Gators make some really early preseason basketball rankings

Florida guard Scottie Lewis (23) gestures in celebration after Andrew Nembhard (2) made a 3-point basket during the game against LSU at the Exactech Arena in February. The Gators beat the Tigers 81-66. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer/File]
With the 2019-20 men’s basketball season ending abruptly, fans — and pundits — are already looking forward to when the sport (hopefully) fires back up in the fall.
In fact, college basketball correspondent Andy Katz, who is also an analyst for the Big Ten Network after years at ESPN, released a Power 36 college basketball rankings for the 2020-21 season with an accompanying video nearly 27 minutes long.
The Florida Gators, according to Katz’s list, are ranked No. 29. After starting out last preseason ranked in the top 10 and working their way to a 19-12 regular-season record before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the SEC and then NCAA tournaments, this projection seems fair.
Another publication that has already done its “way-too-early” Top 25 is Sports Illustrated, which has projected the Gators to be ranked 18th.
Because this is an ultra-early look at projections for November at the earliest, we decided to break down Florida’s potential roster to see who is definitely back, who is leaving and what new faces are expected on campus.
Who’s coming back
The program got its first pieces of good news when freshmen Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann, McDonald’s All-Americans and five-star prospects according to, announced their intents to return to school for their sophomore seasons in 2020-21.
Lewis was an SEC All-Freshman team member who averaged 8.5 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, while leading the Gators with 36 blocked shots. While Lewis might not have scored as much as expected from an elite wing, he did shoot 44.1 percent from the field, 36.1 percent from 3 and 81.7 percent on free-throw attempts, suggesting a natural growth heading into his second collegiate season.
Where Lewis already showed star potential was on the defensive end. His height and length on the perimeter allowed him to be disruptive and the then-19-year-old was tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best guard. He even racked up 36 steals, second on the team.
Mann, meanwhile, still has loads of potential but didn’t quite break out in his opening season with Florida. The 6-foot-4 guard with deep range didn’t shoot well at all three levels but can only improve in that area and should be expected to take more of a role as a facilitator, especially if Andrew Nembhard declares for the NBA draft (more on that later).
Presumably returning is rising junior guard Noah Locke. The 6-foot-3 sharpshooter hit 43.2 percent of his shots from 3-point land and his 48.1 percent mark in SEC play was the highest since Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins in 1996. Locke also holds the Florida record for most consecutive games with multiple 3-pointers made.
Also expected to be back are:
• Sophomore guard Ques Glover, who appeared in all 31 games as a reserve in 2019-20 and should help provide good bench depth
• Sophomore forward Omar Payne, who started seven games as a true freshman while appearing in 30 of 31 contests. While Payne averaged just 3.8 ppg and 3.6 rpg, he also blocked 34 shots and went for 19 points and 11 rebounds in Florida’s win over then-No. 4 Auburn. He is projected to slot in for the departing Kerry Blackshear Jr. as a forward/center.
• Sophomore center Jason Jitoboh, who played in 21 games as a true freshman. At 6-foot-11, 300 pounds, Jitoboh is the tallest Gator on the roster and should offer valuable minutes when Florida wants to go big as a rim protector.
Who’s leaving
The big name is graduate student 6-foot-10 forward Kerry Blackshear, whose eligibility is exhausted after finishing second on the team in scoring (12.8 ppg) and leading the squad in rebounding (7.5 rpg). Blackshear provided an inside-outside presence that the Gators might have a tough time replacing.
Also confirmed gone is 6-foot-9 forward Dontay Bassett, who is transferring to Weber State as a graduate student. Basset played in just 17 games in 2019-20 with no starts. He averaged 1.2 ppg and 1.7 rpg.
Who’s coming in
Before talking about the incoming freshmen, Florida has had a history of impact transfers and Tyree Appleby could be the next on that list. Appleby, a 6-foot-1 redshirt junior guard, transferred from Cleveland State after a successful sophomore season in 2018-19 (17.2 ppg, 5.6 apg, 38 percent from 3) and sat out last season. Now eligible to play for the upcoming campaign, Appleby could possibly start for Florida depending on how the roster shakes out but his baseline abilities as a scorer and distributor would give him major value as a super-sub.
Another name that could make an impact is Anthony Duruji, a 6-foot-7 redshirt junior forward who played two seasons at Louisiana Tech before sitting out the 2019-20 season as a transfer.
Duruji is a high-flying athlete who averaged 12.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in his final season at LaTech.
Florida also will welcome 6-foot-3 redshirt freshman guard Alex Klatsky to the roster. Klatsky sat out his freshman season.
Joining those two on the roster are three signees so far, with Samson Ruzhentsev highlighting that list. Ruzhentsev is a top-50 recruit out of Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Tenn.) who profiles as a 6-foot-7 scoring forward in college. Ruzhentsev should be able to provide the Gators an immediate boost from a shooting perspective.
Also expected to compete for time on the court is 6-foot-5 guard Niels Lane, an impressive athlete out of Roselle Catholic in Freehold, NJ. Lane weighs 210 pounds and has shown the ability to beat defenders and get to the basket and score over smaller guards.
Rounding out the new players is junior college transfer Osayi Osifo, who played at Eastern Florida State College as a 6-foot-8 power forward. He comes to Florida as the No. 6-ranked juco transfer and No. 1 juco power forward.
Who’s up in the air
Florida’s early prospects would certainly be better if the Gator tandem of Andew Nembhard and Keyontae Johnson came back for another year. Johnson, a 6-foot-5 forward, was UF’s leading scorer as a sophomore after arguably being the Gators’ best player by the end of his freshman season. Johnson had 14 points and 7.1 rebounds per game while starting every contest. Johnson also ranks 13th in the nation according to ESPN’s Top 25 players in college basketball for 2020-21. He has also been projected as a late first-round pick in the 2020 NBA draft were he to leave. Unfortunately, the uncertainty surrounding the current and upcoming NBA seasons throws that into flux, which might be enough to shepherd Johnson back to campus for his junior season.
Meanwhile Nembhard went for 11.2 points and 5.6 assists per game. He was second in the SEC with his assist mark and his 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio led the conference. Nembhard has started all 67 games he’s played in since arriving on campus in 2018 and would provide a steady hand running the offense and upperclassman leadership should he return.
Both would be juniors in the fall if they returned, and would solidify two spots in the Gators’ starting five. It would also give Florida a pair of upperclassmen in a starting lineup that would likely have Locke as the only non-freshman or sophomore if Nembhard and Johnson choose not to return.


  1. In my lifetime, (and I’m 52) only UCLA’s John Wooden, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, and Florida’s Billy Donovan (some ”elite company”) have won ”back to back National Championships” in college basketball. So while Coach Mike White is not expected to win ”back to back titles” (or even 1 now) what is Florida Basketball’s ”reasonable expectation” this upcoming season (’20-’21)? Assuming America, like so many times before, comes up with a ”solution” to this awful pandemic from imported from China (like so many other things today), and creates a wonderful vaccine. Go Gators!

  2. Your post is annoying. What is your question? What do you mean “Coach Mike White is not expected to win back to back (or even 1 now)”? Let’s just root for a tournament team and a possible run. We have a solid returning roster with Scottie, Keyontae, Tre, Noah, Omar. Hopefully, Andrew comes back. Plus the transfers that are now eligible. Future is bright.

  3. What TOURNAMENT? Mainstream media sacred us all into bunkers, but NOT Publix Shopping Stores. And correction, ONLY TWICE! Typo.

    Duke (early 90’s) and Florida (’06-’07).

    And who are you, Coach Mike White’s agent? Get a damn clue! FLORIDA WON’T DO IT AGAIN IN YOUR LIFETIME OR MINE (if both still alive). I’ll bet you 100 dollars!

    And for the record, I cried tears of joy when UF won the 1st Natty in ’06. So, don’t lecture me.