Shooting a priority for UF men's hoops in opener

Published: Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 12, 2010 at 12:10 a.m.

Florida opens its regular season tonight against UNC-Wilmington with high expectations.


Tonight's game info

Who: Florida Gators vs. UNC-Wilmington Seahawks
When: Tonight, 7
Where: O'Connell Center
Gainesville-area TV: SUN Sports
Gainesville-area Radio: AM-850


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


G Tanner Milson 6-2 Fr. 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg
G Ahmad Grant 6-3 Sr. 8.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg
F Donte Morales 6-5 Fr. 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg
F Keith Rendleman 6-7 So. 5.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg
C Matt Wilson 6-11 So. 1.6 ppg, 1.2 rpg

Notes:Florida has won 19 straight season openers. ... The Gators are 14-0 in season openers under Billy Donovan. ... Florida is 61-7 in November under Donovan. ... UNC-Wilmington will be playing its first game under new coach Buzz Peterson, who coached at Tennessee from 2002-05. ... Peterson is 3-5 lifetime against Florida. ... UNC-Wilmington runs a Princeton-style offense, which should challenge a Florida defense that is prone to occasional mental lapses. ... Senior guard Chad Tomko, a 1,000-point career scorer, led UNC-Wilmington in scoring (12.8 ppg) and assists (4.3 apg) last season.

— Kevin Brockway

The Gators are No. 9 in the country in the AP poll, their highest ranking since starting the 2006-07 campaign at No. 1.

Yet the numbers that concerned Florida coach Billy Donovan during the offseason were 11 and 31.3. The Gators finished 11th in the Southeastern Conference in 3-point field goal percentage, shooting 31.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Donovan made shot selection an emphasis during the offseason, but Florida finished the preseason shooting 27.2 percent (12-44) from 3-point range. Still, Donovan is confident that the Gators will shoot the ball better from the perimeter heading into the 2010-11 season.

The reason? Donovan said he thinks the starting backcourt of sophomore Kenny Boynton and junior Erving Walker are a year older and a year wiser. Boynton and Walker each started 33 of UF’s 34 games last season.

“The thing you always try to look at is are you getting good shots,” Donovan said. “I think maybe last year in some of our shooting, Erving Walker being young, Kenny Boynton being young, it was kind of a learning and growing process for those two guys. I really think those two guys have got a much, much better feel and understanding of the shots when and where they need to come from and time and score, possession and shot clock.”

Boynton, who shot 29.4 percent from 3-point range as a freshman, said he feels more confident in his shot after working with Los Angeles-based shooting coach Bob Tate during the offseason. Boynton was UF’s top 3-point shooter in the preseason, making 8 of 15 attempts. Walker struggled from beyond-the-arc, going 1-for-10.

“As much as I’d like to control the ball going in the basket, I don’t have a lot of control, neither do they,” Donovan said. “The only thing we can do is get in the gym as much as we can and make sure we are getting enough shooting in, which I think we are.”

Shooting has been a premium for Donovan during his 15-year run at Florida. Led by high-percentage outside shooters like Brett Nelson, Lee Humphrey and Matt Bonner, Florida has traditionally ranked near the top of the SEC in 3-point shooting percentage.

Florida returns an all-senior starting frontline of center Vernon Macklin, forward Alex Tyus and forward Chandler Parsons. But the Gators could encounter more zone defenses during the course of the season if they prove they are unable to shoot the ball from the perimeter consistently.

Donovan said he expects UNC-Wilmington to throw some 1-3-1 zone defenses at the Gators tonight. The defense will put some pressure on Walker at the top of the perimeter, but also should leave some space open on the wings to knock down shots.

Parsons, who hit game-winning 3-pointers last season against South Carolina and North Carolina State, made it a goal during the offseason to improve his long-range shooting. Parsons shot 35.8 percent from 3-point range last season, above his career average of 32.6 percent.

“We’re gonna shoot better,” Parsons said. “I think we’ve got a lot of guys that can put the ball in the basket. Our biggest thing is if we’re taking good, high-quality shots then no one is going to have a problem with it. If we’re taking bad shoots and it’s costing us, that’s not right. As long as we’re taking good shots, the best available shots for our team, then we are going to be fine.”

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