Florida will hold its first basketball practice Friday as projected Southeastern Conference title contenders.
Judging from comments made before Monday’s Ocala tip-off banquet, Florida coach Billy Donovan is optimistic about the season ahead, which is coming quick. Florida will hold its annual media day Wednesday. The preseason opener is Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. against Florida Tech.
The season opener is Nov. 12 against UNC-Wilimington ( 7 p.m. tip, just announced).
Donovan admitted he hasn’t has as much time to observe his team during individual drills as he would like due to a month-long recruiting window that had him on the road for most of September.
Here are some other tidbits from Ocala, courtesy of Ocala Star-Banner sports editor Andy Marks:
— Donovan said he’s pleased with the development of sophomore forward Erik Murphy, who elected to stay for both summer sessions even though it wasn’t mandatory to do so. “He’s in very good shape,” Donovan said. “His body has changed. He’s gotten mature. I think this year at the forward spot and at big forward, he’s going to be a guy we’re going to let shoot 3s. He’s really I think one of our better shooters and he’s going to get the opportunity to do that this year.”
— Donovan said UF’s incoming freshman class, “Have been very, very impressive in the fact that they bring an added toughness to our team. I think (Cody) Larson and Patric Young are physical guys that are going to be good, good players for us. What kind of impact they can make right away, we’ll see.”
— Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario, Donovan says, is “really, really good.” Although Rosario, a former McDonald’s All-American combo guard, can’t play for the Gators this season due to NCAA transfer rules, he’s pushing Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker in practice. “This is as deep as we’ve been as far as having bodies for practice, to get better, to compete in practice,” Donovan said.
— On being picked to win the SEC East, Donovan said: “What ends up happening sometimes in college basketball is that when you have all five starters returning from a team that went to the NCAA Tournament, the expectation is we’re going to be really, really good. But I also think we were one of those teams on selection Sunday that had our fingers crossed. If we were left out, it would maybe be a different feel. We wouldn’t be talking about ‘can we get back to the tournament.’ So it’s just interesting how things can change. I just told our guys, we have to keep in perspective what we have to do as a team and not get wrapped up with whether or not anybody thinks we can be good or not good or how far we can go this season, and be much, much more consumed on putting in the work each and every day.”
— Florida announced start times and TV for its non-conference games Tuesday: Nov. 12, UNC Wilmington, 7 p.m. SUN; Nov. 16, Ohio State, ESPN, 6 p.m.; Nov. 18, N.C. A&T, SUN/FSN FL; Nov, 21, Morehead State, 3:30 p.m, SUN; Nov. 23, Florida Atlantic, 7 p.m, SUN; Nov. 28, at FSU, 7:30 p.m., FSN/SUN; Dec. 1, UCF, 7 p.m., SUN/FSN; Dec. 5, American (Washington D.C.), 2:30 p.m., SUN; Dec. 9, Kent State, ESPN2; Dec. 18, Kansas State, 3:30 p.m., FS Florida; Dec. 20, Jacksonville, 1 p.m., SUN; Dec. 22, Radford, 7 p.m., CSS; Dec. 28, Fairfield, 7 p.m., ESPNU; Dec. 31, at Xavier, 4 p.m., ESPN2; Jan. 3, Rhode Island, 9 p.m., ESPNU.
We’ll provide more insight and live tweets from media days on Wednesday. Let me know any questions you want asked.