Donovan Watching Point Guard Transition

Practices got underway for the 2012-'13 Florida basketball team on Friday and head coach Billy Donovan was pleased with the way his guys looked. Replacing Erving Walker and his time at point guard is key for this team in this season, and on Saturday, Donovan talked a good deal about two guys that will help fill that role.

Outside of a slight injury to the groin of Casey Prather that won't keep him out of practice, the Gators are pretty healthy right now. Donovan said he loves the attitude of his group which will be his deepest team in a while.

"I thought everyone's effort was really, really good," Billy Donovan said Saturday. "Guys were trying. But this time of year, the turnovers, the carelessness, the sloppiness, the fatigue, you know all that stuff goes (on) but I thought their attitude, their effort was good.

"I think if you start off this year, if you start off with no energy and guys aren't giving a great effort, you've got problems. I don't think there was anything uncharacteristic or anything that really stood out or any particular play that really stood out… Once we get through two today, two tomorrow, one Monday, I'll have maybe a little better feel but I thought everything was fine first day."

The Gators are going to have to replace a lot of production with the departure of point guard Erving Walker due to graduation. Walker was both a sure ball handler and a deft shooter with ice in his veins and Donovan was always the first with high praise for his former team leader.

The leading candidate to replace Walker is local product Scottie Wilbekin wh is going on his third year in the program. Donovan wants Wilbekin to be his own man.

"I think right now I feel good about him," Donovan said of Wilbekin. "He's a junior in college now. Even though a lot was made when he first came out of high school and bypassing his senior year of high school, certainly that was a huge jump for him, but I think he proved he could really handle that as a freshman and got a chance to back up Erving Walker.

"I think Scottie has shown a lot of improvement, he's gotten better. I've got a lot of confidence in him because of the things that he can do. As I said on Wednesday, if I'm asking him to be Erving Walker, I'm doing him a disservice, he needs to be Scottie Wilbekin because he's a really, really good player and I think he brings some things to the table that's different for our team.

Donovan says Wilbekin can shoot much better than most people believe, but it his defense that gets noticed the most and he says Wilbekin reminds him of a former Gator Great.

"The thing that's really interesting with Scottie… believe it or not, in all of our shooting drills, Murphy was the highest guy at 72 percent of makes behind the line, Scottie was second. He shot the ball really well so I have a lot of confidence in him when he's open shooting the ball.

"I definitely think the first thing that comes to mind when you talk about Scottie is his toughness, his defensive ability, a Justin Hamilton type of guy but I do think that maybe he's a better scorer and shooter than Justin was and I want him to be aggressive on offense.

"I think Erving because of his size what enabled him to play at this level was his ability to shoot the ball deep and that was really a weapon. I don't think we need or want Scottie doing that but we do want Scottie to be a threat offensively. He can't be a point guard that just doesn't look to score at all, and we don't want him to be a point guard that's coming down trying to score every time. So I think that balance for him will be important. Right now, I think .he's done very, very well. I can definitely see him as a player wanting to take that next step in the leadership role as a point guard maturity wise I think he's definitely put himself in that position."

Florida will get some minutes at the point from seniors Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario, but one player that should see a great deal of time is true freshman Braxton Ogbueze, the highest rated player in the gators' most recent recruiting class. However, Donovan knows that Ogbueze has a lot to learn in his first year on campus.

"I think the center position and the point guard position are the two hardest positions for freshmen to come in," Donovan said. "Center-wise just from a physical strength standpoint it's always challenging, I think the point guard stuff because there is so much of the ball being in your hands, pressure, fatigue, trying to run a team, getting guys in the right spots.

"I think for Braxton right now to be honest with you he probably it would be easier for him right now if he was playing alongside Scottie, playing alongside Kenny Boynton if he's off the ball some. But, I think for his growth he's got to do a little bit of both. He was fine yesterday, he's in great shape, he works hard, great kid, but I think every day he's learning.

"We're putting drills in that Scottie, Boynton, Murphy, Cody Larson, Casey (Prather)… OK it's like, boom, having to pay attention to what's going on. You don't know what they are doing so I think for Braxton there is going to be a transition for any of these freshmen coming in here especially when you have six guys coming in here that are new guys. Even with Damontre Harris and Doe-Doe (Dorian Finney-Smith) they are coming into a new system so it's an adjustment."


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