Florida Looking to Go Big
Gators eyeing more size in 2012 and 2013 classes
Florida needs to go big.
The No. 13 Gators are loaded with guards now and have several signed or committed for 2012 and 2013, but they need to address their frontcourt needs immediately.
If sophomore center Patric Young jumps to the NBA after this season – DraftExpress.com projects him as the No. 16 pick in the Draft – “you lose the whole frontcourt,” a source close to the Florida staff told FiveStarBasketball.com.
Thus, the Gators are working hard on landing bigs in 2012 and '13.
They are involved with Pittsburgh transfer Khem Birch, as well as 2012 late signees Anthony Bennett, Ricardo Gathers and JaKarr Sampson.
In 2013, Billy Donovan and company have their sights set on Florida stud Chris Walker, as well as Mike Young, Austin Colbert, Jermaine Lawrence and Kyle Washington.
The 6-foot-9 Birch, a former McDonald's All-American who left Pitt last month, visited Florida Tuesday before spending Wednesday at New Mexico State and heading to UNLV Friday.
“I had a great time at Florida,” Birch told Alex Kline of The Recruit Scoop. “I bonded with Coach [Billy] Donovan and the rest of the staff, as well as the players. I fit in with their system very well and like the campus, too.”
Michael Frazier, the Florida-bound shooting guard from Kevin Boyle's Montverde (Fla.) Academy, met Birch Tuesday for the team's 79-61 win over UAB and believes Birch could make a huge impact.
“I met Khem Birch [Tuesday] night [during his visit] and I think if we get him we will be contenders for a national championship next year,” Frazier told Five Star.
Birch, who felt he was not used properly by head coach Jamie Dixon at Pitt, said he plans to decide by next week. He would then have to sit out a year and would become eligible in January 2013.
“I’m hoping to make my college decision by early next week at the latest,” Birch told Kline. “There are no favorites at the moment and I am wide open. If another school that would be a good fit gets involved, then I may have to wait it out.”
Birch is friendly with fellow Canadian Bennett, 6-7 power forward from Findlay Prep ranked the No. 4 power forward in the Class of 2012 by Rivals.
Bennett is considering the Gators along with Kentucky, UNLV, Washington, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, UConn and Oregon.
Donovan and company are also working hard on both the 6-8 Gathers and and the 6-9 Sampson, both of whom decommitted from St. John's. Ironically, Gators assistant Norm Roberts is the former head coach at St. John's.
Donovan watched Gathers and his Reserve (La.) Riverside Academy team play at the City of Palms Classic, and the man they call the “Bayou Bull” is considering Florida along with hometown LSU, St. John's, Duke and Baylor.
“I think he's just watching the season and seeing how it unfolds and the college games, and I think at the end of the season he's going to start spending a lot of time narrowing down where he wants to go,” Gathers' high school coach, Timmy Byrd, told Five Star.
Sampson, an athletic forward now in a post-grad year at Brewster (N.H.) Academy, is also waiting until after the high school season and is considering St. John's, Baylor, Florida, Providence, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Kansas.
“He won’t decide until after the Final Four,” Brewster coach Jason Smith said in November.
While Florida works hard to land bigs for 2012 and '13, they appear to be in good shape guard-wise.
While they lose New York City's Erving Walker to graduation and could lose Bradley Beal –projected by Draft Express as the No. 9 pick in the Draft – and/or Kenny Boynton to the NBA, they will have shooter Mike Rosario back next season.
The Gators have the 6-4 Frazier, 6-5 shooting guard Dillon Graham and 6-0 point guard Braxton Ogbueze signed for 2012. (Graham may walk-on as a freshman.)
"Coach Donovan brought me in for my ability to shoot the ball and he specifically said that my shooting ability will get me on the floor but my defense and rebounding will keep me on it,” Frazier said.
How much playing time Frazier gets will obviously depend a lot on whether Beal and/or Boynton are gone.
“If those guys are there, then 99.9 percent of the kids in America have to wait their turn,” Montverde's Boyle told Five-Star. "But before it's done, he's going to have a good career there. And he's a great teammate, too."
In 2013, the Gators got a verbal pledge from talented point guard Kasey Hill, Frazier's teammate at Montverde.
"I was working on getting him to come to Florida ever since I transferred to Montverde because we have already developed great chemistry with each other,” Frazier said.
Boyle has coached Kyrie Irving, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Dexter Strickland, but Hill's dunk the other day in which he “literally jumped over the guy might've been the best dunk I've ever seen in a high school game.”
“He's a tremendous talent,” Boyle added of Hill. “His upside is NBA-level. He needs to get more consistent, but when he's at the top of his game, he's one of the three best point guards in America right now regardless of class.”
Now the Gators just need to add some more bigs for the guards to play with.
Harrison Sanford is a reporter for Fivestarbasketball.com. Follow him Twitter: @HarrisonSanford