VETTEL: Gators Flash Promise

The Gator Basketball team's debut Thursday night showed that this team has a world of potential, but they also have a long way to go to simply be competitive in the SEC. That progress will determine whether Florida is able to make it ten straight 20-win seasons and NCAA Tournament bids.

The Flagler game was dominated by sophomore center Marreese Speights and freshman guard Nick Calathes. Speights showed the remarkable set of offensive skills that he owns, scoring 22 points on 10-for-13 shooting with 13 rebounds, two blocked shots and most importantly one foul in 22 minutes. Obviously, Flagler doesn't have the kind of front court talent the Gator big man will see later on, but there's no denying his ability to give Florida a strong offensive threat in the post.

Calathes may already be Florida's best all-around player. The 6-5 guard came within two assists of a triple-double with 18 points and a remarkable 13 boards. He led the Gators with 33 minutes played, and it was pretty clear the offense lacked a consistent flow when he was on the bench.

Another freshman Gator fans are going to love is 6-8 power forward/center Alex Tyus who has tremendous athleticism. Tyus scored a dozen points and grabbed nine rebounds in just 18 minutes. He probably won't reach his potential for at least a year because he'll spend most of this season backing up Speights. However next year, when the Gators have much more size, Tyus should be a full time power forward and then he will be an All-SEC caliber performer.

Chandler Parsons (18), Jai Lucas (11) and Adam Allen (10) also reached double figures against Flagler, giving the Gators' rookie class 69 points, enough to beat Flagler on their own. Only one Gator newcomer (Lucas, 4-for-11) shot below 50 percent from the field and none of them had a negative assist/turnover differential.

Sophomore Forwards Must Step it Up

If there was one big negative about the exhibition opener it had to be the lack of productivity from Florida's experienced forwards Dan Werner and Jonathan Mitchell. Neither second-year front court player scored a single point even thought both Werner (19) and Mitchell (17) had plenty of time on the floor. Werner missed all five of his shots, three from long range and committed one foul. On the positive side Werner did contribute seven assists and grabbed four rebounds. As for Mitchell, the New York native missed both of his shots and managed one rebound, one assist and a turnover. Florida doesn't need these two to be superstars, but they do need more than nothing. If Werner and Mitchell combine for a dozen points and eight rebounds that should be enough. No points and five boards won't be.

Monday night Florida will face exhibition number two against Lynn University before gearing up for the season opener with North Dakota State. Monday will be very important, especially for the veterans other than Speights who were overshadowed by the freshman Thursday night. It will also be important because North Dakota State is anything but a gimme. In fact, they may well be the second best team on the non-conference schedule.

Questions or comments? Contact's Larry Vettel

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