Believed by many to be the front-runner for his services, the Florida Gators were eliminated on Friday from the recruitment of five-star power forward Anthony Bennett (Henderson, NV) , the player told Scout.com’s Evan Daniels.
Bennett, who had Florida in his final four along with Kentucky, Oregon and UNLV, recently paid unofficial visits to the other three schools. He previously said that he would take official visits to his final three schools before making a decision but surprisingly UF did not make the cut despite being expected to receive his final visit.
The No. 7 overall recruit in the country and one of head coach Billy Donovan’s primary targets in 2012, Bennett was expected by most to eventually join the Gators basketball team. Florida is in need of impact frontcourt players and Bennett spoke highly about the opportunity to compete day-in and day-out against sophomore center Patric Young.
However, SNY.tv‘s Adam Zagoria reports that Bennett’s decision was affected by freshman guard Bradley Beal entering the 2012 NBA Draft, according to the co-founder of Bennett’s AAU team CIA Bounce.
“The bottom line is when Bradley Beal committed and decided he was going off to the draft, he and AB were pretty tight,” Mike George said. “The main reason he was considering going there was to play with Bradley. They were pretty close. Bradley took the lead on recruiting him. The second thing obviously for AB is he just wants to be in a position where he wants to enjoy his experience and he wants to be one of the main focal points of what’s going on. Florida has Erik Murphy coming back. He’s a senior and probably is going to dominate the minutes. They also have Patric Young coming back. He loves Coach Donovan and loves the staff. They’re good people.”
Instead, Donovan misses out on yet another prominent forward and could switch his focus to unranked center Bradley Hayes (Jacksonville, FL). Also a 2012 recruit, Hayes has not made a commitment as he is still surveying his options. He does not yet have a scholarship offer from UF (due to the team having just one available) and is not guaranteed to receive one with Bennett out of the picture.
The Gators are also courting transfer PF Damontre Harris, who plans to leave South Carolina at the end of the semester and join a new team for the 2012-13 season. He is strongly considering Florida and Kansas, according to CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman, but could also return to USC should he find that the grass is not greener elsewhere.
Harris averaged 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while playing 25.9 minutes per game last season. He would be forced to redshirt next year but would have two seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2013-14.
Though Florida already has four players committed as part of their 2012 class – four-stars point guard Braxton Ogbueze (Charlotte, NC) and G Michael Frazier (Montverde, FL) and three-stars G Dillon Graham (Orlando, FL) and F DeVon Walker (Winter Haven, FL) – Donovan has missed out on a number of other top-ranked forwards this cycle including five-stars Kyle Anderson (Jersey City, NJ) and Alex Poythress (Clarksville, TN) and four-star Ricardo Gathers (Reserve, LA).