New Florida Fab 5 Takes Court Tonight

If you could point to an Achilles heel for Florida's basketball team a year ago it was the lack of depth. Florida's starters and top reserves were able to really keep them in every game and win most games a year ago, but the lack of depth was enough to lose a handful. The addition of a high quality and talented freshman class should help tremendously and it all starts tonight against Florida Tech.

Florida returns all five starters from a year ago and the starting five of senior center Vernon Macklin (6-10, 240), senior forward Alex Tyus (6-8, 220), senior forward Chandler Parsons (6-10, 215), sophomore guard Kenny Boynton (6-2, 183), and junior guard Erving Walker (5-8, 171). The Gators also return key reserve forward Erik Murphy (6-10, 229), who seemed to always be a catalyst off the bench a year ago.

That was almost the exclusive core of a team that went to the NCAA tournament for the first time in three years and probably should have won their first round game that went to triple overtime against a favored BYU team. Again it was a team with a lack of numbers that ran out of gas in the loss.

Tonight should showcase the many talents of a freshman class that will help this Gator squad tremendously, with not only a boost in depth but a talent infusion that everyone in Gainesville is excited about.

Bigmen Patric Young (6-10, 245), Cody Larson (6-10, 225), and Will Yeguete (6-7, 210) will be complimented by swing man Casey Prather (6-6, 195), and guard Scottie Wilbekin (6-2, 175) when the freshman class hits the floor tonight at 7 p.m. in the O'Connell Center for Florida's first exhibition of the season.

The Gators will also see the return of junior forward Adam Allen (6-8, 222) and have the practice services of junior guard and Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario (6-3, 180). But tonight, the story is about the freshmen.

Wilbekin, who brings a soft shooting touch to the game with a quality handle of the ball, loves this class and they already have a nickname.

"The Fab 5, that's what we call ourselves," Wilbekin said with a grin during Florida's basketball media day event. "We are tight knit, we're close. I feel like we have a good chemistry already and feel like we have a chance to compete for national championships down the road.

Prather adds an athletic wing that can defend and shoot the ball well. He is looking for this group of freshmen to make an immediate impact on this 2010-2011 squad.

"I think we are very good," Prather said of the freshman class. "We can add a lot of the team right now. We work hard and aren't complacent. We come in with a mindset that we will work hard every day. We will get better individually and as a team.

Prather who was committed to the Gator program for a long time before signing and knows many of the older guys quite well, believes that the leaders of the team are recognizing the impact these freshmen can have.

"I can definitely tell that they like how we work hard and can definitely tell that they know we help them out a lot," Prather said.

Young is the banger in the group. As a true freshman, you won't find many built like Young and he plays the game inside like he absolutely owns the pain. Young feels that this class has learned to absorb a great deal of stuff in a short period of time and that listening is a very big strength of this group of freshman basketball players.

"Listening is the big thing. Especially as freshmen, with all the older guys on the court," Young said. "They are willing to teach the young guys what to do."

Young believes this group will be strong on and off the court and that their bond will grow because of the character of the group as a whole.

"Off the court I would say they are nothing but great guys and you will never expect problems off the court," Young said. "On the court, they all get after it and are really coachable and willing to learn. They want nothing but to please Coach Donovan and do whatever he wants.

Larson agrees with the camaraderie of the group. "The freshman class gets along great, we all hang out together," Larson said. "We come from different parts of the world actually. I am from South Dakota; we have Tennessee (Prather), France (Yeguete). It is weird how much we can connect and be so different.

They each add individual strengths to the team, but the common theme you here is they just want to get better and help the team win.

Wilbekin is surprisingly athletic, but plays the point guard position in a very businesslike manner. Rosario commented on how surprisingly athletic Wilbekin is when he dazzled after practice with some wind mill dunks one day, but the important part of that was it was after practice.

"I want to get my objective done, listen to the coaches have to say, and then go out on the floor and execute it," Wilbekin said. That's my main focus. I can be flashy once that is done.

"I just want to come in and work hard, do whatever the coaches ask of me and try and make the team better."

Prather, who Larson says he has "never seen anyone as athletic", could care less about looking spectacular, it is all about the team as far as he is concerned.

"I just want to help my team win and do what my coaches expect of me and get better every day," Prather said.

Larson has brought some surprising ability to bang inside and adds a deft outside shot to go with a long and lean build that should allow him to be a quality defensive player for the Gators down the road.

"I think physically I can hang with the guys…strength wise," Larson said. "A lot of it is mental and we are learning a lot of new things. We are catching on pretty quick. I've learned a lot of the concepts before, but never had to apply them as much as I have to here."

Yeguete who Larson says, "always seems to know where the ball is going" is a little undersized to play in the paint, but he is strong and tenacious when the ball is in the air. The early talk about redshirting for Yeguete seems to be out of his mind at the moment.

"I feel I can find a role and help the team," he said. "I feel like I can bring something different to the team. I don't think (I will redshirt), I will work hard and see.

"I just want to get a lot of experience and learn and be a part of something. I just want to learn and help the team get better."

"The only expectation I have for myself is to get better," Larson said before repeating the team first motto. "I just want to get out on the court anyway I can and get better and help my teammates get better."

Young is looking past preseason expectations and knows the team will be built on preparation and hard work.

"It's all good that we are compared to those guys in '06 and '07, but we have to come out here and make sure we are together and a great team before we get results like that," Young said. "I do feel confident in this team, but we haven't played a game yet. That's why we have to continue to work hard and have team chemistry, and then everything will work out for itself."

This group also knows it has been a big but positive struggle to fight at this next level of basketball that is upon them.

"How much bigger everyone is in general," Wilbekin said of the biggest struggle for him so far. "It is the combination of the size and speed. The bigger the guys are...the court shrinks."

"The toughest part has been learning the system, learning where I need to be, it's pretty much another world," Prather said.

"The pace of the games is a lot faster," added Larson. "Obviously going against our starting five is getting us better every day."

Young knows he will be asked to be a monster on the court, even though he is just a true freshman.

"I need to understand I am not going to score 15-16 a game and that coach needs me to come in here and be a beast on rebounds," Young said. "I need to show that if people are going to drive the paint, they aren't going to get an easy bucket.

For Young this has been the most physical basketball he has played in his entire life. Vernon Macklin has made it a point to teach the rookie a few of the finer points of paint play as a collegian.

"It is the most physical, because he emphasizes how tough I have to be," Young said of Macklin. "He throws me going for rebounds and tells me that is going to happen in games and I have to get used to it."

This new edition of the Florida basketball team will be on display for the first time tonight and this freshman class will be the main focus on the floor.

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