White talks UF signing class

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Florida coach Mike White discussed the signings of 2016 prospects Eric Hester (6-3 combo guard) and Dontay Bassett (6-8, forward) to Letters of Intent.

Both play at the same high school, Oldsmar Christian, outside of Tampa. Neither are rated in ESPN.com’s Top 100 prospects, though Rivals.com rates Hester as a four-star prospect and as the 87th best player in the 2016 class.

“Two guys who really wanted to be Gators in Eric Hester and Dontay Bassett,” White said. “Two great kids, guys that are tough kids, in my opinion. Guys that play hard. They play at a really good high school program that is very demanding, a really good high school team. They’ll have a really good high school season this year. They both bring athleticism and length and versatility.

“Eric is a guy who can play a couple of positions, he can be a lock down defender, he’s got a little bit of Brandone Francis-Ramirez in him, but he’s also got a little bit of DeVon Walker in him as well. He’s got tremendous length, he’s 6-3 with a 6-10 wingspan. And Dontay Bassett is a four-five guy who’s been only playing basketball organized for a couple of years, this is his third year, he’s 6-9 with a 7-1 and a half reach. He’s very young for his grade. Both those guys, they’re proud Gators and we’re proud to have him.”

The Gators still have at least one more scholarship to give with the departures of seniors Alex Murphy and Dorian Finney-Smith next season (UF currently has 12 scholarship players on its roster). The highest-rated prospect left on the board for the Gators is center Udoka Azubuike (6-10, 280), a five-star prospect from Potters House Christian School in Jacksonville ranked 22nd in ESPN.com’s Top 100. Azubuike has offers from close to a dozen schools, including Kentucky, FSU, Auburn, Duke, Kansas and California. He visited UF last month.

White said he’s wanted to make in-state recruiting a priority, but on Wednesday, Miami landed a big-time in-state recruit in five-star power forward Dewan Huell (6-9, 230 punds, Miami Norland, No. 22 ESPN.com). If Azubuike signs with FSU, Florida will have lost out on two top-25 national prospects within its own borders to schools with less established basketball success. Clearly, prospects are taking a wait-and-see approach to judge if Gator basketball, coming off a 16-17 season, can have success in the post-Donovan era.

Of course, recruiting rankings are an inexact science. There are five stars and McDonald’s All-Americans who don’t pan out (Chris Walker immediately comes to mind). Florida’s two SEC players of the year, Chandler Parsons (2011) and Scottie Wilbekin (2014) developed as four-year seniors and weren’t McDonald’s All-Americans. Oklahoma senior guard Buddy Hield, the reigning Big 12 player of the year, had a similar recruiting profile to Hester (86 by Rivals.com, four-star guard).

Other notes:

— White’s younger brother, Danny White, was hired as the new athletic director at UCF on Wednesday. Danny White had spent his prior three years as the AD at Buffalo and his father, Kevin White, is the AD at Duke.

— Former Florida assistant coach Matt McCall is off to a 2-0 start in his first head coaching job at Tennessee-Chattanooga. McCall already posted a signature upset on Friday when the Mocs went into Stegeman Coliseum and knocked off Georgia, 92-90, in overtime.

— On the subject of former Florida assistants, John Pelphrey has been hired as a game analyst by the SEC Network. Pelphrey is still living in Gainesville, where both his children are students and athletes at P.K. Yonge HS. Also announced as an analyst for SEC Network games is Andrew DeClercq, a starter on UF’s first Final Four team in 1994.

— Walk-on center Schuyler Rimmer has made an early contribution for the Gators, averaging 7.5 points and 4 rebounds off the bench in two games. The 6-foot-10 Rimmer is glad to be playing after receiving an eligibility waiver to start the season. Originally, the Stanford transfer wasn’t expected to hit the court until mid-December, similar to what Alex Murphy had to go through sitting out after transferring from Duke. ” “It’s a huge relief,” Rimmer said. “Coming in in the middle of the season can be difficult, guys have roles established and all that. I’m really glad I’ve got the opportunity to play now as opposed to right before SEC play starts.” Rimmer has been able to score down low, but displayed surprising range by making a 3-pointer late in UF’s 104-54 rout of North Carolina A&T. “He can hit that shot,” teammate Brandone Francis-Ramirez said. “We’ve seen him make that shot in practice.”