Florida’s 2022 recruiting class got a big building block on Sunday as guard Denzel Aberdeen announced his commitment to the Gators.
This didn’t come as a surprise as the Gators had been favored to land his commitment. His official visit to Gainesville came this past weekend, something that showed a mutual interest between both player and team. Aberdeen is from nearby Orlando, and still used one of his official visits on the Gators. Oftentimes you see local players using their official visits on out of town destinations while visiting unofficially to the nearby school on their own dime, but Aberdeen using one of his officials on Florida showed a high level of interest. Reciprocating the interest was Florida, who also could have pushed Aberdeen to come on an unofficial but instead used one of their official visits, something limited by NCAA rules. The fact that both Aberdeen and Florida were willing to use officials meant something serious was brewing and it was no surprise when Aberdeen announced he would be a Gator.
Currently Aberdeen is a composite three-star player, though ESPN has him as a four-star. 247 Sports is yet to give him a ranking, something that has limited his ranking and therefore to some extent his exposure. Looking at how he played this past summer he’s certain to rise up recruiting rankings, though I’m not sure that’s something that Florida particularly cares about. Mike White and his staff have made it known that they aren’t going to recruit to the rankings as much as they did when they first got to Gainesville and we have seen on a number of occasions that they will take players that they think belong at Florida, even if the recruiting rankings suggest something different.
In fairness to Aberdeen, it has been pretty difficult for ‘22 players to make convincing cases of why to rise up the rankings with the inconsistent basketball that has been played over the past year and a half, though people who have seen him have loved him and his offer list suggests a high level player. His final schools consisted of Oklahoma, Iona, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Texas Tech, and of course, Florida.
Playing at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, the Gators will get to keep a close eye on Aberdeen. The Gators have already landed the commitment of forward Malik Reneau (who was just elevated to five-star status in the recruiting rankings) from Montverde, so it’s clear the Gators are making the state of Florida a priority.
Aberdeen is a 6’4” guard, one that has been listed as a point guard, shooting guard, and combo guard. It will be interesting to see what role the Gators see him in, something that perhaps will depend on who else exactly is on the roster during his time in Gainesville. Tyree Appleby technically could be back for another season in 2022-23 if he so chooses, but that will be his sixth year in college which might not be what he is looking to do. If he does choose to go pro the Gators won’t have a true point guard on the roster, so it would make sense if they saw Aberdeen as someone who could at least take some role at point guard, perhaps even right away.
It was Aberdeen’s work as a point guard this past summer that really got attention from coaches, particularly Florida’s staff. At 6’4” he is a physically dominant point guard, and he knows how to use that size. He will relentlessly attack the paint, challenging smaller guards to try to get their bodies in front of the Aberdeen freight train. While he might attack the paint with reckless abandon, he’s far from a reckless player. In fact, he has a reputation as one of the safest ball handlers on the circuit, someone who doesn’t try to do too much and doesn’t commit bad turnovers.
Between his physical maturity and 6’4” frame you can easily see why he’s an SEC level player. The skill that really got Florida’s staff excited was his shooting. This past summer his outside shot went to another level and he strung together multiple games of ridiculous shooting, hitting well over 50% of his threes. There was a two game stretch where he hit 8 of 10 threes, and with Florida’s offer coming right after that you can guess that was the moment where the Gators’ staff was convinced he was someone they wanted on their team.
Recently, a lot of Florida’s point guard targets have been smaller, quicker players, somewhat in the Kasey Hill and Chris Chiozza mould, the kind of guys that Mike White has had the most success with. Aberdeen is not that style of guard with a lot more size and that could mean one of two things. On one hand, it might mean that they see him as a shooting guard and they’ll still be looking for another more traditional point guard. On the other hand, it might mean that the Gators are switching up their style a bit and want to modernize. Florida has loved switching defenses, but smaller guards have made for instant mismatches SEC bigs have loved. Playing Aberdeen at lead guard would make switching a whole lot easier, so look for the Gators to try that out a little bit more when we see him in a year.
Another potential upside of landing Aberdeen is a boost in the recruiting of top-30 center Ernest Udeh who plays alongside Aberdeen at Dr. Phillips. Udeh is a 6’10” monster in the paint, and the Gators are still trying hard to land a center in this class. Package deals hardly ever work out in college, something a look over the recent recruiting records will quickly show you, but there is a first time for everything. Aberdeen and Udeh have had great chemistry on the court through their high school careers, so the chance to continue his journey next to Aberdeen could be part of Florida’s pitch to Udeh.
Recently the Gators have relied heavily on the transfer portal as opposed to high school recruiting but if the Gators like their targets and think they can land elite talent, they’re still happy to go the high school route. The Gators still are hungry on the recruiting trail and there could definitely be some more action in the upcoming months.