Throughout different points this season, Florida coach Billy Donovan has bemoaned his team’s lack of low post scoring and physical presence inside.
On Monday, I asked Donovan whether more could have been done over the years to resolve those issues with recruiting or by bringing in transfers. Florida suffered a blow when South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris (6-11, 230) was dismissed from the team last spring due to disciplinary reasons. The Gators brought in Michigan transfer and current starting center Jon Horford to take Harris’ place, but had no backup plan as far as players to develop inside.
“We would all like to have different kind of options, but it wasn’t from a lack of trying, working or those kind of things,” Donovan said. “We really felt like in Damontre’s situation didn’t work out, but if you look at our team right now with what we can see, theoretically you can have across the front line right now Damontre Harris, Chris Walker and Jon Horford. That’s three guys with size and length and that stuff didn’t work out. It wasn’t like we just had nobody on the court and be empty, it’s just sometimes those things just don’t pan out. ”
With the lack of physicality up front, the Gators have been outrebounded by an average margin of 14.5 per game in back-to-back losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
“Rebounding’s always been a concern for me with this team, since the year started,” Donovan said. “But we’ve always, I thought we did a pretty good job of always holding our own except against Vanderbilt and Kentucky’s been a dominant rebounding team.
“So I would not say that we’re a better rebounding team than Kentucky with their size and length and athleticism. We’re not in their level, but I clearly think we can rebound the ball against Vanderbilt better than we did, but Vanderbilt’s rebounding margin to me was just purely based on (James) Saikam’s effort. Saikam’s effort in the game was phenomenal, and the same with (Damian) Jones as well. But we can do a better job. There was way, way too many on the rebounding for us, if you go down the stat sheet, a lot of zero’s and one’s on total rebounds by guys. And we needed to do a better job with that.”
The good news for the Gators in regards to the frontcourt — help is one the way. The Gators signed forward Noah Dickerson (6-8, 245 pounds) and center Kevarrius Hayes (6-9, 220) for their 2015 class. Dickerson is a banger inside, while Hayes is an excellent perimeter defender and shot-blocker in the mold of former Gator forward Will Yeguete. In addition, USF transfer John Egbunu (6-11, 260 pounds) will be eligible inside and should help immediately on the boards. Egbunu averaged 6.2 rebounds at USF last season as a true freshman and is developing a low post offensive game. Walk-on center Shuyler Rimmer (6-10, 250 pounds), a transfer from Stanford, could also help inside once he’s eligible next season in mid-December.
But for the rest of this season, Florida will try to make due inside with Horford, Walker, junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith and walk-on senior Jacob Kurtz. Without a true post scorer, Florida enters this week’s game against Ole Miss ranked 11th in the SEC in scoring offense at 65.8 points per game.