Whitley: Florida's portal prowess should mute the White noise
Mike White quickly attracted more transfer talent than left the basketball program. That won't appease the critics, but it shows White knows how to play the increasingly crucial portal transfer game.
- The Gators have commitments from three transfers, and more may be coming.
- Almost 30% of Division 1 basketball players have entered the transfer portal.
- Three of Baylor's best players were transfers, proving you can win big with free agent talent.
Apparently, there will be a basketball season at Florida this fall.
That was never really in doubt, but last week it appeared the Gators needed to transfer to the Southland Conference if they wanted to win more than a dozen games.
"The way things are going, the starting lineup will be Tyree Appleby, three guys from the Gainesville YMCA and the bus driver."
Who would write that?
Oh, I did.
This isn't a "Never Mind," or a mea culpa or a lecture to people who say Mike White isn't qualified to be JV coach at Eastside High. A week ago, Florida's roster had been emptied by players entering the NBA draft and hopping into the transfer portal.
This is merely a teachable moment. The main lessons are:
1. It's easy to overreact, but that's just what we do.
2. The portal transfer game is reshaping college sports.
3. White plays the game pretty darned well.
In the past week, Florida has gotten commitments from Brandon McKissic, a senior guard from Missouri-Kansas City, CJ Felder, sophomore forward from Boston College and Myreon Jones, a guard from Penn State.
The names might not mean anything to you, but they combined to average 42.2 points, 12.3 rebounds and 6.2 assists a game last season.
The names Noah Locke, Omar Payne, Ques Glover and Osayi Osifo should mean something to you. The four Gators who've transferred out combined to average 18.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
Numbers can be deceiving, of course. But McKissic was the Summit League's Defensive Player of the Year. Boston College was bad, but Felder was its best player and had a season-high 24 points against Duke.
Jones, a junior, led Penn State in scoring last season. He closed the season with 10 consecutive games in double figures.
One or two more players are likely to commit to Florida in the next few days. Even if they don't, from a pure talent standpoint the group of transfers coming in looks better than the group that's heading out of town.
But don't they have "baggage."
The B word used to be intrinsic in any conversation about transfers. Baggage meant they were malcontents or mercenaries or trying to escape $12,000 in campus parking fines.
Thanks to loosened transfer rules, there were 1,265 names in the portal Thursday. That's almost 30% of all Division 1 players.
No doubt, some have deeper issues than overdue tickets. But a lot of them play for bad teams and want out, or they play for good teams and want more playing time.
Whatever the reason, the stigma surrounding transfers no longer applies. People complain free agency it's harder to build a program or a culture. The fact is coaches just have to make it part of their program's culture.
It can be done. Ask the team that just derailed mighty Gonzaga and won the national championship.
Three of Baylor's top five scorers were transfers. When the Bears and Houston met in the semifinal game, six of the 10 starters began their careers at other schools.
Unlike high schoolers, transfers are semi-proven commodities. Coaches have a better idea what they're getting. Sometimes, they get more than they expected.
Look no further than Colin Castleton, who went from benchwarmer at Michigan to second-team All-SEC center at Florida last season. He played well enough to enter his name in the NBA draft.
Castleton hasn't hired an agent, so he can return to school if pro scouts advise him to, which they likely will. Add him to portal transfers, and there's ample talent on the roster.
To which White critics say, "Great, now let's see if he can coach it well enough not to blow double-digit leads against Oral Roberts!"
Fair enough. Nothing that's happened in the past week guarantees NCAA tournament success.
But we do know Florida's starting lineup will be far better than three guys from the Y and the bus driver. That's a pretty good place to start.
— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at email@example.com. And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley