Starting with Bob Emrick, through Ronnie Williams, Eugene McDowell, Mike Miller Donnell Harvey and Anthony Roberson you can easily find a newcomer who truly stood out in Gainesville. With that Nick Calathes is making a heck of a case for himself as the best Gator freshman of them all.
The 6-6 Calathes has a game that's a lot like Miller, but he's been much more productive than Miller in his rookie season. Certainly Miller probably had better teammates than Calathes does, but it's not like Miller joined an NCAA Tournament regular. In fact, the Gators were an NIT team in the season prior to Miller's arrival. Calathes is not only the Gators leading scorer at 15.2 points a game, he leads the Gators (and the entire SEC) in assists with 159 (6.12/game), minutes played (32.8) steals (40) and 3-point field goals (40). He has been to the free throw line 148 times, which is 60 more than the second most active Gator at the stripe. Calathes is also Florida's third leading rebounder (5.12/game).
Calathes is one of only two players in the entire country to average more than 15 points, five rebounds and six assists a contest. And he's doing it on a team that is completely rebuilt, allowing opposing defenses to put more and more pressure on him since there are no veterans to be concerned about. As a result, Calathes may be wearing down a bit. In the last five games he's made just 24 percent of his long range shots after making 38 percent in the first 21 games. His turnovers are also up in that time, committing almost four a game, which is almost double his previous rate.
Nick Calathes isn't the most talented rookie in Gator history, just the most productive. If he can get his legs back under him, finish strongly and lead the Gators back to the NCAA Tournament he very well may deserve the title as the best freshman in Gator Basketball history.
The Gators remain completely dependent on their ability to make 3-pointers in order to win. Florida has made 41 percent of its three point shots in their 19 wins, but just 22 percent in the seven losses.
*** Dan Werner might want to spend more time inside the arc. In SEC games the sophomore forward is making just 19 percent from long range, but 62.5 percent inside the three point line.
*** Alex Tyus had his best game in Nashville. The freshman big man scored seven points and grabbed nine rebounds in 25 minutes against the Commodores. All were season high in league play and should earn extra playing time for Tyus down the stretch.
*** South Carolina has lost 13 of 15 to the Gators. Amazingly, the two wins came against Florida's 2006 NCAA Champs.
*** A win Wednesday would give the Gators their tenth straight 20-win season, which is twice as many as the Gators had in the previous 80 or so seasons.
Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel
Calathes: Best Gator Freshman Ever?
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