UF basketball: New coach Todd Golden ready to build roster of players eager to be Gators

Ainslie Lee
Gator Sports
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The Florida Gators got their guy in Todd Golden, who was formally introduced as the new basketball coach on Wednesday. 

But now, how do the Gators get their guys — the players on the floor?

There are a lot of questions surrounding Florida's roster moving forward. Who will stay? Who will go? And who will come in? 

Golden addressed recruiting during his press conference.

"You recruit to what you want to coach," he said Wednesday. "We're going to look for really smart, motivated student athletes. Obviously, high-level basketball players, guys that have great attitudes, great work ethics. Most importantly, that really want to be at the University of Florida."

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Florida Gators head coach Todd Golden walks in with his family for the introductory press conference at Exactech Arena in Gainesville, Fla., on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

UF sells itself

Athletic director Scott Stricklin loves to point out that UF often sells itself. He believes that was evident when Golden jumped at the opportunity when the Gators came calling.

"The good thing about the University of Florida is that we usually get the No. 1 draft pick," Stricklin said of securing Golden, who was being looked at by other programs. 

Though what's appealing to a 36-year-old professional might not be appealing to a high school basketball player, Golden believes it should be. 

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Golden made it clear to Stricklin and others involved with the coaching search that Gainesville is where he wanted to be. And now, it'll be Golden's job to convince student-athletes of the same thing. 

Shortly after being hired, Golden reached out to former coaches and players who spent time within the Gators' program. 

"They've all shared the same message. This amazing place has allowed them different life experiences that would not be possible without the time that they've spent on this campus," Golden said. "There's a level of pride that these individuals have and that this university has that's unique and inspiring. It's a powerful reminder of just how special this university is and that the city is."

But how does that translate to high school prospects? 

Golden spoke about some of UF's selling points:

  • The $1 billion that former Gators have made in the NBA since 2000.
  • UF being a top-five public institution with a body of alumni that stands 450,000 strong. 
  • Florida is a Jordan-brand school.
  • The Rowdy Reptiles create a hostile environment that Golden remembers playing in during his time as an assistant coach with Auburn.

Expanding recruiting overseas

Golden is ready to offer what UF has to prospective players — here and overseas. 

Golden, who played his professional career in Israel, is no stranger to recruiting from around the globe. The roster that Golden just left in San Francisco boasted seven international players. 

"We were able to build relationships all through Europe, Australia, and there's a lot of talented kids over there, and transparently, not a lot of them have come to the SEC yet," Golden said. "You see them in different leagues across the country — some on the West Coast. I think it's an area that we can go and attack and bring some really talented kids over here."

What about the transfer portal?

In addition to recruiting internationally, the young coach knows he'll have another dimension in the transfer portal, which was a tool former Gators head coach Mike White used a lot during his tenure. 

"It's a very important piece," Golden said of the portal. "We won't be a strictly portal program. It's not something we're going to go and say, oh, we're only going to hunt and find guys here, but it's just going to be a piece of our program building for sure."

Golden will have his work cut out for him when it comes time to build a roster. 

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Florida's new coach envisions a team that offensively "plays fast, but not in a hurry" and a defense that's "incredibly gritty".

In the locker room, he's looking for guys that align well with what Golden calls the program's core values: putting the team first, being prepared and working hard, and to have an attitude of appreciation. 

"This is one of the best programs in the country," Golden said. "This is one of the best institutions in the country. We have everything we need here, and I won't take anything less than guys being super grateful for being a part of it."

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