Early Assessment of Gator Freshmen

Two exhibition games don't tell us a great deal about the Gator basketball team, so the early evaluation of the Gator freshman class should be taken with an entire box of salt. Still we've seen enough from four of the Gators newcomers to have inkling as to what Florida might get from them at least in the early part of this season.

You hate to depend too much on freshmen, but the Gators really have no choice. Florida returned eight players this season, but Jai Lucas' decision to transfer left Florida with only two non starters who had any collegiate experience. Eloy Vargas, the tallest of Florida's No. 9 ranked recruiting class has yet to any action as he recovers from an ankle injury.

Here's one man's assessment of the youngsters with the regular season getting underway next Friday. I list the players in order of their anticipated contributions in the early going.

Ray Shipman --- In my view he is clearly the best all around player of the group and can help the Gators a number of ways. Shipman will improve Florida's perimeter defense, he can score from long range and also can take the ball to the basket off the drive. Shipman scored in double figures in both exhibitions. He will probably see most of his action at the "3" spot (small forward), but I'd love to see him and Calathes together in the back court.

Erving Walker --- A lot of people questioned why Florida Coach Billy Donovan would sign a 5-8 guard, but those who have seen him play aren't asking that question. Walker already plays with calmness and patience that believes his youth and his quickness and long range shooting ability will allow him to be effective. Like Shipman he scored in double figures in both exhibitions. Walker is also a solid ball defender. Right now he looks like the third guard in Florida's rotation with Lucas moving on.

Allan Chaney --- He looks like he's 15, but sometimes he kinda plays like it. Chaney has a pretty good physique coming in, but will have to get much stronger to compete with the front court players he'll be seeing at this level. He must be stronger with the ball inside and go after rebounds with more of a commitment. He had a total of seven rebounds in the two exhibitions. Chaney looks like he has a pretty high ceiling, but how quickly he reaches it is a tough question to answer at this stage.

Kenny Kadji --- The 6-10 big man had a tough night holding on to the basketball against Rollins Thursday night. He also has to hide the ball better when he prepares to take a shot. He had a few blocked by shorter players and that should not happen. He did make a nice baseline jumper, showing a skill that will be useful, but like Chaney he has to be serious about going after rebounds. Kadji has nine rebounds against Warner in the first exhibition and added five more against Rollins.

In all, this freshman class obviously has the talent to be a big part of what this team does. It will be fascinating to see how they respond when the games start to count.


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