Wilbekin Trying Hard To Become a Gator

Point guard Scottie Wilbekin's fall plans may not be completely set for a couple of months, but it's clear the talented basketball player is doing everything he can to join the Florida basketball program.

Scottie Wilbekin is scheduled to graduate in 2011, but can earn his high school diploma and college eligibility by taking and passing one core English class in summer school. That, plus an adequate SAT score should put Wilbekin on Billy Donovan's roster for the upcoming season.

Wilbekin averaged about 17 points, six assists and five rebounds this past season for The Rock School in Gainesville. He was asked to carry much of the load for a young team and led them in virtually every category except rebounds where he was second on the squad.

Wilbekin has been ranked as high as No. 6 among Florida prep basketball players in the class of 2011 and in the top 10-15 point guards in the country by some services. He wowed many observers at a recent all-star camp in which he garnered the attention of many with his overall court skills. Earlier this week I spoke with Justin Harden, Wilbekin's coach at The Rock School in Gainesville. The conversation took place on my Gainesville radio show on AM-850 WRUF. Here are some key comments:

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LV: Justin, we've seen everything from 5-11, 150 to 6-3, 190 when it comes to Scottie, tell us exactly how he measures up physically.

JH: Last year about this time Scottie probably was probably about 5-11 and 160, but he really dedicated himself to the weight room and sprouted up and now he's about 6-2 with shoes on and about 180 pounds. He definitely has grown.

LV: What was the beginning of the idea for him to graduate early?

JH: Well he's grown up a huge Gator fan and went to several of the camps over at UF and went to their "select" camp the last couple of years where they invite some of the top players around the country. Last summer he was playing in their open gym against some of the current and former players and they really had a lot of good things to say (to the coaches) about Scottie. Guys like Joakim Noah and Chris Richard played with him and told Coach Donovan and Coach (Rob) Lanier, ‘hey this guy can play, and you should take a look at him'.

LV: So are Scottie and his family committed to doing what they have to do so he can enroll early and become a Gator this fall or is still being debated?

JH: They are committed to doing what is necessary. Scottie obviously still has to take the SAT because he was putting it off until May anyways. He should pass that. He's a very intelligent young man. He has about a 3.7 or 3.8 GPA. He needs to take another English class because you need four English credits to graduate. He and his family really prayed about this decision, but after meeting with Coach Donovan they're ready to make it final.

LV: Is it fair to say Scottie will be a Gator this year or next?

JH: I wouldn't go that far. One of the reasons Florida wants him is because they need a point guard for this season. Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton played so many minutes last season they needed to get a point guard in this class one way or another. One of the enticing factors for Scottie is that he really wants to be a Gator and if he doesn't go ahead and get there for next season they may go ahead and fill the position. Ultimately they wanted Scottie for next season and he wants to be a Gator so it's worth (giving up) his senior season to Scottie.

LV: Break down his game a little for us physically. How ready is he for the rough and tumble that can and often is SEC basketball?

JH: His basketball IQ is very high because he is the son of our former basketball coach here, Sveind Wilbekin. He's had to play with older guys his entire life. He was the starting point guard when we went to state when he was in eighth grade. He's always had to play "up" and that's made him think a little bit more than the typical player. This last three months his athleticism has gone to a whole new level with the strength training he's been doing. I think he'll be able to handle some of the bumping and grinding of the SEC. He's going to have to overcome some hurdles, but hopefully they'll be able to develop him into the kind of player the Gators really want.

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I recently asked Dave Telep, the National Recruiting Director for Scout.com for his thoughts on Scottie Wilbekin:

"I like Wilbekin for the Gators. I like him because wanting to wear the jersey is really important. I think Scottie Wilbekin has made steady improvement each year of his high school career. (The Gators) need a guy who can come in and understand his role. He's a good player and will be a coachable, workhorse of a guy. I think he's a kid that when you hand him the ball and ask him to run your team that you can trust him."

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Wilbekin is scheduled to continue playing in AAU and all-star events while he tries to earn early admission to the University of Florida. According to Harden, he scored 24 points and had ten assists in a recent match up with 2011 USC commitment Gelaun Wheelwright. That's the performance Telep was referring to in an earlier article when he talked about Wilbekin going from a mid-major prospect to one the "bigs" needed to take a look at.


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