Following a crushing loss at the hand of Oral Roberts in the NCAA tournament, the Florida Gators walked into the offseason with a number of questions to be answered ahead of next season.
Just over a week later, the already large amount of uncertainty surrounding their personnel continues to build as key pieces of Florida’s squad go their separate ways.
So far, Florida has seen Tre Mann and Colin Castleton enter their names into the pool of NBA draft prospects — with the possibility that Castleton could return after gauging interest — while Noah Locke, Ques Glover and Osayi Osifo take to the transfer portal and assistant coach Jordan Mincy moves on to become the head coach of Jacksonville University.
Despite the necessity to stop the bleeding, another entrant into the portal came on Tuesday morning. This time in the form of power forward Omar Payne, officially joining the mix of Gators looking to continue their playing career elsewhere as first reported by Swamp247.
Playing in 24 games this past year and starting in eight of those, Payne accounted for 3.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 15.7 minutes per game. Despite his lackluster numbers, there were multiple times throughout the year that he flashed his potential.
Producing at a high level when apart of the starting lineup rather than coming off the bench, Payne played a big role in the Gators midseason victory over Tennessee. Beginning a four-game win streak that catapulted UF into a top-25 position, Payne would form an efficient duo with Castleton in the starting lineup.
However, once the second COVID-19 outbreak occurred, Florida would begin to dwindle Payne out of the game plan, electing to go with a smaller lineup from spots one through four.
With his frustrations culminating in a nasty elbow to Tennessee’s John Fulkerson in the SEC tournament, Payne would not see the floor in Florida’s first NCAA tournament matchup against Virginia Tech. Seeing limited action in round two, Payne would prove to be a nonfactor.
The underutilization of Payne throughout the year was one of the evident blunders Florida made throughout the year.
As he moves on, Payne is set to provide any team he plays for with a rim-protecting presence on the defensive end and an efficient scorer around the hoop when teams work it to him inside. Shooting 75 percent from the floor last year, Payne will not be the focal point of the offense but will make due to the opportunities he is given to score the rock.
As a result, the 6-foot-10, 230-pound big man will likely see a fair share of interest before making a decision.
For Florida, they now sit in a position that is in dire need of additions from the transfer portal themselves. With the guard spot already a concern due to depth, the lack of a big at the moment with Castleton possibly off to the NBA create concern for Mike White’s unit going forward.
With all the losses, it would not be surprising for Florida to continue the trend of adding transfers like Tyree Appleby and Anthony Duruji into the mix to fill large holes on the roster.
However, the direction of the Gators program looks to be getting bleaker as time continues, with now six players on their way out the door with just one replacement in guard Kowaice Reeves set to enter.