Though the Florida Gators‘ 2015 signing class has been shaken by the departure of head coach Billy Donovan, it will only be split in half rather than completely lost.
Four-star forward signees Keith Stone (Deerfield Beach, FL) and Kevarrius Hayes (Live Oak, FL) on Wednesday reaffirmed their status as Gators signees as both players have decided not to ask for releases from their National Letters of Intent.
“Had a great meeting [head coach Michael White] today and I’m glad to say I’m staying with the gators,” Stone wrote on his Twitter account. OnlyGators.com later confirmed with Stone that White traveled to South Florida to meet with the player.
White met with Hayes for two hours on Tuesday after the player and his Suwannee High School coach, Jeremy Ulmer, took the one-plus hour drive south to Gainesville, Florida. The result of that meeting was an equally positive one.
“When we left Kevarrius was very secure in the fact that he’s going to be happy to be a Gator. So he’s sticking around,” Ulmer told Russ Wood of Rivals.com. “I think Kevarrius really wanted to go to Florida, but meeting the coach really helped him get a feel for the guys and the coaching staff and just making sure he was making the right decision.”
Stone and Hayes reaffirming their status comes on the heels of four-star F Noah Dickerson (Montverde, FL) requesting a release from his NLI. Four-star guard KeVaughn Allen (North Little Rock, AR) will announce Thursday whether he will also request a release, though the concensus is that he has already decided not to join the Gators in 2015.
Of Florida’s original four-member recruiting class, Allen (No. 60, No. 51) and Dickerson (No. 70, No. 54) were the two highest-rated prospects, respectively, on the 247Sports Composite and ESPN 100 rankings.
Stone is rated as the nation’s 80th best player in both rankings, while Hayes is unranked by 247Sports and No. 68 overall per ESPN.
The Gators, 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). Florida is now in danger of being seriously short on scholarship players in White’s first season. With Dickerson gone and Allen expected to leave, UF will have three open scholarships entering the 2015-16 campaign.
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 promised he would not be hold a player’s eligibility just to keep him in the class.
“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.