Gators May Look At Young Big To Fill Roster

When it comes to 2021 high school recruiting the Gators were never all that aggressive.


Well, with Kowacie Reeves they certainly were, making the 6’6” wing a priority for a year and a half as they knew the ball handling, slashing, shot making phenom was the guy they needed to add a boost of high end talent and length to their roster. Reeves was always a player Florida coveted and aggressively pursued, but past him there weren’t that many targets the Gators went after.


That was largely for two reasons, which were somewhat connected. Florida wasn’t going to take a player in 2021 in case they were certain they’d be a contributor for the Gators, a lesson they had learned from the past six years of recruiting where some of the players they took a bit of a flyer on didn’t work out and occupied scholarships that could have been used in much more productive ways. The second reason was that Florida correctly anticipated that one-time transfer rule coming into effect which they have capitalized on massively with the additions of CJ Felder, Brandon McKissic, Phlandrous Fleming, and Myreon Jones. While Florida’s high school recruiting resume has been a bit spotty in the Mike White era, their transfer record has been spot on and you can tell that the Gators preferred proven production and experience over youth and star ratings as they built their 2021-22 roster. 


Right now the Gators have one available scholarship remaining and one that’s a little bit up in the air. Keyontae Johnson has made it known he’s eyeing a return, so for the time being we’ll say that scholarship is filled, though as I mentioned that one might be a bit up in the air. The Gators do have one open scholarship in addition to that, and right now they’ve had a bit of trouble filling it. For most transfers there is one thing they’re looking for over just about anything else–minutes. While the Gators can pitch a talented roster, a great school, and a history of success with transfers, they can’t exactly pitch minutes and a big role to a potential transfer. Between the successful returning players and the established incoming transfers there likely isn’t a starting spot available to a player that could be landed these days so Florida isn’t in a great position to sell to prospective players.


Certainly Florida would love to land another experienced transfer as that appears to be the way they’re looking to build their roster now, as is the case with many high major teams, but right now it’s looking like Florida’s last remaining scholarship could go to a young player, quite possibly a 2021 recruit. 


One name that’s a possibility is 6’10” center Bretner Mutumbo, a player originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo but most recently at Hamilton Heights in Tennessee. 


Florida actually offered Mutumbo a long time ago, and I mean a really long time. We’re talking May of 2018, back when Mutumbo was playing in Georgia at Lincoln Academy Prep. Back then his physical gifts were apparent as a bouncy 6’10” shot blocking, rebounding monster–the type of player that almost always ends up as a four or five star recruit heading to the high major ranks. 


However, Mutumbo’s high school career didn’t take the exact trajectory that many expected. He played well at Lincoln Academy Prep which led to him transferring to Hamilton Heights, a traditional basketball powerhouse. There he has been solid, but not quite the player that many expected he might become. 


Mutumbo was always a bit raw, the kind of player who relied on his physical tools. Teams have been waiting for his offensive game to develop as he gets more basketball experience but the growth curve has been slower than expected.


He has had some high major interest, most recently from Pittsburgh, but not exactly the fanfare that followed him when he was an intriguing 6’10” sophomore. Currently he is the 267th ranked player in the class, though his offers from East Tennessee State and Georgia State might suggest that ranking could even be a bit high. 


Florida has always stayed in touch, and given their roster situation it might make sense for them to take a bit of a project big man in Mutumbo. Right now the team is thinking Colin Castleton will return (though I think that is far from a certainty) and Jason Jitoboh has looked like he could be a quality backup, so long as he gets healthy. It’s unlikely they’d be able to land an established big who would want to enter that crowded rotation, so landing Bretner Mutumbo and letting him develop behind those guys would make some sense. 


Big men are tough to find in college basketball, as evidenced by just how sought after every center that enters the portal is. Florida hasn’t exactly had success developing big men, but if they think Mutumbo is a player with potential he might be a good use of their final scholarship.


As mentioned earlier, the schools most after Mutumbo right now are Pittsburgh, East Tennessee State, and Georgia State. Those programs could offer him a role right away, something Florida wouldn’t be able to do, but the Gators might be able to sell him on getting to a good team and getting a chance to develop while winning. Considering Florida was one of his first offers the Gators could always sell him on the fact they saw potential in him first, something that also might help the sell.


Right now Mutumbo hasn’t made any announcement dates or any lists of final schools. With roster spots getting scooped up across college basketball all the time he might be feeling some sort of rush, and if Florida is interested they might want to move quickly. A big man makes sense from a long term development arc of their roster, though I’m sure the Gators would also love to land a true point guard to back up Tyree Appleby. There are definitely more point guards available than centers, so the Gators may see more of a priority in fortifying their frontcourt. 


As the offseason moves on, Bretner Mutumbo is a name to be aware of. 

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.