Hill making strong first impression


Florida freshman Kasey Hill (0) jokes around with senior Casey Prather during media day on Wednesday.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 3:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 3:50 p.m.

It's early, but Florida freshman point guard Kasey Hill has made a strong first impression through UF's first two practices.

“He's played very, very well in practice so far,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said Saturday.

A McDonald's All-American from Montverde Academy, the 6-foot-1 Hill is going to need to contribute immediately to start the 2013-14 season due to the indefinite suspension to start the season for returning senior starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin. Donovan said so far Hill has handled the physical and mental demands of running the point at the college level.

“The biggest thing for me is with the freshmen is are they playing hard enough, competing hard enough and are they picking things up,” Donovan said. “And it's really hard because when you are with a group of veterans, they are so much further along in terms of understanding the system. But I have not been in a situation where I've had to hold back, go a little bit slower. He's kind of absorbing and picking up everything that we're putting in right now.”

Wilbekin returned to practice with the Gators on Friday after being away from the team over the summer as part of his suspension. For now, Donovan is practicing Hill and Wilbekin on separate teams.

“I've separated those guys because, one, for Kasey to go against Scottie as a veteran guy is a good thing,” Donovan said. “I also think based on Scottie's future, him holding up to his end of the bargain and taking care of his responsibilities in the next phase here before he actually comes back to play in games, it's important.

“I think Kasey has to be in a situation where he has to stand on his own two feet a little bit right now.”

But Donovan has not ruled out the possibility of playing Wilbekin and Hill together in the same backcourt once Wilbekin returns from his suspension.

“I think Scottie is a bigger, stronger guard,” Donovan said. “I think Scottie is in a position where he can slide off the ball, and play the point. But yeah, I would envision those two guys playing together.”

Donovan also mentioned sophomore guard Dillon Graham and swingman Dorian Finney-Smith as potential backups at point guard behind Hill while Wilbekin serves his suspension.

“Those two guys would be the most logical right now,” Donovan said. “I don't know if (shooting guard) Michael Frazier II, that would take away too much of what he does well in terms of shooting the ball and scoring by putting the ball in his hands. Dillon is a very good passer, good distributor, he's got good speed.”

Donovan said he was pleased with the effort and intensity of the first two practices. He's had to dial back the length of some practices due to some depth issues with Eli Carter (broken leg) and Will Yeguete (recovering from knee surgery) still being out.

“Usually the practices this time of year have been in duration a lot longer because we've had more numbers,” Donovan said. “So the fatigue factor, because there is really not a lot of subs, hits these guys a lot quicker than it has in the past. I think we've got to monitor where we're doing a lot of full-court stuff, then get back to halfcourt, get back to fullcourt, back to halfcourt, where you've got some time to recuperate. So maybe not going as long, but making sure that we're having a level of intensity.”

DeVon Walker could redshirt

Donovan said he's been pleased with the performance of 6-foot-6 sophomore swingman DeVon Walker in practice.

But due to UF's potential depth in the frontcourt, Donovan hasn't ruled out the possibility of redshirting the Winter Haven native during the 2013-14 season.

“I don't want to put DeVon in a situation like he was in last year, where he had really some limited action during the year, as it relates to playing time,” Donovan said. “I think that happens to freshmen sometimes, but I really believe DeVon could be a very good player. In doing that I'm probably going to evaluate his progress the next three weeks and evaluate how much do I see him in the rotation, how much I see him playing.”

Donovan said the decision hasn't been made yet and that Walker would have input in the decision. On Wednesday during UF basketball media day, Walker said the issue of redshirting hadn't been raised by the coaching staff.

“We haven't talked about that,” Donovan said. “We talked about it last year, but I think as it relates to him right now, that's going to be his decision. I'm going to lay it out for him, but it's hard right now because we've only had two practices, but I can see an enormous amount of growth in him and I can see how much he's gotten better … but I want to feel comfortable as a coach that he's a legitimate rotational guy.”

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