Selfless in the Backcourt

Most teams are lucky to have two scoring guards on their roster. The Gators will have four this season. It's a benefit now, as players and coaches speak of unselfishness, but the challenge for head coach Billy Donovan will be to manage players who are used to scoring at will. The first hurdle is the start of practice when players begin to find their roles.

After struggling with guard depth the past two seasons and running Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton on the floor for a majority of games, that won't be the case this season. Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario is eligible after sitting out last season. The former McDonald's All-American became the second sophomore in school history to hit the 1,000-point plateau at Rutgers.

The Gators also welcome in five-star shooting guard Brad Beal, who is the 14th McDonald's All-American Billy Donovan has recruited to Florida. Beal averaged 32.5 points at Chaminade Prep last year to earn 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year honors.

On paper, it looks like a tough job for Donovan. Even the players have their questions about how it will work.

"I'm pretty sure everyone has questions (about their role)," Walker said. "Even we have questions, but with the relationship we have, we're embracing each other. People ask if there are enough shots, but we make each other's jobs easier. We're not competing against each other."

As long as that team mindset lasts throughout the regular season, the Gators could have the best backcourt in the country. The group boasts three McDonald's All-Americans and Walker, who already ranks 24th on the all-time scoring list at Florida through three seasons. Scoring shouldn't be an issue. At this point in the season, chemistry doesn't look like it will be either.

"The chemistry away from the court between those guys is very good," Donovan said. "It's different when you step on the floor to utilize each other's strengths as a player."

The player a head coach might worry about the most in a situation like this would be the highly routed freshman. Beal scored at will in high school, and most freshmen would expect to do the same when they step onto a college campus.

Beal isn't like that. Donovan said that if he has to do anything to Beal's attitude, it will actually be encouraging him to be more aggressive in taking his shot and not sitting back because of his youth.

"He's probably as mature as any freshman I've had come in here," Donovan said. "He has a really good understanding of team chemistry. When you have a high profile player, when there's a level of humility and respect that there were guys here before you arrived that have been successful, he isn't coming in here saying he's taking someone's job. He understands the importance of chemistry and being unselfish."

With the accolades Beal has next to his name out of high school, it wouldn't be a surprise if he wanted a guaranteed starting spot during the recruiting process. That wasn't him. He wanted a chance to compete in a program that fit him well.

Now in Gainesville, he's strengthening his relationship with the other guards that should help them on the court.

"My relationship with them is real tight," Beal said. "We're like brothers really. We're always going somewhere together, where it's walking to class or going to the mall with each other. We're all just real close."

Ultimately, it's about winning for the guards. After Walker and Boynton carried the Gators to the Elite Eight last season, two other guards that will help them stay fresh late in games and throughout the season will help.

"We're very unselfish," Boynton said. "We've heard the stuff about having a lot of scorers, but I think overall we just want to win. We've been close to the Final Four. We all know that we need to sacrifice to win."

Less individual points could mean bigger things for the Gators in 2011-12. The Florida teams that won back-to-back national championships didn't have a player that lit up the scoreboard individually, but instead beat teams with balanced scoring and tough defense.

If the chemistry builds on the court during practice this fall, the guards don't se any reason why this team can experience plenty of success.

"That's our main focus," Rosario said. "That's what Coach Billy has us all focused on now. It's our chemistry and how we practice every day."


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