GAINESVILLE — It's not as if they aren't trying. It's just not working out well right now.
The Florida basketball team continues to be plagued by poor free-throw shooting, despite efforts to improve. The Gators are shooting 65 percent from the free-throw line, and when it counted Saturday, the shots didn't fall in a loss to South Carolina.
"The worst part about that is we actually shoot free throws as a team," senior C Vernon Macklin said. "We shoot 100 per person in practice. We do that a lot. Coach (Billy) Donovan makes us make 18 out of 22 as a team. If we don't, we run. So sometimes we make it, sometimes we don't. We've just got to go up to the line and be focused and knock those free throws down."
The Gators will get a few extra days of preparation this week because they don't play again until Thursday at Auburn. The first two weeks of the league season have produced upsets, and Florida experienced that firsthand. The Gators scored a big victory at Tennessee on Jan. 11, before the 72-69 home loss to South Carolina.
"There is an enormous amount of parity this year, and on any given night, anything can happen regardless of who you're playing against," Donovan said. "We're getting ready to play Auburn on Thursday — Auburn beat Florida State and Florida State beats Duke. So I think that in this league, there is a lot of parity, there's good coaches, there's good players.
"If you don't play well, or don't come ready to play, you could be in for a very, very long night regardless of who you play against in this league. And I think it's going to be that way. There's going to be a lot of ups and downs, peaks and valleys. And who can handle some losses, who can handle success, all that stuff is probably going to play itself out over the next eight weeks."
Weis on the case: New offensive coordinator Charlie Weis arrived in Gainesville on Thursday and was on the recruiting trail a day later. Weis spent part of Friday in Palm Beach courting Dwyer QB Jacoby Brissett, then the two attended part of Saturday's basketball game as Brissett made a visit to Gainesville. Richmond (Va.) Hermitage LB Curtis Grant visited this past weekend and told Rivals.com he enjoyed the visit.
Brantley's return: QB John Brantley's decision to return was largely based on two things — he grew up a Gator fan and the new coaching staff.
"Johnny loves the Gators," said Jacksonville University head coach Kerwin Bell, Brantley's high school coach. "That's what ultimately made the decision as far as playing college football. He loved going to the games. He went there as a child growing up. He's a true Gator, and I know he really wants to do well this year for the Gator fans and have a great senior year."
Bell said Brantley is much better suited for the NFL-type system Weis is expected to bring.
"What we had at Trinity, what we do at Jacksonville University, as far as reads and as far as the way the routes are set up is an NFL-type system," Bell said. "That's something that he was very comfortable doing in high school, and I'm sure that's something he's going to look forward to doing. He is going to have a wonderful guy with a lot of experience who's coached a lot of great quarterbacks."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]