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Belmont transfer Will Richard commits to Florida

Todd Golden’s program earns its first pivotal commitment.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 28 ESPN Events Invitational - Dayton v Belmont Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

New Florida Gators men’s basketball head coach Todd Golden has some renovating to do after inheriting a program that narrowly missed the 2022 NCAA Tournament under Mike White.

Nabbing a commitment from Belmont transfer Will Richard on Saturday is a fine start.

Richard, whose talents were widely sought-after after his entry into the transfer portal in late March, visited Florida late this week, and is committing to the Gators before going on what could have been several other high-major visits.

He could also be the Gators’ best player in 2022-23 — and will certainly be expected to be in contention to be their best guard.

Richard is around 6’5” and 200 pounds, and served mostly as a scoring guard for the Bruins as a freshman in 2021-22. He was excellent in that role as a slasher, shooting an incredible 61 percent on two-pointers and an even better 64 percent on twos in conference play, but made just 32 percent of his threes (and only 24 percent of his threes). Long arms on a tall frame for a guard also helped make him a very good rebounder for his position and a fine defender, as he ranked just outside the nation’s top 300 players per KenPom in block percentage — a rarity for a guard — and notched a 2.5 percent steal percentage, recording three steals in five different games on the year.

But it’s the scoring and size that made Richard a highly-ranked transfer, for the most part, and his consistency when it comes to putting the ball in the bucket is what stands out in that regard. While he had just two 20-point games last season — one of them a 22-point, eight-rebound effort against Vanderbilt in the NIT — Richard also scored in single digits just nine times in 32 appearances, making his 12.1 points per game more residue of routinely reaching the teens than exploding for huge nights.

Richard joins a backcourt mix that is likely to be led by returnees Kowacie Reeves and Niels Lane, and would seem to fit quite well next to Reeves, a stellar shooter who flashed some ability as a driver but needs to polish that part of his game, as Richard’s inverse talents could produce some matchup challenges on the floor.

Florida is assuredly not done recruiting to its 2022-23 roster, as the departure of Tyree Appleby leaves it without a clear lead guard. But Richard, Reeves, and Lane is the nucleus of a good guard group, the quiet surrounding Colin Castleton’s future plans leaves the possibility that he could return to anchor the Gators inside again, and the staff Golden has assembled is poised to make more waves in transfer recruiting.