Florida’s season is desperately spiraling toward irrelevance. Heading into Saturday’s game against Ole Miss, Florida is 10-8, its worst 18-game start under Billy Donovan since going 9-9 to start the 1996-97 season.
During a media availability on Friday, Donovan shouldered the blame on the construction of UF’s team.
“If there’s one thing I take responsibility for, and hindsight is 20-20, our recruiting the last three or four years has been very, very challenging,” Donovan said. “I’m the one responsible for that.”
In 1980s college basketball, 2011 stud signee guard Bradley Beal would be a senior leader at this point. But while Beal stands as the highest-rated recruit Donovan has landed so far this decade, a look back at his four classes since 2011 reveals a mix of top 50-100 prospects and a pair of disappointing McDonald’s All-Americans.
Here’s a look at UF’s last four recruiting classes:
2011 — Bradley Beal, g (one-and-done, starting shooting guard and rising star for Washington Wizards), Walter Pitchford f/c (transferred to Nebraska)
2012 — Michael Frazier g (starting shooting guard), DeVon Walker f (out for year with torn ACL), Dillon Graham, g (transferred to Embry Ribble), Braxton Ogbueze g (transferred to UNC-Charlotte0
2013 — Chris Walker c (starting/reserve center), Kasey Hill g (starting pg)
2014 — Devin Robinson f (starting small forward), Chris Chiozza g (starting/reserve guard), Brandone Francis g (academically ineligible, now practicing with the team).
Of the last four classes, Beal, Walker and Hill are the three McDonald’s All-Americans. But Hill and Walker have yet to perform to the level each one did against high school competition. College has been a bigger adjustment than expected.
Donovan has tried to sprinkle in a myriad of transfers to fill the gaps, including guard Eli Carter from Rutgers, forward Alex Murphy from Duke, forward Dorian Finney-Smith from Virginia Tech and center Jon Horford from Michigan. But those transfers also have taken away scholarship space for four-year players to develop. Donovan’s team has been at its best with homegrown four-year classes like 2004 (Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Taurean Green and Corey Brewer) and 2010 (Patric Young, Will Yeguete, Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather) with a few transfers sprinkled in (Mike Rosario, Vernon Macklin).
It will be interesting to see, following this season, if Donovan returns more of a home grown approach or will continue to scour the transfer market.