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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Florida basketball suffers exodus of players, coach

UF loses five players to NBA Draft and the transfer portal

<p>Mike White yells calls during a game during the 2019-20 season.</p>

Mike White yells calls during a game during the 2019-20 season.

As a despondent Gator squad walked off the court after a devastating collapse to Oral Roberts March 21, the team’s varied reactions told a story. 

Teary-eyed guard Tyree Appleby clenched down on his jersey. A group of UF players, namely junior Colin Castleton and sophomore Scottie Lewis, shuffled toward the locker room in unison. 

Meanwhile Noah Locke, who bricked a go-ahead three moments earlier, eluded his teammates and the TruTV cameras after the game. Less than a week later, the junior surprised many by entering his name into the transfer portal. 

Tre Mann kicked off an exodus of players and coaches from the Florida basketball program Tuesday when the sophomore declared for the NBA Draft and expressed his intention to hire an agent. 

Jacksonville University announced that UF assistant Jordan Mincy would take over its head coaching position March 25. Mincy’s departure coincided with a number of departures over the next two days. Locke, sophomore Ques Glover and junior Osayi Osifo all announced their decisions to transfer from Florida. 

Castleton posted a brief statement Sunday, where the second-team All-Conference center announced his decision to enter the NBA Draft. However, the Michigan transfer specified that he wouldn’t hire an agent and ensured that his eligibility remains intact. 

Mann made the same decision last season and elected to return for his sophomore campaign.

The relaxed NCAA transfer regulations and allure of professional basketball hallowed out Florida’s roster. One week removed from Florida’s season-ending defeat to ORU, four players who played at least 10 minutes in that game declared for the NBA Draft or the transfer portal. 

Florida’s emigration blends in with a hectic 2021 season. An unprecedented 900 players entered the college basketball transfer portal, and 75 schools lost at least five players. 

However, UF’s roster turnover furthers concerns about coach Mike White’s re-recruiting and talent evaluation. Over the last three seasons, Florida suffered 10 losses to the transfer portal, namely star point-guard Andrew Nembhard. 

Nembhard sizzled the nets at Gonzaga season, shooting 55% percent as a role player for the nation’s top overall seed

The double-digit departures cast a bleak forecast for the 2021-22 season, as Appleby may serve as the only returning Gator with more than 10 points per game. 

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Four-star recruit Kowacie Reeves should add immediate depth at the shooting guard position, and White may pursue the transfer market to fill the expanding void.

Gator County reported March 24 that Florida reached out to four transfer candidates: Cameron Shelton from Northern Arizona; CJ Felder from Boston College; Jarrod West from Marshall; and Brandon McKissick from Missouri-Kansas City. 

Felder turned in a solid 11-point performance against the Gators last November and served as one of BC’s most efficient scorers last season. Felder’s size and versatility make him White’s top recruit in the transfer portal this offseason. 

West enters the transfer portal as one of Conference USA’s most well-rounded players. The senior opted to pursue his fifth-year of eligibility after he posted a top-100 assist rate and steal rate. 

The Marshall transfer also shot 40% from three-point territory, a welcomed addition to a UF team with no returning players better than 35% from beyond the arc.

Florida returns just eight players. Even if Castleton returns to Gainesville for his junior season, White will need prudent business in the transfer market to ensure Florida’s status as an NCAA tournament regular.  

Contact Declan Walsh at dwalsh@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @declanaw


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