Stokes boosts UF’s ’17 class

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The addition of 2017 power forward Isaiah Stokes put Florida back in the Top 25 in another significant category on Friday.

Per ESPN.com’s, Florida’s ’17 class is currently ranked 24th in the nation. That ranking could jump if Florida can close on an elite guard prospect during the spring signing period.

There are four SEC programs currently ranked ahead of Florida  — Kentucky (1), Alabama (6), Auburn (9) and Arkansas (17).

While losing point guard commit Shai Alexander to Kentucky was a blow to UF’s class, the Gators quickly regrouped with the addition of Stokes, who is an interesting prospect. The younger brother of former Tennessee and NBA forward Jarnell Stokes, Isaiah Stokes originally had designs on playing football in the SEC as a 6-foot-8, 310 pound left tackle. But Stokes had a change of heart, lost some weight, and decided to follow in his older brother’s basketball footsteps. Stokes starred over the summer for Penny Hardaway’s travel team and is playing this season three hours down the road from UF’s campus at IMG Academy in Bradenton.

Florida officially announced the signing of Stokes on Friday. Stokes joins 6-6 swingman DeAundrae Ballard and 6-8 forward Chase Johnson as UF’s early signees from the November period.

“We’re incredibly excited about all three guys in this class,” Florida coach Mike White said. “Isaiah had hoped to make his announcement on his own terms when he had his whole family with him, so it’s unfortunate for his sake that it leaked how it did. That said, Isaiah is really excited to be a Gator, and we’re equally excited to have him as part of the Florida basketball family and think he can be a really good player here. We are proud of this class and think they will all be great fits for our program and our style, and we’re happy that they’ve chosen to be a part of the Gator family.”

In addition to three early signees in this class, the Gators will also have Virginia Tech transfer Jalen Hudson eligible to compete for the 2017-18 season. The 6-6 Hudson is a combo guard capable of scoring from outside and off the dribble.

 Here’s a rundown on UF’s incoming freshmen:

Isaiah Stokes

6-8 | 273 | F/C | Memphis, Tenn. | IMG Academy

Rated a four-star prospect by ESPN

Ranked 60th in the ESPN 100 rankings for 2017.

Strong and powerful with a great post arsenal and a solid jump shot.

Brother of Jarnell Stokes, a two-time All-SEC player at Tennesse

ESPN.com bottom line: “He’s said to be very similar to his brother (Jarnell) at the same stage of their development, but he has a shad of Kennedy Meeks in his too as his wide frame, quick feet, and solid skill set inside of 15 feet make him a major mismatch problem.”

 DeAundrae Ballard

6-6 | 195| G | Atlanta, Ga. | Southwest Atlanta Christian Academ

Rated a four-star prospect by ESPN and 247sports and a three-star recruit by Rivals.

Ranked 65th in the ESPN 100 rankings for 2017.

Great length and motor and a versatile scorer.

ESPN.com bottom line: “Ballard is a high major wing that is a versatile scorer who is capable of big numbers and has excellent upside.”

 Chase Johnson

6-8 | 205 | F | Ripley, W.Va. | Huntington Prep

Rated a four-star recruit by ESPN and a three-star recruit by 247Sports.

Combo forward with the ability to play a stretch-4 position.

·Great athlete with a knack for finding the ball.

ESPN.com bottom line: “He’s a young and blossoming forward with notable upside because he combines athleticism, a foundation of skill and a good nose for the ball.”