Gators feature defensive potential

Florida opens practice this weekend with a different look on the floor. There are three returning starters that have been counted on for a long time at Florida, but within the departures of Erving Walker and Brad Beal, there's potential for the Gators to be a dominant defensive team. Head coach Billy Donovan likes the length and athleticism of his team.

"The one thing that is clear right from the get-go is we have incredible potential defensively," Billy Donovan said at his media day press conference on Wednesday.

Erving Walker did a lot of positive for the Florida basketball program, but his defense put the Gators in a tough spot. There wasn't much that could change it. Walker, officially listed at a generous 5-8, was playing against a taller point guard almost every time out.

Brad Beal started to shine in the final months of the season, but even Donovan said on Wednesday that there were times when the freshman had "ups and downs defensively."

The Gators have a chance to improve that this season. If Scottie Wilbekin takes over as the point guard, it's a big defensive improvement over Walker. Wilbekin showed off his on-ball defense last year and was often brought off the bench just to take the opposing team's best player out of the game. He moves his feet well, stays in front of his man and has quick hands.

Then there's the fifth starting position. It's still undecided, but the Gators have the length of Casey Prather and Will Yeguete that could play the spot.

"You have Prather, who is a very, very good defender," Donovan said. "Hopefully after how he played last year, he'll provide us with more this year. Will Yeguete is now back, healthy. He's a terrific defender. I think Patric (Young) has the ability to defend and block shots.

Donovan also mentioned freshmen DeVon Walker and Braxton Ogbueze as two that will see the court and help on defense. Walker was a late addition to the recruiting class, but the small forward's 6-6, 191-pound frame allows him to create havoc and would make him a perfect fit for the press.

"We need to really, really capitalize on our potential ability defensively and then understand some of the things," Donovan said.

The overturn of players on the team was only Beal and Walker, but there's still potential to change the team over it. The improved defensive potential also means that things could look different on the offensive side of the ball. Beal and Walker combined for 132 three-pointers last season, so the look and scheme of the offense could be tweaked this year.

"I do think we need to change some things on offense because our team is a little bit different because last year clearly the identity was we could really, really shoot threes and have a great shooting team," Donovan said. "I think we have a good shooting team, but we probably don't have the same depth shooting the ball as we did a year ago."

STARTING FAST: The Gators will have a challenge to open the season against Georgetown on November 9 and Wisconsin on November 14. Florida will have the opportunity to start building on its postseason resume at the beginning of the year. That starts in practice.

"We need to have a better resiliency to start the season than we did a year ago, and we need to have a better level of perseverance when things get difficult," Donovan said. "We need to have a better ability to be unified and stay together when we're going through those things. I think that's built from chemistry and team support. When you're in practice and get in those situations, it makes you stronger as a team."

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