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Florida Gators 2011-12 men's basketball preview

Erving Walker may need to distribute the ball more on a team heavy with shooters.

Getty Images

Erving Walker may need to distribute the ball more on a team heavy with shooters.

ROSTER

No. Player Ht. Pos. Yr.

1 Kenny Boynton 6-2 G Jr.

3 Mike Rosario 6-3 G R-Jr.

4 Patric Young 6-9 G So.

5 Scottie Wilbekin 6-2 G So.

11 Erving Walker 5-8 G Sr.

15 Will Yeguete 6-7 F So.

23 Bradley Beal 6-3 G Fr.

24 Casey Prather 6-6 F So.

33 Erik Murphy 6-10 F/C Jr.

34 Cody Larson 6-9 F/C R-Fr.

35 Walter Pitchford 6-10 F Fr.

SCHEDULE

Nov. 11 Jackson State 7

Nov. 15 at Ohio State 8

Nov. 17 North Florida 8

Nov. 21 Wright State (St. Pete Times Forum) 7

Nov. 25 Jacksonville 7

Nov. 28 Stetson (Orlando) 7

Dec. 2 at Syracuse 6:30

Dec. 7 Arizona 7

Dec. 9 Rider (Jacksonville) 7

Dec. 17 Texas A&M (Sunrise) 2:30

Dec. 19 Mississippi Valley State 7

Dec. 22 Florida State 7

Dec. 29 at Rutgers 7

Dec. 31 Yale 2

Jan. 3 UAB 7

Jan. 7 at Tennessee 11 a.m.

Jan. 10 Georgia 7

Jan. 14 at South Carolina 7

Jan. 21 LSU 6

Jan. 26 at Mississippi 7

Jan. 28 Mississippi State 1:30

Feb. 2 South Carolina 9

Feb. 4 Vanderbilt 1

Feb. 7 at Kentucky 7

Feb. 11 Tennessee 4

Feb. 14 at Alabama 7

Feb. 18 at Arkansas 6

Feb. 21 Auburn 7

Feb. 25 at Georgia 4

Feb. 28 at Vanderbilt 9

March 4 Kentucky Noon

At a glance

Coach: Billy Donovan (360-147, 16th season at Florida; 395-167 overall)

Last season: 29-8, 13-3 (1st in SEC). Advanced to the Elite Eight.

Florida was one game away from reaching the Final Four last season, a haunting memory that is part of what drives this team, players said. They've been close, now they want more. Florida is without three seniors from last year's squad, but if Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario and McDonald's All-America freshman Bradley Beal can mesh with the Gators' returning starters, it could be a big season for Billy Donovan's team. A big question mark is how improved is C Patric Young and who will help him at that position? The Gators are ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press preseason poll, their highest ranking since 2007.

Shoot 'em up

The Gators have an abundance of guards this season, which Donovan hopes will allow them to extend the floor and become a more full-court defensive team — with the kind of uptempo style he has had much success with at times. Whether he can find a balance and keep all of those shot-happy players content remains to be seen. So far in practice, Donovan said he has seen an unselfishness that he's pleased with. Even senior G Erving Walker, who is known for his penchant for shooting, is passing more.

Bench change

The Gators lost all three assistant coaches at the end of last season. New assistant coaches John Pelphrey and Matt McCall have both worked for Donovan before, so he regains some familiarity among the staff. And former St. John's coach Norm Roberts brings nearly two decades of experience to the staff.

Next great thing

There is great anticipation with the arrival of Beal, a Gatorade national player of the year who was rated the No. 2 shooting guard in the nation by Rivals.com and ESPN. Beal has come in and quickly made an impression on Donovan and his teammates.

Donovan said his maturity and ability to pick things up quickly are what set him apart from your typical freshmen — not to mention talent.

"Coach D told me that all of that McDonald's All-American stuff, all that doesn't matter anymore," Beal said. "So I'm really just focusing on what he wants me to do. I'm trying to find my way, figure out what this team needs most from me, and contribute the best way I can."

Free, at last

Rosario sat out all of last season after transferring, and he admits it was the most difficult thing he has had to do. Throughout the season, Rosario sat on the Gators' bench and was arguably the best cheerleader in the O'Dome night after night. Now that he's free to play, the New Jersey native is making sure he's soaking in every moment of his Gator experience. "It made me humble," Rosario said. "I really learned a lot this past year, and I'm ready to go out and just give my experiences that I have, let it feed to the other players and bring that intensity that I had as a cheerleader last year to the court."

Major milestone

The winningest coach in Florida history, Donovan begins his 16th season needing just five victories to reach 400. Donovan has led the Gators for two national championships, three Final Fours, four SEC Championships and 11 NCAA Tournament appearances.

Florida Gators 2011-12 men's basketball preview 11/04/11 [Last modified: Saturday, November 5, 2011 8:16pm]
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