No doubt Wilbekin should be SEC's player of the year
Published: Friday, February 21, 2014 at 8:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 21, 2014 at 11:57 p.m.
There was a moment during Florida's thrilling win over Auburn on Wednesday night when you could see it. Leadership is often an intangible quality that hides behind closed doors, but this was right there on the court as the band played and the TV broadcast was at commercial.
Billy Donovan had just given his instructions to a team that was reeling from Auburn 3-point makes and was trailing at home. But on the court, Scottie Wilbekin wasn't done.
He gathered his teammates and began talking defense. This wasn't a rah-rah speech we associate with leaders, but a chance to make sure every player understood their responsibilities.
There is no doubt which player is the head of this 24-2 snake. And that's one reason why I believe Wilbekin should be the SEC's player of the year.
It's not about statistics. Lazy voters tend to look at the scoring leaders and make their pick. But we've seen with Chandler Parsons in 2011 that both the writers and coaches who vote are willing to think rather than react.
Wilbekin is 17th in scoring in SEC games, but how many big baskets has he made for a team that has yet to lose in SEC play? He is second in assist/turnover ratio, a stat that means a heckuva lot more to a point guard.
His turnover against Auburn, when he clutched the ball to pass but the player he was going to throw it to was covered and he took steps, was the only turnover he has had in the last three games. No turnovers at Tennessee and at Kentucky? That's ridiculous.
It may seem crazy to make this argument after a 4-for-14 shooting night, but in reality it's the perfect time. Just look at the start of the second half against Auburn, when Wilbekin hit a 3 and had two perfect alley-oop passes for dunks to pull the Gators within two.
But, more importantly, go back and watch Auburn's possession with 30 seconds to go and Florida up one.
Florida knew the Tigers would get the ball to Chris Denson. Wilbekin denied him in the post, chased him through a screen and had him in trouble before Will Yeguete made the mistake of trying to cut Denson off in his retreat and was called for a foul.
These are the little things you and I have seen all season. Well, not all season because of his suspension and two ankle sprains. Maybe that suspension will work against him with voters, but I doubt it. It's not a coincidence that both of Florida's losses came when he wasn't on the floor.
To me, the race for player of the year is a three-man battle as we head into the last five games of the SEC season. Wilbekin, Florida's Casey Prather and Kentucky's Julius Randle. Missouri's Jabari Brown can make an argument as well.
There is no question Prather is having a remarkable season, one that nobody saw coming. And there are a lot of years where he might be the player of the year. He saved Florida in the first half against Kentucky.
But we all know who is the one player Florida cannot live without.
Wilbekin has shown a toughness and a passion that ranks with the best who have played for Florida. His improvement has been as much mental as physical. A year ago, he'd get dribble-happy at times or take shots where you wanted to get into your Dr. Evil voice and yell, “Scottie don't.”
Donovan talked earlier this week about how Wilbekin had to change in a lot of ways and he has. Who would you rather have running your team right now than Scottie Point Guard?
Saturday in Oxford, Miss., he will face the difficult task of trying to slow down Marshall Henderson. Ole Miss will be ready for Florida, knowing this may be the Rebels' last shot to add a big win to their resume.
There is still some big games to go for this team. We saw what complacency can do to it Wednesday night.
“We all came out a little sluggish,” Patric Young said, “except Scottie.”
I don't want to sound like a Heisman Trophy voter, but it would seem that the best player on the best team should win player of the year. Of course, when you're a team-first guy, those individual awards don't matter that much.
But for the face of this Florida basketball team, it's still deserved.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.