Scanning the Portal: Options at Forward for the Florida Gators

Taking a look at some possible additions to the Florida Gators frontcourt and giving a brief overview of the forward position in the near future.
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The Florida Gators are undergoing a complete reconstruction of their roster before next season with the departures of a possible seven athletes from the 2020-21 season.

Losing Tre Mann to the NBA Draft and Noah Locke and Ques Glover to the transfer portal, the staple of Mike White’s offensive attack — guard play — was in distress with only Tyree Appleby as an experienced piece.

However, quickly targeting the transfer market to replenish talent and add depth to the unit, the Gators have reeled in two guards in Brandon McKissic and Myreon Jones. Pairing those two with Kowiace Reeves, the Florida backcourt has effectively been retooled with length, athleticism and offensive firepower.

Meanwhile, the Florida frontcourt was left equally bare following the 2019 season, without the abundance of replacements in sight. Watching Omar Payne and Osayi Osifo transfer to Illinois and Jacksonville University, respectively, and the possible departure of Colin Castleton to the NBA, the Gators are in need of size.

With the first domino following in the form of Boston College forward CJ Felder — who stands at 6-foot-7, 230-pounds — UF gained a promising piece to start the process but is still searching for a towering presence or two to operate down low on both sides of the floor.

As a result, here are multiple forward prospects that would immediately bolster the Gators frontcourt next season and a brief overview of the forward position in the near future.

Noah Gurley, Furman

Announcing his transfer from Furman on March 28, 2021, rising senior forward Noah Gurley quickly became a hot commodity in the transfer portal.

Receiving interest from several squads, Gurley has spent little time weighing his options to narrow down his list to eight — including the Gators alongside Duke, Alabama, Marquette, Tennessee, Auburn, Miami and San Diego State — on April 4.

Standing at 6-foot-8, 210 pounds, Gurley averaged 15.4 points on 48.8 percent from the floor and 5.8 rebounds last season for the Paladins. Equipped with the height Florida is in desperate need of, Gurley’s best characteristics are his versatility and athleticism around the rim.

Coming out of high school — in which he only received two offers — Gurley’s lengthy yet slim build allowed him to add multiple aspects to his game to make up for his rather small presence — which he has since improved — on the interior, despite his height.

When he’s not attacking the paint via impressive ball-handling skills or slashing ability, Gurley showcases a three-point stroke that allows any team he plays on to space the floor. Shooting an impressive 40.7 percent from the field in 32 games throughout the 2019-20 season and connecting on a combined 35.4 percent of his shots from deep in three seasons with Furman, Gurley presents an efficient weapon on the offensive end of the floor for the Gators.

Meanwhile, the Fayetteville (Ga.) native is an adequate defender on the defensive end, replacing the rim-protecting presence that Payne leaves behind.

With a multi-faceted offensive skillset, the athleticism to operate one-on-one on both ends of the floor and the understanding of playing effective help-side defense, Gurley would be the answer Florida is looking for at the four spot if they can land him over the other seven programs jockeying for his talents.

Tre Mitchell, Massachussetts

Standing at 6-foot-9, 240 pounds, sophomore Tre Mitchell presents the prototypical big man for power five schools around the country, and he has been viewed as such.

Classified as a power forward/center, Mitchell would provide an immediate replacement for Payne on the interior and then some. Averaging 18.8 points on 51.2 percent shooting, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game, Mitchell was a complete player around the rim during his time at UMass.

As a dominant paint presence, Mitchell is a reliable scorer and posts up well against fellow big men to create looks for himself inside.

Despite not fitting into the athletic mold that UF has often targeted through the transfer portal in recent years, he moves well for someone his size up and down the court to bring the Gators their first all-around big man in quite some time.

Crashing the boards exceptionally well, Mitchell produced near excellence while at UMass in which head coach Matt McCall took notice to.

“He’s one of the best, if not the best, big men in the country,” McCall said. High praise for someone playing in the Atlantic 10 conference, but one that makes sense when he is in action.

At 6-foot-9, Mitchell may be considered small by SEC standard, especially against a team like Kentucky. However, he plays bigger than he is and would be a perfect addition for the Gators to operate in the two big lineups if they so choose.

With Florida seeing success with Castleton and Payne on the court simultaneously last season, Mitchell provides UF an improved complementary piece to Castleton on the inside from Payne due to his prowess offensively.

Over 75 schools (yes, you read that correctly, and I was just as flabbergasted as you probably are) have reached out to Mitchell since he announced he was entering the portal.

With Florida more than likely among those to stretch their hand, Mitchell would be a fantastic grab for the squad in Gainesville, one that would likely project the Gators to advance past the second round of the NCAA Tournament next season.

Other Targets

If Florida is to miss out on both Gurley and Mitchell, the options for the power forward spot to be anything more than depth pieces to play in relief of last years starting PF Anthony Duruji next season begin to get slim.

However, players like Clemson transfer Olivier-Maxence Prosper — a lanky and athletic forward at 6-foot-8, 205 pounds that is strong defensively — or Xavier transfer Daniel Ramsey — who also stands 6-foot-8, can run the floor well and excels as a defender and rebounder.

With options still set to be picked from the tree of transfers in the coming weeks to months, the Gators hope to not be in the market for Prosper or Ramsey as more than an extra depth piece.

Final Thoughts

The reinvention of the Florida roster from this season to next may be one of the biggest turnovers in personnel in Gators history.

Losing a plethora of talent that heavily contributed to the success they had to get to the second round of the NCAA tournament is no easy task to overcome, with only one player being recruited out of high school.

However, Florida has made the most of its necessity to utilize the transfer portal by grabbing talented replacements or, in my opinion, upgrades to the roster going into next season.

Despite White’s struggles at points throughout his tenure at UF — culminating in a botched final 10 minutes against Oral Roberts in the second round of the NCAA tournament — replenishing the roster this offseason is to be applauded, no matter the production by those players next season.

Equipping the backcourt with an abundance of ball handlers, scorers, and above-average defenders, Florida is on the right path to equating to or exceeding this season's success.

The last remaining step is to secure a natural piece at the four spot to provide height to a drastically undersized unit as we currently stand. Ideally, the addition of a big-bodied rim protector presents Florida the best opportunity to win early and often next season.

If one of the three players listed can be hauled in by the Florida coaching staff — especially Mitchell — a battle-tested offseason will be considered a win for head coach Mike White and the Gators.