With just days to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 basketball season gets underway, the second half of OGGOA‘s series – The Countdown – takes a look at those players on the roster wearing jerseys ranging from No. 15-1.
15 – Will Yeguete (Bourdeaux, France)
6’7” 222 lbs.
Quick Bio/2010-11 Season: A diamond in the rough, Yeguete joined Florida as a three-star recruit out of high school last year. He played for Florida Air Academy (the same school attended by Walter Hodge) for two years, averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds in his senior season. Prior to that, Yeguete lived in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and France before coming to the United States with his family. As a freshman last year, he averaged 1.3 points and 2.6 rebounds in 7.1 minutes per game but was often a spark off the bench for the Gators who could attack the boards and be active on the floor.
2011-12 Outlook: Yeguete has been told by head coach Billy Donovan that he is being counted on to be a rebounding machine, a role he embraces tremendously. “I know that’s my first thing – defensively getting rebounds,” he said. Though he is comfortable with that assignment, Yeguete has also been trying to improve his offense in order to stay on the floor longer and contribute even more to the team. “I’ve tried to be more aggressive offensively. I can’t just play defense,” he said. “Coach D wants me to be a fixture on offense and not turn the ball over. I’ve been working on it a lot lately and the whole summer, so I think it’s coming along pretty good.”
11 – Erving Walker (Brooklyn, NY)
5’8” 177 lbs.
Quick Bio: The lone remaining player from Florida’s 2008 recruiting class, Walker joined the Gators as a three-star point guard but has become a veteran leader and dynamic shooter. Arguably Donovan’s favorite current player, Walker earned second team All-SEC honors in both 2009-10 and 2010-11. He was also nominated to the SEC All-Freshman team in 2008-09 and led the team in assists and steals during his sophomore season. Walker has hit numerous game-tying and game-winning shots in his career, often coming through in the clutch late in the second half for Florida. He has also had his share of miscues, turning the ball over too often and taking poor shots.
2010-11 Season: The Gators leader in points (539) and steals (41) as a junior, Walker started 37 games and was Florida’s leading scorer often throughout the season. He scored more than 18 points in three-straight non-conference games, had a season-high 25 at South Carolina and scored double-digit points in each of UF’s first three NCAA Tournament games. Walker also had a team-high 87 turnovers and posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.4 (fourth-best on the team among active players).
2011-12 Outlook: Donovan charged Walker this offseason with leading the SEC in assists and spreading the ball around to the Gators’ numerous dynamic scorers. He scored 15 points and dished four assists in the exhibition game but played within the system and looked to have improved. Nevertheless, Florida is going to need Walker to hold onto the ball and only take quality shots in order to maximize his ability this year. “He has really tried to grasp and understand who he is playing with on the floor. His assist-to-turnover ratio in practice has been very good. He has an idea and understanding of the challenges in front of him, and I feel like he’s really trying to do that,” Donovan said.
6’2” 178 lbs.
Quick Bio/2010-11 Season: A two-star recruit coming out of high school, Wilbekin skipped his senior season and accepted a scholarship to UF as a junior. A lifelong fan of the Gators, Wilbekin proved to be a capable backup point guard last year, spelling Walker when he was tired and also allowing him to play off the ball on occasion. He posted the best assist-to-turnover ratio on the team (2.2) and earned one start. Wilbekin scored a season-high 11 points against North Carolina A&T and handed out six dimes on two occasions last year. He was the first player to come in off the bench in 16 games and led Florida in assists in five different games.
2011-12 Outlook: Though he broke one of his fingers in practice and missed the exhibition game, Wilbekin will be healthy and is set to return for the start of the season. He will continue to serve as the primary backup point guard and a good backcourt defensive presence for UF, though it is unknown how often Donovan may go without one in order to get more shooters on the floor.
4 – Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL)
6’9” 247 lbs.
Quick Bio/2010-11 Season: 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 one year ago. With a veteran frontcourt set as starters, he served as the primary reserve, playing 17.8 minutes per game off the bench (with two starts when Vernon Macklin got injured). Young averaged 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds but also blocked a team-high 31 shots, earning his way onto the SEC All-Freshman team. He was the first player off the bench 22 times and dunked the ball 16 times. Young had the opportunity to leave for the NBA after the season but chose to stay for at least his sophomore year (if not beyond).
2011-12 Outlook: Moving into a starting role in his second year, Young is Florida’s primary frontcourt presence this season. His size, strength and athleticism makes him tough to defend, but his offensive game continues to be a work in progress. However, Young is an impressive defender who – if he can keep his fouls down – may very well find his way on some All-SEC teams at season’s end. “Pat is an absolute monster. Watching him workout this summer, he really impressed me. He competes and plays so hard and has a great motor and is all about the team and winning,” former Florida forward Chandler Parsons told OGGOA last week. “He’s going to have to play big all year long and lead the way rebounding. He’ll also have to step up and block shots as well as finish everything around the rim. I believe in him and think he has the potential to be one of the best centers in the conference.”
3 – Mike Rosario (Jersey City, NJ)
Redshirt junior guard
6’3” 191 lbs.
Quick Bio: A four-star recruit out of high school who signed with Rutgers and played there for two years, Rosario was just the second sophomore in team history to hit 1,000 career points. He was named a freshman All-American and Big East All-Rookie in his first when he set the team’s all-time freshman scoring mark with 517 points. As a sophomore, Rosario scored 16.7 points per game and led Rutgers in scoring 19 times with 28 double-digit scoring games and nine games in which he posted 20 or more points. He transferred to Florida one year ago and sat out the 2010-11 season.
2011-12 Outlook: Back in action once again, Rosario adds another dynamic scoring option to the Gators’ offense. He is also a solid defender who – like Walker – Donovan wants to learn to play within UF’s system. Rosario scored 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting (4-for-7 from downtown) with six assists and two steals during the exhibition game and was visibly excited to be playing college basketball gain. Though he may have hoped to be a starter for Florida, Rosario will instead play off the bench and will likely be the team’s primary sixth man. “The biggest thing for Mike is just being more and more consistent each and every day,” Donovan said. “We’ve got to be a very unselfish group, and Mike’s got a good feel of how to play. He’s smart, he’s intelligent. He’s competitive. He’s got to be an everyday guy though.”
1 – Kenny Boynton (Pompano Beach, FL)
6’2” 189 lbs.
Quick Bio: The No. 3 leading scorer in Florida high school basketball history, Boynton was a five-star recruit who has started all but two games in his entire Gators career. A McDonald’s All-American and Parade All-American who honored with a SEC All-Freshman nomination in 2009-10, he led UF in scoring his first year and posted a school-high 27 points against BYU in the NCAA Tournament that year. Boynton only shot 37.6 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from three in his first season but still managed to be an important part of Florida’s team.
2010-11 Season: Returning as a starter, Boynton averaged 14.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists while shooting slightly better from the field (38.5 percent) and downtown (33.1 percent). He made 82.3 percent of his foul shots and turned the ball over 15 fewer times than he did as a freshman. Boynton continued to be a streaky shooter but scored in double digits in each of the Gators’ final 16 games including every SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament contest. He was also named to the SEC All-Tournament Team and the All-SEC second team in 2010-11.
2011-12 Outlook: Boynton scored a team-high 21 points (on 6-of-11 shooting from downtown) in Florida’s exhibition game and said he has been working on being a more consistent shooter all offseason. “Instead of trying to change it [my form], I have just been getting more repetitions and get used to it.,” Boynton explained. “Basically getting more practice makes perfect, so I have been trying to shoot a lot of it every day.” His defense was a highlight throughout the 2010-11 season, and Donovan plans to continue playing him on the opposition’s best backcourt player each game. “He’s got a better understanding of shot selection. He is a consistent guy every single day. He gives you great effort. He works really hard. He’s a great kid and he wants to be a good player,” Donovan said.