Florida wins season opener in 40-point rout

The sharpshooting No. 8/10 Florida Gators opened the 2011-12 regular season in style Friday night, dominating the Jackson State Tigers 99-59 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Sophomore center Patric Young posted his first career double-double, and a duo of guards – junior Kenny Boynton and redshirt junior Mike Rosario – led Florida with 19 points each on 14-of-25 combined shooting (9-of-15 from downtown).

The Gators opened the game by outscoring the Tigers 18-3 in under five minutes and held a 59-23 lead at the half. Florida began the second half with a 15-0 run to take a game-high 51-point lead with nearly 17 minutes left to play.

UF outrebounded JSU 44-29 and forced 24 turnovers while only giving up the ball 10 times. Florida also dished out 14 more dimes (20-6) and held Jackson State to 34 percent shooting while hitting 51.3 percent of their tries during the contest.

Young tied a career-high with 12 points and added 10 rebounds for his first double-double. Four other Gators (including Boynton and Rosario) posted double digit points.

Freshman G Brad Beal shot 1-of-6 from downtown but posted 14 points. Senior point guard Erving Walker contributed 10 points and notched a game-high four assists.

Sophomore forward Will Yeguete was efficient in his 15 minutes of action, hitting three of four shots for seven points and seven boards. Redshirt freshman F Cody Larson scored the first points of his career, and sophomore PG Scottie Wilbekin played 15 minutes after sitting out the exhibition game due to a broken finger.

Florida passed its first test of the young season but will have a much tougher opponent in their next game as they are set to face Ohio State on the road in Columbus, OH on Tuesday. The game will air live at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (15-1)

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)
Sophomore forward
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)
Senior guard
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.

5 – Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL)
Sophomore guard
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)
Sophomore forward/center
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)
Junior guard
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.

Florida’s The Hawk belt motivates defenders

Motivation is a key for any football team. With the Florida Gators this year, some of that has come in the form of individual awards presented after each game.

Most popular amongst the team is The Hawk, a championship belt presented to the player that head coach Will Muschamp decides best represented a ball hawk with his performance during the game.

“We got to get the ball and create turnovers. Whoever is doing the most – we have some big point system of getting the ball back, how you create turnovers and knocks backs – there are a lot of different things that go into it,” junior linebacker Jon Bostic explained.

The belt (see below) is handed out each week by defensive line coach Bryant Young and signed by the player who earns the recognition.

Sophomore cornerback Jaylen Watkins was the recipient this week for his two pass breakups against Vanderbilt on Saturday.

“He played a great game, and he deserved it,” said redshirt junior defensive tackle Omar Hunter, who jokingly said that he has been left out of all the fun. “They’re cheating me, but I’m going to keep working hard and hopefully I’ll get it one week.”

Hunter said the players treat the belt as the representation of a “championship performance.” So much so, in fact, that they will even joke about it on the sidelines during games, proclaiming that they are going to get a sack on the next play or make a big pass defense in the secondary so they can own the belt for the week.

“Whoever plays the best, guys take a lot of pride in that,” he said. “Guys play hard for those kinds of things. We look forward to seeing who is going to win it every week.”

With at least three games to go in the 2011 season, Hunter’s motivation is unchanged as far as the belt is concerned.

“I want it. I want it. I want it,” he said with a smile.

Photo Credit: Jason Lieser/Palm Beach Post

11/9: Watkins steps up, Patchan improving

With the Florida Gators finally earning a victory on Saturday after a difficult four-game losing streak, a number of players were made available to the media Wednesday to discuss how the team is progressing heading into Saturday’s game on the road against the No. 13 South Carolina Gamecocks.

WATKINS STEPS UP AND EARNS PRAISE

After allowing a touchdown against Georgia, sophomore defensive back Jaylen Watkins worked hard in practice last week on his head turns and ability to play the ball while it is in the air. That paid off Saturday against Vanderbilt as Watkins became a disruptive player who earned praise from head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn this week.

“It was good to see him get some pass breakups in the ballgame. I was real pleased to see him do that,” Quinn said Wednesday evening.

Watkins attributed his improvement to preparation. “All week [Quinn] told me to get the ball off guys in the Georgia game. I was in two good positions and didn’t get the ball off. I think I was in good positions [against Vanderbilt and did my job],” he said. Watkins added that he stayed after practice to work on getting his head around and learning to play the ball better in the air. “Trying not to get a pass interference, timing when the ball is coming and actually getting it down when it’s coming [are the most difficult parts of playing the position,” he added.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Junior linebacker Jon Bostic on redshirt freshman Michael Taylor: “He’s growing up every week. He was asked to step up last week and that is what he did.”

» Bostic on redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard: “Leadership. With him being a senior, him being here the longest out of everyone, he’s seen everything. He’s been here during the good times and the bad times. He’s the one keeping everybody going and everybody up.”

» Bostic on beating a team with a winning record: “It’s important. It doesn’t change from week-to-week. Every week we want to go out and win.”

» Watkins on sophomore safety Matt Elam: “Matt is a leader. When we play teams that do the option and all that, we move him down to nickel to get him on the edge because he’s strong and smart.”

» Redshirt sophomore tackle Matt Patchan on returning and playing better: “I’m not perfect, so I always have to get better. That’s the way I approach every day. Everything I do in practice and in the games is to make improvements and get better.”

» Patchan on offensive line coach Frank Verducci: “Coach is a great coach. He really knows the technique part of it. It’s good that he’s an NFL type guy so he comes in and we get to learn that way. It’s really impressive. I like working with him.”

Redshirt junior DT Omar Hunter on beating South Carolina and/or FSU: “Those are big wins. Any time you can line up against South Carolina or FSU, those are big games. We always want to win those games.”

» Quinn on redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail: “We’re hoping to keep developing him. Right now he hasn’t cracked the two-deep in that way, but he’s out there practicing and working hard at it. […] For us inside it was more just controlling blocks, being productive as a rusher, where he can make some more plays.”

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!
Continue Reading » Allen’s Alley: Previewing the 2011-12 Gators

FOUR BITS: All-SEC, Oliver, Meyer, Jones

1 » The Southeastern Conference announced its coaches’ preseason All-SEC first and second team selections on Wednesday, and three Florida Gators were honored on the lists. Senior point guard Erving Walker and junior guard Kenny Boynton both earned first team nominations, while sophomore center Patric Young was the only UF representative placed on the second team. Walker and Boynton were both on the media’s All-SEC second team, and Young was left off.

2 » Former Florida safety Louis Oliver was one of six people inducted into the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame on Tuesday evening. Fellow former Gators student-athlete Dara Torres was inducted previously. “It is very flattering,” Oliver said, according to the Sun-Sentinel. “I am very excited to be in a group that includes a group like [Dan] Marino, Coach [Don] Shula, H. Wayne Huizenga, Michael Irvin and those types of people. Just to be recognized with those people puts me in a category that most people aren’t in. It’s not Canton, Ohio, but it is a really big deal for me.”

3 » With Joe Paterno stepping down from his job as head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions at the end of the season, former Gators head coach Urban Meyer is obviously going to be the No. 1 name on the list of the university and fans. Meyer discussed his admiration for Paterno at the 2011 Outback Bowl but has also said on numerous other occasions how much he is enjoying his time off from the game. However, Meyer is not the only candidate as Miami head coach Al Golden and Rutgers top man Greg Schiano could also be in the running for the job. The fact of the matter is that Meyer may very well not be ready to return to college football and could also look at the sport’s landscape (with major violations and legal issues going on at his supposed top two destinations of Ohio State and Penn State) and choose to wait a bit longer.

4 » Central Florida Knights head coach Donnie Jones was suspended three conference games without pay and publicly reprimanded by the NCAA on Wednesday for being aware of contact between a recruiter for a sports agency and student-athletes and not preventing it. The recruiter allegedly paid tuition and travel expenses for some players and recruits. “As the program’s head coach, I accept responsibility for mistakes when they occur,” he said in a statement from the school. A former assistant at Florida under head coach Billy Donovan, Jones took his UCF team to Gainesville two Saturdays ago for an exhibition game against UF.

11/9: Will Muschamp’s SEC teleconference

With the Florida Gators coming off their first win in over a month and set to face the No. 13 South Carolina Gamecocks this Saturday, head coach Will Muschamp spoke during the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference to provide some insight about where his team is at heading into the contest.

STATUS AND INJURY UPDATES

Muschamp said that redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (arm), redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (ankle), redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green, redshirt sophomore linebacker Jelani Jenkins (concussion) and redshirt senior guard Dan Wenger are all good to go and expected to play Saturday. Redshrit junior LB Lerentee McCray (shoulder), on the other hand, will be a game-time decision.

Though redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison was pulled from the Vanderbilt game due to inconsistencies in his shotgun snaps, he is working this week and trying to earn the job back. He is competing with Wenger (a center at Notre Dame) and redshirt junior Sam Robey, who replaced Harrison on Saturday.

“Jon’s played well for us,” Muschamp said. “His consistency in snaps since we’ve gone to strictly shotgun formation due to John’s ankle [has been an issue]. That has been the only issue. As far as his assignments and blocking, he’s been fine.”

MUCH RESPECT FOR SPURRIER

A Florida fan and football player growing up, Muschamp kept a close eye on South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier. When he faced him both as a player at Georgia and defensive coordinator at Auburn, he understood even more why Spurrier is so good.

“I’ve got great respect for coach Spurrier as an opponent when I was a player and the job he did with his football teams. Being a player wanting to be a coach, you see the success he had here at Florida and how he really turned this place around to winning championships. As an opponent, I have tremendous respect as a player and now as a coach,” he said. “It’s the way he does things. He does things the right way. He goes by the rules, works hard and his teams compete each Saturday every time out. I have a lot of respect for the man and what he’s accomplished.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On the Penn State story: “It’s obviously tragic. I don’t know all the facts; we’ve been working. If the allegations are true, my thoughts are with the victims and the victims’ families at this time.”

» On how the quality of college football teams have changed with freshmen wanting to play right away: “I don’t know that the quality of the game is a whole lot different. There are some teams right now a little ahead of the others. There are younger players playing – a lot of guys are coming out [early] now for the NFL and that sets you back a little bit as a program because you count on a guy to be here and then he’s not there. Generally if he’s leaving early, he’s a really good player. […] All of the freshmen coming in because of recruiting now think they’re going to start as a freshman. They don’t want to go to a school that has an incumbent starter. Some of those things make your depth not as good as it’s been in past years where you’re a little paper thin at certain areas as far as positions are concerned.”

The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (35-23)

With just days to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 basketball season gets underway, the first half of OGGOA‘s series – The Countdown – takes a look at those players on the roster wearing jerseys ranging from No. 35-23.

35 – Walter Pitchford V (Grand Rapids, MI)
Freshman forward
6’10” 221 lbs.

Quick Bio: A three-star recruit coming out of high school, Pitchford was the last player to join the Gators’ 2011 signing class. He originally committed to DePaul in 2010 but requested a release from his signed scholarship when the head coach was fired; Pitchford wanted to attend Summit Christian Academy prep school for a year and reevaluate his options. DePaul and the NCAA initially denied his request before eventually granting it in July, paving the way for him to commit to Florida.

2011-12 Outlook: Though the Gators do not have much size, Pitchford is still quite raw as a player and will likely see the fewest game minutes of anyone on the roster this season. “Walter is still learning and growing,” head coach Billy Donovan said in mid-October. “Walter is not any different than a lot of freshmen that come in terms of figuring out how hard they have to play, better competition, what to do, where to go, what’s happening.” Pitchford said in April that Donovan plans to have him on the court as a stretch four who will have opportunities to play on the perimeter at times.

34 – Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD)
Redshirt freshman forward/center
6’9” 231 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010-11 Season: A three-star power forward coming out of high school, Larson is quite athletic and quick for his size and position. Though he averaged 19.8 points and 7.8 rebounds as a high school senior, Larson redshirted last season and will play his first regular season minutes this year.

2011-12 Outlook: Back with the team after being indefinitely suspended over the summer, Larson is expected to see major playing time as a reserve at the four and five. He is the primary backup to sophomore center Patric Young and could have a big role this season. “Cody is a big body who can rebound and run the floor and step out and knock down jumpers,” former Florida forward Chandler Parsons told OGGOA last week. “He just has to bring it every night and provide energy and whatever else the team needs. He could really help out down low this year.” Donovan has also praised him. “Cody has been a guy that is doing a lot of really good things right now in terms of the little things that aren’t going to show up on a stat sheet,” he said. “I’ve been pleased with what he’s been able to do for our team physically because we need another physical presence up front.”

33 – Erik Murphy (South Kingstown, RI)
Junior forward/center
6’10” 230 lbs.

Quick Bio: The first-ever player from Rhode Island to be named a Parade Magazine All-American, Murphy was a four-star commit in 2009 who has played as a backup in each of his first two years with UF. He is shooting 55.7 percent for his career, 40 percent from downtown and 69.2 percent from the line while averaging 2.4 rebounds per game.

2010-11 Season: Murphy earned one start in 2010-11 when Parsons was injured and unable to play. Otherwise he served as the primary frontcourt reserve off the bench behind a veteran unit. He averaged 4.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 33 games and scored in double digits three times. Murphy shined in the NCAA Tournament against UCLA, scoring seven points on 3-for-4 shooting.

2011-12 Outlook: Like Larson, Murphy was indefinitely suspended for most of the offseason but rejoined the team and earned a starting role this year. He was 6-of-9 from the field and 3-for-4 from downtown for 17 points in the team’s exhibition against Catholic. “I’m just going to try to play my role, do what coach asks and do whatever I can for the team to help us win,” he said last Wednesday. Murphy jumped up to 230 lbs. in the offseason and said that his much-needed weight gain has helped him become stronger and more durable. “A couple times both seasons I got banged up a bit,” he said. The weight [gain] has definitely helped me. I’m in the best shape of my life. It feels good, and I feel comfortable right now.”

24 – Casey Prather (Jackson, TN)
Sophomore guard/forward
6’6” 212 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010-11 Season: A highly recruited swingman and four-star player coming out of high school, Prather saw 6.7 minutes of action per game as a freshman but served mostly as a roleplayer during the season, averaging 1.2 points and 1.1 rebounds per appearance. He wound up starting two games due to Parsons’s injury and scored double-digits once – on 5-of-8 shooting against North Carolina A&T.

2011-12 Outlook: Prather, who can play in the frontcourt or backcourt, is one of the Gators’ most versatile players. His length and athleticism allow him to move the ball, get open in space and attack the basket, but he is still trying to refine his touch and become an all-around player. Prather had a team-high seven rebounds in the exhibition and will be counted on to hit the boards hard all season long.

23 – Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO)
Freshman guard
6’3” 207 lbs.

Quick Bio: Arguably the best player ever to sign a national letter of intent with Donovan and the Gators, Beal was a five-star recruit and one of the top five players in the country coming out of high school last year. The 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year, he averaged 32.5 points, 5.7 boards, 2.8 assists and 2.7 steals per game as a high school senior. Beal is the 14th McDonald’s All-American signed by Donovan and also a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Missouri. In the offseason, Beal led the United States’s U17 FIBA World Championship team to a gold medal and captured the tournament’s most valuable player honor.

2011-12 Outlook: A starter from day one, Beal joins a veteran backcourt that has been playing together for three years. He has been a model freshman in practice so far and could be a big catalyst for Florida in 2011-12. Beal scored a 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting (4-for-7 from downtown) with five dimes in the exhibition game one week ago and could very well be the team’s best offensive player this season due to his ability to hit open shots and slash to the basket. “He’s been a guy that’s absorbed everything pretty well,” Donovan said of Beal. “He’s more advanced than most freshmen in terms of being able to retain and understand what we’re trying to get done. Coupled with the fact that he’s a talented and gifted player. He’s been unfazed, so to speak, by what he’s gone through. It’s been challenging, but it’s not like he’s lost or confused. He has a really good understanding and feel of what we’re trying to do and [he] is able to do that.”

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