Gators In Final Two Schools For Walter Clayton

Florida is closing in on one of the best transfer portal targets in the country, Iona’s Walter Clayton. 


On Thursday morning, the candid Clayton said he was “basically” down to St. John’s and Florida, adding “It’s really just between St. John’s and Florida, to be honest. My mind is either going back down south or coming with Coach P.”

Coach P, in this situation, is Rick Pitino. Pitino recently took the job at St. John’s and there was a lot of thought that he would bring his best players from the NCAA Tournament Iona team to St. John’s–which includes the talented Walter Clayton. He is certainly considering the possibility of staying in New York, but he has a lot of interest in the Gators as he hails from Lake Wales, Florida, and has expressed a desire to get closer to home. 


This will be a fascinating recruiting battle on a number of levels. You’ve got the coach that Clayton loves in Rick Pitino and you’ve got the hometown school in Florida, both who are going to push to win in the 2023-24 season. Considering that Clayton has said that he is down to the two schools it sounds like he wants to make a decision soon, and that is made more interesting by the fact that he will be taking a visit to the University Of Florida campus this weekend. Sources close to the situation say he’ll make his decision soon after this visit, though Clayton, who has been extremely open about every part of this recruitment, hasn’t actually said when he’ll decide. 


What makes Clayton especially desirable as a transfer is that he just completed his sophomore year at Iona, meaning he will have multiple years of eligibility remaining. Additionally, there is plenty of room for his game to grow after he has already proved that he’s a big-time college basketball player. 


Last year Clayton averaged 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists per game, touching a lot of elements of Iona’s offensive game. He also averaged 2 steals per game, showing what a nuisance he can be on the defensive end. At 6’2” he doesn’t have great length, but he’s muscular at 195 pounds and has the frame of an SEC player. 


At Iona he was mostly a secondary ball handler but was able to play some point as well. It will be interesting to see what role Florida would see him as, but last season he really did his best work away from the ball as a cutter, someone who could attack off ball reversals, or perhaps most notably–as a catch and shoot player. Clayton was one of the best catch and shoot players in the country last season shooting 50% on his catch and shoot threes making him one of the best floor spacing threats in the country. What made him so deadly as a catch and shoot player was that unlike most catch and shoot weapons who are purely shooters and can’t do much else, Clayton is someone more than comfortable driving and making plays with the ball whether as a finisher inside or as a passer.


Clayton’s abilities were on full display in the NCAA Tournament when Iona went up against UConn, one of the best teams in the country. He had 15 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds while shooting 3-6 from three, demonstrating just about everything he can do on the court. 


In addition to the skills he has already shown as a sophomore, he has valuable experience being coached by Rick Pitino, of the greatest minds to ever coach in the college game. Clayton has a lot of talent but he plays the game with intelligence and intent, and it’s easy to project him as an excellent high major player next year.


Right now this is a priority target for the Gators, and if they were to land him early he would be a huge piece to help attract even more talent. It will be hard to pry him away from Pitino who wants him at St. John’s, but the desire to come home to Florida weighs heavily in Clayton’s decision. After his visit to Gainesville this weekend we will hopefully have further updates on the situation.

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_.