BASKETBALL: Breakdown on Centers/Power Forwards

Starting this week, Gator Country will be providing a position by position analysis of the Gator basketball team. Today we focus on the Center and Power Forward position. <p> With Midnight Madness ready to kick off this Friday and the 2004 season tipping off on November 2nd, it's never too early to take a look at the team position by position. In this first of three installments, we will take a look at the muscle behind the Gator basketball team.

Seniority is a way of thinking that in the best of times can propel your team to greatness and in other situations leave your team in dire straits. For the 2004 UF men's basketball team, seniority is key as 80% of the Gators starting five sports the label of upperclassmen and it all begins with the big men up top. While the Gators return all five starters and eight players from a team that reached the NCAA Tournament for the 6th straight year, it is the body by committee under the boards that everyone will be looking at to step up this year.

The biggest name on the big boy board lies in the lone senior, not counting Seth Haimovitch, David Lee. While Lee played the center position his entire sophomore year, last year he emerged at power forward and can play the center spot when called upon. As a senior, Lee will be counted on to lead the team on both sides of the court even though Roberson provides the greatest overall scoring threat.

"Being my senior year, I've got one last go around and I think that this is going to be a very special year," Lee said.

The Gators will need to rely on Lee this year to become an absolutely dominant power forward for this team to be successful. The emergence of a big man, with the departure of hustling Bonell Colas, is essential and last year's Final Four exhibited what exactly having not even a dominant, but consistent big man can result in.

Connecticut had Emeka Okafor. Georgia Tech had 7 footer Luke Schenscher. Oklahoma State had Joey Graham and Duke had Shelden Williams. Lee comes into the year 4 lbs lighter at 249 lbs and will be counted on to continue leading the team under the boards. He will be looking to improve his scoring average of 13.3 points a game and to make the jump from Second Team All-SEC to First. He creates mismatches for team's trying to stop him with his great ability to put the ball on the floor. If he can toughen up in 2004 and become even more consistent with his defense in the clutch, it will go a long way into solidifying the Gators in the SEC.

A returning starter at the center spot, 6 foot 9 inch 238 lb junior Adrian Moss will be looked to in 2004 for more consistency. In some games in 2003 Moss was a regular Ben Wallace on the court blocking shots, drawing fouls and hovering around the glass for rebounds. However, there were times that his foul trouble got the best of him and he pulled a Rasheed Wallace, minus the solid scoring out put. With yet another year under his belt, I think Moss could have a nicer touch around this paint, but he needs to focus on making it consistent.

Depth will be key with the Gators and it was an area that hurt them last year as many of the freshmen just weren't ready to get in the mix of SEC basketball. With a year under their belt, they could stand to make an impact in 2004.

Sophomore Chris Richard might not be the tallest at 6 foot 8, but his frame is incredible. Look for him this year to push David Lee as one of the Gators best finishers inside the paint. With his solid 60.5 percent from the floor, Richard has the ability to out muscle opponents for the ball and can bang around with arguably any big man in the SEC. If Moss struggles early, I honestly think this could be a breakout year for him while providing minutes at both center and power forward.

Now the second tallest guy on the team 6 foot 10 inches, Mohamed Abukar could provide some minutes at the power forward spot though best suited for the three. What he brings to the Gators in 2004 is a Matt Bonner type weapon at the four in that he could step out and hit the perimeter shot.

Though previewed last week, Coach Billy Donovan spoke today about the possible impact of freshmen Joakim Noah and Al Horford. The opportunity for them to play is there, but it might not be likely until the season progresses.

"I don't know if anyone is going to make an immediate impact on our program in terms of the four freshmen that are in. But I do really feel that with their work ethic, their attitudes, and with their toughness right now that they're four guys that are going to have the opportunity to play. But to come in right away and to have a major impact is asking too much right now from those guys."

Stay tuned tomorrow for a preview on the small forwards and shooting guards.

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