Gators Land German Big Man Aleks Szymczyk

Ever since coming to the University Of Florida head coach Todd Golden has made it known that he would be looking beyond the borders of the United States to find talent. He had had success with international players at San Francisco and he saw an opportunity to bring big names from overseas to Gainesville to give them an advantage over the SEC who largely is yet to embrace global recruiting. 


Golden was able to accomplish his goal to recruit internationally as German post player Aleks Szymczyk shared posts on his social media confirming that he had committed to the Gators.


According to a source this has been in the works for quite some time, with the only holdup being Szymczyk waiting on information related to his visa. This would make some sense as the Gators had been quiet on the transfer portal front for several weeks, suggesting that they perhaps had an international player ready to commit. Golden had also made it known that he was looking to bolster Florida’s frontcourt depth so the assumption had been that it would be a big man coming over and that’s exactly what happened. 


This fills Florida’s final open scholarship, solidifying the Gators’ roster for the 2022-23 season. 


Szymczyk was most recently in the Pro B league in Germany as well as the International Basketball Academy in Munich. This program has had success sending players to top leagues in Europe and recently had a win sending a player to the high major division one ranks–Stanford’s Oscar da Silva. He wasn’t able to play in many games in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID, and in 2022 playing with professionals in the Pro B league he seldom saw the floor. However, looking at some highlights from workouts you can see why Golden identified him as a high-major talent.


For starters, Szymczyk is built like a high-major center at 6’11” and 240 pounds with a frame that looks big enough to bang with bruising big men and agile enough to slide laterally in pick and rolls. Of course, size and length aren’t everything and it isn’t just his size that makes him an elite prospect. 


At 6’11” his stroke is silky, and in scrimmages he was torching the nets from behind the arc. A few minutes into watching a game and there is no ambiguity surrounding his role–he is a stretch big man. When used in ball screens he would pop to space to turn short passes into open threes and when not in the action he would space for his teammates, drawing defenders out of the paint and capitilizing on opportunities when they left him for a catch and shoot jumper that he made routinely. For a big man his release is certainly quicker than average, something that should help the translation to elite SEC basketball. His makes were pure swishes and he even had the kind of stroke where each miss seemed to touch every part of the rim, almost surprising you when they didn’t fall through the net. 


There were some moments of him putting the ball on the floor for a few dribbles but while he looked comfortable, many of these plays weren’t him threatening defenses with drives to the rim, and that part of his game is likely what needs work. Nearly every post up he got turned into a turnaround fadeaway, confirming that right now his jumper is his first, second, and third option.


While he may need to work on his versatility, his main skill of shooting the rock is honed and he should step into the SEC from day one and be a well above average shooting big man. 


Defensively you can tell Szymczyk takes pride, especially when it comes to blocking shots. His sense of when to rotate over to time his jump with the offensive player was advanced for a young big and he showed solid explosion and length to meet shots at the apex. With his large frame he was also able to wall up and absorb contact from driving wings, another translatable skill he’ll need to show at the SEC level.


In a lot of ways Szymczyk is what you think of when you hear European bigs–he has good size, he plays smart, and he can shoot the ball. This will be a different flavor than Florida has had in their frontcourt in a very long time and it will give another option for Todd Golden and his staff to utilize when crafting game plans. There aren’t a lot of bigs like Szymczyk in the SEC right now and he’ll surprise a lot of teams when he enters games.


Of course, the question now is how much will he play right away. I haven’t been able to confirm this, but Szymczyk is listed on one European basketball publication as being well into 19 years old right now, and he’s got an SEC-ready body and SEC-ready jumper. He’ll likely be able to compete with CJ Felder, Alex Fudge, and Jason Jitoboh for non-Colin Castleton frontcourt minutes, and his skill of three-point shooting could be a clear separator. 


With Florida’s roster now complete, we can look forward to November when the Gators start their season.

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.