Michael Frazier II's surprising decision to leave Florida for the 2015 NBA Draft — which is still unconfirmed by Florida or Frazier, but now being reported by five different outlets — leaves the Gators in a bit of a pinch as far as shooting and scoring are concerned in 2015-16 and beyond.
Frazier was unquestionably going to be Florida's first or second option in 2015-16, and would have been expected to lead the team (and perhaps lead it in scoring) as the only four-year senior on the roster. Without him, Florida is projected to have just one player who has averaged better than 10 points per game or shot better than 40 percent from three in a college basketball season — and that player, Dorian Finney-Smith isn't a lock to stay, either.
If Finney-Smith departs, Florida could enter the season with no such players on its roster, and just one player, Eli Carter, who has filled the basket to the tune of more than 10 points per game in his career. (Carter would be three years, one broken leg, and a host of other maladies removed from his second such season at Rutgers.) It would be a strange, strange existence.
And it would also fix Florida's scholarship logjam.
When Arkansas combo guard KeVaughn Allen committed to Florida on May 1 of last year, I noted (with knowledge of Jon Horford's impending, but unannounced, transfer) that Florida was projected to commit its maximum 13 scholarships for the 2014-15 season, and, in Allen, would be projected to do the same for 2015-16.
Since then, several things have happened to change the scholarship calculus.
At first, the numbers kept piling up. By the end of May 2014, Florida had announced Horford's transfer, John Egbunu's transfer, and the departure of Damontre Harris. In August 2014, Noah Dickerson committed to Florida. In October 2014, Keith Stone committed to Florida — meaning that Florida, for all appearances, had 16 scholarships committed for the 2015-16 season.
But in November, Dillon Graham decided to transfer, dropping Florida's projected outlay to 15 scholarships. And when Florida added Stanford transfer Schuyler Rimmer in December, it was as a preferred walk-on, meaning no scholarship would need to be allocated.
And now, Frazier's decision to go pro has brought Florida back down to a reasonable projection of 14 scholarships for the 2015-16 year.
Florida Gators Projected Basketball Scholarships
|6.||Michael Frazier II||Hill||Hayes||Mooney|
|9.||Jon Horford||C. Walker||Stone|
|10.||Alex Murphy||D. Walker||C. Walker|
|11.||Devin Robinson||KeVaughn Allen||D. Walker|
|12.||Chris Walker||Noah Dickerson||John Mooney|
|13.||DeVon Walker||Kevarrius Hayes|
Florida needs just one more departure to make its 2015-16 roster a perfect 13 scholarship players deep to get under the NCAA's limit, and the prevailing theory all year has been that Chris Walker would leave for the NBA after his sophomore season. His announcement of his return to Gainesville last April ended with the phrase "for one more year" — a clear indication to many that Walker, then projected as a potential NBA lottery pick, was going pro after two years in orange and blue.
But Walker's well-documented struggles in 2014-15, when he earned fewer starts and minutes than walk-on Jacob Kurtz, and only rarely found a consistent level of effort or play, have damaged his NBA stock considerably, leading many to think he might be best served by a return to school, even if he may still command a serious look based on his potential alone.
"When I go to the NBA, I want to go and actually play," Walker told Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix earlier this year. "I don’t want to sit or play in the D-League."
The more logical departure might be one by Finney-Smith, who blossomed into Florida's go-to player late last season, and especially in Frazier's absence. He led the Gators in scoring, rebounding, and three-point accuracy, and despite issues with turnovers, playing defense without fouling, and showing touch at the line, Finney-Smith was usually the best player on the floor for Florida during their dismal campaign.
And while Walker won't turn 21 until December, Finney-Smith turns 22 in May, and has a young child to factor into his decision-making process. If he stays, he will be 23 at the time of the 2016 NBA Draft — and just four players 23 or older (Doug McDermott, Adreian Payne, Shabazz Napier, and C.J. Wilcox) were taken in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft.
Regardless: Either Florida isn't going to bring in the entirety of its 2015 recruiting class, or will have another departure from its current roster. And the latter is more likely: KeVaughn Allen, who didn't sign a National Letter of Intent in the fall, and was hotly pursued by Arkansas, would the most likely defector, though worries about his commitment status are overblown (Allen retweeted the linked tweet); Keith Stone, who also didn't sign a National Letter of Intent last fall, is as solid as a commit as they come.
It would seem likely that neither player signed in the fall, while Noah Dickerson and Kevarrius Hayes did, to allow for attrition that permits Florida to announce its entire class at once ... which means at least one other Gator won't be back.
And so we just have to wait for the other shoe to drop to know the full composition of Florida's 2015-16 roster. But Frazier hanging up his orange and blue Nikes does, at least, make the picture clearer.