Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The team that Florida men’s basketball coach Billy Donovan envisions looks a lot like the one he used in Thursday’s 50-point win over North Carolina A&T.
Granted, true freshmen Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete, Patric Young and Casey Prather probably won’t combine for 41 points, 24 rebounds and 12 assists on a regular basis, but they must contribute something more than a couple of minutes off the bench for Florida to have the kind of season many expect.
The No. 9-ranked Gators host Morehead State on Sunday afternoon at the O’Connell Center with another early-season opportunity for the freshmen to show they can make a difference.
“We need to develop our bench,’’ Donovan said following Thursday’s win. “If we play [with] Erik Murphy being our sixth man and a couple of those freshmen three or four minutes just to give the rest of those guys a blow, we’re really the same team we were a year ago.
“We’re trying to be a better team than we were a year ago.’’
In the first three games this season, the young group of newcomers has looked capable of adding the kind of depth Donovan seeks behind UF’s five returning starters.
Wilbekin has provided meaningful minutes at point guard behind starter Erving Walker, and Young, while raw offensively, has shown his physical nature can be disruptive to opposing teams. Yeguete’s energy adds a boost – he grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds on Thursday – and Prather’s versatility is what could make him an important role player as the season unfolds.
Senior forward Chandler Parsons liked the way the freshmen responded Thursday in their first extended minutes as a collective group.
“It’s going to help us a lot,’’ Parsons said. “Because our style of play with pressing, and running transition, and going up and down, it’s tiring; with all these freshmen coming in and playing like they did [Thursday], it’s really going to help us in the long run.’’
After not playing in Florida’s 93-75 loss to fourth-ranked Ohio State on Tuesday, Yeguete opened some eyes Thursday, hustling around the court and displaying a knack for grabbing rebounds.
“I’m just trying to keep working hard and see where my game can get,’’ Yeguete said. “I think my time will come. I’m just going to keep patient do what I can when I get to play. [The freshmen] want to prove ourselves that we can help the team.’’
Perhaps the newcomer expected to make the biggest difference is Young, a McDonald’s All-American who is 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds. Young is very physical on the court and his willingness to play defense and throw his body around is an ingredient the Gators have missed in recent seasons.
The focus now is for Young to improve his offensive game and to fit better into Donovan’s system.
“He gave us some very, very good minutes and I was happy we could get him the ball in certain areas of the floor where he could do something with it,’’ Donovan said. “He is so physical and does a lot of very positive things as it relates to rebounding, charges, loose balls … he does a lot of things that impact our team. The more we can get him comfortable in his role the more it’s going to help us.’’
At this point early in their careers, the same can be said for all the freshmen. But the message is clear from Donovan: if they continue to improve, they will play.
That was the plan from the start; we just finally got to see it in action on the court Thursday.
“We need our freshmen to grow and develop,’’ Donovan said. “They’ve got to add some depth to us and they’ve got to become consistent and responsible.’’
Florida vs. Morehead State
Tip-off: 3:30 p.m., O'Connell Center
Records: Morehead State (2-1); Florida (2-1)
TV/Radio: SUN Sports; Gator Radio Network
Notes: Third meeting all-time between the schools; series split with Gators winning 117-70 in last meeting on Dec. 22, 1998 … Ninth-ranked Gators are coming off a 105-55 win over North Carolina A&T on Thursday, a strong response after losing two days earlier to No. 4 Ohio State … Senior F Alex Tyus, who missed Thursday's game with a mild concussion, is expected to play today according to Gators coach Billy Donovan … Eight players scored in double figures for Florida on Thursday, led by 16 points each from Chandler Parsons and Kenny Boynton … Freshman F Will Yeguete scored seven points and grabbed game-high 15 rebounds, most by a UF true freshman since Al Horford’s 18 boards in 2004 against Alabama.