"My role won't change that much from last year," Scottie Wilbekin said. "I'm going to come in and play defense, guarding whoever the coaches want me to guard. On offense, I might shoot a little more whenever I have a shot, but I'm still going to be a pass-first point guard."
After forgoing his senior year of high school at The Rock School in Gainesville to play for the Gators last season, Wilbekin had a different transition than most first-year players. Florida needed him to serve as the team's third guard behind Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker.
The toughest adjustment for Wilbekin was trying to slow the game down after the increased size and speed of his opponents took him off guard to start. Because of that, Wilbekin knew his role on the team.
Walker shot the ball four times as much as Wilbekin last year, while Boynton shot it five times as much as the freshman.
Florida head coach Billy Donovan wouldn't be disappointed if those statistics stayed the same.
"He's physically stronger and more athletic than he was a year ago," Donovan said. "If he has an open shot, I want him shooting. I want him running our team."
When Wilbekin isn't directing the offense, he spent last year as a lockdown defender. During the game Florida hosted Tennessee last season, the Gators couldn't find an answer in the first half for Volunteers guard Scotty Hopson. He had 15 points at the half, but after the Gators made an adjustment to put Wilbekin on him in the second half, Hopson scored just five points.
"He has the opportunity to be one of the better defenders in our league," Donovan said. "He has to hang his hat on that."
This offseason, Wilbekin found an easy motivation. After the Gators lost to Butler and fell one win short of the Final Four, getting back to Gainesville might have been the worst outcome for Wilbekin.
Friends and family talked to him about the loss all the time, and Wilbekin said the loss was on his mind "for about a week" after it happened. He didn't watch any of the Final Four.
"Whenever I think back to that day, I always get a little sad, but I can't really think about it too much," Wilbekin said. "We can always use that as a motivational thing, but we are not focusing on that too much. I just want to focus on this year and the things I need to do this year."
The focus of early practices continues to be on the guards. After having zero depth in the backcourt the last two seasons, the Gators now might not have enough shots for everyone. With Wilbekin knowing his role, he doesn't mind setting others up for shots. The sophomore doesn't see any problems this year.
"If we push the tempo and fast break, there will be lots of shot opportunities for everybody," Wilbekin said. "I don't think you'll have to worry about it that much if we play an up-tempo, pressing style. Even if we don't, I think all of our guards are mature enough to find their role and facilitate when they need to facilitate, and then shoot when they need to shoot."