Florida’s men’s basketball program added another piece to the puzzle Todd Golden is assembling as his first roster on Friday, announcing that St. Bonaventure transfer Kyle Lofton had signed with the school.
And Lofton may well prove to be the most important piece of that puzzle.
He comes to Florida off four strong years with the Bonnies, who had recently enjoyed some of their best seasons in program history under coach Mark Schmidt. Lofton wasn’t there for the Bonnies’ 2018 NCAA Tournament loss to Florida — that was a team led by the stellar backcourt of Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley — but he factored heavily into four straight winning seasons of his own in Olean, culminating in a 16-5 season and another NCAA Tournament berth in 2021 and a 23-10 campaign in 2021-22.
He was also an ironman performer in a program with several of them, playing a healthy 87.1 percent of available minutes a year ago — and ranking fourth on the St. Bonaventure roster in that regard, with three teammates among the nation’s top 15 players in percentage of available minutes played. Lofton ranked 68th nationally.
No Gator has played even nearly so much since Bradley Beal got 84.7 percent of available minutes way back in 2011-12, and Beal didn’t immediately command that share of floor time, either. And Lofton will assuredly be stepping into a smaller role with Florida, unless Todd Golden suddenly decides, like Schmidt, to use a tiny six- or seven-player rotation all season.
He might still be the Gators’ lead guard. At 6’3” and 185 pounds, he’s got a bit of height on VMI transfer Trey Bonham, and posted an assist rate of 28.4 percent in 2021-22, ranking just inside the top 100 in the nation and giving him a third straight campaign with a rate of 27 percent or better. Lofton’s shooting percentages — including a dismal 28.2 percent from three — were relatively poor, but his abilities to drive and get to the line while also creating chances for his teammates have been his standout skills, and the stats-savvy Golden is sure to know that.
And that skillset having significant overlap with Bonham probably makes a Lofton-Bonham battle for the starting spot in the Gators’ backcourt one between two players who can do a lot of the same things on the court — which, in turn, should make the one who will likely come off Florida’s bench the best backup point guard that Florida has had since Chris Chiozza was backing up Kasey Hill.
Considering that Florida went to the Elite Eight in its second season of that setup, there’s reason to believe in that sort of roster construction.
Golden’s renovation via transfer — with Lofton joining Bonham, LSU transfer Alex Fudge, and Belmont transfer Will Richard — is also one that looks promising, despite the Gators missing on their big swing, as Morehead State big man Johni Broome elected to head to Auburn over Florida in a recent decision. Colin Castleton’s return has much to do with that, but Golden has been able to put together a roster that appears likely on paper to have significant athleticism on the wing thanks to Richard and Fudge and exceptional consistency on the ball thanks to Lofton and Bonham.
And if Florida adds another big — Lofton teammate Osun Osunniyi or Washington State transfer Efe Abogidi are the two players most often mentioned alongside Florida of late — to the mix, it could have significant depth in its backcourt, wing, and frontcourt rotations, which might allow Golden to play as deep a rotation as he did a year ago with San Francisco: The Dons had seven players get at least 48 percent of available minutes despite lead guard Jamaree Bouyea getting 91.5 percent of them, but only Khalil Shabazz, another potential transfer target for Florida, joined Bouyea in getting more than 70 percent of the burn on offer.
And if nothing else, a deep and talented roster should give Golden many options to turn to against a deep and talented SEC.