Florida’s Coaching Staff Could Be Ahead Of The Curve In Recruiting Strategy

On Saturday, October 10th, 2021 recruit Alex Fudge was to announce his college decision.

A 6’8” wing from Jacksonville with the ability to put the ball on the deck as well as shoot from deep, it’s easy to see why he was a sought after recruit. Florida was heavily involved in his recruitment as they looked to keep Fudge in the state. Coach Mike White has made recruiting wings a priority after his teams have had a major hole in that department recently, and Fudge was seen as a priority by everyone who covers Gators recruiting.

Fudge made his decision via Twitter, sharing a video that culminated in his announcement. In the closing moments of the video, the LSU Tigers logo flashed across the screen. This wasn’t exactly a surprise as Fudge to LSU had been considered a done deal for weeks leading up to the decision but it was hard not to see at least some glimmer of hope for the Gators who had been actively pursuing him for months on end. However, Fudge ended up with his name on a quickly growing list of recruits the Gators have been recruiting heavily, with in some instances the Gators being considered the leaders that have ended up elsewhere.

Tyrese Hunter
Carter Whitt
Darius Johnson
Ryan Mutumbo
Rahsool Diggins

And now, Alex Fudge.

Looking at Florida’s recruiting board…it’s pretty empty. Essentially all of Florida’s targets over the last year or so are all gone, whether it be the Gators backed off or the recruit choosing another home. Truthfully, in most cases it appears it was the Gators backing off.

This is interesting, because right now the Gators only have one recruit signed in 2021, guard/wing Kowacie Reeves Jr.

On one hand, not attempting to sign too many players makes some sense considering the Gators don’t know how many scholarships they’ll have available. They don’t stand to graduate any players this year, so any scholarships opening up would be due to players leaving to go pro or transferring. Keyontae Johnson and Scottie Lewis are heavily expected to go with Tre Mann also sitting in that mix but the Gators can’t say for sure how much space they’ll have to bring in new players in 2021. Not trying to bring a bunch of high school recruits to campus might suggest the Gators think one or two of Johnson, Lewis, and Mann could be coming back. However, the Gators have never been shy in signing more players than scholarships that looked to be opening up, something that has always ended up helping them when out-transfers eventually take place.

That might be the case, but what if it was something different. What if the Gators were getting ready for what might be the biggest shift in recruiting in, dare I say, the history of college basketball?

Given the events of the last six months or so this has kind of been swept under the rug, but according to multiple sources around the country (some of which are within the NCAA) it is widely expected that after the 2020-21 season the “one-time transfer rule” will be put into place. This rule would give every player in college basketball the opportunity to transfer from one program to another without the penalty of a mandatory redshirt year. Transfers being instantly eligible would change the landscape of college basketball in an absolutely profound way as the blueprint to building a winning team would drastically change. Recruiting transfers has already become a major part of the winning strategy for high major teams, something the Gators have utilized to the fullest extent, and if the one-time transfer rule goes in for 2021-2022 it will become even more important.

Most people think it’s going to go through, so why wouldn’t you prepare for it?

The Gators, by not taking a bunch of 2021 recruits, are going to be uniquely positioned for the change as they’ll likely have one, or two, or three scholarships available for instantly available transfers. If Johnson, Lewis, and Mann go pro the one-time transfer rule would allow the Gators to stay instantly relevant as those scholarships could go to proven college basketball veterans versus young players that will need to develop.

Shockingly, when you look across the college basketball landscape you don’t see many teams leaving space open on their 2021 rosters which is somewhat baffling considering so many people think the one-time transfer rule is coming. The shift from trying to pad recruiting classes with as many stars as possible to leaving space open for transfers appears to be difficult for older coaches who are set in their ways and their typical team building routine but the Gators might be ahead of the curve when it comes to the future of college basketball.

Of course, this could all be coincidence, and perhaps the Gators just didn’t like a lot of the talent in the 2021 class and didn’t want to hitch their wagon to players they didn’t think would fit the program. Or, maybe they don’t think they’ll have that many vacancies. That could very well be the case, but it’s worth acknowledging that they might be one of the smartest and forward-thinking staffs in the country preparing for a seismic shift in college basketball. If the one-time transfer rule is put in place it’s going to be the high-major teams with room set to benefit and the Gators have put themselves in that position. Whether or not it was totally intentional we don’t exactly know, but something tells me this staff might quietly be doing something brilliant that we aren’t seeing from many teams in the country.

Eric Fawcett
Eric hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His blend of sports and comedy has landed his words on ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @Efawcett7.