Florida’s run to the Sweet 16 under second-year coach Mike White has a chance to pay dividends for the Gator program for years to come.
As White gains more visibility in front of a national audience in his first NCAA Tournament, more high-level recruits from around the country are bound to take notice.
White said he’s already noticed an uptick in how Florida and his staff have been perceived with UF’s success in his second season. The Gators are 26-8 entering Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Wisconsin.
“Our guys have put us in the top 25 all year and certainly recruits don’t mind seeing that,” White said. “I think that for the most part the reception continues to get warmer and warmer. Phone calls are returned a little quicker, as are texts. So I think our recruiting base knows that Florida is very healthy. We have a lot to sell here. Again, I’ve got a great staff, great people. Our support staff is through the roof. All the resources and facilities necessary are here to continue building this program and rebuilding it, if you will. We’ll see. We’ll see where it leads.”
Rivals.com national basketball recruiting analyst Eric Bossi said White’s run can only help broaden his recruiting base.
“It’s always beneficial because especially when you are talking about Florida, despite the fact that you can look and you can see that they’ve been one of the most successful programs in the country, in the 2000s, they’re always thought of as a football school, right,” Bossi said. “So the more that Mike White gets a chance to get out and promote his program, his style of play, to a broader audience, the better. Obviously they are going to get extended looks on the East Coast because they’re in the East Regional, but you know people will start taking notice.”
The Gators have put together a solid 2017 class that includes three borderline three-four star recruits — 6-6 swingman DeAundrae Ballard of Atlanta, 6-8 forward Chase Johnson of Ripley, W. Va., and 6-8 forward Isaiah Stokes of Memphis, Tenn. A fourth recruit, 6-4 point guard Michael Okauru of Raleigh, N.C., has committed and is expected to sign in the April period.
Looking ahead to 2018, the Gators have yet to land any commitments, but are warm on some highly-regarded in-state prospects, including 6-8 power forward Emmitt Williams (Lehigh Acres), 6-6 small forward Nassir Little (Orlando Christian) and 6-7 forward Darius Days (The Rock School, Gainesville).
While White has gotten recruits that have fit his system, Florida fans are still waiting for him to land his first program-changing, McDonald’s All American-type recruit, the way former UF coach Billy Donovan did when he signed Mike Miller in 1998. The Gators were close last year with guard Collin Sexton, but the McDonald’s All-American combo guard from the Atlanta area decided instead to go to Alabama.
“He’s got the brand and now he’s got the visibility that I would predict sooner than later he’s going breakthrough,” Bossi said. “And there’s so much high level talent in Florida that eventually he’s going to get one of those local McDonald’s All American types.
“They’ve got a young, energetic staff. They’ve got a fun style of play. And I think you’ll start seeing some breakthrough because people are starting to get to know Mike White a little bit.”