S.C. -- The sequence played out minus many oohs and ahhs from the packed house
at the O’Connell Center last month. But upon further review, Billy Donovan made
sure his team knew exactly what happened and who made it happen. To
the untrained basketball eye, the play was a missed shot by Florida State and a
rebound by Florida. No big deal, right?
to the tape.
was working its halfcourt offense, running guys off a series of screens. UF
forward Erik Murphy got picked and teammate Bradley Beal tried to switch off
his man and challenge the shot. That left Seminoles’ 6-foot-11, 240-pound
center Bernard James, who screened Murphy, free to pivot and crash the offensive
the corner, though, Gators guard Scottie Wilbekin saw the play developing. The
6-2 Wilbekin left his man once the shot went up, beat James to a spot in the
paint, boxed out the big man and allowed UF forward Will Yeguete to clear the rebound.
was it. One simple play.
winning play in what turned out to be a key victory.
follow-up film sessions, Donovan replayed it over and over.
are things that go on inside the game that no one is going to pick up on or see
in a box score, but that I really appreciate,” Donovan said. “Sometimes you
have to talk about the guy who brings his lunch pail and shovel to work every
day, but maybe never gets credit for building the highway.”
is that blue-collar guy.
sophomore backup from Gainesville may not get the headlines or highlights like
Kenny Boynton, Patric Young or Bradley Beal, but he is a valued member of the
Florida basketball team who has managed to carve out a role for himself --
especially on defense -- that no one inside the program takes for
has been something of an adjustment because you come from high school where
you’re used to being on the floor all the time and scoring,” Wilbekin said.
“But I’m on a team now, I have my role and understand my role. It’s no
different than the other guys. They have their roles, too. Mine is to come in
the game and provide energy on defense and make good decisions with the ball.
So I embrace that role.”
sort of team-first attitude will serve the 19th-ranked Gators (13-4, 1-1) well
as they head deeper into Southeastern Conference play, starting with a visit
Saturday night to South Carolina (8-8, 0-2) and Colonial Life Arena, where UF
seeks its first road win in five tries this season.
17 games, Florida has been at its best when sharing the ball among its wealth
of scorers on offense and playing disciplined defense, neither of which they
did very well in last weekend’s 67-56 upset loss at Tennessee.
each Gator would welcome Wilbekin’s way of thinking, this team can be special.
Donovan, though, knows that’s not an easy concept to grasp.
up, you’re in the backyard by yourself, let’s face it, you’re not doing defensive
slides -- you’re shooting the basketball,” Donovan said. “It takes a special
person to really understand the value and the meaning of having a role and
asking yourself, when you’re one of five guys on the court, ‘How can I best
impact the game?’ The answer isn’t always going to be shooting the basketball.”
was raised the son of a coach. Svend Wilbekin groomed his oldest boy well in
his years growing up in Gainesville. He recalls Scottie, even at 5 or 6, trying
to give the ball to teammates who hadn’t scored and watching that unselfishness
carrying forth as he grew into an area prep star.
Wilbekin was a standout guard for his dad at The Rock School, mere miles from
the UF campus. His father, who doubled as a pastor there, delighted in the
success the Gators enjoyed during their back-to-back national championship runs
-- not just for the trophies -- because of how they won and how they spoke of
quotes you’d read from Billy in the paper about that team and sharing the ball,
they were like a dream for every high school coach who preaches to his players
about accepting their roles and sharing the ball,” Svend Wilbekin said. “I must
have read three or four quotes from them when my team was playing, and we
really had balanced scoring. So that just reinforced Scottie’s mindset that a
balance is going to create more opportunities for success for everybody, as
opposed to a team dominated by one or two players.”
who averaged 19 points per game as an Class 1A all-state selection, graduated
from high school a year early to sign with Florida. He made an instant impact
as a freshman last season, averaging 2.4 points, 1.5 rebounds and often drawing
the toughest defensive assignments.
opened the (SEC) season at Tennessee and he was guarding Scotty Hopson [who was
third in SEC in scoring last year and departed a year early]. We went to
Kentucky and he got Brandon Knight [a lottery pick by Detroit in NBA draft last
June]. None of that phased him,” said Darren Hertz, UF assistant to the head
coach. “Scottie is just a really, really tough kid and a phenomenal defender.
He’s our junkyard dog.”
mentality (and the will to guard that comes with it) has intensified this
season. You’ve heard of instant offense off the bench? Wilbekin provides
instant defense, plus a steady hand, solid playmaking and that valuable high
basketball IQ when relieving senior Erving Walker at the point.
focused more on it. Focused more on being more disruptive on defense, creating
turnovers and stuff like that,” Wilbekin said. “But I’ve also tried to work on
my general overall understanding of the game. That’s what Coach D wants.”
this season, Coach D had a chat with Wilbekin after a lopsided and somewhat
loose win against Mississippi Valley State. In that game, Wilbekin seemed to
get a little caught up in all the shooting going on around him and decided to
do some firing away of his own. He finished 2-for-8 from the floor and did not
look like himself.
the tape Donovan went.
next opponent was FSU and Wilbekin had 19 of his finest minutes of the season,
finishing 2-for-2 from the floor (including a 3-pointer), grabbed three
rebounds, had a steal and forced a couple more turnovers during a ferocious,
pressing second-half run that broke the game open.
loved it,” Wilbekin said. “When we’re pressing like that and running around
like crazy and the crowd is cheering, I don’t think I can ever get
the Scottie Wilbekin the Gators want to see (and need) every time out.
you can understand that your time will come and the team will get better and
together everyone will enjoy great success, it’s more rewarding,” Svend
Wilbekin said. “That’s what we’ve always talked about. That’s what I’ve told
him as a father, that’s what I’ve told him as a coach.”
a son and a player, Scottie has listened.
been an adjustment from the kind of player I was in high school, but I love
playing defense so much that it makes it easier,” Wilbekin said. “But more than
anything else, I love winning.”
No. 19 Florida at
Tip-off: 7 p.m. (Colonial
Life Arena, Columbia, S.C.)
Records: Florida 13-4,
1-1; South Carolina 8-8, 0-2
TV: CSS (w/Matt Stewart
and Nate Ross) * note- will be on Ch. 199 in
Gainesville/Ocala for Cox Digital subscribers
Radio: Gator IMG Sports
Network (w/Mick Hubert and Mark Wise) --
Click here for affiliates) / Sirius 220/XM 199
Game notes: Florida
Need to know: The Gators and
Gamecocks meet for the 63rd time in the series dating to 1926. The two teams
played 16 times before South Carolina joined the Southeastern Conference in
1992. ... UF is 21-11 vs. USC under Coach Billy Donovan, with eight wins in the
last 11 meetings, including a victory in the 2006 SEC Tournament title game,
but also including a loss at Gainesville that marked UF's lone SEC home defeat
last season. ... The Gators are coming off a 70-48 defeat of Georgia that
evened their league record at 1-1 after opening the season with a 67-56 loss at
Tennessee last Saturday in arguably their poorest performance of the season...
The Gamecocks, who lost earlier in the season to Elon but also beat Clemson,
started their SEC season with losses at No. 2 Kentucky and home against a very
good Vanderbilt team. ... All five UF starters average in double-figures, led
by the backcourt trio of junior G Kenny Boynton (18.9 ppg), freshman G Bradley
Beal (14.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and senior PG Erving Walker (13.1 ppg, 4.9 apg). ...
The Gators lead the SEC in scoring at 82.8 points per game and 3-point field-goal
percentage at 40.6, while the Gamecocks are last in the league in field-goal
defense (43.9 percent) and 3-point defense (39.5 percent). ... USC doesn’t
score a lot of points (63.9 per game), but it spaces the floor and is a
disciplined rebounding team relative to boxing out on the glass (31.4 rebounds
per game allowed leads the SEC). ... 6-6 senior F Malik Cook (12.7 ppg, 4.7
rpg) tops South Carolina’s stats, but the Gamecocks’ difference-maker is
sophomore PG Bruce Ellington, the duel football-basketball standout who joined
the hoops squad in December. Ellington (12.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.3 apg), who scored
20 on 8-for-12 shooting against Vandy, will make his season’s starting debut
against the Gators.