New Players (rankings from PrepStars)
Mohamed Abukar 6-9 Freshman #93 ranked
Ryan Appleby 6-2 Freshman #149 ranked
Lee Humphrey 6-2 Freshman Unranked
Chris Richard 6-8 Freshman #50 ranked
(1) Experience. Florida returns eight players, six of whom played significant roles in last year's 25-8 team (12-4 in conference play). They are 6-6 Matt Walsh, 6-1 Anthony Roberson, 6-9 David Lee, 6-9 Bonell Colas, 6-8 Christian Drejer, 6-9 Adrian Moss, 6-3 Rashid Al-Kaleem, and 6-6 Mario Boggan.
(2) Three of the best returning players in the conference. Walsh plays on the wing, but is probably the best passer and playmaker on the team. Roberson will probably do most of the ballhandling. Lee plays the low post. All three of them are scorers and probable all-conference players. Christian Drejer, another good passer and shooter, may prove to be as good as any of these three, having been seriously hampered by injuries last year.
(3) Outside shooting. Even the departure of Matt Bonner (best three-point shooter in the league last year) and Justin Hamilton won't keep the Gators from being as dangerous as ever from the outside. Roberson and Walsh have already shown that they can make the threes consistently, and Drejer will probably do the same this year. Three of the freshman guard recruits are also long-range threats (if they are able to get much time); Coach Billy Donovan calls Lee Humphrey "a phenomenal three-point shooter" and notes that Ryan Appleby has "deep range." Mohamed Abukar hit 45% of his threes as a high-school senior.
(4) Depth. Appleby will back up Roberson at the point. Rashid Al-Kaleem, who didn't get to play much last year, and Abukar will help Walsh and Drejer on the wings. David Lee starts at low post, and either Bonell Colas or Adrian Moss at the high post. All three will be pressed by highly regarded Chris Richard. Mario Boggan has a lot of potential, but won't play much unless he has gotten his weight down greatly from the plump 310 lbs he toted around last fall. If needed, the Gators have two of the best walk-ons around, both 6-1 (junior Seth Haimovitch and sophomore Chris Capko).
(1) Roles? Donovan probably feels obliged to groom Anthony Roberson as a point guard, for a possible professional career. However, Matt Walsh was a better passer and playmaker last year. At some point, their roles may get reversed, even though Walsh is five inches taller.
(2) Team chemistry? Donovan sometimes over-recruits. For instance, supposed phenom James White left after just one year. Boggan and Al-Kaleem, in particular, may not be happy with the time they get again this year. Some of the freshmen may not get to play much.
Overall Prospects for 2003-04
The only question is whether to predict that Florida will win the Eastern Division or finish second behind Kentucky. It would be safer to choose the Kentucky Wildcats because of their great success last year, and their great tradition. Also, the Gators had a disappointing conclusion to the season, losing four of their last five. However, Florida looks like a top ten team and a threat to win the East.