Florida's basketball recruiting focus of late has largely been on building a 2014 class to transition the Gators from a loaded 2013-14 roster to an uncertain future. Adding Kevarrius Hayes, a forward from the Class of 2015 who committed to the Gators on Monday night, as first reported by FOX Sports' Evan Daniels, means that Billy Donovan and his staff may be looking at the 2014 and 2015 classes together.
Hayes is listed at 6'9" and 190 pouns by both 247Sports and ESPN ($), is an ESPN 60 player in the 2015 class, checking in at No. 58. His impressive wingspan appears to be in the range of Al Horford's, despite Hayes just finishing his sophomore year of high school, and his athleticism is evident in this video.
But the name that comes up most often as a comparison for Hayes, who attends Live Oak's Suwannee High School and plays his AAU basketball with Nike Team Florida, is current Florida player Will Yeguete, and that seems to me to signal that Hayes is higher on energy and defensive intensity than polish. A scouting report from ESPN's Reggie Rankin ($) that calls him an "excellent shot-blocker" and a "relentless rebounder" without mentioning his ability to score except on putbacks and in transition backs that up.
But Hayes obviously won't be at Florida until about 48 months from now, and that's obviously a lot of time to improve. His commitment also gives the Gators a high-potential building block who could grow into one of the best post players in the 2015 class if his offensive game develops. Hayes holds a 3.0 GPA, and told Rankin he wants to be a doctor, so he surely knows that adding to his game may help him forestall that medical career.
Moreover, Hayes adds another name to the future rotations for Billy Donovan. Florida can count on Hayes, Class of 2014 point guard Chris Chiozza, and rising sophomores Michael Frazier, Dillon Graham, and DeVon Walker in 2015, but has no assurances that any of the other players currently on Florida's roster or incoming freshmen Kasey Hill and Chris Walker will still be around. (And Frazier's stock might well rise to the realm where leaving early for the NBA Draft makes sense.)
Because of that projection, which makes Hayes the Gators' only true frontcourt player locked up for the far future, and because Florida's been burnt on its recruitment of big men with the loss of local player Joel Embiid to Kansas and the decommitment of Schuyler Rimmer, it's critical that Donovan goes out and gets players like Hayes, even if it means locking them up very early. And it doesn't hurt that Hayes' Nike Team Florida team has long been a Florida pipeline, sending Yeguete, Scottie Wilbekin, Chandler Parsons, Nick Calathes, Walter Hodge, and DeVon Walker up to Gainesville, nor that big-time 2015 point guard Haanif Cheatham is on that team, too.
Florida probably likes what it sees in Hayes, and teams can never have too many active rebounders and shot-swatters. But Hayes' commitment, like Chiozza's before it, is as much about Billy Donovan's vision for the future of the Gators as it is about the players making the commitment. And with Donovan now offering and taking commitments from players who would theoretically graduate from Florida in 2019, it seems likely that the man who has become synonymous with the Gators of the hardwood is planning on being in Gainesville for many years to come.