This men's basketball team has the potential to be the best Florida Gators basketball team outside of the 2006-07 back-to-back title-winning teams. Seriously. It actually is realistic.
Yes, the Gators lost two of their leading scorers in point guard Chris Chiozza and forward Egor Koulechov. But they have more than enough talent to fill in for the two.
At basketball media day on Tuesday, head coach Mike White talked about the depth this team possesses — he said he has never had a lineup with 13 capable players in his rotation. Until now.
Point guard and true freshman Andrew Nembhard will attempt to fill Chiozza’s spot. And he has the potential to be even better than Chiozza ever was.
White didn’t confirm if Nembhard would be in the starting lineup come November, as he’s in a battle with incumbent backup Mike Okauru. But it would be a huge surprise to me and just about every other UF basketball pundit out there if Nembhard isn’t on the floor for the first tip.
Furthermore, he’s touted as the best passer in the 2019 class. The next being Rajon Rondo, if you will.
There’s a bevy of talent replacing Koulechov. The two freshmen filling in for “3Gor” are shooting guard Noah Locke and forward Keyontae Johnson. Locke shot an absurd 47 percent from three in high school, and Johnson is one of the most athletic players in the class.
White says all three freshmen will get ample minutes.
Moreover, the Gators have a ton of talent returning from injury. White confirmed forward Chase Johnson is at full strength. Forward Isaiah Stokes has lost a ridiculous amount of weight and, although White said he needs to get more in shape, is a deadeye shooter. Center Gorjok Gak is still looking to get to full strength.
And, above all, Florida has a bundle of returning talent. Jalen Hudson, Kevarrius Hayes, Keith Stone and KeVaughn Allen are all coming back this season.
The team was a few clutch threes away from knocking off Texas Tech and conceivably making a run at the Final Four last season, and there’s no reason to think it can’t make a run this year.
The scariest part about this team though? White is on the verge of perhaps his best recruiting class ever. Plenty of time remains between now and signing day. But a few names to keep in mind are Scottie Lewis (five star), CJ Walker (four star), Tre Mann (committed five star) and Omar Payne (four star).
As of now, those four players are all predicted to land at Florida. They are all near the top of the class.
Don’t be surprised if you see this team in the Final Four for years to come.
Chris O’Brien is a sports writer at The Alligator. Follow him on Twitter @THEChrisOB and contact him at [email protected].