For the past three years, the Florida Gator men’s basketball team has been elite… but not good enough.
The Gators made it to the Elite Eight in each of the past three seasons, but they just could not break the press — a different story than the one that existed from 2006 to 2008.
Having said that, each year is a new year.
Florida hosted its Media Day Wednesday, and Gator coach Billy Donovan addressed some issues that have been looming over his squad the entire off-season.
Arguably the biggest question mark lies over the point guard position. Senior guard Scottie Wilbekin will begin practicing with the team Friday despite being suspended indefinitely in June for violating unspecified team rules.
“I’m really, really proud of him in what he’s done and the way he’s conducted himself,” Donovan said of Wilbekin. “From the spring all the way till now, it’s been a long, long road for him… he’s done everything I could ask of as a player in terms of taking responsibility and growing.”
Donvoan did confirm that Wilbekin will still miss some games to start the season, but that news directly impacts the Gators’ prized possession from the 2013 crop of high school recruits: Kasey Hill.
Out of Eustis, Fla., the 6-foot-1, 181-pound Hill is entering his freshman year and most likely the Gators’ starting lineup as well.
“He’s going to be thrown to the fire right away,” Donovan said.
With Hill expected to be handed the reigns while Wilbekin twiddles his thumbs, there are still more questions to be answered.
Senior forward Will Yeguete and junior guard Eli Carter, who transferred from Rutgers, are both out with injuries.
And then for good measure, center Patric Young is entering his senior season with the Gators. Young, once the cream of the crop on the high school hoops scene, has averaged about eight points a game with almost six rebounds in his three years under Donovan.
“As a coach, I feel bad for him in a lot of ways,” Donovan said of Y0ung. “You come out of high school very, very decorated and people start comparing him to other people. He looks like Dwight Howard. He’s supposed to play like Dwight Howard. He’s supposed to do this. He’s supposed to do that.’ Everybody always wants more from him.”
Young is, in no way, like Howard — take that as you will. The two may have some defensive similarities, but Howard was the first overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. Young’s draft stock is up in the air.
At the end of the day, Donovan remains confident in all of his players and their ability to play as a unit.
Florida has some uncertainties about its roster due to a variety of reasons, but the one constant is Donovan, who has shown he can take a team to the top despite the obstacles.
“You always, as a coach, based on your personnel, have to evolve,” Donovan said.