Pitchford pitching in for UF hoops
Published: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 11:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 11:37 p.m.
Walter Pitchford is Florida's other true freshman. The one not named Bradley Beal.
While the smooth-shooting, 6-3 Beal has earned a starting job this preseason, the 6-foot-10 Pitchford is still trying to find his way.
“I think he knows how far he's got to go to get better,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said.
Pitchford isn't expected to make a big splash like Beal when Florida starts its season Friday against Jackson State. But Donovan has been pleased with Pitchford's attitude and work ethic given his projected lack of playing time.
“The one thing I respect about him and I like about him is he's got a great energy, he's got a good attitude every day,” Donovan said. “I think he knows how far he's got to go to get better. His attitude has been a real, real pleasant surprise. It's something that should be modeled by all the guys on our team.
“You know it's hard. When you see a guy like Brad Beal as a freshman, you are both coming in together, and he gets 20 points and is lights-out shooting ... and you are sitting over there, that's a hard thing to say ‘Geez, look at how far I have to go.'”
A Grand Rapids, Mich., native, Pitchford is Florida's first recruit from Michigan since former standout forward Al Horford. Pitchford was familiar with Horford and played with his younger brother, John, on travel teams. While Pitchford ended up at Florida, Jon Horford wound up at Michigan.
Pitchford said he is hopeful to follow in the line of successful Florida big men like Horford, Joakim Noah and David Lee. All three moved on to the NBA as first-round draft picks.
“Those are some animals,” Pitchford said. “If you look at what they did, I'm going to buy into the system and work hard just like them.”
For now, Pitchford said he is taking everything in and trying to learn as much as possible. In practice, Pitchford said he's trying to provide some energy at power forward and center.
“Just not take any plays off ever on the defensive end,” Pitchford said. “Just talk every single play, every single moment.”
Pitchford showed some signs of defensive ability in Florida's lone preseason game against Catholic, finishing with one blocked shot and three rebounds in seven minutes. On the offensive end, Pitchford took four shots, all 3-point attempts, and missed all four. Donovan said Pitchford has the green light to shoot from 3-point range.
“He's a very good shooter,” Donovan said.
Donovan said he has not considered redshirting Pitchford, given Florida's lack of depth in the frontcourt. The Gators redshirted forward Cody Larson last season.
“We have to help him get ready to play,” Donovan said. “He's not ready yet. But we've got to try to help him get to that point.”
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.