Allen’s Alley: Previewing the 2011-12 Gators

A four-year member of the Florida Gators basketball program under head coach Billy Donovan, former forward Adam Allen – a four-star recruit coming out of Milton High School – was forced to retire due to multiple knee surgeries. No longer with the team, he has joined OGGOA as a basketball columnist and will provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2011-12 season.

College basketball season has arrived, and the excitement is in full force surrounding the new-look Florida Gators squad. Florida basketball has the potential to be one of the best programs in the nation this year and should be one of the most exciting teams to watch from November to March.

The Gators feature what could be the best backcourt in the nation to go along with a rather inexperienced but talented frontline that has been waiting to prove itself.

There is no question that this team possesses the talent to be great but concerns surround the backcourt chemistry and keeping
everyone happy with playing time.

Guards senior Erving Walker, junior Kenny Boynton, sophomore Scottie Wilbekin and sophomore Casey Prather already have experience playing together, but how will the addition of two potential star players in freshman Brad Beal and redshirt junior transfer Mike Rosario wind up working long-term?

In head coach Billy Donovan‘s portrait, he sees a perfect combination. Many wonder how the talented guards will share the ball and allocate shots amongst one another. The only true “pass-first” guard is Wilbekin but sharing the ball will be an issue with this group. Coach Donovan will have the guards playing together and feeding off each other because he is the best in America at getting players to understand their role and what they need to do to help the team win.

Read the rest of this edition of Allen’s Alley…after the break!

It’s hard to tell who will lead the team in scoring because every night it will be someone different. Whoever is hot on any given night will get the rock with the expectation to carry the load. One night, Rosario could put up 30 points, and several days later it could be Beal or Boynton having a big night to lead the team. The scoring attack will be unpredictable and possibly erratic, but this controlled chaos orchestrated by Coach Donovan should make UF very difficult to defend.

In the beginning of the season, expect to see numerous different lineups and press looks with more substitutions so Coach Donovan can get a feel for how the guys play together. It is not likely you will see anything but an up-tempo style of play (more so than the past few years), and the four-guard look will be used at times.

The downside of a four-guard set centered around sophomore Patric Young would be the rebounding and low post defense, but that also forces other teams three and four men to match up with a quicker, much more explosive guard. Is there a power forward in the SEC that can match up with the quickness of Beal or Prather?

One should also anticipate Beal and Rosario playing alongside each other at times. Both of these players move extremely well without the ball and will benefit in a motion offense that Coach Donovan can coordinate around them. He will also be able to use his press to put opponents into precarious defensive situations. Opposing coaches will be forced to either go small and try to match-up or use size to overwhelm the Gators.

Not many teams have big men that can take advantage of this kind of situation (think Al Horford and Joakim Noah-type bigs). Regardless of what strategy teams use to attack Florida, they will be forced into doing something uncomfortable that they don’t practice most of the season.

Throughout the preseason practices, the coaching staff is likely focusing on mentally preparing the team by installing all of the different offensive and defensive sets as well as the press options. Daily in practice, the Gators are doing fastbreak offensive/defensive drills (two-on-one, five-on-four, fastbreak pick-and-rolls), the defensive shell drill, and rotating out of the press while challenging their conditioning.

The key to being able to effectively orchestrate the “controlled chaos” of the press and fastbreak offense is that all the players must be in great shape. Expect the press look to be the same as it has been the past few years (man-to-man); there will also likely be a lot of pick-and-rolls or pick-and-pops in the first 15 seconds of offensive possessions. In the halfcourt offense, you will likely still see a lot of the same old sets (baseline runners, hook plays, isolated post ups), but Coach Donovan will also throw some new creative wrinkles in as he does every year.

Below is a quick look at the entire Gators roster.

Erving Walker: The key to the success of the team. He can shoot the rock, but can he become a true point guard and senior leader like Coach Donovan wants him to be? Donovan has challenged him to lead the conference in assists and with all the weapons around him, this is very possible. His leadership and experience will be counted on heavily, especially in the grinding SEC schedule with preseason top 10 teams such as Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

Kenny Boynton: Ticking time bomb. Can offensively explode at any moment throughout the game but shot selection has been called into question. Needs to shoot the three at a better percentage (33 percent last year) and be able to adapt to playing at the same time with other scorers. Will be relied on defensively to lock up on the opponents best outside threat. Played in a lot of big games and knows what it takes to win in the SEC.

Mike Rosario: Another extremely talented player that can score quickly and in bunches. Was relied on at Rutgers to lead his team offensively (16.7 ppg) and is accustomed to having everything run through him. Will have to adapt to playing alongside Walker, Boynton, and Beal and learn how to impact the game without putting the ball in the basket. Should have success in Donovan’s fast paced offense.

Casey Prather: Expect him as a sophomore to be a lot more comfortable with the system and to have more of an impact in games than he did his freshmen year. Had a good summer and will be able to provide more length and athleticism on the wing. Won’t be relied on as a consistent scorer this year but has potential to be a lockdown defender and offensive rebounder at his position.

Scottie Wilbekin: With all the hype around Beal and Rosario, a lot of people forget about how much of an asset Wilbekin can be to the team. Was a very solid backup point guard last year and ran the offense very well when asked to. Expect him to be more aggressive in creating offense when he comes into the game this year. Provides great depth to the bench and does everything the coaches ask of him.

Brad Beal: One of the most highly touted recruits to come to Gainesville. A “do-it-all” wing player that has a great shot, he’s good off the bounce and a solid defender, too. Coming in to a situation where he won’t bear the burden of being “the man” right away should allow him to excel at his own pace. Though it will be interesting to see how quickly he adapts to the college game, a player of his caliber should not have much trouble.

Erik Murphy: Expect him to see almost double the minutes he has played the past two seasons. With his ability to space the floor at 6’10″, Murphy will be picking and popping from downtown a lot this year (40 percent in 2010-11). Will need to adjust to playing more minutes and improve as a rebounder and defender.

Patric Young: Will move in to the starting five and be asked to play major minutes. His intensity and physicality will be used to anchor the defense, and he has the potential to lead the conference in rebounding. Pat needs to show his improved low post scoring ability and stay out of foul trouble.

Will Yeguete: This kid has a nose for the ball. He won’t be asked to score much but has the ability to impact the game in other ways, and that is what will get him significant minutes this upcoming season. Very good defender and rebounder for his size. Needs to shoot free throws at a better pct. (44 percent last yr) but don’t be surprised if he plays 12-15 minutes a game.

Cody Larson: Will be able to provide some depth at the four. The word in practice is he is much improved from last year. Can space the floor and knock down the 15-17 foot jumper and provide energy off the bench. Needs to become a more physical inside presence and be able to be relied on at the defensive end. Could earn more minutes as the season goes on depending on his play.

Walter Pitchford: Has good size and athleticism and could do well in Coach Donovan’s fast-paced offense. Has to show the ability to rebound and guard in the SEC but could be an “Alex Tyus” type player.

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2 Responses to “Allen’s Alley: Previewing the 2011-12 Gators”

  1. Tractorr says:

    Thanks for the great piece Adam.

    Something that no one has been talking about is that this may be the deepest bench that Florida has ever had. It seems literally every player on the team could play and contribute in the right situation.

  2. Ken (CA) says:

    Welcome to the (new) team Adam! Have you talked much to the players? What is the chemistry like? Do you have any feel for how long Beal will stay?