On point with Florida's Wilbekin

Local player to start at point guard


Florida's Scottie Wilbekin guards Louisville Cardinals guard Russ Smith during the first half of the Elite 8 game on March 24 at the U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Ariz. (Matt Stamey/Staff photographer)

The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 9:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 9:35 p.m.

Florida coach Billy Donovan isn't asking junior guard Scottie Wilbekin to be something he isn't.

More specifically, Donovan is not asking Wilbekin to be Erving Walker.

“If I'm asking him to be Erving Walker,” Donovan said. “I'm doing him a disservice.”

But Donovan has made it pretty clear Wilbekin will open the season as UF's starting point guard, following a lineage that includes former standouts Walker, Nick Calathes, Taurean Green and Anthony Roberson.

“I'm looking forward to it,” Wilbekin said. “I'm excited. I think it's going to be a big opportunity. I can't wait to deliver.”

A Gainesville native, Wilbekin grew up a Gator fan. He accepted a scholarship to UF as a 17-year-old in an effort to help the school's lack of backcourt depth before the start of the 2010-11 season. The 6-foot-2 standout from The Rock School obviously brings more size to the position than the 5-foot-8 Walker, and an added defensive presence. Opposing teams often game-planned to attack Walker last season because of his lack of size.

Walker left Florida as the school's all-time leader in assists (547) and fourth on the all-time scoring list (1,777 points). He's currently playing overseas in Italy.

“I think maybe I'm more of a defensive player than he is,” Wilbekin said. “I'm a little bit taller. I think there will be more of a defensive presence at the point guard spot.”

In limited minutes off the bench, Wilbekin has recorded 58 steals in two seasons, with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 122 to 50.

“Right now, I feel good about him,” Donovan said. “He's a junior in college now. Even though a lot was made when he first arrived out of high school and bypassing his senior year of high school, certainly that was a huge jump for him, but I think he proved he could really handle that as a freshman, got a chance to back up Erving Walker. So I think Scottie has shown a lot of improvement.”

The Gators haven't had a defensive stopper at the point since Justin Hamilton, who started at UF from the 2001-03 seasons. But although Wilbekin has averaged just 2.5 points per game in two seasons, Donovan said he thinks Wilbekin can blossom into a solid offensive player. Last season, Wilbekin actually led the Gators in 3-point shooting accuracy at 45.7 percent, making 21 of his 46 attempts.

Donovan said Wilbekin finished second in 3-point shooting accuracy in offseason workouts, behind Erik Murphy.

“I have a lot of confidence in him when he's open shooting the ball,” Donovan said. “I definitely think the first thing that comes to mind when you talk about Scottie is his toughness, his defensive ability, a Justin Hamilton-type of guy but I do think that maybe he's a better scorer and shooter then Justin was and I want him to be aggressive on offense.”

Wilbekin said he's prepared for the challenge of contributing both offensively and defensively.

“I'm working on it a lot,” Wilbekin said. “I'm definitely going to have to take more shots this year and so there will be more points. It's just going to be a lot different.”

FREE THROWS: Donovan was pleased with the effort and intensity of UF's first practice Friday night. The Gators practiced for two-and-a-half hours and will have two practices each Saturday and Sunday before taking Monday off. “This time of year, the turnovers, the carelessness, the sloppiness, the fatigue, you know all that stuff goes (on) but I thought their attitude, their effort was good,” Donovan said. “I think if you start off with no energy and guys aren't giving a great effort, you've got problems.” … Donovan reiterated he wants junior center Patric Young to focus more on his rebounding and running the floor than his post moves. “Last year Patric averaged nine points, six rebounds,” Donovan said. “There's no question that should be up above double-digits, he should be a 12-plus rebound guy a game.” Young averaged 10.2 points and 6.4 rebounds in his first season as a starter. “If Patric runs the floor, gets deep post ups with his size and strength, goes to the offensive glass, he's putting himself in position to be a scorer,” Donovan said. “But if we're going to throw the ball to Patric in the low post two steps off the lane line, that's not probably his strength.” … Donovan said he's playing freshman point guard Braxton Ogbueze some off the ball because of the demands of running the point. “It would be easier for him right now if he was playing alongside Scottie, playing alongside Kenny Boynton (at the point), if he's off the ball some,” Donovan said. “I think for his growth, he's got to do a little bit of both.” … Donovan said forward Casey Prather tweaked his knee and groin slipping on a wet spot on the floor in practice, but that it was nothing that would keep him out of practices over the weekend.

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