2010-11 Florida Gators basketball season preview

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.

STARTING FIVE:

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!
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11/10: Donovan, players speak before first game

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his latest media availability in the following post. Additional material from some of Florida’s players can also be found below.

SECOND HALF STARTS STILL A CONCERN

After the Gators’ second preseason game, Donovan was emphatic that the way they team performed in the second half against Georgetown College was not acceptable. Ever since, he has made a point in practice to ensure the team knows it cannot come out of halftime lackadaisical – especially against much better opponents.

“It definitely got addressed and something that we really talked about. We had better practices from that. It’s not so much the handling of expectations as much as it is the handling of prosperity – when you get recognized, when you get attention, when people talk favorably about you, positively about it,” Donovan said. “If you look at the first half of the Florida Tech game, if you look at the first half of the Georgetown game, those teams are shooting 33-34 percent from the field, they’re shooting 22 percent from the three-point line, and we’re forcing about 14 turnovers in the half.

“Now you take the second half of both those two games and you put together a 40-minute stat sheet – 20 minutes of each half – and we’re giving up 54 percent from the field and 42 percent from the three-point line. Can you play with a lead? Can you play when its 44-19? Can you understand, maturity-wise, that Georgetown is going to come out of the locker room and start the second half with a high level of intensity? They’re down by 25 points! If they were in that situation, I would hope they’d do the same thing! It’s a mentality that you have to have where the first four minutes starts in the second half and you send a message to that team that, ‘We’re not letting you back in the game.’”

Senior forward Chandler Parsons reiterated Donovan’s message, explaining that it has hit home with the team. “We don’t want to let up. Up 20, down 20, we want to come out and play our game, play with energy,” he said. “Especially when we have a team up – at home – we don’t want to take our foot off the gas. We want to keep going and keep trying to extend the lead.”

WILBEKIN INJURY UPDATE

Though Florida’s depth in the frontcourt has been seriously strengthened, it is pretty much freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin or bust behind junior Erving Walker. Injuring his neck against Florida Tech, Wilbekin missed UF’s second exhibition game and finally returned to limited practice on Tuesday. Donovan expects him to be active for Friday’s game after a full-contact practice on Thursday even though Wilbekin’s conditioning has suffered because he has not been able to run or work out until this week. “It was so painful that he could not lift his arms over his shoulders,” Donovan said.

QUOTES (After the break…)
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FOUR BITS: Lee injured, Tebow’s playing time, Beal respected, Martin transferring

1 » Tuesday, OGGOA alerted you to a great story about new Golden State Warriors forward/center David Lee and how the former Florida Gators product was a great teammate and face of the organization for the New York Knicks. Unfortunately, Lee ended up having a tough day; he injured his right middle finger during his first practice with USA Basketball in Las Vegas, NV, while trying out for the men’s national team. “I looked down and my finger was completely turned to the side,” Lee told ESPN. “It’s possibly a tendon or a dislocation of some sort. It’s something I’ve got to go have looked at either way. Hopefully it’s something I can splint up and play with. That’s up to the doctors to decide.” He met with Dr. Bill Green in San Francisco, CA, Tuesday evening, and the prognosis appears to be a dislocation, which could be serious enough to keep him out for a while. Nevertheless, Lee will be returning to Las Vegas late on Wednesday to rejoin his teammates – even if he cannot play.

2 » Denver Broncos beat writer Dave Krieger of The Denver Post expects to see plenty of former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow in the team’s wild horse offense this season. “My guess is more than you think,” Krieger writes. “In fact, my guess is the Broncos will lead the league in what other teams call wildcat plays, unless Tebow’s place in the formation determines what you call it, in which case the counting could get complicated. […] I would be surprised if [head coach Josh McDaniels] drafted Tebow in the first round to be a clipboard holder for even one year. […] Even if he is not ready to be a starting NFL quarterback, Tebow is likely to be a better passer than most running backs and a better runner than most quarterbacks.”

3 » Surveying “30 of the top recruits across the country,” Jeff Goodman of FOX Sports wanted to see who high school basketball stars agreed was the best of the best for 2011. Florida five-star commitment Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) made it on two of the top lists – best player and best shooter. Beal received six votes for best player (only one behind the winners) and 11 votes for best shooter (eight more than the next three players).

4 » Five-star 2010 defensive end/linebacker Chris Martin (Aurora, CO), who was heavily considering the Gators during his recruitment, has decided to transfer from the California Golden Bears. Martin, who recorded 11 sacks and forced five fumbles last year for his high school team, feels he is too distracted in Berkeley, CA, and wants to concentrate both on football and his studies elsewhere. Florida and Oklahoma have emerged as the two favorites to bring in Martin but little of consequence has been reported on the matter thus far.

Extra BIT » Via his Twitter account Tuesday morning, Gators redshirt junior forward Adam Allen explained that he hopes to return to playing basketball at some point. “Great rehab [session] this morning,” Allen tweeted. “Don’t count me out, there’s still hope for a comeback [people].” OGGOA wishes him the best in his recovery.

Photo Credit: Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

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Tishman’s decision opens up 13th scholarship

Faced with rebuilding his program, Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan had been dealing with one final obstacle – having enough scholarships to sign his six-player 2010 recruiting class. That issue has now been resolved.

Donovan, who finished the 2009-10 basketball season with only two commitments for next year, signed four more players in just under a month’s time – Rutgers’ four-star transfer guard Mike Rosario (Jersey City, NJ), three-star forwards Will Yeguete (Melbourne, FL) and Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD) and three-star point guard Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL). Unfortunately, the Gators only had two remaining scholarships to offer with four-star forwards Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) and Casey Prather (Jackson, TN) already taking up two other spots.

Sophomore guard Ray Shipman had previously decided to transfer (or else the team would have only had three total scholarships), but Donovan needed some help in order to get his program to the NCAA-mandated maximum of 13.

As OGGOA initially projected, the extra vacated scholarships ended up coming from redshirt sophomore forward Adam Allen (who gave up his so the team could sign Wilbekin) and now freshman point guard Rod Tishman (who has decided to remain in Israel instead of returning to the team).

“For [Tishman], coming the distance he came and not getting and opportunity to play much here was a part in his decision. I think part of him wanted to come back again, but I don’t think he wanted to come back if it was going to be the same situation as last season. Coming over here to play in the States was an adjustment period for him. He’s got some opportunities in Israel right now that he’s going to probably pursue professionally,” Donovan said. “I loved coaching him and I still have a good relationship with him and his family, but he’s going to stay back over there. We certainly appreciate him coming here and giving it a shot. For him coming all the way, the distance that he did and not getting the opportunity to play as much as he would like too [was difficult].”

Donovan informed the media of Tishman’s decision Monday, one that was assumed by many but not previously confirmed. Tishman barely got on the court last season, playing a total of 16 minutes in seven games. He played his last game on Jan. 16 against LSU and did not step onto the floor again the rest of the season.

Allen has qualified for a Bright Futures academic scholarship but may instead decide to take a medical hardship. He could also decide to transfer if he feels he can get healthy and play for another program. Either way, he will open up an additional slot.

“Adam hasn’t played ball in two years. I want to give him every opportunity to come back and to play and that’s what he wants to do,” Donovan said. “There’s such an uncertainty about where he’s going to be at physically when our season starts. […] He realizes he has a tremendous uphill battle, his skill level and more. There are a lot of unknowns.”

Other topics covered by Donovan:
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Wilbekin says Allen gave up scholarship for him

The Florida Gatorsnewest 2010 basketball commitment, The Rock School junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL), told Florida Today on Thursday that Florida redshirt sophomore forward Adam Allen plans to give up his athletic scholarship in order to open up a spot on the team for him next season.

Wilbekin said Thursday night that backup forward Adam Allen is giving up his scholarship so the Gators could sign him. Allen qualifies for a Bright Futures scholarship to pay for his education.

By giving up his basketball scholarship, Allen allows Wilbekin to be signed while still having the chance to rejoin the team for the 2010-11 season as a walk-on with his education being covered by the state of Florida. He could also choose to retire due to chronic knee problems that have plagued him since he arrived in Gainesville.

If what Wilbekin says is true, the Gators are now only one scholarship over the NCAA’s limit of 13 due to their six-player signing class. Most expect freshman point guard Rod Tishman’s spot on the team to open up one way or another.

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2011 PG recruit Scottie Wilbekin to join Gators

Florida Gators basketball has added the final piece to its 2010 recruiting class, one which will give the team and head coach Billy Donovan a drastically different look next season. Confirming a story OGGOA first posted on April 21, the Orlando Sentinel and The Gainesville Sun are reporting that three-star 2011 point guard recruit Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL) has committed and will officially sign with the University of Florida next week.

Though Wilbekin is only a high school junior, he has excellent grades and enough credits to graduate early in order to be eligible for admission to UF as a member of the basketball team’s 2010 recruiting class. He has already completed his standardized tests, is set to receive clearance from the NCAA and plans to sign his National Letter of Intent at The Rock School on Tuesday.

“At first I was hesitant to give up my senior year,” Wilbekin told Florida Today. “[My coaches and parents] reassured me and I’m looking forward to being a Gator next year.”

Now the sixth scholarship player brought in for 2010, Wilbekin will join four-star forwards Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) and Casey Prather (Jackson, TN), three-stars Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD) and Will Yeguete (Melbourne, FL) and Rutgers transfer guard Mike Rosario (Jersey City, NJ), who will not be eligible to play until 2011-12.

In order to sign six recruits to scholarships, further changes must be made inside the Florida program – especially after junior forward Alex Tyus removed his name from the 2010 NBA Draft and decided to return to school for his senior season.

Jim McKenzie, The Rock’s vice president, told the Sentinel that UF has already set aside a scholarship for Wilbekin, meaning the future of two players has already been decided.

Sophomore guard Ray Shipman has chosen to transfer, but the Gators still must clear two more scholarships to get them to the NCAA-mandated maximum of 13. The most likely candidates to be taken off scholarship are freshman point guard Rod Tisman (who would remain in Irasel or transfer) and redshirt sophomore forward Adam Allen (who would retire and be granted a medical hardship or transfer).

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Four commits in four days: Wilbekin to join Gators

The Florida Gators basketball team will have a drastically different look in 2010 as head coach Billy Donovan has acquired his fourth commitment in as many days. Florida Today is reporting that Donovan plans to sign three-star point guard Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL) to a 2010 basketball scholarship.

Though Wilbekin is only a high school junior, he has “excellent” grades and enough credits to graduate early in order to be eligible for admission to the University of Florida as a member of the basketball team’s 2010 recruiting class. Before he can do anything, he must complete standardized testing and receive clearance from the NCAA.

Wilbekin, who is quite familiar with the program, is very much a fall-back option for the Gators after the team failed to land two of the top point guards in the country in Brandon Knight (Fort Lauderdale, FL) and Ray McCallum (Detroit, MI).

They also lost out on three-star point guard Brandon Young (Baltimore, MD), who has decided to uphold his commitment to DePaul and enroll as a freshman.

Potentially the sixth scholarship player brought in for 2010, Wilbekin would join four-star forwards Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) and Casey Prather (Jackson, TN), three-stars Will Yeguete (Melbourne, FL) and Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD) and Rutgers transfer guard Mike Rosario (Jersey City, NJ), who will not be eligible to play until 2011-12.

In order to sign six recruits to scholarships, further changes are likely abound inside the Florida program. Sophomore guard Ray Shipman has already decided to transfer, many believe freshman point guard Rod Tishman may return to Israel, redshirt sophomore forward Adam Allen could retire and junior forward Alex Tyus has submitted his name for evaluation for the 2010 NBA Draft. Florida would need two of either Tishman, Allen or Tyus to leave the program or else it would exceed its allotment of 13 scholarships.

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Three’s a charm: Cody Larson commits to Gators

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan added more depth to his frontcourt Tuesday, earning a commitment from three-star power forward recruit Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD), according to the Argus Leader. Donovan visited Larson’s hometown Friday, and the former Iowa commit returned the favor by taking a two-day trip to Gainesville, FL, beginning Monday.

At 6’9″ and 225 lbs., Larson is the second forward and third recruit Donovan has signed for his 2010 class in as many days. He averaged 19.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists at Roosevelt High School and was also being pursued by Kansas, Arizona State and Indiana (among others). However, per Big Ten transfer rules, Larson was prevented from receiving a scholarship offer from a conference team without an appeal.

He decided to seek a release from his commitment to the Hawkeyes after Iowa fired head coach Todd Lickliter and replaced him with Fran McCaffrey, formerly of Siena. The coveted student-athlete was reportedly suspended for the conclusion of his senior season, though the school did not make details public.

Larson is the second recruit Donovan has pulled out of South Dakota during his tenure as Florida’s coach (Mike Miller, 1998-2000). He may not even be the last high schooler on Donovan’s list this year.

The Gators’ coach is still reportedly pursuing two 2011 point guards who appear willing and able to graduate early in order to commit as a part of the team’s 2010 class. Either Matt Carlino (Bloomington, IN) or Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL) could potentially be Florida’s fifth 2010 commitment.

Whoever chooses to sign would join Larson, four-star forwards Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) and Casey Prather (Jackson, TN), three-star Will Yeguete (Melbourne, FL) and Rutgers transfer guard Mike Rosario (Jersey City, NJ), though Rosario will not be eligible to play until 2011-12.

In order to sign five recruits to scholarships, further changes are likely abound inside the Florida program. Sophomore guard Ray Shipman has already decided to transfer, many believe freshman point guard Rod Tishman may return to Israel, redshirt sophomore forward Adam Allen could retire and junior forward Alex Tyus has submitted his name for evaluation for the 2010 NBA Draft. Florida would need either Tishman, Allen or Tyus to leave the program or else it would exceed its allotment of 13 scholarships.

Photo Credit: Des Moines Register

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