Gators, Macklin Head to D.C.

The Gators put Sunday's game in Washington D.C. on the schedule for a couple purposes. It would give the team another road test in what has been a challenging early season schedule. However, the main reason was for senior center Vernon Macklin, who is originally from Portsmouth, Virginia.

"We always try to do something like that," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "We played in Orlando where Chandler's from and going to Miami where Kenny Boynton is from. You always try on your schedule to get somewhere close to some of these guy's hometown when they're from outside the state of Florida."

The trip from Macklin's hometown to the Verizon Center, home of the Washington Wizards, is just less than 200 miles. However, it's likely the closest the Gators will be to Macklin's hometown this season.

Macklin will have multiple family members at the game, as well as a few friends making the trip. His mom and brother will definitely be making the trip.

"I'm just happy to go back and have another game," Macklin said. "My mom and my brother will see me play for the first time with Florida."

Macklin played multiple games at the Verizon Center when he was at Georgetown. He was a freshman during the 2006-2007 season, where he had veteran post players like Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green to learn from.

Instead, he squandered that opportunity.

Like most freshmen, Macklin came in thinking he deserved playing time and would experience it without having to work as hard.

"My first year, I didn't listen enough," Macklin said. "I should've listened to those guys ahead of me. I came in as a freshman and was irresponsible. I just wanted to go play right away, but I was raw offensively."

Macklin's mindset changed that offseason. Instead of dodging workouts, he shadowed Hibbert and Green, who now play for the Indiana Pacers and the Oklahoma City Thunder respectively.

His newfound dedication for the game was forced by a feeling he never had to deal with before. It came from sitting on the bench. He didn't know what it was like to watch teammates contribute while he was helpless.

"It was my first time sitting on the bench for that long," Macklin said. "I wanted to get in the gym and work out with those guys."

His minutes increased as a sophomore. Macklin played 12.8 minutes per game and averaged 3.4 points and 2.1 rebounds.

The fit wasn't right, and Macklin decided to transfer to Florida.

He has a newfound responsibility for the Gators, something he never felt at Georgetown. Florida needs him to be on the court and contributing. That feeling alone keeps him driven.

"When I'm in a position where they rely on me, that helps me out a lot," Macklin said. "When I was at Georgetown, it didn't matter what I did, it didn't affect winning or losing. Being here, what I do helps us win or lose."

After a heartbreaking loss to UCF Wednesday at the Amway Center in Orlando, the senior knows it's time for his teammates to bounce back.

"This is very important," Macklin said of Sunday's game. "It started right after the loss. We know American is a good team, and we'll go in ready to play."

The Gators beat American 76-60 during late December last season. The Eagles are led in scoring by forward Vlad Moldodoveanu with 21.3 points per game. Forward Stephen Lumpkins (13.3) and guard Troy Brewer (13.1) also contribute to their scoring.
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