Florida's basketball program finally got news fans have been clamoring for for months on Wednesday, as Gators commits KeVaughn Allen and Keith Stone both signed National Letters of Intent to play for Florida.
Kevaughn Allen is officially a Florida Gator. Congrats to him and his Family!!! pic.twitter.com/HEWyghmaSX— NLR BASKETBALL (@johnnyrice22) April 15, 2015
I'm officially a gator and apart of @GatorZoneMBK #GatorNation I'm coming home pic.twitter.com/vHVPGfLqLR— Keith SoSmooth Stone (@Keith_Stone25) April 15, 2015
While Stone had been a lock to eventually put his John Hancock on paper for the Gators, Florida fans had worried about Allen, who was pursued by in-state Arkansas and had visited Tennessee, since his commitment last May. Having both officially in the fold completes this recruiting cycle for Florida, which has the No. 16 class in the country per the 247Sports Composite rankings.
But it also means that attrition is coming.
We laid this out in March, when Michael Frazier II decided to forgo his senior season at Florida and enter the 2015 NBA Draft, but Florida was at its maximum of 13 NCAA-allotted scholarships for the 2014-15 year, and thus needs at least four departures to offset its four arrivals and stay at or below the NCAA limit.
Factoring the departures of Frazier, early-season transfer Dillon Graham, and fifth-year senior Jon Horford gets Florida to 14. Here's the chart showing that again:
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|
In March, we wrote that Dorian Finney-Smith was Florida's most logical departure; instead, he's staying in Gainesville, as Florida announced in early April. So someone else is going to have to go.
Chris Walker, long projected to leave college early for the NBA, is still the most likely candidate to leave. His decision to stay or go has yet to be publicly announced, but, over the course of a season in which he struggled mightily to consistently show more than flashes of his sensational athleticism, internal sentiment has swung from Walker almost certainly leaving to Walker realizing another year of college basketball may be helpful to him, according to sources. That doesn't mean Walker is staying, but it does mean his departure is not the fait accompli it was treated as, here and elsewhere, before the 2014-15 season.
And that puts Florida in a bind. Walker going pro solves the problem of getting to 13 scholarships, sure, but if he's not ready to go, that's a painful pill that he, with his NBA stock is either at or close to its nadir, and the Gators, who would be losing their most athletic big man, would rather not have to swallow.
But Florida may be preparing for more than one departure.
How else can we interpret the Gators hosting Fordham transfer Eric Paschall, the 2015 Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, and showing up on this Jeff Goodman list ($) of potential landing spots for Memphis forward Nick King? Walker leaving would only free up room for Florida's recruiting class; it takes Walker and another player coming off the scholarship rolls for Florida to have room for a transfer player, as well.
A transfer may not actually come to pass, of course; Florida may end up entering the 2015-16 season with 13 of the 14 players currently projected to be on scholarship, if Paschall and/or King and/or any other transfers choose other schools. But Florida even pursuing transfers, when anyone with elementary counting skills and rudimentary knowledge of NCAA rules can tell that there's no room for them at this point, is a signal that there could and very possibly will be room in the near future.
It's also worth noting that, while departures from the program would be the easiest way to create that room, Florida could perhaps convince a player (especially an in-state player who might be eligible for a Bright Futures scholarship) to go on academic scholarship and effectively be a glorified walk-on.
I think that would be a rather iniquitous fate for a college basketball player deserving of an athletic scholarship. But Stanford transfer Schuyler Rimmer, from Boone High in Orlando, is already enrolled at Florida and was part of the team from early January onward, and likely has a situation like this set up for him: Clearly, it's not entirely outside the realm of possibility for a scholarship player to do just that with the Gators.
And, ultimately, the how of Florida facilitating attrition from its scholarship roster is an open question, one we'll have answered in the coming weeks. (The deadline for entering the 2015 NBA Draft is April 26.) With Allen and Stone officially signed, at least on their ends, there's no longer any question the Gators will need to trim.