Donovan Still Optimistic Without Beal

The 2012-13 Gators took a hit on Friday when Brad Beal announced his intentions to declare for the NBA Draft, but Florida head coach Billy Donovan still has plenty that he's optimistic about for next season. Florida returns depth and experience in the frontcourt with athletic guards that can score. There are areas for players to emerge, but Donovan thinks he has the bodies to make that happen.

"I'm excited about our team next year," Billy Donovan said on Friday morning. "Anytime you lose a good player (Brad Beal), it always hurts your team. We lose a terrific player and a guy that would've scored more than he did as a freshman, but his departure will open up opportunities for other guys."

Florida will lose 14.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game that Beal produced last season. He led the team in rebounds, as Florida struggled to get a consistent presence on the glass and trusted the freshman to play the role of a rebounder that he wasn't used in during any point of his career.

The Gators do return leading scorer Kenny Boynton, who averaged 15.9 points last season and shot 40.7% from behind the three-point line. Even with senior point guard Erving Walker graduating, there is enough depth in the backcourt to compete.

"Kenny Boynton has played as many minutes in any backcourt in the country being a senior," Donovan said. "Rosario is a fifth-year senior. Scottie Wilbekin is now a junior."

There's also incoming help that should add more depth to the backcourt. It was hard for Donovan and his staff to recruit for this class because of the uncertainty in the backcourt.

They knew Walker would graduate and be gone, but that's all the certainty there was. There was speculation that any combination of Beal, Boynton and Rosario could move on to the next level after the 2012 season came to an end. Because of that, Florida has three guards coming in that will compete for playing time.

Michael Frazier, Dillon Graham and Braxton Ogbueze could each see time on the floor next season.

"With Graham and Frazier, those are two guys that will be good players," Donovan said. "They're certainly young when they come in, but they'll add some depth to our backcourt."

The frontcourt will add Will Yeguete after a broken foot caused him to miss the final nine games of the season. He's back working out with the team and going through rehab to make sure his foot is ready to go when the team starts practice in the fall.

"He's actually back working out," Donovan said. "The trainers have slowed him down in terms of the running. He's probably capable of running, but they've done more pool workouts. He is progressing well and hasn't had any pain.

"More than anything else because it's the time of year where we don't have to rush to get him back. They're going at a slower rate than they have to just to be careful with him. They're easing him back into things."

Starters Erik Murphy and Patric Young also return. There is still a chance the Gators could add another body through the recruiting process. Florida signed Winter Haven guard/forward DeVon Walker on Friday afternoon, but the big one they're still hoping for is five-star forward Anthony Bennett.

"Recruiting is always important, and there are a couple guys we're still involved with regardless of what Brad decided," Donovan said on Friday. "It's not like it's a situation where Brad makes his decision and now all of a sudden we're scrambling to recruit somebody we haven't. For the most part, they're guys we've been recruiting and were doing that when Brad was in our program."

The small forward position will be helped by Casey Prather's emergence during the end of the 2012 season. Donovan spoke throughout the season about Prather's talent and what he did in practice, but he wasn't able to translate it to games until he emerged in an SEC semifinal loss to Kentucky.

"Casey emerged at the end of the year and showed some signs of the things I've watched during the course of practices," Donovan said. "At the end of the year, he started to come into his own. Casey finishing on the note that he finished the year is great for him going into this offseason. He's another guy that can add some depth and athleticism for us."

Yeguete was the key to the Florida full court press defense, and it wasn't as effective when he was lost for the season. Prather stepped into that role and improved with more playing time, but the two should allow Florida to press more in the 2012-13 season.

"We'll have the ability to press a little more," Donovan said. "We wanted to do that last year. With Will coming back and Casey, that gives us two long guys that can do a great job for us pressing."

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