Five-star C spurns Gators

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It’s been rough sledding on the recruiting trail for first-year coach Mike White and the rest of his staff.

The Gators were hopeful to convince an elite, 5-star center, Udoka Azubuike from nearby Jacksonville, to join the 2016 class. But Azubuike trimmed his list last week, and Florida didn’t make the cut. Instead, Azubuike announced that Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Florida State are in his final four, and he’ll be nearing a decision soon. If you’re looking for a silver lining, none of those four teams are SEC schools. Azubuike visited UF’s campus during the Ole Miss football weekend last October and toured the facilities.

White landed a pair of players for the 2016 class in November’s early signing period — three/four-star guard Eric Hester and three-star forward Dontay Bassett. But the Gators will need to add more pieces to the frontcourt with Dorian Finney-Smith and Alex Murphy graduating at the end of the season.

Other notes:

— Basketball Hall of Famer and ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale was critical of UF’s shot selection down the stretch during its 73-71 loss Tuesday night to FSU. In particular, Vitale wondered why KeVaughn Allen fired up a  3-pointer from the wing out of a timeout with Florida down 70-69. Vitale felt the Gators should have attacked the basket or at least gotten a closer shot attempt. Allen, who scored a career-high 32 points, was the hot hand throughout the game and was 3-of-6 from 3-point range before the missed shot. But the 6-foot-2 guard had missed his last five shot attempts and may have been tiring. As a team, Florida was just 4 of 25 from 3-point range against FSU. White has given his team the green light to shoot through its struggles (Florida ranks last in the SEC in 3-point shooting percentage at 27.4 percent), “Guys are working hard at it,” White said. “You’d like to see them get rewarded.”

— It will be interesting to see if White gives former UF assistant coach Matt McCall a ring before UF’s SEC opener against Georgia. McCall, in his first season as head coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga, led the Mocs to a 92-90 overtime win at Georgia to open the season. McCall inherited a strong team from former UTC coach Will Wade, but has made the most of it, leading UTC to an 11-2 start with upset wins over Georgia, Illinois and Dayton.