The Florida Gators' third straight appearance to the Elite Eight turned sour, but a talent group of freshman and transfer players will help Florida reload in 2014.
The Gators at worst will return four rotation players in Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete, Casey Prather and Michael Frazier II. All four have proven to be solid complements that will supplement the Gators’ new additions.
First and foremost, though, the Gators will wait on a decision from center Patric Young.
The junior big man underwhelmed some in his junior season and could consider coming back to Gainesville to improve his draft stock.
At this moment, Young ranks outside of the first round (per Draft Express), but his long wingspan and athletic ability should enamor scouts for a late-first-round grade. This writer would say his college career will end, but another chance at the Final Four could intrigue him.
Looking at the host of new talent coming to Gainesville, Young will certainly entertain another return.
The Gators’ commitment list boasts two top-10 recruits from the class of 2013 in point guard Kasey Hill and big man Chris Walker.
A 6’10” behemoth with an inside-outside game, Walker should revitalize Florida’s offense with his dynamic ability. Ditto for Hill, the 6’1” floor general out of pipeline school Montverde Academy, who should be an offensive injection into the Gators backcourt.
Some teams only bring in young blood when a host of seniors graduate, but the Gators have taken advantage of the transfer market to replace Young and Erik Murphy inside as well. Two top-flight transfers, Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris, highlight Florida's movers. These two bring a defensive intensity on the interior that could make the Gators even better in that area.
Harris, a former South Carolina standout, finished SEC All-Defense as a sophomore. And Finney-Smith was named to the All-ACC freshman team after averaging more than seven rebounds at forward.
The Gators may experience some growing pains in the early going, but they should be able to come together and challenge for the SEC crown.
The competition won’t get much easier—Kentucky, for one, will have another talent infusion in Lexington and could potentially go 10-deep with its group of 4- and 5-star recruits—but Florida could be poised for another chance at the Final Four. Gator fans, don’t keep your head down for long.