Touted freshman Hill will be learning on job

Florida freshman point guard Kasey Hill is surrounded by reporters during Florida's Media Day on Wednesday.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 7:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 7:42 p.m.

There will be no learning curve, no easing into the game for Kasey Hill. The freshman point guard will only be given the task of replacing a point guard who has helped Florida to three straight Elite Eights, a teammate who will be waiting for his chance to be a Gator player again.

Welcome to Gainesville, Kasey.

“That’s what I expected when I made the decision to come here,” Hill said Wednesday during Florida’s Media Day. “I’ll be ready for it.”

With Scottie Wilbekin suspended at the start of the season, it will be Hill’s job to facilitate the bevy of talented players Billy Donovan will put out on the court for his 18th season as Florida’s coach.

And we all know that even a team full of trees is only as good as its point guard.

It was that way with Taurean Green and it has been that way with Wilbekin. When Florida has struggled offensively, it has often been because Wilbekin became dribble-happy or thought he saw openings that were not there.

That’s not to put the blame on Wilbekin for any of Florida’s losses in the last three very-successful seasons, but the point guard is to basketball what a lot of quarterbacks are to college football teams — managers of the game.

That will fall to Hill, the 6-foot McDonald’s All-American from Montverde Academy who will be the starter at point guard while Wilbekin serves his suspension.

“The two hardest things to come in and do as a freshman out of high school are point guard and a true center,” Donovan said. “He’s as prepared as he can possibly be, but he’ll have to come in and learn a whole new system.”

Hill will be able to lean on Wilbekin for advice as he deals with growing pains.

“He’s way more advanced than me,” Hill said.

And we’ll see how this dynamic works as this season progresses. Donovan labeled this as a season filled with unknowns Wednesday, and that extends throughout a roster that appears to be loaded with talent.

But it is especially true at point guard at the start of the season.

“Can he handle all the stuff that’s going to be thrown at him?” Donovan said. “How do I coach and handle a freshman point guard? He’s going to be thrown into the fire right away.”

While Donovan talked about all of the unknowns on this team, the best-known factor is the coach himself. Donovan, who first made his name as a point guard at Providence, has a long list of players who have manned the position and been extremely successful.

They have come in all shapes and sizes from Green to Anthony Roberson to Nick Calathes to Erving Walker.

Donovan has had a plan for each of those players whether their freshman season was spent backing up another point guard or being flung off the end of the pier into the starting lineup.

“The game’s going to move faster for (Hill),” Donovan said. “I don’t know how he’s going to respond. I don’t want to overwhelm him. But he and I really need to be connected for the next month-and-a-half.”

Donovan has loved what he has seen so far from the five-star recruit. Especially in the way Hill has interacted with his new teammates.

“I think he’s earned their trust,” Donovan said. “I think he’s earned their respect. I think that’s the best thing. Guys want to see him do well.”

Hill describes himself as “unselfish” and “a humble dude.”

Sometimes, those are the most important attributes for a point guard. Peripheral vision, speed, a 3-point shot — they all help. But the best point guards understand that their main job is to dish and distribute, not to dominate.

The ingredients seem to be in place for Hill to have success. And, for now anyway, he’s the guy who will try to make this journey into the unknown the smoothest sailing possible.

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