Looking at Florida men’s hoops projected starters

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Florida Gators forward Keyontae Johnson (11) and Gators guard Scottie Lewis (23) should be starters in 2020-21 for the team. [Matt Pendleton / Correspondent]

While it’s still up in the air on if the 2020-21 college basketball season will be played, or what it will look like if it does, the University of Florida men’s hoops squad is finally set after a spring (and early summer) of waiting to see if some key players were staying or going.

The Gators got mostly good news on that front when Keyontae Johnson, Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann all opted to return for another season donning the Orange and Blue. The biggest loss was point guard Andrew Nembhard entering the transfer portal and ending up at Gonzaga, but that may allow Florida to play a different style of basketball this year.

Here is a quick look at the Gators’ roster and what their projected starting lineup could be come November – if there’s a season.

2020-21 projected starting lineup

G: Tre Mann, 6-4, so.

G: Scottie Lewis, 6-5, so.

G: Noah Locke, 6-3, jr.

F: Keyontae Johnson, 6-5, jr.

F: Omar Payne, 6-10, so.

Speaking of the projected starting lineup, the only three players who seem to have very heavy claims to spots are Johnson, Lewis and Locke. Johnson, as arguably the Gators’ best player his first two seasons on campus, will be one of the few upperclassmen on the roster and is a threat to score from any part of the floor. He led UF in points (14.0) and rebounds (7.1)

Meanwhile, in Lewis’ debut campaign, he proved his worth on both ends of the floor. He often drew the opposing team’s toughest perimeter assignment while chipping in 2.4 blocks plus steals per contest. His 48 percent shooting from the field, 36 percent mark from 3-point range and 81.7 percent clip from the free throw line as a true freshman portends to a well-rounded offensive game that should see the chance to blossom as a sophomore.

At the other off-guard spot, Locke’s experience (55 starts in two seasons) and sharpshooting (43.2 percent from long range) should allow him to continue to carve out a major role going forward. The 6-foot-3, 207-pound Locke is easily the best UF shooter from distance.  

The rest of the starting lineup could be somewhat up in the air. Mann should have the inside track to replace Nembhard as the team’s starting point guard after withdrawing from the NBA draft. Mann will have to shoot much better but the former McDonald’s All-American has the skills and pedigree as a top recruit to snag the spot. Tyree Appleby could also challenge for this spot as a junior transfer from Cleveland State while Quez Glover also brings experience at the position after a solid freshman year.

If the Gators go with one traditional post player much like they did in graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear, Payne figures to be the big guy in the lineup. He appeared in 30 games as a true freshman and in 15.1 minutes a contest, he averaged 3.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and just over a block per contest.

With some of the experience Florida has back, it’s hard to see any newcomers breaking into the starting lineup right away. Four-star recruits Niels Lane and Samson Ruzhentsev could make impacts offensively right away for the Gators while forwards Anthony Duriji and Osayi Osifo bring some height and athleticism to the position.

Sophomore center Jason Jitoboh would presumably back up Payne down low. Michigan transfer Colin Castleton will have to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules.

On the perimeter, Alex Klatsky will officially join the roster after redshirting in 2019-20 and Jack May, a freshman walk-on, is another guard who can provide depth for Florida.