Preseason play begins at O-Dome tonight


Published: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 12:26 a.m.

Call it the big curiosity.

Fans know what to expect from Florida's five returning starters when the Gators play their first exhibition game tonight at the O'Connell Center against Florida Tech.

But questions will center around the bench and a new freshman class that includes wide-shouldered, 245-pound center Patric Young.

The 6-foot-9 Young is the 13th McDonald's All-American that Florida coach Billy Donovan has recruited to UF. Young's role is to rebound, block shots and take up space in the paint. Though Young is still developing offensively, he brings a physical element that the Gators have lacked since winning back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.

“When he has a chance to finish,” Florida senior forward Chandler Parsons said, “he's gonna go right through the guy.”

Young, born and raised 80 miles up the road in Jacksonville, said he will have eight friends and family members attending the game. He doesn't anticipate any first-game jitters.

“It hasn't really hit me yet,” Young said. “I'm just trying to stay humble and just think of it as another basketball game that I've come prepared for and I'm just gonna give it all I got.”

Donovan tinkered with Young and center Vernon Macklin playing together on the same frontline during a quarter of a Sunday intra-squad scrimmage. The two big men had spacing issues on the floor, sometimes getting in each other's way.

But Donovan said he's committed to trying to play Young and Macklin together during some stretches. Young will stay at center the whole season, Donovan said, because he doesn't want the freshman to have to learn two positions. The 240-pound Macklin would slide down to power forward when Young enters the game.

In the scrimmage, Young played with UF's four returning starters (Parsons, Macklin, Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton).

“They already have a great team chemistry so when I come in I feel so much more comfortable playing with those guys because they know what they are doing,” Young said.

Donovan said he expects all of UF's freshmen to play in tonight's preseason opener. Freshman forward Cody Larson (flu) and sophomore forward Erik Murphy (sprained ankle) both missed practice time but are available tonight.

“It will be probably be a game where you are going to see all these guys from maybe 15 to 25 minutes,” Donovan said. “It will probably be in that range, depending on how the game goes. Our first priority is to win because we're competing.”

Donovan also experimented with a three-guard lineup in Sunday's scrimmage, with freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin joining Boynton and Walker on the floor at the same time.

“I'd like to do some of that stuff where we can take a look at some different combinations and different lineups,” Donovan said.

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.

Who: Florida Gators vs. Florida Tech Panthers

When: Tonight, 7

Where: O'Connell Center

Gainesville-area TV: GatorVision (online)

Gainesville-area Radio: AM-850

FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS

G Kenny Boynton 6-2 So. 14.0 ppg, 2.7 apg

G Erving Walker 5-8 Jr. 12.6 ppg, 4.9 apg

F Chandler Parsons 6-9 Sr. 12.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg

F Alex Tyus 6-8 Sr. 11.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg

C Vernon Macklin 6-10 Sr. 10.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg

FLORIDA TECH PROBABLE STARTERS

G DeMarco Robinson 6-0 Jr. 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg

G Simon Cummings 6-1 Jr. 18.0 ppg, 4.0 apg

G Mark Caviness 6-5 Sr. 6.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg

F Justin Sedlak 6-9 Sr. 20.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg

C Derek Hellermann 6-6 Jr. 9.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg

Notes: Florida is 57-13-1 all time in preseason play, and 32-2-1 in exhibition games under Billy Donovan. ... The Oct. 28 start is the earliest ever for Florida. ... Florida has won 18 straight exhibition games dating back to 2001. ... Florida returns all five of its starters from a 21-13 team that finished fourth in the SEC East and made the NCAA Tournament. ... The Gators return 89.7 percent of their scoring, 89.2 percent of its 3-point shooting and 74.2 percent of its rebounding. ... Florida Tech, an NAIA school based in Melbourne, finished 14-13 overall last season and 4-12 in the Sunshine State Conference.

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