Florida received a verbal pledge from a potential impact big man when John Mooney committed to the Gators over the weekend.
Only problem, Mooney won’t arrive on campus until 2016. But Nike Team Florida coach Tom Topping thinks the 6-foot-9 standout entering his sophomore year at Lake Brantley High is worth the wait. Topping helped coach Mooney, who starred with NTF’s under-15 program over the summer.
“He projects as one of the better basketball players in his class, and that’s not just my opinion, but the opinion of a lot of people throughout the country,” Topping said. “Very high basketball IQ. Versatile. Can play inside and out. He’s 6-10, 220 (pounds) and gets bigger every time I see him. Either taller or thicker.”
Sounds similar to the big men who have come though the Florida program, right?
“Absolutely,” Topping said. “Going back to Matt Bonner, a guy who could step back and hit 3(-pointers), to Chandler Parsons to Erik Murphy he’s very similar in that he can play physical inside, shoot from the perimeter and put it on the floor a little bit as well.”
Lake Brantley High coach Mike Cuff said Mooney developed those skills because his father had him play point guard in youth basketball.
“He was always the biggest kid on his team. but he played point,” Cuff said. “That’s why his ballhandling and his passing skills are really good. Being 6-8, being able to dribble and pass, that’s a big advantage he has over a lot of people.”
Cuff said when teams pressed Lake Brantley last season, Mooney was bringing the ball up the court for his team. Mooney was just the third player ever to play on Lake Brantley High’s team as a freshman, averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds in his first high school season.
“He averaged a double-double as a freshman and he was only taking 6 or 7 shots a game,” Cuff said. “We ran a kind of slow, deliberate offense because we have a lot of big guys. This year, you’ll see a hike in his stats. But always one of the smartest guys on the court. Carries a 3.9 GPA, which is really good.
“Early in the summer I was kind of joking with him, I said, OK, these schools are going to start coming after you. He kinda laughed, he’s a real humble kid. And I asked him, OK, if you have to go one school, what would it be. And without hesitation I said I want to go to the University of Florida. His older sister Kaitlyn was the homecoming queen there a couple of years ago, she just graduated. And he had a great-grandfather that was a team doctor (at UF) back in the 1940s and 1950s.”
So it sounds like Mooney intends to keep his pledge until National Signing Day in November of 201. Current Gators Patric Young and Michael Frazier II both kept their commitments when they were offered scholarships in UF during their sophomore year in high school. But when the Austin Rivers committed to the Gators at the end of his freshman year of high school, he changed his mind and went to Duke.
“I don’t see this being an Austin Rivers situation at all,” Cuff said. “Two totally different kids.”
Topping also said he would be surprised if Mooney doesn’t keep his commitment to the Gators. UCF had offered Mooney a scholarship over the summer, but the Altamonte Springs native chose UF instead of staying closer to home.
“I don’t think Florida would have made the offer if they weren’t serious about him in their plans and I think he thinks highly of the program,” Topping said. “Normally, you would be a little skeptical when someone commits that early but it seems like the right fit, for him and for Florida.”