2016-2017 Season Review
In Mike White's second season as the head coach of the Florida basketball program, the Gators exceeded expectations. They entered the season unranked but would go on to record a 27-9 (14-4) record, finishing 2nd in the SEC behind Kentucky. They defeated Seton Hall and Miami during their non-conference schedule and had wins over Kentucky, Arkansas twice and South Carolina during the SEC schedule. They did fall in SEC Tournament quarterfinals to Vanderbilt, their third loss to the Commodores, but still earned a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They handled ETSU in the first round, demolished Virginia 65-39 in the second round, beat Wisconsin on a buzzer beater in OT in the Sweet 16 before finally bowing out to South Carolina in the Elite Eight.
The Gators lost three starters from last season. Devin Robinson declared for the NBA Draft after a junior season that saw the forward average 11.1 PPG and 6.1 RPG in addition to shooting 39.1% from three. Kasey Hill graduated following a senior season in which the guard averaged a 9.7/2.9/4.4 line, as well as picking off 1.7 SPG. He was a second team All-SEC and All Defensive Team selection. Justin Leon graduated after averaging 7.4 PPG and 4.0 RPG while hitting 49 threes at a 39.8% rate. Canyon Barry also graduated following a season in which he came off the bench to average 11.4 PPG, which was second on the team. 6'10 Schuyler Rimmer played 5.3 MPG in 21 games. He graduated as well. Guard Eric Hester decided to transfer to Akron after a freshman season in which he played 6.2 MPG in 18 games. Hester was 11 for 19 from three on the season.
KeVaughn Allen headlines the returning group of players as he comes back after earning first team All-SEC honors last season. The 6'2 junior to be averaged 14.0 PPG, 1.3 SPG and hit a team best 78 threes. 6'11 senior John Egbunu started 19 out of 24 games last season before tearing his ACL on February 14. He averaged 7.8 PPG, a team best 6.5 RPG and 1.4 BPG. Mike White said in late June that he expects Egbunu to back in January. 6'9 junior Kevarrius Hayes started 16 games after Egbunu went down. He averaged 6.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG and a team best 1.6 BPG. 6'0 Chris Chiozza returns for his senior season after averaging 7.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.8 APG and 1.3 SPG last season. He was the hero of Florida's Sweet 16 win over Wisconsin.
6'8 sophomore Keith Stone played 12.1 MPG during his freshman season, averaging 3.6 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. 6'11 sophomore Gorjok Gak played 5.3 MPG in 15 games.
Coach White brings in the #6 rated recruiting class in the SEC and #30 overall, according to 247Sports. DeAundrae Ballard is a 6'6 four star SF. Ballard is tough guy that can score in bunches and defend. Coach White went as far as comparing him to Sindarius Thornwell back in April. Chase Johnson is a 6'9 four star PF that is a versatile, athletic big man that can put the ball on the floor and protect the rim. 6'8, 270 pound Isaiah Stokes is a three star forward that had football offers from schools like Alabama and Notre Dame. It goes without saying, then, that he is an extremely strong and physical player. 3 star 6'3 guard Mike Okauru rounds out the 2017 recruiting class. Okauru has good size for the PG position and can handle the ball well. Mike White will also Dontay Bassett at his disposal this season after he redshirted last year. The 6'9 Bassett was a three star recruit in 2016. White will also have two transfer eligible this season. Jalen Hudson is a 6'6 junior guard that sat out last season after transferring from Virginia Tech. Hudson averaged 8.4 PPG as a sophomore for the Hokies. Egor Koulechov is a 6'5 grad transfer from Rice. He put up 18.1 PPG, 8.9 RPG and hit 81 threes at an outstanding 47.4% clip. He was a first team All-Conference USA selection.
The Gators did lose some important pieces from last season, but they return enough and bring in some good talent to still be contenders in the SEC again. Getting Egbunu back in January for conference play will be a huge lift for the team. The backcourt should be tough with Allen, Chiozza, and newcomers Koulechov, Ballard and Hudson. The key will be someone else stepping up in the frontcourt, which most likely will have to be Kevarrius Hayes. I don't see the Gators dethroning Kentucky, but they have a great chance to finish second in the SEC and should be a top 15 team entering the season.