Finding gems

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Former Florida assistants Anthony Grant and Donnie Jones had keen eyes for unearthing under-the-radar talent during their years recruiting at UF.

Both have carried that over to their careers as head coaches. Power forward Larry Sanders, a player whom Grant recruited in his first year as head coach at Virginia Commonwealth, is projected as an NBA first-round pick in numerous mock drafts. Power forward/center Hassan Whiteside, a player Jones recruited at Marshall, could end up getting picked even higher than Sanders in the first round.

Neither Sanders nor Whiteside were big names coming out of  high school. But Grant and Jones saw something in them that other coaches didn’t see.

That shows that Florida may miss Jones and Grant as much, if not more than its vaunted ‘o4 class. The Gators have had more recruiting misses than hits since both assistants left to pursue head coaching careers. Some notable busts have included Jai Lucas, Eloy Vargas and Nimrod Tishman.

There is hope that some current members of UF’s 2010 class (Casey Prather, Will Yeguete, Scottie Wilbekin) could blossom into under-the-radar successes. Time will tell. But it’s clear if Florida is going to lose out on stars like Brandon Knight and Austin Rivers, it will need to do a better job evaluating the three- and four-star prospects who remain in the recruiting pool.

21 COMMENTS

  1. Kevin, I’m not sure I’d agree with your so called busts. Jai Lucas was a good player but transferred. Vargas was a legitimate bust. Tishman was a desperate grab for a backup guard. He was not highly recruited (3-star recruit) so you can’t call him a bust. I’d call Allan Chaney a bust. And Adam Allen too. Christian Drejer certainly was a bust.

    So yea, there have been busts of course but I’d say the key is not finding hidden gems, but moreso finding the right players with the right ability and dedication. Those can be 3, 4 or 5 star players. The 04’s were led by very solid players who had the right attitude and were dedicated to the cause. I’m not sure how Billy managed to get those guys on the same team but that’s the model he should be looking to repeat.

    • Sorry Dean,
      A three-star player (Tishman) who couldn’t beat out a walk-on in the rotation is a bust. Lucas was a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school and averaged less than 10 points per game as a starter. Was shut out in a few SEC games. That’s a bust, given the expectations coming out of high school.

  2. i KNOW MANY PEOPLE HATE FOR YOU TO BE CRITICAL OF THE TALENT THAT WE ARE GETTING AND MOSTLY NOT GETTING , BUT I HAVE TO SAY WE ARE NOT DOING A GOOD JOB AT GETTING THE BEST TALENT IN THIS STATE. I DON’T KNOW FOR SURE IF ITS BECAUSE OF GRANTS DEPARTURE OR THE KIDS ARE JUST NOT ATTRACTED TO BILLY BALL. BUT THERE IS A PROBLEM THAT WE NEED TO FACE AND FIND OUT WHAT IT REALLY IS, SOLVE IT AND GET THIS PROGRAM ON A BETTER STATUS. THERE IS NO REAL EXCITEMENT ABOUT FLORIDA BASKETBALL. IT IS A VANILLA PROGRAM THAT WE SUPPORT BECAUSE WE ARE GATOR FANS AND THATS WHAT WE DO, BUT WE NEED TO DO A BETTER JOB. IF ITS BILLY BALL OR SOMEONE WITH A BETTER EYE FOR TALENT.

  3. Billy’s success at Florida has been more tied to his recruiting out of state than within the State of Florida, Give me the Gator greats from Florida and match them up against Mike Miller, David Lee, Al Horford, J Noah, Lee Humphrey – Mr 3pts, Matt Bonner, Peep Robertson, Matt Walsh, etc and they would lose. Billy got his start using good to great players from within state but his greatest success was achieved through players who came from outside of Florida! What he has going for next year is the return of all five starters plus good quality incoming depth – it has been a while since this combo has happened!! Go Gatros

  4. Tishman was added in late summer, like a week before school started. He was never highly sought after or recruited. He was a desperate attempt to find a backup. I guess I usually think of busts as having high expectations and then failing miserably. In the case of Tishman I don’t think anyone had any high hopes for him. It would be more like a sliver of hope and a prayer which does not make a bust.

    Lucas was definitely a highly regarded recruit (4-star). He was playing alongside Calathes (5-star) and Hodge at the guard spot. No, he did not score more than 10 points a game but he did start all 36 games as a freshman. He made the All-SEC freshman team. He led the team in 3-point percentage. Is that a bust? I say no. I mean he wasn’t an all-american but he certainly did well. To me a bust would be him not getting significant minutes but the kid started every game! Maybe you are disappointed that he transferred and that’s why you call him a bust? Did you expect him to play like John Wall?

  5. Kevin, I’m defining bust in the normal sense (maybe you’re using it differently). Bust is a pretty strong word actually. It is defined by Merriam-Webster online as: Bust (noun) – a complete failure. So are you saying Lucas’ freshman year was a complete failure?

  6. I think if you asked the folks at Texas about Lucas, the word “bust” would be pretty prevalent there as well. Interesting point about HS kids from the sate of Florida. Years back, when Vince Carter was a HS phenom in Daytona, he opted for Carolina and reportedly said thet he had no interest in UF because it was a football school, and always would be. I think Lon Kruger left shortly after that. Here we are about 12 years and 2 Gator National Titles in basketball later, and we still see the top kids from Florida like Knight, Rivers and others, still opting to go out of state. It would be interesting to know why. At this point, I am expecting “class of ’86” to write in pleading for Donovan to recruit “ballers”. I trust we won’t see Donovan fall into that trap.

  7. Don’t agree that Lucas was a bust. Vargas certainly was. Tishman was a “bust-squared”. But to the point of the original blogette, Grant and Jones have had their shares of busts, as well, both at UF and at their new schools.

    All this talking about busts…gotta call my gf.

  8. GOOD IDEA, LET’S GET BACK TO THE POINT THAT WE ARE NOT GETTING THE BEST RECRUITS FROM THIS STATE. YES THERE HAS BEEN SOME GOOD RECRUITS TO COME FROM OUT OF STATE IN YEARS PAST. THE YEARS THAT WE DID GET THOSE RECRUITS FROM OUT OF STATE WERE THEY THE BEST PLAYERS IN THE COUNTRY? BRANDON KNIGHT AND THE RIVERS KID ARE TWO OF THE BEST PLAYERS IN THE COUNTRY AND THEY ARE IN OUR BACK YARD. ONE ACTUALLY COMMITTED TO THE GATORS SINCE WHAT THE 8TH GRADE, THERES SOMETHING WRONG! THE ATHLETES WE ARE GETTING THIS YEAR WILL NOT MAKE ANYONE ON OUR SCHEDULE THINK”WOW THESE GUYS ARE GOING TO BE HELL RAISERS”.

  9. GATOR BOB, GO BACK AND COMPARE THE ATHLETES THAT WAS IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA THE YEARS THAT WE GOT NOAH, HARFORD, LEE, HUMPHREY, BONNER AND ALL THOSE GUYS AND LOOK AT WHAT THEY HAD DONE IN THIS STATE AND HOW HIGHLY RATED THEY WERE AT THE TIME. THEN YOU CAN COMPARE THEM. NOBODY IS SAYING THERE HAS NOT BEEN GOOD PLAYERS RECRUITED TO FLORIDA, MOST PEOPLE ARE SAYING THAT THEY WERE RECRUITED BY GRANT AND JONES. HAVE WE LOST THE ABILITY TO SELL THIS PROGRAM IN ITS CURRENT STATE, I KNOW WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT VINCE CARTER THAT WAS 1200 YEARS AGO. WE HAVE TWO NC’s AND NO LONGER CONSIDERED JUST A FOOTBALL SCHOOL, IN FACT LOOK AT ALL OF THE SPORTS AT THE SCHOOL RIGHT NOW AND THE BASKETBALL PROGRAM IS PROBABLY THE WEAKEST ON CAMPUS.

    • I think people are obsessing about losing out on Knight and probably Rivers, which is fine. But let’s keep in mind that Florida won its back-to-back national titles with just one McDonald’s All-American, Corey Brewer, who was known for his defense more than his offense (similar to incoming frosh Patric Young.) I think what made Jones and Grant so valuable is they had a great feel for the players that fit Billy’s sysyem. Not sure if UF’s assistants since have had that same kind of feel or eye for talent.

  10. I think one of the problems is trying to recruit the 5 star guy like Brandon Knight and then not getting him. Even when they come some leave after a year.
    Also, I think there is too much negativity in the comments. We won two national championships and were in the final four another time. What about all the players who were good recruits. For example, Lee Humphrey was not a highly recruited player but was instrumental in our national championships. We have gotten several highly regarded Florida players who either transferred (Shipman) for lack of playing time or were busts. I think it is just the nature of the business. How much do the coaches really get to see the guy play in order to evaluate? Not much.
    Also, remember N.C. won the national title and then look as what they were last year.
    Finally, it is likely that not one of the Duke starting five will be drafted in the first round yet they won a title. On the other hand, Kentucky might have four and they bowed out early. Frankly, I hate the one and done player. College ball is at least partially about devotion to your school. These one and done players could care less about the school. They want to play where they think they can go for one year with others like them and get drafted high. I say let the Kentucky s have them.

  11. I guess if you look at the state of recruiting post Grant and Jones its a mixed bag. The 2008 is really the one that stands out as a bust with Vargas, Shipman, Kadji and Chaney. The only who remains is the lowest rated one from 08, Walker. Too early to say on 09 but Boynton and Murphy look solid. In my opinion 07 was a good class with Parsons, Calathes and Tyus leading the way. I still think Lucas was not a total failure and of course Adam Allen has had all the injuries. The 2010 looks promising too. Perhaps Billy D lost a little traction with those two long time top assistants leaving but I don’t think there is a state of emergency. I like the direction we’re headed actually. The 04’s spoiled us fans.

  12. We lost Patterson following Billy’s flirtation with the NBA. Add Patterson the past three years and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Jai Lucas leaving resulted in Tishman. That is a twofer:-)

    I think this year’s class is the most exciting since the ’04s. No need to invent problems that don’t exist.

  13. Everyone seems to forget that Horford and Green were second choices for us after we were spurned by Kaun and Washington. Noah was a late addition, because he was a late bloomer, much like Yeguete and Larson (responded much better than expected to his injury).

    We were lucky in ’04. Mike Miller got us to the final against Mich. St. and he was a Billy recruit.

    We’re still having growing pains — trying to find the right combination of recruits. It sounds weird, for a school with back to back national championships, but we are an anomaly. There is no other pure “football school” that has had our hoops success — certainly not since the one-and-done rule. That means there is no program in the history of college basketball after which we can model ourselves.

    We have a lot of trial and error going on. It’s inevitable. But Billy keeps bringing in McDonald’s All Americans and getting players who should, by all logic, be going to pure “basketball schools.”

    Finally, anyone who believes that the number one player in the nation should go to UF because he is in-state is INSANE or just dumb as a stump. If the best football player in America was from North Carolina (Chris Leak, anyone?), and he went to play for the Tarheels, people would go ballistic and scream bloody murder.

  14. CRAIG,
    I disagree with you on the point that we shouldn’t expect the number 1 player in the country from the state to go to UF, because it is a Football School. Look at the entire Athletic Dept. We have one of the very best athletic programs in the country, not just one of the best football programs in the country. We compete at a high level in every athletic event the school offers. So as Gators lets not first of all feel like this great institution is just a football school. And we should not expect the very best from all of the sports teams that we field, I bet Jeremy Foley does not expect to be second best. You used Chris Leak as an example, because you are following that football school logic. Most athletes want to participate against the best and they want to be with the best and to be the best. Its the overall program that attracts most athletes, not JUST their sport. We have a well rounded program and we should expect the best athletes in the state and the country to WANT to go to THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA.

  15. Take off the Orange & Blue glasses. Nothing you have stated is very relevant, nor is it realistic.

    If YOU were Brandon Knight, you would have chosen the in-state school that can’t sell out the O-Dome, where hoops is the third most popular sport (after 1. Florida Football and 2. Florida Football recruiting) over…

    …potentially the #1 historical college hoops program in America (UCLA had the Wooden era, Tyus Edney and a lot of down years), where people have decade-long waiting lists to move their season tickets down 3 rows, and where the coach’s last two point guards were/will be the #1 OVERALL picks in the NBA draft.

    That’s what you have convinced yourself makes sense?
    Really?
    Seriously?

  16. Take off the Orange & Blue glasses. Nothing you have stated is very relevant, nor is it realistic.

    If YOU were Brandon Knight, you would have chosen the in-state school that can’t sell out the O-Dome, where hoops is the third most popular sport (after 1. Florida Football and 2. Florida Football recruiting) over…

    …potentially the #1 historical college hoops program in America (UCLA had the Wooden era, Tyus Edney and a lot of down years), where people have decade-long waiting lists to move their season tickets down 3 rows, and where the coach’s last two point guards were/will be the #1 OVERALL picks in the NBA draft.

    That’s what you have convinced yourself makes sense?
    Really?
    Seriously?