While Monday brought big news for the Florida men’s basketball program’s backcourt, it brought similarly big news — of a less positive kind — for the Gators’ frontcourt, as top 2022 recruit Jalen Reed reportedly decommitted from Florida.
Reed had been committed to Florida since last fall, and was thought of as the player in the Gators’ class with the best professional potential — this, despite the presence of a fellow top big man, Malik Reneau, in the class. And though Reneau — who committed to Indiana on Monday — decommitted from Florida soon after the departure of former head coach Mike White for Georgia, Reed remained in Gators’ class for more than a month despite having ties to White as the son of fellow Ole Miss standout Justin Reid, leading many to believe he would ultimately matriculate at Florida.
But barring the unusual maneuver of decommitting and recommitting — though Reed’s statement to On3 Sports quotes him as saying he will explore his options “while still considering the University of Florida as my college home,” recommitments are even rarer in college basketball than they are in college football — it would seem he will head elsewhere to play as a collegian.
For Florida, that is a stinging departure from a class that once counted Reed as a third of a fine trio of players also consisting of Reneau and Orlando-area guard Denzel Aberdeen, who led Dr. Phillips to a state title and may end up continuing his high school partnership with guard Riley Kugel, reportedly set to sign with Florida. Aberdeen and Kugel is a decent pairing of high school recruits; Reed, Reneau, and Aberdeen was a top-25 class that had both players who projected as ones who could stay in Gainesville for multiple and form the nucleus of a winning era and a talented big with room to become a versatile NBA-bound talent of the kind that Florida has not had in several years.
And yet Florida is also primed to rebound from Reed’s potential full exit from its future planning. The return of Colin Castleton allocates one starting spot that Reed could have competed for, and the Gators’ pursuit of nationally esteemed Morehead State transfer Johni Broome, who appears to be down to a choice between Auburn and Florida and is set to visit Gainesville in the coming days could result in a Broome-Castleton pairing or rotation in the Gators’ frontcourt that would leave little room for younger players to get minutes.
Reed is a good enough ball-handler and shooter to play alongside Castleton and/or Broome, though, and his professional aspirations could probably survive a season or two of seasoning while playing as a perimeter-based forward rather than around the rim. There is little doubt that he’s still a fit for how Florida is likely to play under Golden, and could be a very good player for the Gators — but a month’s worth of conventional wisdom about him following through on his commitment is now mostly moot.
And though Florida should be able to field an NCAA Tournament-caliber team with or without Reed, especially if being competitive for Broome turns into him sweeping into Gainesville, there is a strong possibility that Reed going on to commit elsewhere and succeed as a college athlete — as he likely will — will be long lamented in Gator Nation.