Replacing a four-year starter at point guard is a tall task for any player, even if the one who last manned the position was a generous 5’8”. Just one week into practice for the 2012-13 season, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan confirmed that junior Scottie Wilbekin will play that role the vast majority of the time this year.
“Scottie right now has played very, very well the first 4-5 days here at practice,” he said. “Putting Scottie in certain situations, I think he’ll be able to score. And I think that we need him to be able to do some things to take advantage of that size, that athleticism, getting into the lane and trying to create opportunities for him to do that.”
Known mostly as a defensive stopper during his first two seasons, Wilbekin embraced that role but added a much-improved three-point shot last year. His 45.7 percent average from beyond the arc led the Gators in 2011-12 and proved that he can be a versatile playing and more than capable replacement for Erving Walker.
“In practice I’ve been shooting a lot more than I did the last two years. It’s coming pretty natural,” he said. “We had Erv and Brad [Beal] taking all the shots. They were the first options on offense [so I did not have to shoot as much].”
Read the rest of this story – and another on Patric Young – after the break!
Wilbekin should have more opportunities to shoot this season as he will also see some time at shooting guard. Donovan said Wednesday that he plans to have senior guard Kenny Boynton run the point some, a move that he thinks can be beneficial.
“He has done this before and I have confidence that he can do it,” Donovan said of Boynton taking on that role. “I also think, too, because of him being a senior, because of our offense, because of him having an awareness and understanding of what’s going on, it’s also good for our team, too.”
At 6’2”, Boynton will have to move to point guard in order to have a chance at playing in the NBA. Donovan is not having him play the one for that particular reason but does believe it can benefit him in the long run as well.
“I do think NBA people want to know that the guy has the ability to play back there, and I think that could help his growth and development as a player beyond being here at Florida,” he said. “I don’t have any problem playing him there, and I also think playing him there at times is going to be a good thing.”
Boynton said Wednesday that he is “pretty comfortable” playing point guard in practice and realizes that he will have to move into that role in order to play professionally. He said he has improved his decision making over the summer and has learned to create for other players, turn the ball over less and even get to the hole more off of the dribble.
“Pretty much [I have to concentrate on] not forcing anything, finding the right man. I’m definitely looking forward to playing the point guard position,” he added.
From the day that junior center Patric Young walked on campus three years ago, it was obviously that he was physically gifted. After playing a reserve role as a freshman, Young was thrust into the starting rotation last season and played quite well at times but also struggled on occasion.
Donovan pointed to a number of issues that Young faced last year. In addition to suddenly having his minutes upped significantly, Young suffered through tendinitis early in the season and was not conditioned well enough to be able to maintain his high level of energy and effort throughout games.
When he wasn’t suffering through mononucleosis, Young spent the offseason trying to make major strides in that area. Donovan expressed that he has already seen some improvement but now wants to see Young play at a consistently high level during games.
“What we need from him is we need unbelievable effort, pushing through fatigue, dealing with adversity physically when he gets tired, staying on the floor longer and not picking up fouls,” he said. Eighty percent of his fouls last year – 80 percent of his fouls – came from post players’ second moves. Just being disciplined and not being tired. All the other stuff is going to take care of itself. I’m not really worried about him.”
Donovan also believes that Young can improve immensely on offense without going so far as trying to add other facets to his game, such as a mid-range jumper.
“If Patric runs the floor hard every possession, if he goes to the offensive glass every possession, if he give effort and gets deep post position, he’s’ going to score. Where he’s not as effective is when he catches the ball off the block, 2-3 feet off the lane line and has got to work his way back to the basket,” he explained. “Now you got traffic coming in, you got people double teaming, you got people slapping at the ball. It just becomes a problem for him, and for a lot of post players it does.
“He’s gotten much better offensively, but like I say all the time to Patric, ‘If you were coaching against yourself, would you rather see yourself running and posting up running at the basket or would you rather see yourself running and posting up two feet off the lane line?’ You don’t want him under the basket. He’s too big and strong and physical. He’s got to get that mindset.”
Donovan cautioned that Young is “not going to be a scorer in the NBA” and will make his mark as an “energy, running-the-floor, rebounder, defender, deep post-up guy.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, he said, because Young can be dominant in that area and have a great career.
“If Patric does those things I just described that he’s capable of and does them at a high level, then he has a long, long career professionally. Extremely long,” Donovan said. “His career is not going to be based on him catching the ball two feet off the lane and being Hakeem Olajuwon or something. That’s not going to be him. He needs to do those things, and if he does those things, just based on talking to a lot of NBA people, he really improves himself.”
Young following Donovan’s lead could also be more than enough to get Florida back to the NCAA Tournament and give the Gators a chance to make another serious run.