Frontcourt a work in progress for young Gators

By Adam Silverstein
October 13, 2011

It is tough to replace veteran leadership, so the fact that the Florida Gators have to find a way to make up for the size, strength and 19.4 rebounds per game provided by Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin last year is one that has been tough to swallow this offseason.

Head coach Billy Donovan, faced with a rotation primarily filled with high-scoring guards, is looking for ways to replace his veterans. He like everyone else knows that job starts with helping sophomore center Patric Young take his game to the next level.

“Patric has made some good strides and good growth from a year ago. Maturity-wise, it is always important going from your freshman to your sophomore year,” Donovan said of Young. “A lot of people keep talking about his offense. The thing that I have really tried to stress to Patric is that he’s got to keep it very simple for himself.

“He’s a physically strong, dominant player so he needs to utilize his size, strength and athleticism. He’s got a great motor. He’s got great energy. He needs to utilize those things. Patric doesn’t need to be a guy who is totally consumed with his offense around the basket as much as he needs to be consumed with the fact that we lost…rebounds from last year. He needs to be a great rebounder. He needs to be able to play defense without getting himself in foul trouble. He needs to get great deep post position and post up in an area of the floor where he can be successful and effective in what he’s doing.”

That’s not to say Young will not be expected to contribute offensively. Donovan hopes he learned from Macklin’s ability to consistently score in the post last year.

[EXPAND Click to expand and read the remainder of this post.]“Vernon established that with our team, that he was a reliable low-post guy that we could throw the ball to and he could make plays and score. Patric’s got to keep it simple where he’s a reliable guy when we throw the ball to him that he makes good decisions,” he explained. “If he’s double teamed, he can get it out. If he catches it, he can make a good, aggressive post move. All of those things are going to be really important to his growth.”

Donovan also believes he has the chance to step up in another way.

“It’s always hard to establish yourself as a leader when you’re coming out of your freshman year and you were coming off the bench,” he said. “Patric has got all of the abilities to be a terrific leader. Patric is one of those younger guys that I would say no question needs to develop into a leadership role. That will be important.”

Young believes he has that innate ability. “I have been a pretty passionate guy my whole career as a basketball player. I think every time I step on the court I go as hard as I can and do all the right things,” he said. “Guys will start noticing things like that and hopefully I’ll earn some respect from guys and have a good influence on the team.”

Florida’s second leading rebounder off the bench last year was forward Will Yeguete (2.6 per game), who spent part of his summer playing for the French national team, an experience that Donovan agreed was positive even if it did have one slight drawback.

“It was good because Will didn’t get a chance to play a lot last year. Any time these guys can go into a summer where they play competitive basketball, it’s always a good thing,” Donovan said. “I wish he would have came back in a little bit better shape. Maybe a little too much pastry eating over there. Will’s a great worker. He’s a great kid.”

Yeguete’s energy and enthusiasm for defense and rebounding was a necessary addition to the Gators’ rotation last season, but this year he is just one of a few players being counted on to provide assistance in that area off the bench.

“There’s four guys on our team that are really critical going into the season,” said Donovan while speaking of Yeguete, sophomore F Casey Prather, redshirt freshman F Cody Larson and freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin. “They all bring things to the table that our team desperately needs.

“They’re really good loose ball guys. They’re quick to the ball. They are good rebounders. They’re good defenders. They’re opportunistic scorers. They give us depth. They have a presence athletically and physically.”

Donovan plans to utilize Prather, who some say resembles a shorter Corey Brewer at 6’6” and 212 lbs., in a variety of ways to utilize his athleticism and quickness. With so many scorers on the court at any given time, his bench this year will be focused on doing the “little things” like rebounding and defending.

“Casey and Will and Scottie and Cody, they can bring a depth and element to our team that can be very helpful,” he said. “Those four guys, to me, are going to be very important because we need those four guys in whatever role it is. The things that they can bring to the table our team needs.”

Florida’s success this season may hinge on its experienced backcourt but contributions from a young and talented frontcourt are going to be necessary, especially as the team enters league play in January.[/EXPAND]

One Comment

  1. Greg M. says:

    Great post. I hope these guys buy into the roles that Donovan has designated for them. It will be a lot of fun seeing how this talented but unbalanced roster functions and evolves over the course of the season. The core group of scrappy glue guys mentioned in the article will undoubtedly be CRUCIAL given the lack of size and number of scorers. Loved what I saw out of Pranther and Yeguete in limited minutes last season. Yeguete did a great job pulling down rebounds for the France U21 squad this summer, as well.

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