Gators In Final Five Schools For Xzavier Malone-Keys

Always looking to bolster their roster through the transfer wire the Gators have found themselves in the unique race for 6’4” guard Xzavier Malone-Keys, who often went by Xazvier Malone on media guides.

Malone started his career at Rider before transferring to Fairleigh Dickinson where he spent two seasons. Throughout the offseason he was expected to stay there for his fifth and final year, but in somewhat bizarre fashion he put his name into the transfer portal mere hours before Fairleigh Dickinson began their season. Even in these bizarre times that’s a rather uncommon occurrence for a player, but he found himself deciding Fairleigh Dickinson wasn’t for him.

Given how this year doesn’t count towards a player’s eligibility, transferring midseason makes some sense. Malone is also technically a grad transfer, meaning he will be instantly available without having to worry about what has been a lengthy waiver process recently. Gaining a boost from a fifth-year guard in the middle of the season is rather unheard of and Malone is set to shore up the depth of whichever team he decides on.

A 6’4” guard, Malone is primarily a scorer who loves using ball screens to get into space before deploying his smooth pull up game. In his last season at Fairleigh Dickinson these were his numbers:

12.3 Points
2.0 Assists
3.3 Rebounds
1.7 Turnovers
0.5 Steals
48.1% FG
34.9% 3P
66% FT

Truthfully, his numbers don’t jump off that page at you, particularly when you factor in the competition. Fairleigh Dickinson is in the Northeast Conference, a low-major league that is perennially one of the worst in the country. He definitely didn’t dominate that league from an offensive numbers standpoint, but watching his game there are things to like.

Malone is a smooth operator as a scorer in pick and roll who can use changes of speed to disorient defenders and get space. He probably loves his midrange pull up jumper a little bit too much but he shows nice touch in that area and at 6’4” with a high release can get it up against a lot of defenders. If defenders close hard to him he’s able to evade them and get to the hoop where he’s a great finisher converting 57% of his contested layups a year ago.

Defensively Malone isn’t an elite stopper but plays solid positional basketball that comes from being a veteran player. As an older veteran he has clearly grown to understand the defensive side of basketball and knows how to make up positionally for his athletic limitations.

Last week he put out a final five list of Florida, Georgia, Oregon State, North Texas, and Montana. A week prior he put out an initial final list of schools that didn’t include Florida or Georgia but clearly something changed as they both entered the mix. Georgia is considered to be the favorite here, though a source tells me the Gators are still very much in the hunt.

At this point you may be wondering about space. The Gators currently do not have an open scholarship for Malone, but there is a chance one opens up. Word of a player transferring out has been floating around since the beginning of the season, and obviously if he were to take off there would be a space to possibly take Malone.

Truthfully, Malone doesn’t project to be an impactful SEC player. He didn’t dominate in the NEC and therefore it’s unlikely he’d be fantastic in the SEC. However, he’s a veteran 6’4” guard and if he were to come to Florida he’d find a place in the rotation. It’s not often you can bring in fifth year players off the bench and if that’s a role he’s looking to accept in order to play at a program like Florida the relationship could work. Additionally, he may be able to transfer again without penalty of a redshirt next year since he is a graduate transfer (the rules on this are still murky with the NCAA giving a blanket year of eligibility back to everyone who plays this year) so if he’s looking for a one-year stop to evaluate things what better place to do it then Florida.

Malone is set to make his decision on December 18th, so that is a date to be aware of.

It must be acknowledged that writing about purely basketball happenings during the ongoing situation with Keyontae Johnson feels rather strange, and this is in no way meant to divert attention away from it. We continue to keep Keyontae in our prayers as we hope for positive news.

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.