Photo: Alex Fudge; Credit: Zach Goodall
There’s an uncharacteristic buzz surrounding Florida basketball in the preseason. It may not be a national buzz, but those close to the program can feel something is different.
Seeing drastic turnover occur from top to bottom — with head coach Mike White, his assistants and four starters departing from Gainesville — the University of Florida brought in San Francisco head coach Todd Golden to take over at the helm.
While a mass exodus usually indicates that significant time is needed to rebuild, all the right pieces have fallen into the right places. The changing of the guard at the top of the program can serve as the pivotal turning point needed to surge back from the distressing state of mediocrity experienced as of late.
In an effort to reconstruct the program to its former status of consistency and excellence achieved under Billy Donovan, Golden made it a focus to draw in talented transfers to fill the bevy of holes the roster presented.
Adding on to the promising members retained from 2021-22, the Gators have compiled a more-than-capable unit to take the floor next season.
The mixture of new and familiar faces slates them to reconcile the program sooner rather than later under the new leadership.
In anticipation of Golden’s first season in charge, All Gators plans to profile the 12 scholarship players occupying spots on the roster as they look to accomplish that mission in the upcoming season.
After covering the backcourt with breakdowns on Kyle Lofton, Trey Bonham, Denzel Aberdeen, Myreon Jones, Niels Lane, Will Richard and Riley Kugel, we now flip our attention to the big men in the frontcourt. Tipping off power forwards and centers is LSU transfer Alex Fudge.
Hailing from Riverside High School in Jacksonville (Fla.), Fudge ranked as a top 60 player out of high school with 27 total offers.
Despite ranking as the No. 8 player in the state during the 2020 class, Fudge failed to obtain an offer from Florida or Florida State, according to his 247Sports profile.
However, receiving interest from an LSU program that at the time was on the rise, the 6-foot-8, 175-pound talent elected to continue his playing career in the Louisiana Bayou for then-LSU head coach Will Wade.
However, playing beneath a bevy of high-caliber four and fives for Wade’s Tigers in his two seasons, Fudge saw an already limited playing time dwindle as the season transitioned from LSU’s out-of-conference schedule to conference play.
His 3.2 minutes per game over the final five contests, paired with the significant turnover inbound in Baton Rouge following the house fire of allegations Wade left on his way out the door, resulted in Fudge hitting the transfer portal this offseason.
The Jacksonville (Fla.) native quickly became a priority target for Todd Golden to pluck away from the other high-level programs vying for his services. Fudge reciprocated the interest that his home state program extended to him, moving from his home away from home in Baton Rouge back to his real home in the state of Florida, in his eyes.
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The move gave the Gators their lone Power Five transfer addition heading into 2022-23.
2022-23 Season Role/Projection
Golden and his staff pulled in a variety of high-upside prospects from the transfer portal this offseason that has the potential to impact winning immediately.
However, none possesses the ability to impact the game the way Alex Fudge can if he lives up to his potential in orange and blue. There’s a reason Golden coined the Jacksonville native and LSU transfer as “the definition of an impactful player” recently.
In the preseason practice sessions that will soon reach their close as 2022 rolls into November, his Florida coaches and teammates have raved about the elite-level athleticism he’s displayed in abundance.
On the offensive end, Fudge projects to be a stretch four option as he’s shown the strides to be regarded as a respectable jump shooter from beyond the three-point line. His development in that area — although still needing improvement — provides Florida the luxury to spread the floor to attack opposing defenses with Colin Castelton inside or look to an assortment of other talents like Kowacie Reeves Jr., Lofton, Bonham, Richard and others who can score at all three levels.
Fudge secondarily possesses explosiveness toward the basket — where he can finish through contact or acrobatically — which significantly increased his value in the rotation to find the rim twos the Gators staff is looking for first and foremost.
As a result, he’s an asset to the fast-paced transition offense and the pick-and-roll heavy Princeton-style offense coach Kevin Hovde is implementing in the half-court.
Defensively, Fudge utilizes his length and unique quickness for someone of his stature. Not only is he comfortable when working against opposing fours on the interior — where he excels contesting shots — but is willing to switch onto opposing guards and can hold his own.
He’s a mismatch weapon who can play one-through-five on the defensive end and is destined to make highlight reel blocks and effort plays for rebounds in 2022-23.
“He was like under the rim and one of the guys got the ball at the three and he closed out from like under the rim and blocked the shot,” Richard recalled when asked about the craziest thing he’s seen from Fudge. “I’ve never seen anybody recover that fast, kind of wild.”
The biggest knock on Fudge could be his propensity to search for the highlight plays he’s capable of. Those risks can result in poor possessions on both ends of the floor, but his upside to capitalize on the risks he takes drastically outweigh the negatives that are appended to his game.
Overall, Fudge embodies the versatility seen in the Gators unit as a whole, compared to years past when guys occupied specific niches on the roster. He’ll surpass his 3.3 points and 3.2 rebounds per game that he posted at LSU a season ago with a substantially increased usage rate.
He’s slated to begin the year as the starting power forward when the season commenced on Nov. 7 against Stony Brook.
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