Stone, Okauru to transfer

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Florida forward Keith Stone shoots over the defense of a Michigan State player in the Dec. 8 game at the O'Connell Center. [Lauren Bacho/Staff Photographer]

In the aftermath of Florida’s Round of 32 finish, two players have opted to transfer from the Florida basketball program.

In the span of 30 minutes Tuesday, Gators forward Keith Stone and guard Mike Okauru announced intentions to transfer from Florida.

The 6-foot-8 Stone will depart the program next month as a graduate transfer, a source confirmed to The Gainesville Sun.

“Keith has been a part of three NCAA Tournament teams and a lot of wins,” UF coach Mike White said in a statement. “He has represented the Florida program the right way, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

As a redshirt junior, Stone started 13 games for the Gators this season before suffering a torn ACL in Florida’s 62-52 victory at Georgia in January. Stone, a former four-star prospect by ESPN, moved into the starting line-up during the 2017-18 season and subsequently averaged 8.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in 26 starts.

Not long after Stone announced his intentions, Okauru, a sophomore, announced his decision to transfer. The UF program later confirmed Okauru’s departure.

“Thankful for the teammates I had at Florida and the Rowdies who supported,” Okauru said on his Twitter account, “but I’ve decided to transfer and purse other options.”

The 6-foot-3 Okauru arrived in Gainesville by way of Raleigh, North Carolina, and shot 40.4 percent from the 3-point range as a freshman. But Okauru’s minutes dwindled in his sophomore campaign with the emergence of freshman point guard Andrew Nembhard, and he would finish the season shooting just 25 percent from beyond the arc.

With the departures of Okauru and Stone, the list of Gators expected to return next season stands at just seven. White’s Top-10 recruiting class (guard Tre Mann, wing Scottie Lewis and forward Omar Payne) is expected to arrive this summer. UF has three available scholarships.

 

38 COMMENTS

  1. I think Stone will be missed, but as a grad transfer, he will have a great opportunity wherever he chooses next season. Okaru has shown flashes but he no doubt did the math, with the 2 McD All American guards coming in and Andrew and Noah returning from strong frosh years. I see this as a great opportunity for coach White and his assistants to get on the transfer portal night and day and try to replace these 2 with the biggest baddest bodies they can find with, hopefully, at least one being a grad transfer who can play right away next season.
    Joakim Noah may be looking for a team next year, and he had another year of eligibility left. We could petition for a waver!!!!!!!

    • With all due respect you must be a newbie or else you would have already been informed by the Blue Blood Experts that only the Dukes, Kansas’, North Carolinas and other true basketball schools get “big men” as in tall specimens. I’ve never been able to figure out how the warm-up schools the Gators play every year usually has a 6’11” player or two that gives Florida absolute fits.

  2. Okura…. no surprise. he deserves a better chance to play. He plays hard and has been a credit to himself and UF.
    Stone ……definitely surprised. Congrats to him for getting his degree in four years. He and UF should be proud.The emergence of Johnson and the flashes of the potential of Stokes and Bassett along with the arrival of a talented freshman forward had to be factors. He has a degree from one of the great universities in the country ……..why not go have some fun. Wish him well. He will always be a Gator.
    But the big surprise….. and I have been waiting since the final whistle in Utah……..is Ballard. His infrequent minutes season long and then total shut down by CMW the last few regular season games and all of the post season sure set the stage…….in my mind…..for the transfer announcement to be in the airport after touchdown in G’ville.
    Fooled me…….still believe it will happen………………..but if it doesn’t……all credit to him.!!!

    • And you were correct….as Ballard is leaving now too. We shall soon see what the future holds. Also appears that Bama is taking the same approach UF did in hiring their new basketball coach. Apparently he was coaching high school basketball just 6 years ago.

  3. tw, interesting comments on Ballard, as I had not given him any thought on possibly transferring as well. I think there was a game earlier in the season when he led the team in scoring, and began to get more playing time. But it seemed to me that after that he became overly focused on getting his shot and his shooting % went south quickly. A talented guy but seemed to struggle in trying to fit into the flow of the offense (you know, walk the ball slowly up court, stand around till there was less than 10 seconds on the shot clock, then throw up a wild one). Sorry, I digressed! If he sticks around and fits his game to the team offense, he could be a good 6th man to come in and add some fire to the team. We’ll see. Go Gators.

  4. Need to hope Lewis is better than Beal because his supporting cast is nowhere close to what Beal had. This kind of shows where the program is going. We are always playing with 2 hands behind our back while White is here. We were thin this year. We were thin last year. We were short this year, last year and next year. We may be lucky to have 10 players on scholarship next year. One of the biggest reasons Saban is the best is because he’s always playing with a full roster. He recruits for 50% attrition. White recruits for no attrition. I’m not saying that these players leaving are great players but you can’t coach an empty shirt. You can’t substitute a player if there isn’t anybody on the bench. Most teams play 8 maybe 9 players the majority of the minutes in games. Nobody better get hurt or you can’t even scrimmage. Maybe 4 vs 4. Kentucky hasn’t signed fewer than 5 players in the last 4 seasons. UF hasn’t signed more than 4.

    Average recruiting class size is 3 players. Average size of the players is 6’4″. That’s a losing recipe. May need to change the mascot to Florida Dwarves.

    • Interesting that you bring up the Beal team (2011-12). That team started 3 guards, 6-3 Beal, 6-2 Kenny Boynton, and 5-8 Erving Walker, along with 6-9 Patric Young and 6-10 Erik Murphy, who wasn’t much of a rebounder. In fact, Beal led the team in rebounding.

      This year’s initial starting lineup was 6-5 Nembhard, 6-2 Allen, 6-6 Hudson, 6-8 Stone, and 6-9 Hayes. This year’s team wins for average height, 6-6 to 6-4.

      • Beal only lead 2 stats that year. Rebounds and Steals. So he obviously had a pretty good supporting cast since he played the most minutes and started the most games. Considering the top 2 scorers from the previous team(that included Parson Chandler) returned, I think the supporting cast was better. Of course 4 of the players you named from this years team, won’t be returning. 3 of the top 4 scorers won’t be returning. Then you have probably have the 3 best players(guards/sf all 6’5″ or shorter) returning being overtaken by our top 2 incoming freshmen(guards/sf 6’5″ and under). There is no Patric Young coming back. There is no Erik Murphy. What we’ll have is a bunch of 6’5″ players with a 6’9″ freshman. You have to hope that players that showed “nothing” this year turn into competent or better starters on the inside. I did pick that team because it is the most appropriate for what peoples hopes with the incoming class but team make up is considerably different.

        Bradley Beal is listed as 6’5″ by NBA.com. Erving Walker was very short and his defense was atrocious. I’d rather have a 5’8″ Walker with a 6’9″ Young and a 6’10” Murphy then a 6’8″ Stone and 6’9″ Hayes and pick any guard on the team you want. You can’t teach size or ability and Young had more of it than any 2 players combined on this year’s team.

        • Hopefully Gak gets healthy and can contribute and Stokes loses some weight. Those are two big guys we really need to produce next year. I’m excited about Stokes should be take the off season seriously. He has a really good paint game that we haven’t seen since…Al Horford really (offensively speaking, not defensively).

  5. Players abandoning ship… playing in the pitiful zombie offense sucks even more than watching it… yet Captain White rages on, obsessed with his failed methods even as his ship smashes into a reef, takes on water and sinks, plunging down… down… down… to the bottom of Davey Jones’ locker, White all the while moaning: “Groan, groan, groan a zombie’s life for me!”

  6. Everyone needs to ease up on the Mike White hate. We’ve become a little spoiled and think we really are basketball royalty (thanks a lot Bruce Pearl). We aren’t Duke, Kansas, North Carolina or even Kentucky. Gator fans have short memories and remember Billy Donovan taking us to the final four every single year. No one remembers after BD took us to the final four in his year four that up until he won back to back in his 10th and 11th years that Florida fans were all complaining he couldn’t get out of the 1st weekend of the tournament. Headline everywhere, “Billy Donovan can’t win the big game”. With a little patience, how’d that turn out. Look at the first four years of BD’s tenure compared to MW’s. He’s actually done better than Billy in a lot of categories. BD also had back to back years not making the tournament after the two Nattys AND his last year I’m not even sure we made the NIT and he admitted that the chemistry in the locker room was “toxic”. That’s what the great BD left MW to deal with. And I say the “great” BD with tongue in cheek because I do think he was great, I’m just a little too high on my soap box right now.

    Also, no one considers that the SEC is significantly better now than when BD was here. The SEC is having historically successful years and MW is still getting us to the tournament. Not one year in the BD era was the SEC as good as they’ve been the past two years.

    Thirdly, everyone who complains about us having no big men, HAVE YOU SEEN THE INJURY REPORTS. Half the team would have to be 6’-10” and above to counter the injury bug we’ve had the past two years…Egbunu – never came back and missed a year and a half, Gak – has never been fully healthy, Chase Johnson – concussions and then transferred, Stokes – acl injury (I think) and then rehabbed with Dunkin Donuts and Popeyes, Stone – year ending injury and sees the writing on the wall with the incoming class and transfers. Is no one else seeing the horrifically bad luck here? Poor Hayes who should be playing the Will Yuguette role has had to play the Patrick Young spot instead and I love him but he’s got hands made out of butter.

    Mike has just pulled two amazing recruiting classes, amazing even compared to BD’s average recruiting. Granted his first two classes haven’t really made an impact but geez the man has three all SEC type freshmen and two (almost 3) five star guys coming in next year.

    My last point is if we get rid of Mike White there better darn well be a can’t miss coaching hire out there. I’m not a college basketball savant but I don’t see any obvious can’t miss coaches out there waiting for UF to call. I hear Avery Johnson will soon be available.

    In the words of the Aristotle (or maybe Aaron Rodgers) R-E-L-A-X and let’s see what he can do with the talent coming in. Forgive me, I’m done now.

    • LOL. The post is so off I don’t even know what to start with. BD built the basketball program from nothing. Maybe less than nothing. He took UF to the National title game with pretty much freshmen and sophomores. They were all his players. Everybody knew we were okay with BD when he signed Mike Miller. Then he followed it up with a better class next year. Then he followed it up with a better class 2 years later only to lose Kwame Brown to the NBA. Then he changed the way he recruited by shunning players that he thought were one and done types so he mainly stayed out of the top 30. MW hasn’t even come close to BD recruiting classes. Let me know when MW signs 3 of the top 10 players then I’ll say he matched BD. 1999 class: Donnell Harvey the #1 player, Brett Nelson (top 5 player), Matt Bonner (top 30 player) player. 2001 class class: Kwame Brown the #1 player, David Lee (top 10 player), James White(top 10 player). If you notice, his best recruits were inside players.

      The difference between BD teams going to the tourney or going to the final four was always the 4/5 positions. If he had good or even great 4/5s he went far. If he didn’t, they fell quickly.

      MW’s best year in 4 years is with BD’s players.

      The rest of your post I’ll just chalk it up to McElwain.

      • You’re absolutely right that BD built the program from nothing and had some great early recruiting classes. But after the 2000 title game and the departure of Harvey and Miller, the rest of the players you mentioned couldn’t get the Gators past the first weekend of the tournament for five consecutive years, suffering two rather embarrassing first round upsets. Were they overrated, did Billy just not do a good job, or is that just the way basketball goes sometimes?

        No doubt you need inside scoring and rebounding, which is currently lacking, but you don’t get anywhere in the tournament without good guard play either.

        You’re also right about MW’s best season being with some of BD’s players. But Allen, Hayes, Egbunu, and Stone never actually played for Donovan. The ones who did, Cheeze, Hill, and Robinson, failed to get Donovan’s last team to any kind of post-season play. And the best 3-point shooter, Leon, and the best FT shooter, Barry, on MW’s Elite 8 team were White’s players.

        I think that because Donovan built the program from scratch, the brand was Donovan himself, not the Gators. When he left, the brand went with him. It was going to take White some time to establish himself to get players to want to come to UF to play for him. I think that’s happening now. If he can’t win with them, I’m sure Scott Stricklin will act accordingly.

      • My post is off? How dare you?! 😉 MW just pulled in the number 12th, 26th and 43rd ranked players nationally in the upcoming class good enough for 10th best class in the country. Last year they were ranked 23rd, 69th and 80th good enough for 19th so his recruiting is getting much better. And don’t make the comparison to McElwain’s class before he got fired, that whole class was smoke and mirrors and would have fallen apart once they saw the train wreck they were about to join. On average class ranking, White is either on par or getting close to Billy D. I’m just saying, give it some time.

        For comparison (as based on your argument), Dan Mullen’s last recruiting class was no where near Urban Meyer’s or even Ron Zook’s 2nd recruiting class ranking as far as high end top 100 talent. Should we feel the same way about Mullen as we do White?

        And yes, McElwain represents all the is bad in the world. Just kidding…not really.

  7. Hey Dallas, as a Gator and former resident of Wylie, TX., I have to say that your column is very well written. You are spot on about the vast improvement in the SEC basketball arena since the BD days. When Billy first came to Gainesville, the SEC was little more than Kentucky and the 11 dwarves, except for LSU when some guy named Shaq played there. Billy managed to turn it into Kentucky and Florida and the 10 dwarves. In White’s 4 years, UF has won 20 games or more each season, played in the NCAA tourney 3 times including one trip to the elite 8. Not bad for a football school! As a fan, I wish he would speed up the offense as well, but when you have only 7 or 8 healthy players, he had to play to his roster this season and that meant slow the game down. We have a very good coach and need to give him every opportunity to become a great coach at some point, and I think he will. Thanks for speaking out on this.

  8. Dallas, I agree with you 100%! And on other question that got asked about Donovan was why so many players kept transferring out of his program. After he won the back to back titles, everyone just seems to remember it always being great while he was here.

    • Smith, I agree. The players on the bench see the writing on the wall when CMW brings in two 5* and one almost 5* players to come along the 3 all-freshmen caliber players we already have. I don’t blame them really. I’d want to go somewhere I had the opportunity to play.

      Same as when BD coached, he brought in good talent year in and year out meaning the guys on the bench had to improve or move on to play.

      And Sparky, I remember BD’s tenure fondly myself and cried (not actual tears) when he resigned the 2nd time. I just think there are parallel’s to his and MW’s path that shouldn’t be ignored.

      • I’m with you on being hurt when Donovan resigned (both times). I am a huge fan of his and was fortunate enough to have taken my youngest 2 kids to Indianapolis for the Final 4 in 06 when we won the first title. A memory none of us ever want to forget. But I’m also of the belief that Coach White will get us back to where we all want to be. Go Gators!

  9. With 3 incoming freshmen combined with those returning, White SHOULD have the type players needed for uptempo and some inside offense. If he goes back to that half-court, use up the shot clock offense, I don’t see any improvement over the 2019 team record. We shall see, but those 3 frosh are fast-break ballers and 2 of them were solid 3 point shooters in high school. Just sayin that’s the offense I would play if I were still coachin and had those studs.