Non-conference basketball gives fans an opportunity to see their team play opponents they don’t often see. These unfamiliar matchups make for players you might not have seen play before and might not know much about. Having some background on non-conference opponents can make the matchup more interesting, and knowing what players could be impactful gives you someone you can watch out for from the opening tip. Here are the best players that Florida is going to see in 2023-24 non-conference play.
When you look at players that end up at mid-major schools it’s often players that have high-major talent but might be lacking in some other areas. In the case of Deon Perry you have someone with immense talent and leadership–but just someone who lacks height. Perry is listed at 5’8”, a measurement that might even be a little bit generous. He was a star in the competitive Baltimore high school scene but lacked a lot of offers–essentially due only to his diminutive frame. He came to Loyola Maryland as a freshman in 2022-23 and instantly played a huge role averaging 11.4 points and 2.0 assists per game while hitting 42% of his threes. With the average age in college basketball older than ever it’s hard for freshmen to be impactful at any level and Perry did just that and with another year of experience look for him to lead Loyola Maryland.
With three years at Virginia under his belt, and all three being as a starter, Beekman is the unquestioned leader of the Cavaliers. Not only does he have this role due to experience, but due to his duties as a pass-first point guard who gets his team into the patented blocker-mover offense of Tony Bennett. Beekman doesn’t put up huge scoring numbers at 9.5 points per game, but his impact is felt as a passer where he averaged 5.3 assists last season. He might not be flashy but he’s a confident ball handler that can orchestrate an offense.
The Rattlers were completely gutted by outgoing transfers this past offseason though they were able to keep an important player in 6’6” wing Dimingus Stevens. Stevens actually started his college career at Seton Hall before heading to FAMU and entering his fourth season they’ll need him to shoulder a lot of the offensive load, though he only averaged 8.4 points per game last season. He did shoot 43% from three last season so the Gators will have to be aware of his ability to stroke it from deep.
Coach Leonard Hamilton hasn’t dipped into the transfer portal a ton in recent years but he did enter the market this season to grab Georgetown transfer Primo Spears. Last year he averaged 16.0 points and 5.3 points per game which is no easy task in the Big East–even though Georgetown was dreadful and they needed someone to take a bulk of the shots. The 6’3” guard doesn’t look like what the Seminoles normally have in the backcourt, but perhaps that injection of electricity is what they need considering they have lacked offensive firepower in recent seasons in order to go after size and defense. It is worth noting that Spears has already transferred once in his career from Duquesne to Georgetown and there is a good chance he doesn’t get to suit up for the Seminoles this season.
This will be a familiar name as Hinson played for Ole Miss from 2018-2020. He then transferred to Iowa State where he missed two full seasons due to injury, putting into question if he would ever be able to play college basketball again. He ended up transferring to Pittsburgh and despite not seeing the floor for two years started playing incredible basketball averaging 15.3 points per game while adding 6.0 rebounds. Hinson was largely known as a defensive player while at Ole Miss but has clearly shown his ability to score last season at Pitt where he used his 6’7”, 235 pound frame to play bully ball near the rim. He’s not long but he’s powerful and quick which can create mismatches against slower footed bigs.
Finding diamonds in the rough has been a constant in coach Steve Forbes’ career and it looks like he has another one with English-born Cameron Hildreth. As a freshman the 6’4” guard struggled to see the floor but he took a huge leap as a sophomore in 2022-23 jumping up to 12.3 points per game while adding 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, doing a bit of everything on the court. In addition to being a steady offensive player he’s also a pesky defender who can switch onto bigger players and handle himself physically, adding to his versatile profile.
Jordan Derkack was one of the best freshmen in the NEC last year and he’ll be taking on a lot of responsibility this season with the Warriors losing many of their key starters from a year ago to transfers. Derkack is a wing with good size at 6’5” and he’s particularly effective playing in Merrimack’s patented 2-3 zone which they will play essentially 100% of the time. The zone isn’t an easy thing for a rookie to pick up, so the fact that Derkack thrived immediately speaks to his basketball IQ.
Believe me, you’ll know Quinn when you see him. The senior center from New Jersey will make his presence felt immediately as he comes in at a whopping 7’0” and 280 pounds, something you don’t expect to see from a mid-major big man. While Quinn is capable of asserting himself physically near the rim he’s also able to play on the perimeter as the focus of Richmond’s Princeton offense where he will quarterback the operation and be used as a passer. Averaging 9.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.9 assists last season, Quinn will be asked to take on an even bigger role next season as a top returner.
RJ Felton did something that not a lot of players would do–led his mid-major team in scoring and chose not to hit the transfer portal. Felton averaged 13.8 points last season as a sophomore to lead the Pirates, often with the opposing team putting all their defensive attention on him. This led to Felton not being the most efficient scorer, but East Carolina needed some offensive punch and he was one of the only players able to provide it. At 6’3” he’s a downhill guard that wants to get to the rim whenever he touches the ball and he could put the Gators into foul trouble if they aren’t careful.
This will be another very familiar name to Florida fans as Nkamhoua comes to Michigan after spending four seasons at Tennessee, starting every game of the last two. Nkamhoua is an extremely physical 6’9”, 225 pound forward and he often used that physicality to get under the skin of the Gators in their recent matchups. Getting most of his offensive work done in the paint, Nkamhoua averaged 10.8 points last season in the SEC and his proven track record and experience will make him an effective player for Michigan this season.
A former JUCO star who then went to Coastal Carolina and ended up at Grambling State, Jourdan Smith has seen it all when it comes to college basketball and will need to use that experience to lead his team this year as the top scoring returner. A 6’7” forward, Smith averaged 8.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, and with good length and decent athleticism he’s going to take on some tough defensive matchups against the Gators.
Quinnipiac had one of their best seasons in recent history a year ago finishing third in the MAAC and they bring back an important piece of that team in Matt Balanc. Balanc averaged 12.0 points per game last season after going for 14.6 the year prior–so he has a proven track record of production that Quinnipiac will lean on this upcoming season. A 6’3” guard, Balanc has usually played away from the ball and has been much more scorer than distributor but this year he will look to play a bit more with the ball in his hands to lead the offense.