GAINESVILLE — It's a long time between now and March Madness, but expectations for Florida's men are high.
"National championship," senior F Chandler Parsons said during Wednesday's media day. "I don't expect anything less. We want to win the SEC tournament championship. We want to be the best possible team that we can be. If that's us getting to the Final Four, if that's winning the national championship, we just want to continue to work hard every day and improve."
Last season, the Gators reached the Tournament for the first time since 2006-07 but lost in the first round to BYU.
This season, Florida, which opens practice Friday, is among the top 15 in most preseason rankings. And with five returning starters, the perception is it will be a force. But coach Billy Donovan isn't buying into that.
"When it comes to the pace of competing, perceptions are never reality," Donovan said. "In today's environment … where you have a team that went to the NCAA Tournament and returns all five starters, the expectation and the perception is that you're going to be really, really good.
"This is a team that needed a 75-foot shot from Chandler Parsons against North Carolina State; that needed a game-winning shot by Chandler against South Carolina; that needed a game-winning shot by Erving Walker at Alabama to get into the Tournament. So the reality is that this group really hasn't done a lot."
YOUNG'S PRESENCE: At 6 feet 9, 225 pounds, freshman F/C Patric Young is quite an imposing figure. Young said the last time he "maxed out," he could bench-press 300 pounds. And that was back in high school.
His strength is already legendary among his teammates — he accidentally broke G/F Casey Prather's nose during a pickup game this summer. The McDonald's All-American is expected to bring a much-needed physical presence and said he wouldn't have it any other way — defense first.
"I have absolutely no problems with that at all," Young said. "I love that role."
WELCOME ADDITION: Along with six newcomers, the women's team welcomes a new assistant. But Murriel Page isn't new to fans. Page was an All-American in 1998 for Florida whose pro career included 11 years in the WNBA. Coach Amanda Butler said getting her was a matter of desire and timing.
"She is just a great fit for our program in every way: her personality, her knowledge of the game, her experience as a professional and, more than anything, her passion for the Gators," she said. "She has come right in and made an immediate impact."
Antonya English can be reached at email@example.com.