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Florida men’s basketball recruiting: Top-50 forward Malik Reneau picks Gators

The versatile athlete chose Florida over other finalists Florida State, Memphis, and Miami.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Virginia Tech at Florida Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators men’s basketball program might have given off the impression that it is out of the practice of pursuing elite high schoolers this summer by reconstructing a roster almost entirely with college transfers.

Malik Reneau committing to the Gators on Wednesday afternoon via Instagram Live helps to shatter that perception, certainly.

Reneau, a top-50 power forward in the 2022 class listed at 6’8” and 210 pounds by 247Sports, picked Florida over Florida State, Memphis, and Miami, delivering a shot in the arm to the Mike White-led program that has been the target of much pointed criticism by a suddenly deeply demanding fan base. Reneau hails originally from Miami, the stomping grounds of new Florida assistant Erik Pastrana, but while Memphis and Miami were among his named finalists, the bouncy forward’s pick seemingly came down to Florida and FSU, with the Gators winning out for his commitment despite a late-August visit to Tallahassee.

In film from a spring and summer spent playing with the Texas Nightrydas AAU team, Reneau looks like a versatile athlete who can play above the rim on both offense and defense and has the capability to score both inside and outside — albeit one with a lot more comfort as a slasher and a dunker than a shooter at present. If that profile sounds familiar to you, I can assure you that you’re not alone in thinking of Justin Leon, Devin Robinson, or several other Florida players of recent vintage.

Reneau will be finishing his high school career by playing with an utterly loaded roster at national prep power Montverde Academy — which boasts four of the nation’s top 30 recruits in the 247Sports Composite rankings for the 2022 class, not including No. 43 Reneau, and the No. 5 recruit in the 2023 class — and so will have at least some taste of what high-level competitive hoops can be outside the AAU circuit’s unevenness.

Reneau’s recruitment appears to have been helmed by new assistant coach Pastrana, who came to Florida from Oklahoma State this offseason with a rep for being a strong recruiter. And while Florida’s rapid restocking of its roster via the transfer portal was, on paper, an impressive bit of skimming cream from the bumper crop that was this offseason’s enormous list of transferring players, it was work at least partially done by the previous staff’s top two recruiters, former assistants and long-time White lieutenants Jordan Mincy and Darris Nichols, who will each be spending their first years not coaching with White in more than half a decade as head coaches — Mincy at Jacksonville, Nichols for a Radford team that Florida will play in December.

Reneau, by contrast, is the first elite high school recruit — the sort that the Gators likely need to land to keep up with an increasingly competitive SEC — who has been largely recruited by a coach outside of the nucleus of coaches White brought to Gainesville. Mincy, Nichols, and Florida Atlantic coach Dusty May — along with White, who is considered a good recruiter in his own right — built the first wave of the Gators teams that have taken the floor in White’s tenure.

Now, Pastrana, fellow new assistant Akeem Miskdeen, and Al Pinkins — May’s replacement, and suddenly the longest-tenured White assistant still on staff — will be the leaders of the effort to build a second wave.

And crucially, whether that wave crests or peters out will either prolong that tenure — or, ultimately, bring about the bayed-for departure of White.