For the second time in his career at Florida (and arguably the first–Justin Leon was committed to him at Louisiana Tech) Mike White dipped into the junior college level of basketball for the commitment of 6’8” forward Osayi Osifo. Committing to the Gators before his sophomore season at Eastern Florida State College, Osifo was known for explosion when he leaps and a constant motor that keeps him chugging away tirelessly on both ends of the floor.
Some saw this take as a diamond in the rough find by White, a player who didn’t start playing organized basketball until his mid-teens who is quickly improving with every season.
Others, like myself, were a bit skeptical of the take. I have written about that a number of times at Gator Country, with my concerns largely surrounding his lack of polish and his struggles on the defensive end despite prototypical length and athleticism.
In a handful of press conferences since the Gators have gotten back on campus, Coach White has given Osifo glowing reviews. First he talked about his motor and energy level, then his skill set and the fact he’d compete for a good amount of minutes, and finally referencing him as a leader in the most recent press conference.
White’s positivity surrounding Osifo’s game has brought optimism regarding the impact he could have for the Gators, and also gave some support to the side of the argument that he’ll be a valuable piece for the Gators.
To try to get a better idea of what impact he might have for Florida, I decided a great way to predict reasonable expectations for him would be to look at similar JUCO transfers from the past to see what could be expected. JUCO Recruiting (www.jucorecruiting.com) is the industry standard for JUCO player rankings, so those will be the rankings I’ll use to look for comparable players to Osifo.
In their 2020 rankings, Osifo comes in as the 33rd ranked player. Looking back at previous seasons, we’ll look at players ranked between 31-35, accounting for the slight changes in overall talent year to year, and see how players like that have fared. If there are any notable players slightly out of that range, I’ll be sure to take note.
Simply put, if there are a bunch of similarly ranked players in the past to have solid high-major careers then that should suggest Osifo is on the same trajectory. If not, well, you know what we’ll be talking about. Here are the comparable JUCO players and where they transferred from recent years:
Emmanuel Ugboh 6’11” (Tulsa)
James Reese 6’4” (North Texas)
Lony Francis Jr. 6’7” (Arkansas State)
Malik Curry 6’2” (Old Dominion)
Atticus Taylor 6’7” (NC State)
Only one high major player, Atticus Taylor who looks a whole lot like Osifo with a 6’7” frame and 7’1” wingspan. He played a single game for the Wolfpack before getting injured and then never working back into the rotation. He has entered the transfer portal and hasn’t yet found a home.
Kabir Mohammed 6’5” (Missouri State)
Ricky Torres 6’3” (Illinois State
Corey Douglas 6’9” (VCU)
Pat Dembley 6’1” (Boise State)
Tray Boyd III 6’4” (East Tennessee State)
Corey Douglas looks alot like Osifo and he just finished up his second season with VCU, averaging 12 minutes per game as a senior. 3.5 points, 2.5 rebounds per game.
Jorden Duffy 6’3” (North Texas)
LaDarrius Chester 6’2” (Unknown)
Michael Miller 6’3” (North Texas)
Tyree Robinson 6’6” (New Mexico State)
Dinero Mercurious 6’6” (Florida Gulf Coast)
No high major players this year in this range. One of the only JUCO-to-high major transfers this season was 47th ranked Malik Dunbar who had two decent seasons as a role player at Auburn.
C.J Jackson 6’1” (Ohio State)
Shadell Millinghaus 6’3” (Texas Tech)
Daishon Smith 6’1” (Wichita State)
Keanu Pinder 6’8” (Arizona)
Alassane Kah 6’9” (Old Dominion)
Okay, now we have the chance to see some high major players and how they’ve done. C.J. Jackson also happened to play for Eastern Florida State College, something that helps the comparison. He had a solid career, averaging 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. Shadell Millinghaus wasn’t so successful, becoming a 13 game per game player before transferring out of division one. Keanu Pinder was another seldom-used player at 11 minutes per game in two seasons at Arizona, not making much of an impact. Well, at least some life shown for the high major JUCO transfers with Jackson.
Kenan Guzonjic 6’8” (Colorado)
Lorenzo Bonam 6’5” (Utah)
Legend Robertin 7’0” (Clemson)
Payton Pervier 7’0” (Old Dominion)
Conor Clifford 7’0” (Washington State)
More high major transfers, perfect!
Guzonjic played 4 minutes per game, then transferred out of division one. Lorenzo Bonam had a great couple of seasons at Utah, going for 11 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists as a starter. Legend Robertin averaged 5 minutes per game in two seasons at Clemson, and Conor Clifford ended up as a solid 17 minute per game player for Washington State. A few good careers here.
Justin Leon was 25th ranked player in this class, for reference.
Bishop Daniels 6’3” (Rutgers)
Aaron Cheatum 6’7” (Washington State)
Rashaun Stimage 6’8” (DePaul)
Dayshawn Watkins 6’0” (Florida State)
Jaysean Paige 6’2” (West Virginia)
Bishop Daniels had two years as a key player at Rutgers average 8 points per game, but it’s worth noting that he started his career at Miami before having to go JUCO because of grades, not talent (Osifo had no D1 offers). Aaon Cheatum, a wing similar to Osifo, played 6 minutes per game before transferring from D1. Rashaun Stimage, an athlete in Osifo’s mold, was a reliable 16 minute, 5 points, 4 rebounds per game player for DePaul. Dayshawn Watkins–9 minutes per game at FSU before transferring out of D1. Jaysean Paige was perfectly built for the West Virginia press and was a 6th man for Bob Huggins in Paige’s second and final year with the Mountaineers.
As you can see, JUCO players in the same range as Osifo are far from a sure thing. Many don’t go high major, and the ones that do end up playing a small role and perhaps even ultimately leave.
Something I find interesting is that when you look at the JUCO players who did have success it’s mostly either point guards, or 7 footers. The big men’s size seems to translate, and if you’re a small guard who can ball out in JUCO you can probably ball out at the division one level too. However, there are not many forwards who have been able to make the leap, as you can see with all the 6’7”-6’9” players previously listed who didn’t work out. That’s another thing that’s rather concerning about Osifo’s outlook, though it doesn’t tell you everything.
To get some more insight regarding Osifo’s game I reached out to someone who knows junior college basketball more than anyone, Brandon Goble. He’s the CEO of JUCO Advocate, a tremendous resource that NCAA coaches use to scout and reach out to junior college talent. He knows JUCO basketball more than anyone, and here is what he had to say about Osifo.
“Osayi has a unique set of physical gifts that will translate immediately to the next level. He is exceptionally strong and has great length and athleticism. His skill set was developing throughout the year and because of his incredible work ethic it should continue to develop quickly. He will be a tough defender and rebounder from the drop. As his skill set and understanding of the Florida system develops he will contribute more and more to the offense. The new rules allowing an extra year will be a huge benefit to someone like Osayi. Typically a 2 year JUCO player can be under the gun to immediately figure it all out but now that he’ll actually have three years to play, the sky’s the limit for him. He has all the makings to be a high level pro and if he doesn’t achieve that it won’t be for a lack of effort and work.”
He makes a great point in referencing the fact that this season won’t go towards a player’s eligibility. Osifo is still raw, and the extra year could be huge for developing him into a useful player. This upcoming season it’s likely that the Gators won’t be requiring huge production from him, giving him the opportunity to grow his skills and confidence on the court.
Looking at recent history, that extra year could mean all the difference. Looking at these past few seasons picking up junior college forwards in the 30’s of the rankings hasn’t been a particularly viable strategy for high major basketball teams, though Osifo could be different. Everyone who has worked with him raves about his energy level and commitment to get better, and that’s not the case with every junior college player. Though the odds aren’t in his favor he’ll have every opportunity to develop at Florida and ultimately we’ll see if he was a diamond in the rough the Gators were able to find.