The September 3rd-5th weekend is a huge one for the football team as they finally get to kick off their season but it might be just a big for the basketball program who will be using the festivities as a chance to get two major recruits from the class of 2022 on campus for visits.
With the Gators landing skilled 6’8” forward Malik Reneau earlier in the week, they’re now in a position to build on their momentum. Some players can have reservations about being the first to commit to a class, but now that the Gators have a well known name who is on the cusp of 5-star status they can sell the foundation of the class to future recruits who will undoubtedly want to play with other great players.
In this case, the two names are Noah Clowney and Justyn Fernandez, two players the Gators have made a priority over the last several months.
Noah Clowney is a physical 6’9” post player, someone who looks ready to step into college tomorrow and contribute. Whether it be his muscular build or the mobility he already displays to switch out and handle the occasional matchup with a guard, it’s easy to imagine him stepping into a role right away when he enters college. He might be best served at the center position, though he could likely handle the duties at power forward as well. If the Gators were to land Clowney they can see a tremendous front court pairing in the future with him next to Reneau. Reneau has a bit more skills with the ball and is a bit smaller making him the likely power forward of the future, while Clowney’s superior size and physicality makes him the better fit at center. That would be an incredible pairing, one that I’m sure the Gators are dreaming of and also using to sell Clowney on.
According to the recruiting composite, Clowney is the 73rd ranked player in the class, though he has been on a steady upward trajectory and there is no reason to think he won’t rise even higher.
Florida is currently on his list of final four schools alongside Indiana, Virginia Tech, and Alabama. He has already visited Indiana and will complete visits with the other two schools later in September.
Considering the fact that he still has official visits planned, Clowney probably isn’t ready to make his commitment, but this could be the Gators’ final chance at really selling him on coming to Florida. Many consider the Gators to be in the top two of this recruitment alongside Alabama who has been absolutely dominant on the recruiting trail in the Nate Oats era.
The Gators will likely try to sell Clowney on the recent success of Colin Castleton and Kerry Blackshear, while also pointing out the available minutes given that Colin Castleton, Keyontae Johnson, and Anthony Duruji likely won’t be on the roster in 2022 opening up a lot of possible playing time. Selling Clowney on a frontcourt pairing with Malik Reneau wouldn’t hurt either.
Justyn Fernandez is the other player the Gators have on campus. He is a very interesting player, the kind that is very polarizing in the views of recruiting analysts. 247 Sports has him as the 48th ranked player in the class, while the other services have him well into the 100’s. That rounds out to a composite ranking of the 119th ranked player in the class, though it appears he could be much better or perhaps not as good as that number would suggest.
What makes him so polarizing is the fact that he is a big time scorer, but one that doesn’t necessarily provide a lot else. So, some people, like the folks at 247, would look at scoring as the most valuable skill on the court and say he’s a top 50 guy. Others have looked at him and think his lack of playmaking or a perceived lack of effort on defense hurt his ranking.
Even the scouts that are lowest on Fernandez think he’s a top 175 player, meaning everyone thinks he is clearly a guy with at least some level of upside. At 6’5” he can get his shot off against most defenders, something that has made for some fantastic highlights. His pull up game was lethal on the grassroots basketball circuit and his stepback to the left followed by a drained three became a bit of a signature play for him.
There is also some clear explosiveness he showed on the fast break and on a few backdoor dunks in the half court, so all around you can see why Florida is intrigued.
The Gators have been devoid of length on the wings recently and that is something they definitely need to change, perhaps starting with Fernandez. They’re also set to lose some of the veteran wings on the roster that came over as graduate transfers so there will be an opportunity to sell Fernandez on some minutes right away.
He recently put out a final schools list that consisted of Florida, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Boston College, George Mason, Providence, Rhode Island, Clemson, NC State, and Wake Forest.
Florida is considered to be in a good place here, and objectively speaking they have done better on the recruiting trail recently than a lot of the other programs after Fernandez.
With so many schools still remaining on his list and more visits planned he’s also not likely to make a decision this weekend, but the Gators could solidify their position in his recruitment.
Something that potentially helps the Gators is that Fernandez is from Virginia where they have landed a few players recently, and he is going to play his senior season at nearby IMG Academy. With UF being close to IMG the Gators will be able to check in regularly and he would be able to make a number of unofficial visits to campus.
He’s not going to be on campus this weekend but Jayden Pierre is a name to be aware of in recruiting news. Florida made his list of final schools alongside Minnesota, Xavier, and Providence, and he may be announcing soon. Pierre is a 6’1” point guard on the mould of ball handlers that Mike White really likes–smaller, speedy guards who can pressure the basketball defensively. Pierre, from Long Island, hasn’t been a huge name on the recruiting trail but some scouts have really liked what they have seen from him, declaring him around the 180th best player in the class. Florida would love to add multiple point guards to their roster in 2022 (likely not all from the high school class) and it would make sense if they landed a veteran transfer to handle the starting role with someone like Pierre backing them up and developing.
This is a big weekend for Florida recruiting and Noah Clowney and Justyn Fernandez are two names you might be hearing a lot more of soon.