News broke this week that big man Isaiah Stokes would be leaving the Gators men’s basketball program following his two years in Gainesville. Originally a four-star recruit in the 2017 his departure now means the Gators are without any players remaining from that class as Chase Johnson, Michael Okauru, and Deaundrae Ballard have also left.
Stokes’ two years at Florida saw him redshirting to start, rehabbing nagging injuries from high school and working on keeping his weight down to a manageable playing level. When he was able to play in his second year weight problems still plagued him and kept him from getting a regular spot in the rotation. When he was able to get on the floor he flashed some moments of brilliant touch on the inside but also struggled in the defensive and rebounding aspects of the game. While his flashes of finishing on the inside were great he never developed offensive consistency and his scoring was never efficient enough to make up for the deficiencies in other aspects of his game.
Sources tell me the decision for the Gators and Stokes to part ways had elements relating to disagreements both on and off the court. Stokes’ well-known weight issues were a constant battle between him and the coaching staff and it was getting to a point where it was difficult to see how he could earn a regular shift. With Kerry Blackshear Jr. committing to the Gators the front court was extremely loaded and for Stokes I imagine it was difficult to see when he would ever get big minutes in future. Dontay Bassett was ahead of him in the depth chart last season and the return of Gorjok Gak from injury likely puts another player ahead of him. Of course, that doesn’t even factor in the newcomers Omar Payne and Jason Jitoboh who will be battling for minutes.
While this may come as a surprise to some there had been rumblings of the relationship between Stokes and the coaching staff souring for some time and while chances were given to mend the issues they could never fully be addressed. A fresh start is probably what’s best for Stokes and he’ll now be looking for a new home.
With Stokes gone a scholarship has opened up and the Gators’ number one, and perhaps only target is Cleveland State’s Tyree Appleby, a sit one play two point guard transfer who lit up the Horizon League with a potent offensive game. While he obviously wouldn’t be able to play in the upcoming season he’s a great talent at the point guard spot who would help solidify the position in 2020-21 when Andrew Nembhard will almost certainly head to the NBA Draft.