Freshmen Players Buying into Team Concept

Billy Donovan isn't used to having a freshman class like this. He's used to selfish young players who only want to score. This year's group of freshmen bought in right away that their best chance to see playing time would come from effort on the defensive end.

"The thing that's great about Patric (Young), Will (Yeguete), Casey (Prather) and Scottie (Wilbekin), is that they want what's best for the team," Donovan said. "Couple that with the fact that they want to get better individually. They're going to play a vital role the rest of the season. There's a lot of basketball to play because we're going to need those guys."

The progression for the freshmen started when they came to campus. Their defensive games were already a step ahead of normal groups Donovan brings to campus.

The transition usually comes after the freshmen season. There have been countless examples in recent years under Donovan where a player takes a jump from his freshman to sophomore year. That's when he's used to seeing an increase in defensive production, but the maturity of this freshmen class had them competing right away.

The defense has impressed the coaches and other players, but it's not because their offense isn't at an acceptable level. The freshmen could score if needed, but that isn't their role. They joined a team that boasted five returning starters, all of which averaged double figures last season.

These freshmen weren't brought to campus to score, but that doesn't mean they can't.

"Their offensive roles will expand as their careers get longer, but the one thing they can bring to the table is they can be defenders for us," Donovan said.

The advanced level of defense was pounded into the mind of each freshman before they even got to campus. They knew that there only chance of early playing time was to be a force on defense.

The players complement each other well, too. Wilbekin might be the best on-the-ball defender on the team. Prather challenges him for that title with his tenacity. Yeguete is always in position when guarding power forwards in the post. Young uses his strength and muscle to dominate around the glass.

"A lot of time freshmen don't understand how physical the game can get," Donovan said. "They're willing to step up and take charges or get on the floor for loose basketballs instinctively. They've got good, quick feet. They move well. They understand that end of the floor a little better than most freshmen."

The young players have played a key role in some games this season while taking a backseat in others. Donovan has the advantage of five trusted players in the post, and he is able to play the hot hand on each night.

At Florida State, he used Young and Yeguete late in the game to clinch the victory. When the Gators faced American on Sunday, Donovan expected to go with the young players for much of the game because it was a better matchup. However, Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus raised their level of play on the defensive end, and the freshmen didn't see the court for extended minutes.

"I don't look at it that way as much as who is playing well and what's going on in the game," Donovan said. "The thing that's great about Patric and Will, they understand being freshmen and want to do whatever they can to help the team."

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