Florida's new guys: Basketball transfers work on court and off to bond with new teammates

Graham Hall
Gator Sports
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The new additions to the Florida men’s basketball roster already have started bonding.

Offseason workouts, which began June 6, provided the six incoming players their first opportunity to compete alongside and against one another. The two freshmen, Denzel Aberdeen and Riley Kugel, already are well-acquainted — they were teammates in the backcourt at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando. 

The four transfers — Trey Bonham, Alex Fudge, Kyle Lofton and Will Richard — aren’t nearly as familiar with each other, and bonding with teammates doesn’t happen overnight. 

There are ways to expedite it, however. 

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Getting to know fellow Gators on and off the court

Todd Golden's coaching staff talks to the players during the Gators' practice on Tuesday, June 7, 2022 at the Florida Basketball Practice Complex in Gainesville, FL.

Since settling on campus, the recent arrivals have gathered outside the facility in an attempt to further team chemistry, said point guard Lofton, a Hillside, New Jersey, native who arrived at UF by way of St. Bonaventure. Having spent four years at the collegiate level with the Bonnies, Lofton is aware of the benefits that familiarity can bring to a team. 

"My first week here, we all went out to eat. We watched the NBA Finals together. We'll probably go bowling soon,” Lofton said earlier this week. “So, just little bonding activities, it will get us over the top."

Lofton is less concerned with the personality of his teammates than their motivations behind transferring to Gainesville.

"I just like that everyone is happy to be here. Everyone wants to learn, wants to get better,” he said, “and you want to be around that to win."

When the team convenes for a paintball outing later in the month, Lofton’s new teammate, Bonham, expects to emerge victorious. Having spent two seasons at Virginia Military Institute, Bonham has experience with target practice. 

“I can hide behind stuff,” Bonham said with a smile. “They can't hide.”

Lofton scoffed at the notion, then laughed.

“He’s a funny kid. Fun, small, energetic. Just good to be around,” Lofton said of Bonham. “I’ve never met a kid from Alabama.”

Learning about and from Gators champion Taurean Green

Bonham and Lofton do share at least one more thing in common: neither had heard of Taurean Green before his arrival back in Gainesville as UF’s director of player development.

Green, who 15 years prior helped lead the Gators to consecutive national championships, was certainly a household name in Gainesville during the mid-2000s, though he didn’t reach the profile of former teammates Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer. 

Lofton, at least, was vaguely familiar with his success. 

"I didn't even know him before I came here,” Lofton said, “(but) I knew he won two national championships.”

Factor in both Bonham and Lofton were in elementary school — and hundreds of miles away — during the run of the “04s,” and it’s a bit more understandable as to why Bonham had to research Green. He admits to being a casual watcher of the sport during his adolescence, though it wasn’t exactly his decision.

“I didn’t have cable so that's kinda why," Bonham said. "I looked him up though, when I saw he got hired, and I was impressed.”

Now that they’re well-versed, the prospect of developing under Green’s tutelage is enticing.

“That was another reason (I committed), they told me I'd be working with him. So, like, why not?” Lofton said. “He's fun, a lot of energy. He's positive, and I can't wait to get to work with him."

Bonham, too, is intrigued at what Green’s experience and knowledge of the game can do for his own skill set. 

“Working with him is going to be huge for me,” he added.

The feeling is mutual. Though Bonham has only just arrived on campus, Green is encouraged by what he’s seen from the junior guard. As UF's latest additions, from players to coaches, have started to get to know one another, early returns have been positive.

“Very good shooter. Water bug, scorer,” Green said of Bonham. “He’s going to be good.”

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