Former Gators hopeful of NBA future in deep draft


Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin (5) celebrates as he runs off the court with center Patric Young (4) and forward Casey Prather (24) after hitting a three as time expired in the first half of a third-round game in the NCAA tournament against Pittsburgh on March 22 in Orlando.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer/File
Published: Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 5:49 p.m.

Before first stepping on campus, Patric Young went on record saying that he would be a four-year player at Florida.

Enlarge

Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin (5) celebrates as he runs off the court with center Patric Young (4) and forward Casey Prather (24) after hitting a three as time expired in the first half of a third-round game in the NCAA tournament against Pittsburgh on March 22 in Orlando.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer/File

Facts

Getting their shot

There have been 35 Florida players selected in the NBA draft, including 17 in 18 seasons under coach Billy Donovan. Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather are hoping to add to that list tonight. Here's a look at their draft range:

Patric Young, 6-9, C: Late first, mid-second round
Scottie Wilbekin, 6-2, PG: Late second round, undrafted free agent
Casey Prather, 6-6, F: Late second round, undrafted free agent

Young stayed true to his word. All four years, the center stayed, despite opportunities to leave early and test NBA draft waters.

The reward for Young was a college degree and a Final Four appearance in his senior year. The delayed gratification could also pay dividends in tonight's NBA draft. Young and Gator teammates Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather all could hear their names called tonight. But of the three, Young appears to have the best shot to get drafted.

Of late, Young's stock is on the rise. ESPN.com NBA draft analyst Chad Ford projected him as a first-round pick, 30th overall to the San Antonio Spurs, in his latest mock draft. The Jacksonville native wrapped up a long string of predraft workouts Monday and Tuesday with the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons.

“I think I helped myself a lot,” Young said. “I'm still pretty hopeful for a late first-round pick, if not somewhere in the second round.”

The website DraftExpress.com predicts Young to go 42nd overall to the Houston Rockets (12th pick, second round) in its latest mock draft.

“He's all over the board at this point,” said one NBA scout, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “One thing you can't deny is he's a great athlete.”

At the NBA draft combine, Young wowed scouts with his strength, bench pressing 185 pounds 25 straight times (two shy of the combine record). He measured taller than 6-foot-10 in sneakers, adequate size for an NBA center. Young said he's bulked back up from 240 to 250 pounds after pre-draft training at IMG Academy in Bradenton.

“My shooting, my finishing all my skill-work has improved drastically,” Young said. “I just feel as though I'm ready to make an impact to whatever team I come to, right away if possible. If I can find some minutes, I can come in and do well.”

Based on feedback he's received from NBA teams, being a four-year player has only helped him, Young said. He's hoping to follow a trend of four-year Gator players who have had success in the NBA, a list that includes forward Chandler Parsons, center David Lee, forward Matt Bonner and forward Udonis Haslem.

“They know I'm going to be mature and have the mindset and understand what it takes to be a pro right away,” Young said. “They are not going to have to worry about me every day or how I handle situations. The stigma is only positive vibes from the people that make those decisions.”

The knock on Young throughout his college career was his productivity. He averaged a career-scoring high 11 points and 6.2 rebounds as a senior, but it was only a marginal rise from the 10.2 points and 6.4 rebounds he averaged in his first full year as a starter as a sophomore. On the defensive end, Young was exceptional, earning SEC defensive player of the year honors as a senior.

“He's an excellent post defender,” ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas said. “Not a great rebounder … he doesn't really rebound out of his area like you would hope. And I think as an offensive player, good not great.

“I have him later in the second round, but a guy who you can put in there to be physical, set screens, he can play pick and roll … but what a great kid. Had a really good college career and did everything that was asked of him.”

NBA director of scouting Ryan Blake said he feels Young's lack of numbers are misleading.

“The guy made a great decision staying in school for four years,” Blake said. “He has all the intangibles to be successful. The numbers he put up in college don't really tell the story about his potential. He has a chance to be a defensive presence and I don't consider him to be as raw offensively as some make him out to be. I think he will continue to grow and develop in that area.”

The chances of Wilbekin and Prather getting drafted are more slim in what Bilas said is “the deepest NBA draft in a decade.” The 6-foot-2 Wilbekin finished up workouts close to home with the Orlando Magic on Tuesday.

“I hope to get drafted, but my mindset is just (that) I did what I could in the workouts and whatever happens, I'm ready for the next phase of this process,” Wilbekin said.

Wilbekin's breakout senior season at point guard fueled UF to 30 straight wins and its fifth Final Four appearance in school history. The Gainesville native earned SEC player of the year honors as a senior, but questions remain whether his size, quickness and shooting ability will translate at the NBA level.

“I think Wilbekin is one of those guys who can make a team,” Bilas said. “I don't think he's a guy that will necessarily be drafted … it's a tough transition at that position in the NBA. He's not as quick or explosive or quite as good a shooter as some of those other guys that are out there, or as big.”

Added Blake: “He's developed a really good skill set. He's not a bad athlete, though at point guard at the NBA level, you need to bring a lot to the table athletically. He doesn't turn the ball over much, which is a positive, but there are so many things that teams take into account.”

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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