FOUR BITS: Muschamp, Allen, Pitchford, Hill

1 » Despite the lack of actual conflict between Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and Texas A&M Aggies top man Kevin Sumlin, the city of College Station, TX took the barbs as an opportunity to create the following video promoting their city while simultaneously making some light-hearted jokes at Muschamp.

2 » Former Gators forward Adam Allen, who never truly played for Florida again after injuring his knee as a true freshman, left the team for good after seeing 25 seconds on Senior Night in his redshirt junior season. Allen was graduating from the University of Florida and saw no further reason to remain on the team considering he would be unable to play for head coach Billy Donovan. Now over a year removed from the game, Allen has decided to attend Rollins College in Winter Park, FL for graduate school and announced this week that he will also have the opportunity to play basketball while enrolled. Allen, whose knee injury still limits him, told OGGOA (he served as a columnist here during the 2011-12 basketball season) that will not be able to play full-time at Rollins but will do whatever he can to help the team.

3 » Speaking of former Gators basketball players, Florida freshman transfer Walter Pitchford has officially committed to Nebraska after visiting the school over the weekend. “I just thought it was the right decision,” Pitchford told Rivals.com. “I’m comfortable with everyone on the staff and the players. I just felt like I really got along with everyone and this was the right fit for more.” A former three-star recruit, Pitchford was a late UF commitment during the 2011 cycle but played very limited minutes last season. He decided following the season to leave the program and move closer to home and chose a school that is a two-hour flight from Michigan. Pitchford will apply for a hardship waiver (citing family reasons for his transfer) that would allow him to be eligible immediately at Nebraska but chances are he will have to sit out the 2012-13 season.

4 » A future Gators basketball star also got some good news on Saturday when ESPN released its latest top-100 players list for the 2013 season. Florida five-star point guard commitment Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL) has been turning heads this entire offseason and jumped 12 spots on the list up to No. 6 overall. Already ranked No. 8 by Rivals, Hill is now a consensus top-10 player and has the opportunity to vault even higher with a stellar senior campaign. The Gators’ primary remaining target for 2013, five-star forward Chris Walker (Bonifay, FL), is listed as the seventh-best player by ESPN and sixth-best by Rivals. He has plenty of offers but will likely choose between UF and Kansas. Working in Florida’s favor is the fact that Walker and Hill are close and have discussed playing together at the next level.

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Florida forward Walter Pitchford will transfer

Florida Gators freshman forward Walter Pitchford has decided to transfer after one year with the team in order to play basketball closer to home.

Spending just one year at the University of Florida and only seeing a total of 22 minutes of action in 13 of the team’s 37 games, Pitchford was the last scholarship player on the bench this season and considered a bit of a project. However, he always worked hard in practice and was a productive member of the team.

Pitchford told OGGOA on Wednesday that he and his family decided it would be best that he leave the program and play closer to his home state of Michigan at least partially due to his grandfather being ill.

“It’s definitely the best thing for him and his family, just with some of his extenuating circumstances,” head coach Billy Donovan told the school’s website. “Right now, he just needs to be near his family. They need him home and they want him home.”

Pitchford was pleased with his time in Gainesville, FL and praised both the coaching staff and his teammates for helping make him a better basketball player.

“My time here – I like to say that this was a learning year for me,” he said. “I really enjoyed learning from one of the greatest coaches in Coach Donovan. The assistant coaches – I really loved learning from them. Besides that, I learned a lot from my teammates. I learned something from everybody in the program. Everybody had something to add that I picked up from and will learn from.”

Donovan noticed that leadership was an issue with UF during the season and began preaching communication among the players during games. Pitchford said that is one thing in particular that he will take away from his time with the team.

“Something that clicked for me was being more verbal, being able to help tell [my] teammates what to do, saying good job, picking them up or just keeping the team excited. I learned [how important it is] to bring more energy and extra stuff,” he said.

His departure opens up one scholarship for the Gators to utilize in 2012-13. The team may wind up with two available slots should freshman guard Bradley Beal decide this month to declare for the 2012 NBA Draft.

Florida has targeted five-star power forward Anthony Bennett (Henderson, NV) to fill that remaining scholarship, but he will not make a decision until early May and is also considering a number of other schools including Kentucky, Oregon and UNLV.

The Gators’ 2012 recruiting class currently consists of three guards. With Pitchford planning to leave the team, Florida will have only three players over 6’7” on the roster next season (as of press time) – sophomore center Patric Young (6’9”), junior F Erik Murphy (6’10”) and redshirt freshman F/C Cody Larson (6’9”).

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1/30: Murphy developing, Pitchford injured

The No. 11/12 Florida Gators earned two big wins last week and are looking to build on their resume with another two-games-in-three-days stretch this upcoming Thursday-Saturday. Head coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Monday to discuss his team is progressing approximately a third of the way into the 2012 SEC slate.

MURPHY MAKING MAJOR STRIDES IN HIS THIRD YEAR

Lost in junior guard Kenny Boynton’s sharpshooting, sophomore center Patric Young’s vast improvement and freshman G Bradley Beal’s emergence is the terrific play of junior forward Erik Murphy this season. Shooting a team-high 48.5 percent from beyond the arc while averaging double figures (10.6 points) and leading the Gators in blocked shots (1.3 per game), Murphy has stepped up his game and proved that he deserves his spot in the starting lineup.

“He definitely brings a different element because he’s got great size and can shoot the ball,” Donovan said Monday. “With the way big guys are going to have to rotate defensively, I think Erik, a lot of times, puts you in a little bit of a bind because of his ability to step away from the basket and shoot. I think he is one of the better three-point shooters on our team. He’s confident in that, and I’m confident in him shooting the ball. Like a Matt Bonner, maybe even a Greg Stolt years ago, those guys are able to present a different set of challenges for the defense.”

Asked to compare Murphy and Bonner, Donovan actually said the former “may be a better shooter” if you were to look at the level both were playing at during their junior years. “I’m not sure Bonner wants to hear that but that’s OK,” he joked.

Even though Donovan is beyond happy with Murphy’s play, he believes that his form could be improved – not that it is actually affecting his shot – as could his recognition.

“He tilts his head a little bit when he shoots, which I don’t necessarily like, but I think when you’re dealing with a guy like that who has shot the ball that way his whole entire life, the reason I think he is a good shooter is because of the way it comes out of his hands,” he said. “He’s got great follow through, he’s got great rotation, and he gets the ball into an area where there’s not a whole lot of movement. But if you watch him, he always tilts his head a little bit. Him doing that probably hasn’t disrupted his shot a whole lot, but he has great rotation and a great follow through.

“His biggest problem sometimes is when the ball finds him quickly. Sometimes he’s got to get himself ready to shoot and there’s times I thought he could have taken 3-4 more three-point shots in the first half that he passed up because he wasn’t ready to shoot.”

PITCHFORD OUT UP TO TWO WEEKS

Freshman F Walter Pitchford, who has barely played this season and was not expected to see minutes going forward, will not even be able to practice with the team for up to two weeks after spraining his right wrist in a scooter accident on Sunday. According to UF’s Chris Harry, Pitchford “tried to break on the bike and prevent hitting a vehicle in front of him” but instead “rolled the scooter sideways to the ground, injuring his wrist and scrap[ing] his arm badly hitting the pavement.”

Donovan said the loss of Pitchford is rough because it will halt his personal development for the time being; however, he is rarely used during the main portions of practice and should not help the team’s five-on-five scrimmages.

PLAYER EVALUATIONS / UPDATES

Donovan spoke at length about a number of Florida’s players Monday.

Young and his recent stint coming off the bench: “It’s helped our team. I think Patric’s come off the bench and he’s added a different element and a different boost to our team. It takes a pretty humble kid, as good as he is as a player, to do that, but I also feel like it’s my job and responsibility to make sure that in whatever role that he’s in, he’s a vital and important piece to our team and that we figure out how to best put him in the position where he feels like he can play his best. I don’t know if that’s coming off the bench or not. I just know that he’s been comfortable with it.”

Boynton and his low-scoring affair Saturday: “At the end of the day, I think it’s good for Kenny that happened because it at least demonstrates that we don’t need one person to score. I’ve got a lot of confidence in Kenny. I was really impressed with the way he played the game because he didn’t really force any shots, he didn’t try to create things that weren’t there. [...] Kenny knows he’s got freedom to be aggressive, to go out there and play, but I also think it was a great lesson for our team that on any given night, anything can happen.”

On senior point guard Erving Walker’s impact: “You always have to account for him on the floor because he’s a proven scorer in this league. You always have to account for him wherever he’s at on the floor because he has such deep range. Erving, as many times as he can eliminate those drives to the basket, leaving his feet and getting caught in no man’s land and making a crazy shot or a crazy pass that leads to a turnover or a bad shot. When he eliminates those things and gets in the lane and makes good decisions, it opens things up.”

On sophomore F Will Yeguete’s defensive skills: “Will has got a great base defensively. He has got great feet, and he’s got exceptionally long arms. I would say another thing with Will is he is not afraid of contact and he can physically put his body in place. [...] Once Will gets a guy in the area of the floor where it’s away from the basket, he’s good enough physically to take on contact and obviously he is really good with his hands in terms of slapping and deflecting balls. He’s a really good defender – as good of a post defender as I’ve had since we’ve been here. He takes great pride in taking in those challenges.” On how he’s improved from a year ago: “He was pretty raw. The things he did defensively were the same things he did a year ago. His biggest problem a year ago was that he led our team in turnovers per minute. It became very difficult to play him because when he touched the ball there was a good chance that he was going to turn it over. He’s gotten better with his decision-making. He’s gotten better with his passes, but he still has some lapses there.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On Florida’s improved assist-to-turnover ratio over the last five games: “It’s something we’ve always preached, something we’ve always talked about from day one. Even going back to preseason, I talked about Erving Walker and his role and what he needed to do. I do think when you have somewhat of a new team it does take time to learn each other and get better with each other. We’ve gotten better in that area – understanding what’s open and what’s available and how to utilize each other. That’s really important when you want to have a team that has balanced scoring. We do have several guys averaging double-figures, and I think that’s a product of guys understanding each other. Sometimes when you’ve got new guys it takes a little bit of time to get to that point but I think our backcourt guys and our perimeter and post players are doing a better job of making decisions. We’ve been unselfish. I never felt like our unselfishness was ever a problem. I thought at times our decision making was a problem and the last few games we’ve gotten better with our assist-to-turnover ratio. We’ve done a really good job there.”

» On the Gators stepping up defensively:
“They’re trying defensively. I was really pleased with them on such a quick turnaround, getting in late after the game on Thursday against Ole Miss and really having a couple hours to prepare and really not having much time at all on the day of the game because it was a 1:45 game.”

» On Florida’s turnovers previously being an issue in their losses: “I don’t think that you ever want to turn the ball over – that’s never good, and it’s not going to help you in any way. There’s a lot of ingredients that go into winning, too. Certainly turnovers are important, how well you shoot the ball, how well you defend, how well you rebound. But I think that when you do go on the road and turn the ball over a lot, that makes it that much more difficult to go on the road and win.”

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No. 11/12 Gators clobber Delta Devils 82-54

It was clobbering time at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Monday evening as the newly minted No. 11/12 Florida Gators (9-2) topped the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils (1-9) 82-54.

Coming off an unexpectedly easy victory 84-64 against then-No. 22 Texas A&M on Saturday, Florida kept their focus in order to avoid a significant upset. The Gators responded to the challenge with all five starters scoring in double figures and combining to go 10-for-18 from downtown.

Florida opened the contest shooting as well as they have all season, hitting their first eight shots and 10-of-11 to take an early 21-4 lead. The Gators increased their advantage to 20 points minutes later when junior guard Kenny Boynton connected on his second triple and fourth basket of the game in under seven minutes.

After taking a 24-point lead just nine minutes into the game, Florida went on a bit of a scoring drought, allowing Mississippi Valley State to close their gap by five points in just over seven minutes. A trey by Boynton with 2:55 remaining gave the Gators their 24-point advantage back, one they would maintain through the end of the half.

Coming out of the break, Florida found their stroke again and stretched their lead to 34 thanks in part to four made three-pointers during a two-minute stretch early in the second half. Four free throws by senior point guard Erving Walker stretched the Gators’ advantage to a game-high 39 points with 10:25 remaining.

UF rested many of its starters (some of whom were in foul trouble) down the stretch and relented a bit on defense but still held on for the decisive victory. The Delta Devils were outscored 46-22 in the first half but just 36-32 in the final 20 minutes.

Walker led the way for the Gators with 19 points on 4-of-6 shooting (3-for-5 from downtown, 8-for-8 from the line) with three rebounds, three assists, two steals and three turnovers. Boynton scored 16 points to go along with four boards and four dimes.

Freshman G Bradley Beal was an efficient 3-for-4 from beyond the arc for 13 points with six rebounds, while sophomore center Patric Young added 12 points, eight boards and four assists. Junior forward Erik Murphy matched Young with eight rebounds and hit half of his shots for 11 points.

Freshman center Walter Pitchford and walk-on Jacob Kurtz each got a chance to play; Pitchford hit a layup while Kurtz connected on a pair of free throws. Neither redshirt junior G Mike Rosario (strained back) nor redshirt freshman F Cody Larson (strep throat) saw the court.

Florida outrebounded an opponent for the 10th time in 11 games this season, grabbing 13 more boards (41-28) than Mississippi Valley State. The Gators shot just a shade under 50 percent from downtown and connected on 10 treys, their ninth time hitting double-digit three-pointers this season.

The Delta Devils attempted 32 treys but hit just six of them, shooting a paltry 18.8 percent from downtown and 30.8 percent from the field.

UF will remain at home as they next host in-state rival Florida State on Thursday at 7 p.m. The game will air live nationally on ESPNU.

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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

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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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Three-pointer crusade leads Florida past Catholic

No. 8/10 Florida Gators basketball had the perfect tune up on Thursday evening, defeating the Division-III Catholic Cardinals 114-57 in an exhibition match at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Sporting new uniforms and playing on a redesigned home court, Florida had six players score in double figures in the contest, which saw them lead from start to finish.

Gators junior guard Kenny Boynton posted a double-double and led all players with 21 points and 10 rebounds while hitting 6-of-11 attempts from downtown.

Freshman G Brad Beal (20 points, five assists), redshirt junior transfer G Mike Rosario (18 points, six assists) and senior point guard Erving Walker (15 points, four assists) also shot well from beyond the arc, combining to go 11-for-20.

Sophomores center Patric Young and guard/forward Casey Prather each grabbed a game-high seven rebounds; Young added 10 points and three steals.

Junior F Erik Murphy was 6-of-9 from the field and 3-for-4 from downtown for 17 points, and sophomore F Will Yeguete added nine points on 5-of-6 shooting from the charity stripe. Redshirt freshman F Cody Larson and freshman F Walter Pitchford were the only Florida players unable to score in a combined 22 minutes.

As a team, the Gators shot 57.1 percent from the field (40-of-70), 50 percent from three (20-of-40) and 70 percent from the free throw line (14-of-20). Florida outrebounded Catholic 36-31, led their opponent in steals 16-3 and scored 50 points off turnovers.

Cardinals G Billy Donovan, Jr., Gators head coach Billy Donovan’s son, led Catholic in points (13) and minutes played (27). He received a friendly ovation before the game and when being pulled from the game at the end of the second half.

The Gators will have a week off before officially beginning the 2011-12 season. Florida takes on Jackson State in their regular season opener on Friday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. in the O’Connell Center. The game will air live on FOX Sports Florida (check your local listings).

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Chandler Parsons talks Gators basketball

With Florida Gators basketball season approaching, OGGOA sat down with forward Chandler Parsons to discuss the team heading into the 2011-12 season. We spoke with Parsons while he was overseas in France playing with Cholet Basket of the Ligue Nationale de Basketball – the top men’s French professional basketball league.

Parsons was signed through Oct. 31 and has since returned to the United States as he waits for the NBA lockout to come to a conclusion. When it does, he will suit up for the Houston Rockets, which selected him with the No. 38 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Fans have not gotten the chance to see Mike Rosario play in a Gators uniform yet. What was it like to go against Rosario in practice, how talented do you think he is and how will he fit in with Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker?
CHANDLER PARSONS: “Mike Rosario is going to be a fun player for fans to watch. Last year in practice he really pushed the starting five and can really shoot the ball. He’s one of the best shooters I’ve seen and will play well off Erv and K.B. He’ll ensure that his defender doesn’t help because the way he can shoot the ball gives Florida more ability to get in the lane and create. If his defender helps, he will knock down the open shot and give them many assist possibilities.

AS: Same question in regards to Cody Larson. What did you see from him in practice and what can he bring to the team?
CP: “Cody is a big body who can rebound and run the floor and step out and knock down jumpers. 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 if he earns the opportunity.

AS: With yourself, Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin all having graduated, Florida is obviously lacking the experience inside that the team has had for the last few years. In what areas do you think Patric Young needs to improve in from the start in order to step up and be a consistent presence for the team?
CP: “Pat is an absolute monster. Watching him work out 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. He’s going to have to play big all year long and lead the way rebounding with me, Alex and Vernon gone. 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.”

AS: Obviously Erik Murphy is going to start as a forward, but he was also working on his perimeter game a bit last year. Who do you see stepping up and being the No. 2 “big man” presence for the Gators?
CP: “All the other bigs have potential and can help them out in different ways. I heard Erik had a great summer and looked a lot bigger than the last time I saw him. He can really shoot it for his size and can space the floor, too. The same goes for Walter [Pitchford]. With those guys having the ability to shoot the three, they could really cause problems. Will [Yeguete] and Cody can also help out rebounding and providing us with another big body to throw at you. Everyone knows our guards can score, so our bigs have to rebound, block shots and just play physical for however long there in the game.”

AS: Knowing Billy Donovan as you do, how often do you think Florida might play with four guards? Do you think he’ll be using any different offensive/defensive principles with a smaller lineup?
CP: “I could definitely see them going four guards depending on who they’re playing, but I don’t see them starting that way. Our guards are going to have to really help out rebounding when we go small, especially Brad [Beal] and Casey [Prather]. Whatever coach does, the guys just have the understand it doesn’t matter who starts, it matters whose on the floor at the end of the game. With this team, it could be anybody’s night on any given night. As long as they stay together and play unselfish, they could be special.”

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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