Three Upcoming Dates Key for 2010-11 Gators

The Florida basketball team can now transfer its focus to next season and trying to build on the momentum that saw the Gators return to the NCAA Tournament and post its 12th straight 20-plus win season.

There's plenty of reason to be optimistic about the Gators next season. Billy Donovan will return his entire starting five of Kenny Boynton (14.0), Erving Walker (12.6), Chandler Parsons (12.4), Alex Tyus (11.8) and Vernon Macklin (10.6). A starting five where each player averaged in double figures is a very good starting point.

Additionally, the Gators return Erik Murphy (3.5/2.4) who showed some promise off the bench and should get back Kenny Kadji who lost last season to back surgery.

Florida needs to replace Dan Werner (4.6/4.1) and Ray Shipman (2.7/1.6), and is counting on newcomers Patric Young and Casey Prather to replace those numbers and do even more. It's not a stretch to say that the swap of players makes Florida a deeper and more athletic team than it was the past two seasons, but that may not be enough.

To get a complete assessment of what the 2010-11 season might hold for Gator basketball, three key dates have to arrive. What happens on those dates will determine if Florida will be similar to the past three years or if the Gators are in position to contend in the SEC and be a threat to advance deep into the Big Dance.

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April 14 ---- That's the first date on the list and the most important since it signifies the beginning of the spring signing period. Florida is busily trying to add at least two players for next season, one of whom simply must be a guard. Florida has been mentioned with virtually every significant unsigned prospect as well as some JUCO guards. There are also players seeking releases from the national letter of intent and might get in the picture as well. You can argue whether Florida needs a point guard more than an outstanding shooter or vice-versa, but there's no debate that for Florida to be a top 20 type team they need an impact player in the backcourt.

April 25 ---- That's the deadline for players to declare their intention to enter the NBA Draft. All eyes are on the Kentucky Wildcats in this regard since the ‘Cats have five potential first round picks, but there are also key decisions to be made by A.J. Ogilvy and Jeffrey Taylor of Vanderbilt, Terrico White of Ole Miss and Georgia forward Trey Thompkins.

May 8 ---- In truth this day means a lot more than the first one, because it's the deadline to pull out of the draft and return to school. While April 25 will determine which players are definitely not going pro, this date bring finality to that situation. It's hard to see the SEC getting hit hard by pro defections, but then who thought Florida would lose Nick Calathes to a Greek team?

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Florida is one of three SEC teams that is losing just one senior, but DeAundre Cranston of Ole Miss and Vanderbilt's Jermaine Beal leave much larger holes in their teams. Auburn, Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee lose the most from their senior classes. We'll do an SEC team-by-team breakdown after that critical May 8 date. By then we'll know exactly who will and will not be playing hoops in the SEC in 2010-11.


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