The Florida Gators will now begin to prepare for next season, after suffering a 69-66 loss to the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. One of the biggest storylines for the Gators is how they will handle life after Chris Chiozza, as their star point guard is set to graduate. As it’s never too early to look forward, Armchair takes a look at how the Gators roster could play out next season.
It’s no secret the Gators are going to be without a great player in Chiozza, as he leaves the program as the all-time leader in assists. Chiozza will fondly be remembered for his constant effort on the court along with memorable clutch moments. A big question for the Gators entering next season is who will be the teams point guard or primary ball-handler, having multiple options of returning players.
"I'm glad I chose to come here and stay here with the coaching change. It was probably the best decision I made in my whole life" – Chris Chiozza#OneTeam 🐊🏀 pic.twitter.com/s1iabjoz8Y
— Gators Men’s Basketball (@GatorsMBK) March 20, 2018
Forward Egor Koulechov’s time in Gainesville has come to an end, as the Russian graduate transfer played a key role to some of Florida’s success’ this season. The sharp shooter arrived in fashion, scoring 34 points in the season opener, becoming a fan-favorite from the start. The Gators would’ve hoped to have Koulechov for more than one year the way he performed, but certainly appreciate his efforts during his one season.
Lastly, is John Egbunu. Egbunu, the team’s center who didn’t suit up a single game this year due to recovering from a torn ACL, is now out of eligibility. However, Egbunu could apply for a medical-redshirt, which could grant him another year of eligibility. With that being said, I find it unlikely Egbunu does so, ending his time with the Gators.
Who Will Be Back
As it stands now, the Gators are set to return 10 players from this seasons roster. However, a few key decisions could change the narrative of the Gators success next year.
Junior guard Jalen Hudson will have to make the crucial decision to either return for his senior year, or forego and enter the NBA Draft. Hudson, who was the Gators leading scorer with 15.5 points per game, could see his production increase even more if he were to come back for one more year. Hudson is another key storyline for the Gators offseason, as everyone in Gainesville would love to see the lethal scorer sporting the orange and blue for one more season.
Junior KeVaughn Allen is another player potentially facing the decision to forego his final year of eligibility, but after a season where he underperformed most expectations, he should return the Gators backcourt next season. If Allen does return, he could potentially assume the role of the Gators main ball-handler on offense and hopefully find his groove again.
Others returning include forward Keith Stone, who saw his production increase this season, and should play an even larger role next year. The Gators also return big-men Kevarrius Hayes and Gorjok Gak, who will anchor the frontcourt with Stone. Freshmen role players Mike Okauru and Deaundrae Ballard will look to develop more and handle bigger roles. Another player to look out for is Isaiah Stokes, the freshmen forward who sat out the whole season nursing a torn ACL from when he was in high school. The 270 pounder offers an excellent mid-range game while having the ability to post up in the paint.
Who Is Coming to Campus
The Gators currently hold the 17th ranked recruiting class for 2018 per 247sports, featuring 3 top-100 recruits. Florida’s 2018 class is currently the highest ranked class under head coach Mike White, who just concluded his third season as coach.
The Gators have already received letters of intent from 5-star point guard Andrew Nembhard and shooting guard 4-star Noah Locke. Nembhard, who played at powerhouse Montverde Academy in Florida, is ranked as the 26th overall player in the country, and the 6th ranked point guard. Standing at 6’4, Nembhard is a lengthy guard with a high basketball IQ and playmaking skills.
The Maryland native Locke is ranked as the 69th overall player in the country, and 12th at his position. Locke is great 3-pointer, offering deep range. With the addition of Locke, the Gators add another scorer to the fold. Along with Nembhard and Locke, the Gators have a commitment from 4-star Keyontae Johnson, the 80th ranked player in the country. The forward from West Virginia is a freak-athlete, at 6’5 and 190 pounds.
The Gators are losing some key players to its program, but are returning the bulk of their roster and adding some top high school talent, which should make for another competitive team and hopefully a more successful season.