Gator Country May Basketball Q&A Part Two

Now that the transfer portal has settled and we’re well into the offseason it’s time for another Gator Country members Q&A series!

As is always the case, I’ll be taking questions from Gator Country members on the Full Court Press basketball board. If people continue to ask questions these articles will continue, so it’s not too late to ask a question if you’re a member or join Gator Country today to submit a question.

If you haven’t yet read part one, you can do so here

Here’s part two:


67walkon: Will Walter Clayton and Will Richard be pretty much the same as last year or do they have room for improvement?


Great question, and here’s where I have to give an answer that people won’t totally love.

There has been a mountain of research done in college basketball on the topic of player development and growth through four year careers, and the findings match what anecdotally seems to be true as well:

Generally, and I mean GENERALLY (it’s still not an absolute) the biggest leaps in production in college basketball happen after a player’s freshman season, and a slightly smaller jump happens after the sophomore season. By the time a player is in his junior season, it’s fairly rare for them to make significant leaps before their senior year.

What this would suggest is that the Gators shouldn’t be expecting these two guys to suddenly add a bunch to their game and make massive improvements. Of course, these two are already great players and even if they didn’t make huge improvements they’d be extremely valuable SEC starters and it’s important to note that suggesting they won’t take a huge step isn’t an insult by any means. The difference between a player being 18-20 has historically been massive in college basketball, but one year older from 21 to 22 usually doesn’t suggest some kind of leap, and oftentimes players are who they are by the time they are finishing their junior season. 


I think that Clayton and Richard will get better at a few areas such as ball handling and defensive rotations, but I don’t think they will be the kind of results that you can look at and say they took huge leaps. And that is completely fine! These are already great players. However, Florida brought in a lot of defensive players from the portal and are hoping these two will bring even more offensively, and I personally am not sure that will happen. 


Johnagator: How deep will we be off of the bench? Who gets meaningful minutes and who doesn’t?

Talking about depth in college basketball is always kind of funny to me as it seems every team likes their depth in the offseason, but by the time it gets to February pretty much every team only has 8-9 guys they trust. It’s just how things work. Look back at the last, man, 8 years of Florida basketball, and there are a lot of years where depth was being praised in the offseason only to have players 8 through 13 give absolutely nothing in a big SEC game down the stretch.

I mentioned the starting lineup the staff is predicting in the first Q&A, but to reiterate this is the expected starting five:


Walter Clayton
Alijah Martin
Will Richard
Alex Condon
Rueben Chinyelu

In this scenario the three main players off the bench would be Sam Alexis, Thomas Haugh, and Denzel Aberdeen. In terms of depth these are three solid players–but I don’t think you can look across the SEC or the high-major landscape and say this is a tremendous bench group.

It’s also not a particularly balanced bench. One guard and two forwards isn’t the kind of balance you’d conventionally like to have, and it could force Haugh into some wing minutes.

This is where we can be reminded that the Gators still do have roster spots available, and perhaps some holes could be plugged.

Right now I wouldn’t say depth is a strength for the Gators, but I’ve always been someone who has thought depth is overrated in college basketball. It’s not useless by any means–it’s still great to have, but it’s almost always the team with the best five players that wins a game and not the team with the best 6-13 man bench rotation. Right now the Gators have a lot of eggs in the starters basket, and they might go as far as those guys can take them. 


Louisville_Gator: Do analytical metrics see this roster, as it is currently constructed, as an overall upgrade from last year?


To frame this question, let’s start by establishing just where we thought last year’s team was in the national landscape. According to the NET, the NCAA’s official sorting tool, the Gators were 29th in the country. According to KenPom, the most popular analytics tool (that the NCAA Selection Committee also uses), the Gators were 26th in the country. I think that using either of these numbers is fair so if you want to call the Gators the 29th best team in the country last year or the 26th, both are reasonable. Let’s (roughly) average these two numbers and say the Gators were the 27th best team in the country last year, which I think most reasonable people can agree with give or take a couple spots.


Right now the best tool for evaluating rosters for the 2024-25 season is Barttorvik. When all rosters are updated, T-Rank sees the Gators as…


…the 29th best team.


Truthfully, I thought the Gators would even be lower. Zyon Pullin and Tyrese Samuel were tremendous players, and I’m not entirely sure the talent that has currently been landed from the portal amounts to the production that went out the door.

On the other hand, the talent coming in the door is set to make the Gators a lot better defensively and that’s something that analytic tools just simply aren’t built to evaluate at a high level right now. So, if you wanted to make an argument that you think the Gators are a better team going into 2024-25 you could use the defensive argument, but it’s also pretty easy to look at the offensive side of things and see that the Gators don’t appear to have completely recovered the outgoing production.

Donnell: How do you see UF finishing out the roster? More transfers, or maybe a kid from Europe? 


There still are some impact players available in the transfer portal but with a lot of teams still having spots available, those players are going to command well above market value from an NIL standpoint and the Gators may not be willing to do that. I do think the Gators still get a player from the portal, but I think it’s going to be someone on the younger side with multiple years of eligibility remaining to be a bit of a program piece as opposed to someone who will really help this upcoming season.

I am also expecting an international player. You simply can’t have recruiting discussions right now without discussing NIL, and the fact of the matter is that there are extreme bargains available when it comes to international players and filling out the roster with an international piece makes a lot of sense from a roster building standpoint as opposed to a domestic player. There are still several impact recruits in the NBA Academies (such as Australia, where Florida got Alex Condon) and there are always excellent players in club programs such as Kajus Kublickas who was playing in the Zalgiris system, the top club in Lithuania. There isn’t as much of a time crunch when it comes to getting international players, so the Gators could take their time here and get someone they really like.


Thanks for your questions, and if you’ve got more feel free to post them on the Full Court Press message board!

Eric Fawcett
Eric is a basketball coach and writer from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His work has been found at NBA international properties, 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 @ericfawcett_.