Florida guard Eli Carter, who would have been a redshirt senior in 2015-16, will instead transfer from the school, and be eligible immediately, as first reported by CBS Sports's Jon Rothstein and later confirmed by GatorZone's Scott Carter late Monday afternoon.
GatorZone's Carter also passed along Billy Donovan's statement on the matter:
"We appreciate everything that Eli has done in his two years in Gainesville. We all wish him well and will do whatever we can to help him take this next step in his career."
Carter was the leading scorer at Rutgers in both 2011-12 and 2012-13, and transferred from Rutgers to Florida in 2013, then got an NCAA waiver allowing him to play immediately in the 2013-14 season, likely thanks in part to the firing of former Rutgers coach Mike Rice for abuse of his players.
But Carter's Florida career got off to a false start that fall: He played in just the first seven games for the Gators in November 2013, while trying to come back from a broken fibula suffered in a February 2013 game with Rutgers. Carter never played more than 19 minutes in a game that fall, and went a woeful 1-for-14 from the field in his limited action, so the decision was made to redshirt him.
Even after nearly a full year to recuperate and rehabilitate, though, Carter struggled on the floor. After a brilliant 22-point explosion against Miami in Florida's second game of the year, Carter missed five of the Gators' next eight contests, and played poorly — notably in a 2-for-14 outing against Georgetown in the Battle 4 Atlantis — when he did suit up for the Orange and Blue. Carter also recorded an impressively awful Offensive Rating of 20 — meaning that Florida scored 0.2 points per possession with him on the floor — against Connecticut, in the Gators' final non-conference game of the year.
Carter would eventually return to the fullest health he enjoyed at Florida during the Gators' SEC schedule. During that span, he showed flashes of the form that made him a dynamic scorer at Rutgers (his 22-point night against Texas A&M, on a night when Florida got two points combined from fellow guards Kasey Hill and Chris Chiozza, was his best game as a Gator), scoring 9.9 points per game against conference foes, while also occasionally sniping well enough to do things like drop 20 points on just eight shots against Mississippi State.
And yet Carter, like virtually every other player on Florida's 2014-15 roster, combined flashes of brilliance with exasperating spates of poorer performance. Many Florida fans griped about Carter of the course of his career, so I imagine some will feel that a wish has reportedly been granted.
What I had heard for more than a year about Carter, though, is that 2014-15 might have to be his last season of competitive basketball, as a result of injuries accrued during his career. And I firmly believe the Carter we saw at Florida — a scorer forced to become a shooter by his own physical limitations and an offense that prized efficiency, and a square peg in a round hole as a result — was a significantly lesser version of the player who led Rutgers for almost two years.
Transferring obviously allows Carter, who will graduate this week, a final chance to make an fresh mark on college basketball, in a fifth season in five years. And my sense has always been that he's a good guy, just one beguiled and limited by injury. I'll be rooting for him, wherever he goes. (He would make an especially good lead scoring guard for a mid-major, I think.)
But I suspect this move will be mutually beneficial for both parties. And I suspect it may well be easier for me, as a Gators fan, to root for Carter to produce elsewhere, rather than wonder whether his body will allow him to play, or to muse on how his inefficient game would fit within Florida's offense.