SEC Burning Questions: Florida Gators

Posted by David Changas on November 9th, 2017

This team preview is part of the RTC SEC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Can Florida’s Frontcourt Produce Enough Offense to Carry the Gators?

In his second season on the bench in Gainesville, Florida head coach Mike White erased many of the doubts about whether he was a worthy successor to the legendary Billy Donovan. After missing the 2016 NCAA Tournament from the bubble, the Gators ran all the way to the Elite Eight with a robust 27-9 overall record last season. All that success led to White receiving a healthy raise and extension through the 2023 season. Now that he has settled in nicely and appears to have things rolling on the recruiting trail — White signed a consensus top 25 class and his recruiting for next season is off to a strong start — expectations are that his teams regularly make the NCAA Tournament and do some damage when they get there.

After a rough first season, Mike White has things rolling at Florida. (Madison.com)

For this year’s Florida squad, things appear to be relatively set in the backcourt. Despite losing four-year starter Kasey Hill to graduation, White returns preseason all-SEC guard KeVaughn Allen and senior point guard Chris Chiozza. Additionally, Virginia Tech transfer Jalen Hudson should seamlessly transition into the lineup and provide significant scoring punch while freshman DeAundrae Ballard appears poised to be a solid contributor as well. But the biggest addition is likely to be Rice graduate transfer Egor Koulechov, who averaged 18.2 points and 8.9 rebounds for the Owls last season and brings a refined offensive game to the Gators. White will look for Koulechov to do what last year’s graduate transfer, Canyon Berry, did.

While the backcourt appears to be in excellent shape, it’s along the front line where the Gators have question marks. Senior center John Egbunu tore his ACL in February and appears slated for a return around the start of conference play. His effectiveness on the interior will be crucial to another deep NCAA Tournament run, and the relatively inexperienced Gators might benefit from his absence early to allow others to play extra minutes. Kevarrius Hayes is the most experienced big man on the team other than Egbunu, and sophomore forward Keith Stone will have to increase his contributions as well. Sophomore Gorjok Gak got limited experience last year, but the athletic 6’11” forward from Australia should be ready to play a more pivotal role. Freshman Chase Johnson is the highest-rated freshman White recruited, but it may be too early to expect him to contribute that much. Isaiah Stokes, the younger brother of former Tennessee standout Jarnell Stokes, will also bring his 6’8″, 270-pound frame to the mix. The Gators’ frontcourt clearly is not without potential, but duplicating last season’s success will require one or two of the first- or second-year players to make huge strides this year. If they do, White has enough talent on hand for his team to once again be in the mix for the SEC championship and another deep run in March.

David Changas (133 Posts)


Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *