Sunday, December 17, 2017
Sports

Despite strong start, Gators focus on the present

GAINESVILLE

Following a start to the season that included injuries and the suspension of senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, the Florida basketball team is on a serious roll early in the SEC season.

The Gators moved up a spot to No. 6 in this week's AP poll, have an RPI of No. 8 and are the lone unbeaten team in the conference (15-2, 4-0).

But as the Gators get a few extra days of preparation before returning to the court at Alabama on Thursday night, Florida coach Billy Donovan is clearly trying to ensure that they remain focused simply on the upcoming game, not what has happened to this point.

"We're all going to play an 18-game (SEC) schedule," Donovan said. "Obviously it's not a balanced schedule as we all know, but right now we're on to the next game. We've got to get prepared to go on the road to play Alabama.

"So as it relates to us right now, our record really has nothing to do with the preparation and what we've got to do going on the road here on Thursday. Certainly we're happy that after the first four games we're 4-0, but right now it really doesn't mean a whole lot going forward. It's about our team just trying to continue to grow, get better, try to improve and try to reach a level where we feel like we're getting to our fullest potential as a team."

The Gators are on a nine-game winning streak and are one of only two ranked SEC teams (Kentucky is No. 14).

RECRUITING COUNTDOWN: As the countdown to the Feb. 5 National Signing Day continues, Florida has four players in the Rivals.com 100 who are orally committed or early enrollees: DB Jalen Tabor, QB Will Grier, DT Thomas Holley and DE Gerald Willis III.

FINALLY, HOME: The Gators' defending national champion gymnastics team will compete at home for the first time this week after opening the season with two road meets. The Gators, who are tied with Utah at No. 4 nationally, are coming off a 197.075-196.225 win at No. 18 Auburn and will host No. 9 Georgia (1-2, 1-0 SEC) on Friday at 7 p.m. at the O'Connell Center.

Florida's 197.075 is the nation's top road score so far this season. Georgia opened its home season Friday with a win over No. 2 LSU.

"It was challenging — two road meets is very hard," UF coach Rhonda Faehn said. "This is the first time we've done that since my first season at Florida."

SUPER BOWL GATORS: For the 12th consecutive year, there will be former Florida Gators on the Super Bowl rosters. Three former Gators will be in Super Bowl XLVIII: Tampa native and former Jefferson star Andre Caldwell (Denver), DT Jeremy Mincey (Denver) and WR Percy Harvin (Seattle).

Former Gators players have been a part of 16 Super Bowl-winning teams, and the Gators have 41 players and 55 appearances in the Super Bowl.

Former Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is also headed to the Super Bowl as the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks.

PRATHER'S EMERGENCE: To get a better understanding of just how well senior F Casey Prather is playing this season, try this: Prather needs just 17 points to match his total for his first three seasons with the Gators (276).

He might have already surpassed his three-season total if not for injuries. Prather has missed two games this season, including last week's win over Georgia last week (knee), but he returned for Saturday's game at Auburn and had 21 points.

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected].

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