Golden pitching vision to transfers, up to No. 3 in 2022 class ranking

After a four-year stint as a player at St. Mary’s College in Northern California, Todd Golden had an opportunity to launch his pro career. The former guard signed a deal with Maccabi Haifa of the Israeli Basketball Premier League in 2008 and spent the next several years with the club.

But Golden, who also represented the United States at the 2009 Maccabiah Games, made just 22 appearances in the Israeli League and averaged 2.2 points per contest. And in 2010, Golden’s playing days came to an end, prompting him to return to the United States where he took a job in corporate marketing and sales at IMG College and later assumed a similar role at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

It’s an uncommon path for someone who then entered the college basketball coaching industry and rose through its ranks to eventually take over as the head coach at the University of Florida. But Golden’s experience in corporate sales was a factor in the Gators’ decision to hire him, according to athletic director Scott Stricklin.

“I like the fact that he had to sell for a living,” Stricklin said in March. “That is a tremendous experience to have in your back pocket.”

And roughly eight weeks into Golden’s tenure as Florida’s leader, it appears his ability to make a sale has deeply impacted his early results on the recruiting trail as the 36-year-old coach has pitched his vision to transfer candidates, four of whom chose to buy in.

The Gators have added former Belmont guard Will Richardformer VMI guard Trey Bonhamformer LSU forward Alex Fudge and, most recently, former St. Bonaventure guard Kyle Lofton. As a result, Florida ranks No. 3 nationally and No. 1 in the SEC in 2022 transfer recruiting.

“Just seeing what coach Golden did at San Francisco and the way he coached his players, I know it can set us up to be successful at Florida,” Richard told Swamp247 after committing to Florida last month. “You can just tell he wants to take Florida back to the Nation Championship and that’s something I couldn’t pass up being a part of.”

With two scholarship spots still available on their roster, Golden and his staff are aiming toward growing their already-impressive class, which is comprised of players who won all-conference honors in their respective leagues over the last several years and a former top prospect.

Former Buffalo forward Josh Mballa wrapped up a visit to Florida on Friday around 12 pm EST, a source familiar with the development told Swamp247.

A 6-foot-7, 220-pound big man, Mballa was a force to be reckoned with in three seasons with the Bulls, having nearly averaged a double-double in each of those campaigns.

Last year, Mballa recorded 13.0 points, 8.6 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per contest and was one of the nation’s top offensive rebounders, posting a 13.6 offensive rebound percentage, the 39th-best mark among all qualified Division I players in the country regardless of position, according to KenPom. He was recognized as a member of the second-team All-MAC for his efforts.

A year earlier, Mballa was dominant in 22 games as he averaged 15.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game en route to second-team All-MAC honors. He also recorded 0.5 blocks and 1.5 steals per game that season and earned MAC Defensive Player of the Year as a result.

During his introductory press conference in March, Golden said he had two main areas of concern after studying his new team: 3-point shooting and defensive rebounding. Mballa has garnered a reputation as a ferocious player on the glass.

“I think the two areas that we’re going to really strive to be better at next year is shooting the ball,” Golden said when asked for his early assessment of his team. “The team I think was around 30.5% from the year on (three-pointers) and the way that I like to play that’s simply not going to be good enough. We’re going to have to go out and shoot the ball better to achieve the goals we want to achieve.

“Also, defensively, rebounding,” Golden continued. “That was an area that was surprising to me when evaluating the team and the roster that they didn’t have a lot of success in because I think the pieces are there, and I think the talent is there in terms of being able to get I think if we can lift those two areas up a couple of pegs and stay consistent and get better in other areas, we should be back in the tournament next year.”

The Gators have also expressed interest in former Washington State forward Efe Abogidi, a 6-foot-10 big man who posted a 9.5 percent block rate last year, the 34th-best mark in the country, according to KenPom. Abogidi’s 66 blocks were the fifth-most in a single season by a Washington State player.

On the high school side, Florida is pursuing Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips High School four-star guard Riley Kugelwho is ranked No. 48 overall and No. 4 among shooting guards in the 2022 class on the independent 247 Sports player rankings.

Already a successful salesman as a coach with regard to his transfer recruiting results, Golden will have to continue to make his pitch to round out his first roster as the Gators’ head coach.

“You have to present a package and be buttoned up, and they’re not just throwing that money out there,” Stricklin said of Golden’s experience in corporate sales. “I called the IMG people and they said all good stuff.”

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