UF, SEC reloading with talent

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Michigan forward Colin Castleton, left, keeps the ball away from UMass-Lowell forward Allin Blunt during the second half of their game on, Dec. 29, 2019, in Ann Arbor, Mich. Castleton transferred to UF. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)

Special to Gatorsports.com

The college basketball season ended prematurely in mid-March because of COVID-19. Rosters began to reshape shortly thereafter with players transferring or declaring for the NBA draft.

But the future is bright for men’s basketball as already strong rosters continue to reload. Five SEC schools rank in ESPN.com’s Top 15 recruiting classes for 2020 – Kentucky (1), Tennessee (4), Arkansas (5), Auburn (6), LSU (13).

Twenty-two of the ESPN.com’s Top 100 players have signed with SEC schools, including seven of the Top 25 players.

The Spring signing period began April 15 and runs through Aug. 1.

The Gators are still awaiting word from two guards. Florida guards Andrew Nembhard and Tre Mann declared for the NBA draft while keeping open the option of returning to school last month. Nembhard hired NCAA-certified agent Jaafar Choufani so he can retain his college eligibility and potentially return to school. He also declared for the draft last year and eventually returned to Florida after not getting invited to the NBA scouting combine.

The Gators seem to be equipped to handle both potential departures. They have Ques Glover and former Cleveland State standout Tyree Appleby to play the point next season.

Decisions by Nembhard and Mann came after two other Florida starters — guard Scottie Lewis and forward Keyontae Johnson — decided to return to school.

A look at Florida’s incoming class:

Colin Castleton: 6-foot-11, 235 pounds, junior forward from Daytona Beach. (University of Michigan). A transfer from Michigan who saw action in 44 games the last two seasons. He averaged 3.4 points and 2.7 rebounds off the bench as a sophomore last season and shot 53% from the field. Castleton will have to sit out the 2020-21 season under NCAA transfer rules. He joins a program that has just two big men: rising sophomores Omar Payne and Jason Jitoboh. Forward Dontay Bassett entered the NCAA transfer portal in March and landed at Weber State.

Niels Lane:  6-5, 210, freshman guard from Freehold, N.J. (Roselle Catholic). Four-star prospect who is a slashing wing that can finish at all three levels

Osayi Osifo: 6-8, 210, junior guard from Dallas, Texas (Eastern Florida State College). Earned All-Region honors after averaging 10.6 ppg and 7.5 rpg last season.

Samson Ruzhentsev: 6-8, 210, guard from Moscow, Russia (Hamilton Heights Academy (Tenn.). ESPN.com’s No. 53 prospect that is considered one of the top shooters in the 2020 class.

Check out the rest of the SEC here.