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Todd Golden Hopes Transition Cycle Sets Tone for Gators In-State Recruiting

Todd Golden looks to turn the momentum recruiting Florida this cycle into a trend for the Gators' future in locking down in-state talent.

Photo: Todd Golden; Credit: Alex Shepherd 

When Todd Golden was hired as the Florida Gators' head coach soon after the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament, there was an overwhelming desire to see how he would tackle recruiting.

Despite formerly operating on the trail in the Southeastern Conference alongside Bruce Pearl during his short stint in The Plains with Auburn, his relatively unproven resume raised eyebrows when his name was announced as the next basketball coach at the University of Florida.

Golden has quickly silenced those critics by making waves in the transfer portal department and has provided a glimpse into the process he looks to follow for high school recruiting moving forward.

When he arrived on Florida's campus in late March, Golden felt the time to home in on members of the 2022 class had already passed him by. He said he believed the 2023 class would present Florida with its first opportunity to acquire up-and-coming talent.

"We just didn't have very much time," Golden said during media availability on Thursday. "A lot of these guys in the 2022 class were committed long before we got here and so I didn't know how successful we were going to be in that regard this first spring."

Inheriting a class that held three signees in forwards Malik Reneau and Jalen Reed, as well as guard Denzel Aberdeen, the staff's primary task would be evaluating and attempting to keep the class intact rather than looking to add more.

However, given the influx of coaching changes that seemed to occur this offseason, 2022 prospects remained on the open market longer than he expected. Seeing Reneau and Reed de-commit to head to Indiana and LSU, respectively, Golden shifted his focus to selective uncommitted high school recruits.

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His goal in that endeavor was to keep talented prospects in Florida.

He was able to do just that with Dr. Phillips (Fla.) product Riley Kugel while simultaneously keeping Kugel's high school teammate Aberdeen on board in orange and blue.

While he expressed his contentment with each move from a talent perspective, he views the landings as perfect culture fits for what he wants to accomplish when recruiting players to UF.

"It's [a] two-way street in recruiting these guys," he said. "We obviously wanted to add Riley to the program because he's a really good kid and a really good talent, but it's important to us that they want to be here. That was something Riley exhibited from the first moment I reached out to him, that he was passionate about coming to Florida if it worked out for him."

The stars aligned for Kugel to commit to the Gators on May 23. He is expected to enroll for the Summer B semester.

Golden's method of keeping players in Florida for their collegiate careers extends into the transfer portal, where he has taken into account the possibility of returning former Sunshine State natives to home. Jacksonville (Fla.) native and former LSU Tigers forward Alex Fudge exemplifies that desire.

All in all, he wants to create an atmosphere of pride at UF. One that results in talented prospects from the state exhibiting passion and desire for wearing the Gators logo.

Golden looks to capitalize on the retention of Aberdeen and the additions of Fudge and Kugel this offseason to create a trend for locking down Florida in the future.

"I'm just more excited, like I said, that they're from Florida and want to be here and can be, along with Alex, a Florida kid we were able to bring back. So we have some momentum that way, hopefully, as they experience some good things in our program I think it will rub off on the next class, so on and so forth."

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