Gator Men's Hoops Picked No. 7 In Preseason Poll

[MEDIA:46370]<BR> With the start of basketball practice just over a month away, the preseason rankings are starting to come in, as Athlon Sports has picked the Florida men's squad as the No. 7 team in the nation.

In addition, senior forward Matt Bonner was tabbed as an Athlon Third Team preseason All-America, while senior guard Brett Nelson was selected as a preseason Honorable Mention All-America.

The Gators were the highest of three SEC teams to appear in the top 10 of Athlon's preseason poll, as Kentucky grabbed the No. 8 spot, while Alabama rounded out the top 10.

Arizona was selected as the preseason No. 1, followed by Kansas, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and Texas to round out the top five. Duke grabbed the sixth spot, while Oregon was picked No. 9 to fill out the remaining top 10 spots.

In addition to playing Kentucky and Alabama as part of the SEC schedule, No. 2 Kansas is a potential preseason NIT opponent for the Gators, as is No. 15 Xavier. Other potential Gator opponents in 2002-03 ranked in the top 25 include No. 17 Mississippi State, No. 22 Georgia and No. 25 Maryland, the defending national champion.

The Gators return four seniors from last year's squad that went 22-9 and reached the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season. Along with Bonner and Nelson, who averaged 15.6 and 14.6 points a game respectively last season, guards Justin Hamilton and LaDarius Halton return for their senior seasons.

In addition, budding stars David Lee and James White join a nucleus of newcomers that include McDonald's All-American point guard Anthony Roberson, Danish guard Christian Drejer, small forward Matt Walsh, guard Rashid Al-Kaleem and center Mario Boggan.

The Gators begin practice on Oct. 12, while the preseason kicks off with an exhibition game against the Midwest All-Stars on Nov. 4 at the O'Connell Center. The regular season begins on Nov. 19 when the Gators host Louisiana Tech in the opening round of the Preseason NIT in a game to be televised nationally on ESPN.

Athlon Preseason Top 25

  1. Arizona
  2. Kansas
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Texas
  6. Duke
  7. Florida
  8. Kentucky
  9. Oregon
  10. Alabama
  11. UCLA
  12. North Carolina State
  13. Pepperdine
  14. Michigan State
  15. Xavier
  16. Western Kentucky
  17. Mississippi State
  18. Connecticut
  19. Cincinnati
  20. Marquette
  21. Indiana
  22. Georgia
  23. St. John's
  24. Wyoming
  25. Maryland

Athlon Preseason All-America Teams

First Team
Erwin Dudley, Senior, Forward/Center, Alabama
Jason Gardner, Senior, Guard, Arizona
Kirk Hinrich, Senior, Guard, Kansas
Dwyane Wade, Junior, Guard, Marquette
Luke Walton, Senior, Forward, Arizona

Second Team
Troy Bell, Senior, Guard, Boston College
Nick Collison, Senior, Forward, Kansas
Reece Gaines, Senior, Guard, Louisville
Jarvis Hayes, Junior, Guard, Georgia
Brandin Knight, Senior, Guard, Pittsburgh

Third Team
Matt Bonner, Senior, Forward, Florida
T.J. Ford, Sophomore, Guard, Texas
Jason Kapono, Senior, Forward, UCLA
Hollis Price, Senior, Guard, Oklahoma
Mike Sweetney, Junior, Forward, Georgetown

Honorable Mention
Mario Austin, Junior, Forward/Center, Mississippi State
Brett Blizzard, Senior, Guard, UNC Wilmington
Chris Duhon, Junior, Guard, Duke
Ronald Dupree, Senior, Forward, LSU
Marcus Hatten, Senior, Guard, St. John's
Josh Howard, Senior, Forward, Wake Forest
Luke Jackson, Junior, Guard, Oregon
Chris Marcus, Senior, Center, Western Kentucky
Brett Nelson, Senior, Guard, Florida
Luke Ridnour, Junior, Guard, Oregon
Rick Rickert, Sophomore, Forward, Minnesota
Theron Smith, Senior, Forward, Ball State
Chris Thomas, Sophomore, Guard, Notre Dame
David West, Senior, Forward, Xavier
Doug Wrenn, Junior, Forward, Washington


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