Overall Rank: #39
Conference Rank: #5 SEC
2006-07: 35-5, 13-3, 1st East
2006-07 postseason: NCAA
The name on the front of the jersey will still say Florida, but the guys wearing them will be virtually unrecognizable to most college basketball fans. The Gators return one player who played any significant role whatsoever on last year’s national championship squad. Coach Billy Donovan returns and there is a ton of young talent who spent last year on the bench and a lot more coming to Gainesville this season. It will take quite a bit of time to get everybody on the same page, but Florida is still one of the more talented teams in the SEC, at least potentially.
This group only led the Gators to back-to-back championships. Taurean Green, Lee Humphrey, Corey Brewer, Al Horford and Joakim Noah started just about every game over the last two years. Chris Richard was basically the sixth man during those two seasons. That is one heck of a group to lose. Florida is practically starting over from scratch. We will give a little love to Brett Swanson who has wrapped up his career with the Gators after averaging 2.7 minutes per game in 17 contests last season.
Everybody knows what the Gators lost, but more importantly is what they have coming in. There are five players who will make their mark right away on the Florida program and the class was ranked by many as the best in the nation. It all starts on the perimeter with Jai Lucas and Nick Calathes. Both are McDonald’s All-Americans and potential starters. Lucas is a true point guard, but has a nice looking stroke as well. At 5-10, his size is the only concern, but Lucas is a proven winner with a nice family pedigree with his father John playing at Maryland and in the NBA and brother John III leading Oklahoma State to the Final Four in 2004. Calathes could see some time at the point, but it is more likely the 6-6 two-time Mr. Basketball in the state of Florida will be used on the wing. Calathes is not a great shooter, but he is a great team player. He is a smart leader, a good scorer and will do whatever the team needs him to do to make the team better. Chandler Parsons is not just the future of the small forward spot, he will probably be starting there for the next four years…if Florida is lucky. Parsons has great mobility for a player who is 6-9 and 200 pounds and will fit well into Coach Donovan’s up-tempo style of play. He has a great looking shot, but could add some more strength. Adam Allen will add another long and athletic forward option off the bench. Allen is a quality shot blocker and has enough versatility to play either forward position. Alex Tyus is yet another athletic, versatile power forward. The 6-8 St. Louis product can knock down the perimeter shot and will fit in at either forward position in the Gators style of play.
Who to Watch:
Walter Hodge averaged 18.4 minutes per game last year and the versatile guard will be the new team leader on and off the floor. Hodge, who averaged 5.7 points per game, can run the point or play on the wing and he will likely do a little of both again this season. Hodge is a great shooter and now that he will be taking a lot more shots, his scoring output will be greatly increased.
The frontcourt has a few more returning options in Marreese Speights, Dan Werner and Jonathan Mitchell. The trio all averaged between five and nine minutes per game last year as freshmen and are now ready to become major players for the Gators. Speights is a big and strong center and averaged 4.1 points and 2.6 rebounds in just 5.7 minutes per game. He will not be able to keep up that pace, but Speights should appear to come out of nowhere and have a great season. Werner is more versatile and can hit the long ball and play the three, four or five spots. Mitchell is a great athlete and will battle for a starting spot at either forward position. Mitchell prefers to play facing the basket, but has the strength to battle in the paint. Florida almost has the sense that everybody on the team is new. It remains to be seen where everybody will fit in, but there is no doubt Coach Donovan has a lot of talent to work with and that he will find the proper combinations for his team.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Jai Lucas, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Nick Calathes, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Walter Hodge, Junior, Guard, 5.7 points per game
Dan Werner, Sophomore, Forward, 1.8 points per game
Marreese Speights, Sophomore, Center, 4.1 points per game