Scouting, offensive installations, game planning, substitutions and timeouts … those will all come in due time for new Florida Gators head basketball coach Michael White, who during his official introduction on Monday had one more immediate and important task on his mind – retaining the strong four-member 2015 signing class recruited by his predecessor, Billy Donovan.
Guard KeVaughn Allen (North Little Rock, AR), small forward Keith Stone (Deerfield Beach, FL), power forward Noah Dickerson (Montverde, FL) and center Kevarrius Hayes (Live Oak, FL) – all four-star prospects – suddenly need to be re-recruited by White, who desperately needs to secure a re-commitment from each considering the state of the Gators’ roster.
Florida, which once needed to find two scholarships just to sign its 2015 class, wound up one below the NCAA maximum of 13 after three players with eligibility remaining departed in the offseason (to go along with one midseason transfer and one graduate). The Gators are now in danger of being seriously short on scholarship players in White’s first season … if he’s not able to retain the program’s signees.
“All four we’ve reached out to,” White said Monday. “I’ve met a couple in person. These couple Florida guys I look forward to meeting with this week. We’ve had a bunch of positive feedback. I don’t think we’ve had any final answers yet.”
Allen’s mother and stepfather told local Arkansas media quite matter-of-factly on Wednesday that their son plans to ask for a release from his National Letter of Intent and open his recruitment.
Stone, Dickerson and Hayes – either through school officials, family members or their own words –each appear to be heavily leaning toward staying with Florida, barring an unforeseen change or something going wrong in each player’s respective meeting with White and his new coaching staff.
Nevertheless, Allen is expected to be the best of the bunch, and the Gators do need all four players for the upcoming 2015-16 campaign.
“I’m not into begging,” White admitted. “I think this place, to a certain extent, sells itself. I think all four of these guys obviously chose the University of Florida for a lot of the right reasons, really all the right reasons. Florida sells itself. This institution sells itself. But they wanted to play for Coach Donovan. I understand them having second thoughts. I understand that. I appreciate that. I accept it.”
It is for that reason that White has left the door wide open to any of the four signees.
According to the NCAA, an NLI is a “contract between a prospective student-athlete and a school, not an agreement between individuals.” The Gators are under no obligation to release a player from his NLI if a coach leaves, unless it was promised during the recruiting process of said athlete. Nevertheless, White will not be deterred if those requests come in.
“If those guys want to be here, I’d love to have them. If not, we’d love to help them find the right place for them,” he said.
As for how White plans to recruit past his inherited signing class, his philosophy is simple: get the best players possible, from the Sunshine State and the rest of the nation.
“At the University of Florida, we can recruit nationally. I think you can get involved with kids in all 50 states, and I think that in the past that this basketball program has proven that,” he said.
“But I also understand how important it is to recruit our state, especially a state that’s as fertile as it is [in talent]. I’ve always enjoyed recruiting this state, not only because I liked traveling to Florida, but because there are really good players here. And we’re not going to get them all, but we’re going to recruit them all.”
Maybe so, but in regards to the Gators’ signees, he must find a way to get them all to stay.