GAINESVILLE -- Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan quickly filled his assistant coaching vacancy over the weekend with the hiring of former Clemson assistant Shaka Smart.
Smart replaces Preston Lewis, who took a job with Penn State last week. Before Clemson, Smart coached at Dayton and then Akron. Smart joins current Florida assistants Larry Shyatt and Rob Lanier in Gainesville.
This is a nice hire for the University of Florida. Smart, 31, joins Donovan's staff with a strong resume despite being a relatively young assistant. Clemson experienced an upswing last season and Smart, we assume, had a hand in that turnaround. He is considered to be one of the nation's best young recruiters and that's key heading into the month of July, when coaches fan out across the nation and scout AAU tournaments for talent.
Smart could pay immediate dividends for Donovan and the Gators if the new assistant could persuade North Carolina prep prospect John Wall to take a closer look at the Gators. Wall (6-4, 184 pounds), who is ranked by Rivals.com as the No.1-ranked prospect of 2009, is uncommitted but lists Clemson and Florida as two of his top three schools (according to Rivals).
If Smart can't steer Wall towards Florida, then maybe the new Florida assistant can make inroads with South Florida shooting sensation Kenny Boynton Jr.
Boynton Jr. (nationally ranked No.10 by Rivals for the class of 2009) played at Plantation American Heritage last season with Florida commitment Eloy Vargas. The two players are friends and compete together during the summer months. Despite the access to Boynton Jr., Florida hasn't been able to persuade the shooter, who began his career at Pompano Beach Blanche Ely, to think about playing for the Gators.