The Countdown: Florida basketball (10-0)

By Adam Silverstein
November 8, 2013

With the Florida Gators‘ 2013-14 basketball season getting underway in just a few hours, the second half of OGGOA‘s series – The Countdown – takes a look at those players on the roster wearing jerseys ranging from No. 10-0.

10 – Dorian Finney-Smith (Portsmouth, VA)
Redshirt sophomore forward (transfer)
6’8” 212 lbs.

Quick Bio: A former four-star recruit and the No. 31 overall player in the Class of 2011, Finney-Smith spent his freshman season playing for Virginia Tech. He made 30 starts and played in all 33 of his team’s games, averaging 6.3 points and 7.0 rebounds. For his efforts, Finney-Smith was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team. He chose Florida over a list of possible destinations including Memphis, Louisville and Iowa State. He is from the same town as Vernon Macklin; the two are friends.

2012-13 Season: Due to NCAA transfer rules, Finney-Smith was ineligible to play and took a redshirt. He was, however, able to practice the Gators and did just that as he helped prepare Florida for its Elite Eight run.

2013-14 Outlook: Finney-Smith has the intangables that could go a long way to helping the Gators break through the Elite Eight ceiling and get to the Final Four for the first time since 2006-07. Unfortunately for Florida, he starts the year suspended due to a violation of team rules and it is unknown when he will be allowed to return to the court (likely in a game or two). Head coach Billy Donovan spent most of the offseason trying to take pressure off Finney-Smith’s shoulders because the expectation level for his contributions is so high. He is just happy to be at UF. “I fit right in. I picked up the plays quick like the pick-and-rolls, I like the pick-and-rolls. My teammates, they helped me out with it, so I’d say I’ve adjusted pretty good,” Finney-Smith said.

5 – Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL)
Senior point guard
6’2” 176 lbs.

Quick Bio: A two-star recruit coming out of high school, Wilbekin skipped his senior season and accepted a scholarship to Florida as a junior. A lifelong Gators fan, Wilbekin proved to be a capable backup point guard as a freshman. He posted the best assist-to-turnover ratio on the team (2.2), led UF in assists five times, earned one start and was the first player to come off of the bench in 16 of the team’s games. As a sophomore, Wilbekin again served as back-up but was more impressive overall, improving his shooting by 10 percent and three-point shooting by nearly 20 percent. He only averaged 2.6 points, 1.6 assists and 1.5 rebounds in 15.2 minutes per game but shot 45.7 percent from downtown and proved that he could be a capable player.

2012-13 Season: Moving into the starting lineup, Wilbekin doubled his minutes but tripled his production, averaging 9.1 points, 5.0 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He hit 35.9 percent of his three-pointers and was better at getting to the hoop than Erving Walker had been the previous four seasons but was still not consistent in that regard. He was suspended for the first three games of the season but came back with gusto. He struggled mightily in the Gators’ final two games, however, combining to go 4-for-17 in 56 minutes. Two months after the season ended, he was suspended for the second time in a seven-month span.

2013-14 Outlook: Once Wilbekin comes back from his suspension, which could last up to six games, he will return to being an on-court leader for Florida, one that has supposedly taken his game to another level this offseason. Word out of the program is that Wilbekin took his latest discipline to heart and has been laser-focused on basketball over the last few months, which is great news for the Gators. Some of the pressure to put the ball in the hoop, at least as the primary ball-handler, will be taken off his shoulders, meaning he can concentrate on putting his teammates in position to score and spotting up for three-pointers. “He’s pretty unstoppable in practice, honestly. He knows the game. He’s extremely talented point guard,” said the next person featured on The Countdown. “Even though he’s had his issues this past summer, he’s still done a great job developing his game. I believe, when his suspension is over, he’s going to help our team tremendously right off the bat.”

Read about FIVE more players in The Countdown…after the break!

4 – Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL)
Senior center
6’9” 240 lbs.

Quick Bio: A 2010 McDonald’s All-American, Parade Magazine second-team All-American and a five-star recruit out of high school, Young was the Gators’ top recruit four years ago. With a veteran frontcourt set as starters, he served as the primary reserve, playing 17.8 minutes per game off the bench and averaging 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds while also blocking a team-high 31 shots. That effort earned him a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team. He’s had every opportunity to leave school after each season but has decided to stay all four years. Young became a starter as a sophomore and was immediately Florida’s primary presence in the frontcourt. He averaged 10.2 points and 6.4 boards and shot a team-high 61.8 percent from the floor in 26.5 minutes per game. Young was dominant at times but also showcased some inconsistency, which made him less effective during long stretches on the court.

2012-13 Season: Donovan wanted to see more consistency, effort and production from Young but did not necessarily get that, though he did continue to improve his defensive game. Young basically posted the same averages he did as a sophomore, scoring 10.1 points and grabbing 6.3 rebounds while shooting a slightly-worse 58.6 percent from the field in the exact-same 26.5 minutes per game. He did become a better blocker, registering 1.6 per contest, but his free throw shooting continued to get worse as he hit foul shots at a .489 clip (.593 as a sophomore, .703 as a freshman). Young had offseason surgery on his ankle, a relatively minor procedure, and recovered quickly.

2013-14 Outlook: Donovan tried to alleviate some of the pressure Young felt heading into the season by repeating over and over that he’s not Dwight Howard. Those that follow the team are certainly aware of that by now but not being Howard has nothing to do with how some feel about Young. A tremendous and unquestionably dominant player when he’s “on,” Young’s biggest problem has been his energy level and therefore his consistency on the court. Where he has taken steps forward is as a defensive menace and leader, which is exactly what the Gators need him to be this season. If Young can simply improve his free throw shooting by 10-15 percent and finish better around the basket, he will do wonders for his team and basketball-playing future. “Coach Donovan and my teammates have been telling me how I look a little different out on the court,” Young said of dropping nearly 10 pounds. “I’m glad to be out on the court and healthy. I feel pretty good, I feel like I am jumping higher and moving quicker. So we will see as the year goes on if being lighter is going to help me out.”

2 – Damontre Harris (Fayetteville, NC)
Redshirt junior center (transfer)
6’10” 228 lbs.

Quick Bio: A former four-star recruit and the No. 64 overall player in the Class of 2010, Finney-Smith spent the first two years of his career playing for South Carolina. He fills a major position of need at Florida with the Gators severely lacking frontcourt depth for years now. Harris averaged 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 25.9 minutes per game during his sophomore season while shooting 55 percent from the field and 80.4 percent from the free throw line.

2012-13 Season: Due to NCAA transfer rules, Harris was ineligible to play and took a redshirt. Though he was able to practice with his UF teammates, he tore his labrum during fall camp and was forced to undergo surgery that sidelined him for the vast majority of the season. He was supposed to be a big help for Young, who would have a capable big man to go up against in practice.

2013-14 Outlook: Finally recovered from his shoulder injury, Harris was limited during fall practice with a hamstring injury and received some scorn from Donovan, who is not pleased with his physical shape despite having the offseason following his surgery to return to his previous fitness level. Additionally, Harris is suspended at the start of the season and will not play in the opener but should return shortly after. When he does get back on the court, Florida will finally have a capable big man to spell Young in the middle and keep him fresh during games. Harris is also a quality defender and could be used on the court with Young at the four against bigger line-ups. “I most definitely take pride in blocking shots, it’s kind of one my strong points. My competitiveness brings that out in me,” he said. “[Young] has influenced it a lot. Just being there every day, competing against Pat, just his presence makes me a lot better and hopefully it makes him a lot better also.”

1 – Eli Carter (Paterson, NJ)
Junior guard (transfer)
6’2” 200 lbs.

Quick Bio: A former four-star recruit and the 114th ranked prospect in the Class of 2011, Carter came to college out of St. Anthony’s High School in New Jersey where he was coached by the famed Bob Hurley. Hurley also tutored former Gators G Mike Rosario and current Florida assistant coach Rashon Burno. Carter spent the first two years of his career playing for Rutgers. He posted averages of 13.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals as a true freshman, seeing 29.8 minutes of action per game. His best performance, ironically enough, came against UF when he scored a career-high 31 points to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists in an 85-83 win by RU.

2012-13 Season: Unlike most transfers, Carter did not have to sit out a year before moving on to play for the Gators. He started last season for the Scarlet Knights and basically replicated his freshman campaign, averaging 14.9 points, 2.8 boards, 2.1 dimes and a steal in 28.8 minutes per game. Carter’s shooting numbers declined – he hit just 38.4 percent of his shots and 32.0 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc – but he felt like he was growing as a player. Unfortunately, he badly fractured his right fibula against DePaul on Feb. 16 and underwent season-ending surgery. Carter transferred to Florida at least in part due to the scandal involving then-Rutgers head coach Mike Rice.

2013-14 Outlook: Cleared to play just a few weeks ago, Carter is still hobbled and needs to regain strength in his right leg and – more importantly – his ankle. He will slowly but surely become more confident as the season progresses and knows he is being counted on to produce for the Gators right away. “It feels good. It’s getting better. A lot better since I’ve gotten here,” Carter said of his leg. He also discussed how he fits in with the Florida basketball program. “I think I bring a lot of intensity, a lot of experience. I’ll bring a different side.”

0 – Kasey Hill (Umatilla, FL)
Freshman point guard
6’1” 181 lbs.

Quick Bio: A five-star prospect, top 10-ranked talent and one of the best players Donovan has ever recruited, Hill is a 2013 McDonald’s All-American and high school champion who scored the game-winning basket for Montverde High School during his senior season. A former teammate of sophomore G Michael Fraizer II at Montverde, the two are quite familiar with each other and should make a dynamic duo in the backcourt.

2013-14 Outlook: Though he has dealt with back issues over the last week, Hill was one of Florida’s healthiest players during the fall and will start at point guard for the Gators. When Wilbekin returns from his suspension, Hill will probably remain in the starting line-up though his game-to-game duties might change. There is little question that he will be an impact first-year player for Florida as the Gators have not had a successful slasher like him from the point guard position in years. He prefers to play up-tempo and makes the most of his speed and quickness by creating open jumpers, attacking the basket and drawing defenders away from his teammates so he can dish the ball and make scoring easier. By all accounts, Hill has remained humble in the locker room and already earned a modest level of respect from his teammates. He has the rest of the season to prove he belongs and may wind up being UF’s standout player if he continues to progress as anticipated. “The speed’s a lot different, spacing is a lot different and the intensity is a lot different, too,” said Hill of adjusting to the college game.

X – Chris Walker (Bonifay, FL)
Five-star 2013 commitment
6’10” 225 lbs.

Quick Bio: A talented in-state future lottery selection, Walker (like Hill) is a five-star recruit and top 10-rated prospect who committed to Donovan and the Gators in July. Unlike Hill, Walker did not qualify academically for the fall and is not currently with the team as of press time. He hopes to change that sooner than later. According to sources close to the team, Walker has made the necessary academic improvements and will be able to enroll in December for the spring semester.

2013-14 Outlook: As long as everything remains on schedule and Walker joins the team next month, he will be eligible to play for Florida this season. Whether Donovan will immediately throw him into the lineup as a reserve or first demand that he goes through a couple of weeks of practice remains to be seen. The Gators have not dealt with a situation like this before and will be entering the season with so many roster questions that Donovan will be working on his rotation for at least the first dozen or so games. Once that is finally settled, another cog will enter the system. “They’re loaded,” Walker said of Florida in August. “Whatever role Coach Donovan wants to use me, I’m good with it. I just want to get there and play college basketball.”

One Comment

  1. Michael Jones says:

    Wow. Heady stuff. But football has taught me to temper my expectations.

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