4, 180, Orlando, FL The First Academy); Braxton Ogbueze (6-0, 182, Charlotte, NC United Faith Academy); DeVon Waker (6-6, 190, Winter Haven, FL); Dorian Finney-Smith (6-8, 210, Portsmouth, VA VIRGINIA TECH TRANSFER); Damonte Harris (6-10, 230, Fayetteville, NC SOUTH CAROLINA TRANSFER)

McDonald’s All-Americans: None

Top 100 Recruits: Frazier; Ogbueze; Finney-Smith

Big Misses: Kyle Anderson (6-7, 210, Fairview, NJ St. Anthony); Anthony Bennett (6-8, 230, Brampton, Ontario/Henderson, NV Findlay College Prep); Alex Poythress (6-8, 215, Clarksville, TN Northeast); Jarnell Stokes (6-8, 255, Memphis, TN Southwind); Tony Parker (6-9, 270, Lithonia, GA Miller Grove); Mitch McGary (6-10, 255, Chesterton, IN/Wolfeboro, NH Brewster Academy); Shaq Goodwin (6-8, 245, Decatur, GA Southwest DeKalb); Robert Carter (6-8, 250, Thomasville, GA/Snellville GA Shiloh); Brice Johnson (6-9, 200, Cordova, SC Edisto); Jake Layman (6-8, 190, Wrentham, MA King Phillip); Marcus Hunt (6-6, 215, Riverdale, GA North Clayton); Montrezl Harrell (6-8, 215, Tarboro, NC/Chatham, VA Hargrave Military Academy)

The Gators Could Have Had: Ioannais Papaetrou (6-8, 220, Athens, Greece/Melbourne, FL Florida Air); Joel James (6-11, 270, Palm Beach Gardens, FL Dwyer); Landry Nnoko (6-10, 230, Yaounde, Cameroon/Montverde, FL Montverde Academy)

In Retrospect: Frazier is ready to emerge as one of the nation’s elite shooters. Graham is taking a medical redshirt for hip surgery. Walker will be a solid contributor off the bench this season. Finney-Smith is a multi-position player wearing a lot of hats. He is currently Florida’s leading rebounder.  Harris has been suspended since August and remains suspended with apparently much work to do to get back in Billy Donovan’s good graces. Ogbueze tired of bench time as a freshman and transferred home to Charlotte where he sits out this season. Had he stayed, he would have been getting plenty of playing time because of the injuries.

After being declared ineligible for his senior year by the Tennessee High School Association due to transfer rules, Jarnell Stokes decided to graduate early and enroll midyear. It came down to Florida and Tennessee. He chose UT where he rooms with his older brother, who is a student in Knoxville.

This was the recruiting year of the bad hats. The Gators were on the table with two or three other hats with Anderson, Poythress, Parker, McGary, Goodwin, Carter, Johnson and Layman but the Florida hat was never selected. Anderson told Donovan the night before he committed to UCLA that he was going to be a Gator. Goodwin (Memphis) spent so much time flirting with football that the Florida staff pretty much let him move on. Bennett couldn’t get past UF or Kentucky admissions but somehow – almost miraculously – was accepted at UNLV and approved by the NCAA. The Gators were done in by the AAU coach with McGary (Michigan), Carter (Georgia Tech) and Johnson (North Carolina). Had the Gators really pushed for Hunt (Georgia Tech) in and around the Nike Peach Jam, he was ready to commit. The flirtation with Anderson cost UF on that one. The Gators waited too late on Papaetrou (Texas) and were so concerned with James’ (North Carolina) weight and work ethic that they backed off. Nnoko could end up being the one that hurt the most to lose. Florida spent so much time going after the bigger names that Clemson got its foot in the door and stole him away.



Kasey Hill (6-1, 181, Clermont, FL/Montverde, FL Montverde Academy); Chris Walker (6-10, 210, Bonifay, FL Holmes County); Eli Carter (6-2, 200, Paterson, NJ/Jersey City, NJ St. Anthony RUTGERS TRANSFER)

McDonald’s All-Americans: Hill, Walker

Top 100 Recruits: Hill, Walker

Big Misses: Julius Randle (6-9, 240, McKinney, TX Prestonwood Christian Academy); Joel Embiid (7-0, 230, Yaounde, Cameroon/ Gainesville, FL The Rock School); Wayne Selden (6-5, 220, Boston, MA/Tilton, NH The Tilton School); Austin Nichols (6-8, 200, Eads, TN Briarcrest Christian); Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (6-7, 200, Chester, PA); Robert Hubbs (6-6, 190, Newbern, TN Dyer County); Moses Kingsley (6-10, 210, Abuja, Nigeria/Huntington, WV Huntington Prep); Damian Jones (6-9, 220, Baton Rouge, LA Scotlandville Magnet); Mike Young (6-8, 245, McKeesport, PA/Newark, NJ St. Benedict Prep); Kennedy Meeks (6-9, 275, Charlotte, NC West Charlotte); Reggie Cameron (6-7, 210, Hackensack, NJ Hudson Catholic); BeeJay Anya (6-8, 270, Hyattsville, MD DeMatha Catholic)

The Gators Could Have Had: Chris Perry (6-8, 245, Bartow, FL); Schuyler Rimmer (6-10, 250, Orlando, FL Boone); Sam Singer (6-5, 180, Miami, FL Ransom Everglades); Demetrius Henry (6-9, 210, Miami, FL/Brandon, FL Faith Baptist Christian School); Jarquez Smith (6-10, 210, Haddock, GA Jones County)

In Retrospect: Hill already has shown promise as an SEC caliber point guard with four starts before suffering a high ankle sprain. Walker is awaiting clearance from the NCAA, which is expected any time in the next week. Carter is still trying to regain the strength in his leg, which was broken last year playing at Rutgers, where he averaged nearly 15 points per game. He will take a medical redshirt.

The Gators wanted to sign a second big man in the class and the one that probably is going to come back to bite them is Embiid, who spent his senior season playing five miles from the UF campus at The Rock School. Florida slow played him while chasing down Julius Randle (Kentucky), Kennedy Meeks (North Carolina) and BeeJay Anya (NC State). The Gators made the final cut for those three but didn’t land them.  Had the same recruiting capital been invested into Embiid, the Gators would have a future NBA first rounder on their hands. Instead, he’s at Kansas. Florida led for the longest time for Austin Nichols (Memphis) but lost the recruiting momentum shortly after his official visit. It was a coin flip – literally – that decided Arizona over Florida for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. The Gators slow-played Reggie Cameron (Georgetown) and missed a chance at a serious three-point shooter.

While the Gators were contemplating how they were going to juggle the roster to make everything fit, they lost a chance at Schuyler Rimmer, who committed to the Gators, then tired of the waiting (and juggling) game and ended up at Stanford. Chris Perry only needed some attention and he would have been a Gator. They love the way he’s developing at South Florida. Henry is starting at South Carolina, where he is averaging 9.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a freshman.


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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.