Finally returning to the NCAA Tournament after back-to-back appearances in the NIT, the No. 9/11 Florida Gators basketball team is back in the preseason top 10 and looking to return to the glory it experienced just a few short years ago. With forward Dan Werner now graduated and five new freshmen in the fold looking to make an impact, head coach Billy Donovan hopes to get back to his winning ways.
PG Erving Walker – junior, 5’8”, 171 lbs.
2009 STATS: 12.6 PPG – 4.9 APG – 3.3 RPG – .339 FG% – .347 3P% – 32.9 MPG
A spark plug who often appears to prefer shooting and penetrating to passing, Walker was named to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team two years ago and the preseason All-SEC second team this year. He had trouble performing at a high level last season partially due to the lack of depth behind him on the bench. Donovan has noted that Walker’s shot selection, stroke and defense have all improved over the summer. He plans to keep him fresh by utilizing a number of other players at point guard during games and hopes that Walker will improve his ball handling, court vision and willingness to dish the ball – three things he needed to work on at this point last year.
G Kenny Boynton – sophomore, 6’2”, 183 lbs.
2009 STATS: 14.0 PPG – 2.7 APG – 2.6 RPG – .376 FG% – .294 3P% – 32.9 MPG
A five-star recruit coming out of high school, Boynton was the pride of the Gators’ 2009 recruiting class. Quick both with and without the ball, Boynton is highly competitive and athletic with the ability to play either backcourt position. He led Florida in points and was second in minutes played (Walker) in his first season, catching on fire in his final two games scoring a combined 50 points on 16-of-33 shooting while also going 9-of-18 from downtown. He can get his shot off at will, whether it be a pull up jumper, deep three-pointer, floater down the lane or penetrating layup. Boynton is also a tough defender who is strong with quick feet laterally but, like Walker, was gassed late in games last season due to lack of depth. Also similar to Walker, Donovan is impressed with Boynton’s improved shot selection and decision making this offseason. He was honored with a preseason All-SEC second team nomination this year.
This post contains 1,818 words previewing the season. You have already made it this far, so you might as well continue reading the rest…after the break!
F Chandler Parsons – senior, 6’10”, 215 lbs.
2009 STATS: 12.4 PPG – 6.9 RPG – 2.6 APG – .493 FG% – .358 3P% – 31.0 MPG
Parsons broke out in 2009 and played so well that he earned a starting gig early in the season, sending Werner to the bench. He was second on the team in rebounds (by one) and played multiple positions including point guard (at times) to spell Walker. Now in his final season in the orange and blue, Parsons – a preseason All-SEC first team member (second team by the media) – is taking on a leadership role with the team and has made it a point to take many of the freshmen under his wing. In addition to his two buzzer-beaters last year, Parsons scored double-digit points in 19 games including a career-high 29 in a two-point loss at Georgia. Solid defensively and in transition, Parsons can shoot the three and get up-and-down the court well for a big body. Now that Florida is deeper inside, he will be able to play a bit more on the perimeter and slash to the rim – a part of his game that improved immensely last year.
F Alex Tyus – senior, 6’8”, 220 lbs.
2008 STATS: 11.8 PPG – 6.9 RPG – 1.0 BPG – .503 FG% – .400 3P% – 28.4 MPG
The Gators’ most experienced true frontcourt player, Tyus tested the NBA waters in the offseason but decided to remain with the team for his senior season. Like Parsons, Tyus has steadily improved over the course of his career and even led the team in rebounding last year. Athletic and active on the court, he can go on hot streaks where he will rebound and score effectively; however, he will also have games where he struggles with his turnaround jumper, hook shot and getting in front of bigger and stronger players for rebounds. One other negative? Tyus has also managed to be worse with the ball in his hands every year of his career; in 34 games last year he had only 15 assists but a whopping 53 turnovers. Tyus is at his best when crashing the offensive glass, which the preseason All-SEC second team member may be able to exert more energy doing this season with a number of talented freshmen behind him.
C Vernon Macklin – redshirt senior transfer, 6’10”, 240 lbs.
2009 STATS: 10.6 PPG – 5.5 RPG – 0.9 BPG – .607 FG% – .588 FT% – 25.3 MPG
Macklin played his first season in a Gators uniform last year after sitting out the entire 2008 season due to his transfer. A McDonald’s and Parade All-American coming out of high school, he is a big presence in the paint and can also run the floor in transition – an important quality for a center at Florida. While he has struggled to score consistently and utilize his frame to be even more dominant as a rebounder and shot blocker, Macklin is a year older and wiser with a full season of SEC action under his belt. He has had legitimate competition in practice for the first time since joining the Gators and is getting better, though Donovan has pointed out on more than one occasion that his leadership when times get tough is a much-needed characteristic that could use improvement.
F Erik Murphy – sophomore, 6’9”, 217 lbs.
2009 STATS: 3.5 PPG – 2.4 RPG – .600 FG% – 9.1 MPG
Florida’s only other original 2009 commitment aside from Boynton, Murphy played well last season in limited action. Athletic with a high basketball IQ, he averaged a double-double his senior season of high school and was the first-ever player from the state of Rhode Island to be named a Parade Magazine All-American. Murphy’s role on the team will increase this year, as will his range with Donovan noting in the offseason that he has improved his shooting significantly from beyond the arc.
G Mike Rosario – redshirt junior transfer, 6’3”, 180 lbs.
2009 STATS (with Rutgers): 16.7 PPG – 3.9 RPG –.378 FG% – .326 3P% – 33.7 MPG
A dynamic scorer and terrific all-around player, Rosario will not see the court this year as he is forced to sit out one full season due to NCAA transfer rules.
F Adam Allen – redshirt junior, 6’8”, 222 lbs.
Allen has not played since April 1, 2008, due to consistent and reoccurring leg injuries. He will once again not see the court this year but hopes to have an outside chance of playing in 2011-12.
PG Kyle McClanahan – junior, 6’1”, 185 lbs.
2009 STATS: 0.3 PPG – 0.4 RPG – .500 FG% – 5.1 MPG (11 games)
A walk-on that has played for Florida for three years, McClanahan is on the team for backcourt depth and could see limited action this season at the point or in mop-up duty.
F/C Patric Young – freshman, 6’9”, 245 lbs.
2009 STATS (HS): 13.0 PPG – 14.0 RPG – 4.0 BPG
A five-star talent out of Jacksonville, FL, Young is the Gators’ highest touted new player. An enforcer and powerful presence on the block, he has NBA size with a superior work ethic and attitude. Young committed himself to Florida since the day he decided to attend and will receive the most playing time out of any of the youngsters. Though – like many freshmen – his offense can be improved immensely, Young’s energy, passion and talent will allow him to make a great impact right away.
G/F Casey Prather – freshman, 6’6”, 195 lbs.
2009 STATS (HS): 29.0 PPG – 15.0 RPG
A four-star talent out of Jackson, TN, Prather is athletic with long arms and a nose for defense. He is versatile and a good scorer who draws comparisons to Corey Brewer because of his size, athleticism, scoring ability, effort and transition play. Prather’s outside shot can improve, but Donovan said his primary objective this year will be to play solid defense off the bench.
F Will Yeguete – freshman, 6’7”, 210 lbs.
2009 STATS (HS): 15 PPG – 15 RPG
A three-star talent out of Melbourne, FL, Yeguete is raw having only played for three years. However, Donovan sees plenty of talent in the youngster and is committed to getting him on the floor if he proves he can handle the level of competition. Yeguete can sub in at the 3 or 4 – if needed – and runs the court just like Donovan likes in a big man.
F Cody Larson – freshman, 6’9”, 225 lbs.
2009 STATS (HS): 19.9 PPG – 7.8 RPG – 4.1 APG
A three-star talent out of Sioux Falls, SD, Larson will have to earn playing time in what is suddenly a crowded frontcourt. Donovan looks at Larson as a steal long-term due to his combination of size, strength, quickness and scoring ability (especially around the rim).
PG Scottie Wilbekin – freshman, 6’2”, 175 lbs.
A three-star talent out of Gainesville, FL, Wilbekin committed to Florida as a junior in high school, deciding to skip his senior season in order to nab a scholarship with the orange and blue. He is skilled as a ball handler and passer and can score off the dribble while attacking the hoop. For a young player he has a high basketball IQ and goes into the season as Walker’s primary back-up at the point.
After playing a cupcake schedule for two years following the departure of the Oh Fours (and others), Florida beefed up its out of conference opponents last year and has done the same this season. Before SEC play even begins, the Gators will face No. 4/5 Ohio State (Nov. 16), Florida State (Nov. 28), No. 3/3 Kansas State (Dec. 18) and Xavier (Dec. 31). In conference, UF will have to fend for themselves against No. 11/10 Kentucky, No. 23/20 Tennessee and a Georgia team that could very well have a breakout season.
Veteran leadership has returned for Florida for the first time in a while and that – along with significant depth on the bench from the influx of five talented freshmen – is expected to send the Gators over the top this year. No more is making the NCAA Tournament the team’s goal; now the Gators are looking to go deep in the national spectacle known as March Madness. Media and NCAA coaches agree, handing Florida an average preseason ranking of No. 10. As Donovan continuously points out, it is now on the players to decide if they will let the praise affect them or remain humble, ignore it and rise above it to prove they are as talented and experienced as everyone thinks. OGGOA’s official prediction: 25-6 in the regular season.