Last year, the hopes of Florida basketball revolved around the offseason acquisition of graduate transfer forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. and a top-10 recruiting class. This year, the Gators' hopes will center around two key returning players.
Florida welcomed back Scottie Lewis last week after the freshman announced he was for a sophomore return, due in part because of draft uncertainty related to the coronavirus pandemic. Tuesday, the Gators got even better news: leading scorer Keyontae Johnson is following Lewis' lead and putting draft dreams on the back burner to make another run as a junior next season at Florida.
"I can't wait to get back and play with my brothers again next season!" he said on Twitter. "We've got unfinished business & the Gators will be ready to go."
I can’t wait to get back and play with my brothers again next season! We’ve got unfinished business & the Gators will be ready to go. I’m excited to keep growing on and off the court with Coach White and our coaching staff here & keep playing in front of the gator family💙💙 pic.twitter.com/eRrOu39AyH— Keyontae (@keyontaejohnso1) April 14, 2020
Johnson was considered a mid-to-late second-round prospect after a breakout sophomore season in which he averaged 14.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and shot 38% from 3-point range as Florida's go-to scorer. With a chiseled 6-foot-5, 231-pound frame, his two-way skill set and 3-point shooting should allow him to be successful as a 3-and-D wing at the next level.
But at this level, for Florida, he could perhaps be the difference between a good Florida team next season and a great one. His return ensures Florida will return all but one of its key players -- Kerry Blackshear -- from last season's team. A year older and wiser, the ingredients for a team primed to make real noise in the SEC are scattered in place at Florida.
There may be a "buyer beware" sign hanging around Florida after going 19-12 this past season with preseason top 10 expectations, but say it with me and believe this two words: Ignore it. Johnson is an All-SEC caliber player. Lewis is an NBA athlete who showed improvement over the final stretch of the regular season. Noah Locke is an elite shooter, Andrew Nembhard a capable distributor with room to grow in his role.
Don't say I didn't warn you. This team will be a factor in the conference race, with perhaps last season's disappointment spurring it to even greater heights next season.