In a potential trendsetting move, Florida recruit Scottie Wilbekin could be heading to Gainesville a year early. This is not the first time a recruit has left early for college, but his possible early entrance could spark a rise in high school juniors heading for the greener pastures of the NCAA. Wilbekin is leaving college early to fill a specific need for Florida coach Billy Donovan, who could use some depth in his backcourt next season. In addition to missing out on key perimeter recruits Brandon Knight and Ray McCallum, Donovan may also be looking at losing forward Alex Tyus, who is testing the waters of the NBA and is doubtful to come back next season.
The move would require approval by the NCAA over SAT scores, but according to Wilbekin’s high school coach, he is ready for the challenge. The 6’2 guard is not only smart enough, but this wouldn’t be the first time Wilbekin has played above his age group. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Wilbekin was playing for his high school basketball team as a middle school student. He also played for Nike’s under-16 Florida team against players two years his elder. Fortunately for the junior, he is a perimeter player and won’t have to go up against more physically mature players in the post.
Insiders have compared the 17-year-old to Andre Dawkins, but the current Duke freshman’s case is different. Dawkins was technically a HS junior when he bolted for Duke, but he had actually completed four years of high school before going to college. Dawkins went to a public school for one year before transferring to Atlantic Shores Christian School, a private academy, for three more. His first season was not ideal, but much of that was out of his control. The first half of the season was promising, as he actually saw a decent amount of playing time and scored in double figures in six games. However, after his sister tragically died in a car accident and the ACC season started, Dawkins’ minutes and production decreased drastically. Nevertheless, Dawkins proved that leaving early could work, especially considering that his best performances came in the first few weeks of his career. If Florida starts out the season against some weaker non-conference opponents like Duke, it may be just enough to give Wilbekin some confidence heading into SEC play.
Early entrance like this is already a common practice in college football, but those recruits often enroll for just the spring semester to get some spring practice repetitions. Louisville’s Amobi Okoye even had success as a 16-year old in college football, but the two sports are hardly comparable when there only five players on a court and the ball is shared more often among the players on the court. It is a lot of pressure to put on a 17-year old, but Wilbekin is embracing the challenge. Florida needs more good news like this to get back to the elite status that the Gators enjoyed five years ago.