Todd Golden is off to quite a start in terms of constructing his inaugural roster with the Florida Gators. And that sentence was crafted as a result of far more than just the decision of Alex Fudge- Golden is quickly becoming adept at mastering the new art of portal recruiting.
Of course, it’s always fashionable to rip on the guy who just left (especially on less-than-perfect terms) and loft the new guy up as the savior before he truly does anything worth meriting that. It’s something we should all at least attempt to realize before giving Golden too much credit.
But it’s also undeniable that Mike White did not leave Florida in a great spot roster-wise, handing over whoever took over for him a shell of a roster that had just seen a bunch of guys finish their final years of eligibility. And what Todd Golden has done to build it back has been tremendous.
Never mind the fact that Golden convinced Colin Castleton to stay for one more year, or reeled Kowacie Reeves back into the fold less than 48 hours after he decided to enter the transfer portal, or even encouraged Myreon Jones to return for one last season. Those were nice retainees. But Golden is adding some new pieces that could make Florida a true force- and possibly very quickly.
Alex Fudge has to be the headliner. The former LSU signee bolted from Baton Rouge after Will Wade drove the Tiger program into the ground, and though he’d shown flashes as a freshman, the excitement with him stems from his potential. The wingspan (7′ even) makes him a problematic defender for opponents; he’s already plenty quick, fast, and strong enough to contribute at the SEC level as of now, and is only expected to improve. If Fudge- who oh, by the way, grew up a Gator fan- can continue to grow on the offensive side, Florida will have a terrifying multi-purpose weapon at small forward to rely on.
The most recent addition was point guard Trey Bonham, who announced his decision to transfer to Florida earlier this evening. Bonham averaged 13.6 points a game, 4.4 rebounds per game, and 4 assists per game as a sophomore last year at VMI, but really shined in the eyes of the analytics-heavy Golden for doing all the little things right. He’ll be expected to play a sizable role next year, and has the tape to demonstrate that he can do so. He’s not the biggest point guard out there, but can certainly finish around the rim, something that should translate at least to a degree to the floors of the SEC- and that, to be frank, is something Florida has not been good at in recent years.
Then there was Will Richard, who’s now been relegated to the backs of some fans’ minds as the Fudge and Bonham news begin to circulate. But he shouldn’t be forgotten about. Richard averaged a solid 12.1 points per game and 6.0 boards per game last season at Belmont. And though Belmont is in the OVC, Richard played against multiple SEC teams last year (LSU and Vanderbilt) and held his own against both.
Those are three above-average pieces that might be able to hit the ground running with Florida at best, and at worst, should be able to quickly grow into large roles at the SEC level. Todd Golden said he was going to hit the transfer portal hard, and he has done so in three different ways: landing the big name transfer from a small school (Alex Fudge), landing the big-name transfer from a small school (Will Richard) and landing the underrated but analytics-driven and possible diamond in the rough (Trey Bonham.)
And although losing White-era recruits Malik Reneau and now possibly Jalen Reed doesn’t feel good, Gator fans should at least be able to feel good about the fact that Todd Golden has re-stocked the cupboard quickly and to a high degree. Golden has just landed three different players with not only strong amounts of promise, but multiple years of eligibility still ahead.