Florida snagged two key transfers last week, with Canyon Barry announcing his graduate transfer from the College of Charleston on May 9 and Jalen Hudson announcing a transfer from Virginia Tech on May 11. Both are expected to be fine contributors for Florida, with Barry immediately eligible for a single season, and Hudson eligible for two more beginning with the 2017-18 campaign.
Adding both, adding Gorjok Gak, and getting Devin Robinson back after an NBA flirtation, though, brings Florida to its scholarship limit, even with the departures of DeVon Walker and Brandone Francis-Ramirez.
Let's update our chart.
Florida Gators Projected Basketball Scholarships
|1.||KeVaughn Allen||Allen||Shai Alexander||Alexander|
|2.||Chris Chiozza||Canyon Barry||Allen||Allen|
|3.||John Egbunu||Dontay Bassett||Deaundrae Ballard||Ballard|
|6.||Kevarrius Hayes||Gorjok Gak||Egbunu||Hayes|
|8.||Justin Leon||Eric Hester||Hayes||Stone|
|10.||Devin Robinson||Jalen Hudson||Hudson|
Florida was actually under the 13-scholarship limit entering 2015-16, thanks in large part to the roster instability created when Billy Donovan left for the NBA. But when one-time signee Noah Dickerson decommitted from the Gators in the wake of Donovan's move to Oklahoma City, his spot on the roster wasn't filled, so Rimmer was eventually moved to a full scholarship for the second semester, as Chris Harry wrote last week.
UF is now at its full complement of 13 scholarship players for '16-17, with center Schyuler Rimmer, who was placed on scholarship for the second semester last season, moving back to walk-on status.
That makes it sound as though Florida's puzzle pieces are in place. And it means the Gators might have to get creative.
Alex Murphy still hoping for sixth year
One interesting note buried in Kevin Brockway's write-up on Robinson returning to school from late April is this:
(Florida coach Mike) White said he still hasn't heard whether forward Alex Murphy has been granted a sixth year by the NCAA.
When I first heard about Murphy trying to stick around Gainesville, I wasn't sure if he had a compelling case for a sixth year. His redshirt senior season at Florida was inarguably ended by injuries, yes, but Murphy has played in portions of four collegiate seasons, and would likely have to show that his first freshman year at Duke was spent redshirting because of injury to have a chance at being granted an NCAA waiver.
Then again, I also thought similar things about Jake McGee — and I wrote approvingly of his quest to play a sixth year for the Gators.
There are differences between the two players. Frankly, I thought McGee was more likely to help Florida in 2015 than I think Murphy is to help Florida in 2016-17, which biased me even though it really shouldn't have, and McGee was also a graduate transfer who hadn't gotten his chance to experience even a full month of a fall semester at Florida, while Murphy, who graduated in the fall, has made the SEC Winter Academic Honor Roll twice and has now spent more of his collegiate career at Florida than Duke. McGee had barely gotten a chance to be a Gator, in other words, while Murphy has made much of his significant time in town.
Another difference: I never found the documentable injury history from McGee's freshman year at Virginia that exists for Murphy's. From the Fayetteville Observer's report on his transfer in 2013:
Concussion issues contributed to why he redshirted as a Duke freshman in 2011-12.
Murphy started the first exhibition game that season, played only three minutes in the next one and sustained a head injury before the regular-season opener.
Murphy was soaring in from the right wing during a three-on-two drill when fellow freshman Marshall Plumlee, attempting to draw a charge, stepped outside the restricted area and collided with his classmate. Murphy's body ended up parallel to the ground, and he landed on his head.
Murphy felt out of sorts for three days, and he eventually watched a replay of the fall with team doctors.
"It gave me the willies," he said.
It's somewhat hard to reconcile a concussion keeping Murphy out for an entire season and then having no impact on the rest of his career with the idea that his was a purely medical redshirt. That's a potent piece of evidence in Murphy's favor, and makes me think he really does have a legitimate shot at another couple of semesters in Florida's colors — even if he's already gone through one Senior Night ceremony, doing so with an amusing soundtrack.
If his NCAA waiver is granted, Murphy could certainly attend graduate school at Florida and remain on the team as a walk-on, so long as coaches allow it. I imagine they would: Murphy was spoken of highly as a coach on the bench during his injury-imposed absence from the court this past season, and, at worst, he would be a tall and athletic-ish practice player, far better than an average warm body.
But there's simply no room for him on scholarship at Florida, not with 13 scholarships already allotted and no other attrition likely.
Keeping Murphy on scholarship for yet another year would have prevented Florida from pursuing one of Barry, Gak, or Hudson. And the cold truth is that Murphy likely can't produce the same value for Florida in a more logjammed frontcourt that Barry should as a much-needed shooting guard, nor would his one year be as valuable as Gak's four (or five) or Hudson's two on the floor and three in the practice facility.
If Murphy can get an NCAA waiver for a sixth year, I imagine he can also get one for a graduate transfer, and I really would be surprised if he didn't have at least a few programs interested in him as a scholarship player. (Other teams might be more inclined to take him with an eye on his younger brother, top-150 prospect 2017 forward Tomas Murphy, who was thought of as a heavy Florida lean when Donovan was around, but is both seemingly no longer as likely to pick the Gators nor as highly-regarded as he used to be in the recruiting industry.)
But for Alex Murphy, a career as a college basketball player that has never really gotten rolling at Duke or Florida after being a heralded recruit seems likely to end with a whimper, whether with an NCAA waiver denial, a season as a glorified walk-on reserve with the Gators, or a year spent as a contributor at a smaller program.
Robinson's return shows value of new pre-draft process
As you'll recall, Florida forward Devin Robinson is returning to school rather than remaining in the 2016 NBA Draft, the school announced in April. This came after the revelation just prior to his announced return — one I totally missed — that Robinson had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot, which would impair his ability to go through the pre-NBA Draft process.
The clear and easy connection to draw would be that the injury forced Robinson to withdraw from the draft pool and return to school. I'm not convinced it was quite that simple or clean.
First, Robinson reportedly went into the offseason with some knowledge that his foot was injured, per The Gainesville Sun's Kevin Brockway.
Was also told through a source Robinson's foot was bothering him late in season, played through it and got it checked out in April #Gators— Kevin Brockway (@gatorhoops) April 21, 2016
If Robinson was in pain or discomfort, he would obviously not have been able to conceal that for an entire month of pre-draft workouts, and would almost certainly have known that. He would also certainly have known he would be medically examined, and that he'd be checked out before leaving Florida for the summer.
In that light, declaring for the draft seems more like wishful thinking than anything.
But I don't know what feedback Robinson was able to get from NBA teams, coaches, agents, and so forth in the past three weeks since his declaration, and I'd like to think that it was, at least, frank, if not valuable and honest. And, crucially, I don't know if Robinson could have gotten that feedback without declaring for the draft.
Robinson coming back is obviously a boon for Florida, even if a four- to six-month timeframe for rehabbing after his surgery means that he is likely to be less than 100 percent recovered from the injury and surgery by the time the Gators open their 2016-17 season. He may be Florida's leading scorer next year, and stands to absorb many of the roles, minutes, and shots allotted to Dorian Finney-Smith over the last two years.
Robinson doing his due diligence by submitting his name for the pre-draft process, though, was possibly a boon for him, and didn't hurt him or the Gators. Keep that in mind when you see many more arguably marginal players declare for the draft in future years.
Does Florida have an in on Gak the younger?
While Florida might not pursue a legacy recruit in the form of Tomas Murphy in the 2017 class, it seems very much possible that the Gators could still do so with 2017 forward Deng Gak, younger brother of new commit Gorjok.
Good week for Florida? Ballard now Gorjok Gak. Can they lure in his brother, top 50 2017 forward Deng Gak? https://t.co/G1ZfQYeqRA— Corey Evans (@coreyevans_10) April 25, 2016
While Gorjok Gak is considered a developmental three-star prospect and barely within the national top 200, though, Deng Gak swims in deeper waters. He's rated a five-star by the 247Sports Composite, and he doesn't attend Victory Rock Christian, in Bradenton, with his brother, but New Jersey's elite Blair Academy, which has produced Royal Ivey, Luol Deng, and Charlie Villanueva, among others, sending three players to Duke since 2003. And Duke is on the younger Gak, too, offering him just last week.
It's hard to beat out Duke for prospects it covets, period, and it proved too hard for Donovan with Alex Murphy, even when there was a family tie. So it's easy to see the Gak brothers being split up for similar reasons, even before you read that Deng Gak considers Luol Deng (no relation, though both are Sudanese and of Dinka descent) somewhat of a hero, and even though Florida's been on the younger Gak about as long as the Blue Devils have.
But the Gators' trump card may be distance, in two senses. The Gaks' parents remain in Australia, and that might keep the Gaks close; Deng Gak said "It'll definitely be a comfortable bonus going somewhere I know others" to an Australian basketball writer late last month. There's obviously no way to be closer to his brother than by heading to Florida, though Duke and other Southern schools (like Miami, which has also offered) would at least be close.
My gut says Florida's probably got an uphill road to landing Deng Gak. The ties to his brother and the Gators' long-running pursuit of him mean I wouldn't be surprised if they do end up with him, but I'd be far less surprised if they don't.