Let’s begin by saying recruiting is a hit-and-miss game. For every Tim Tebow, there’s a Bobby Sabelhaus.
Billy Donovan has been more hit than miss throughout his 13 seasons coaching at Florida. You don’t win two national championships and get to three Final Fours with stiffs.
But you could definitely say this season, that Billy D the recruiter has failed Billy D the coach.
That’s why Tennessee, a longer, stronger and more athletic team, turned the O’Connell Center into its own house of horrors.
The most noticeable miss is currently playing at Auburn. Korvotney Barber, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound senior forward, is second in the Southeastern Conference in rebounding at 9.3 per game. Barber, leading the Tigers on a late surge for a potential NCAA Tournament bid, wanted badly to play for the Gators. But Florida instead chose to recruit 6-foot-10 forward Jimmie Sutton from Deerfield Beach, a player that had played organized football longer than organized basketball. Sutton came to Florida with bad knees. After taking a medical redshirt, he transferred to Florida Atlantic the summer after his freshman year.
Ironically, Sutton was taken based on his athletic ability rather than his skill level. So Donovan was somewhat cautious when asked if, in light of Florida’s recent struggles, he would alter his recruiting strategy to go after more athletic players.
“There is no question that through recruiting maybe some of the areas we’re lacking is on athleticism,” Donovan said. “I also think you can go to an extreme and have really, quick athletic guys but then you don’t have shooting and you don’t have passing so I always think there is a balance in trying to piece those things together where you can have good shooting, you can have athletic recruits and you can have post presence.”
Donovan recruited an athletic guard (Derwin Kitchen) and a plus-perimeter shooting guard (Doneal Mack) to Florida, but neither were admitted to school due to academic reasons. Kitchen is now at Florida State and Mack is at Memphis.
Both could have helped, but they wouldn’t have solved Florida’s glaring deficiencies in the post. Perhaps Donovan was expecting more from Kenny Kadji and Eloy Vargas. Kadji hasn’t developed into a consistent enough player to provide reliable minutes in big March games. The jury remains out on Vargas, who has dealt with ankle problems all season.
Bottom line, Florida needs to develop a more significant post presence in future seasons. Otherwise, trips to the NIT will become more commonplace than trips to the NCAA Tournament.