Calathes Looking Forward

Nick Calathes did a lot of things right on the basketball court last season for the Gators. He led the team in scoring (16.9) and assists (103) and was second in steals (21). But there were a lot of things missing for the Gators' star freshman and he looks to improve on that this season.

It's tough for a new kid fresh out of high school to be a team leader, so you can't knock Calathes too much for any shortcomings in that area last season. But he expected more out of himself, and in 2008-09, he definitely expects more.

"We definitely did not have a good season last year, but it all starts with practice," Calathes said. "We have to focus on getting better. We have 13 guys so we're going to be battling in practice."

The 6-6 guard/forward will have to wait a few days before he's near full strength. During a defensive drill, he pulled a groin muscle and it's kept him out of workouts the last couple of weeks. Combine that with the fact that Calathes spent the summer oversees playing for the Greek national team, and it's been awhile since he's worked out with the Gators.

"It was a good experience I would say," Calathes said about the experience. "I went to four different countries – Italy, France, Latvia and Greece. I'd say the toughest part was that they didn't really know how to speak English, so I couldn't really understand what they were saying on the court. Other than that, I wish we could have done better in the championship, but overall it was a good experience. I'm glad to be back here."

Making the decision to go overseas was a tough one for Calathes. He felt pressure from Billy Donovan to stay in the states, but it was something he really wanted to do for his grandfather, which was something Donovan understood.

"It was tough," Calathes said. "Coach wanted me to stay here, but I really wanted to do it for my grandfather and coach was okay with that. I think he wanted me to go over there and do it for him, too. I'm glad to be back though to be quite honest. I'm glad to be back with these guys, helping these guys out. I want to help the team to get better.

"I think [Donovan] looks to me as a leader and that's what I want to be. It's tough for your leader to go over to another country instead of staying around to help the team and the new freshmen."

Last year's disappointing 24-12 season left Calathes feeling unsatisfied and has him focused for the new year. He said the toughest part to last season was snapping Florida's 10-year streak of making the NCAA Tournament, but in hindsight, he believes it will be a major motivating factor for the team this year.

"The guys want," Calathes said. "I want it. We know what it's like to go into the NIT. This year, I think we're going to have our heads straight and take it game-by-game, step-by-step and work hard in practice."

Last year's finish was so disappointing that Calathes couldn't even get himself to watch much of the NCAA Tourney.

"I watched my brother and saw the championship but that was about it," he said. "After making it for 10 years and then not making it, it definitely hurt us. It hurt us inside and I think we have to bring that with us this year."

Calathes knows where improving on last year has to start, and it starts over the next few weeks on the practice court.

"We could have made difference last year if we worked harder in practice," he said. "Last year we were a young team when those five guys left. … We have to be tough on the court, winners on the court, and play together on the court."

With almost all of last year's squad back for this year, the playing together part should be easier for the Gators this season.

"I think the chemistry is great," Calathes said. "I think the guys we have coming back are ready to go and the freshmen are ready to get started. They're really hard workers and I'm looking forward to playing with them."

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