Florida freshman center Patric Young has been a different player since Christmas.
Florida coach Billy Donovan said he noticed a change in Young’s attitude and effort in practice following the holiday break. The reason?
“I’ve learned to listen to the coaches instead of listening to people that are outside the program,” Young said. “The coaches are the ones that really know best. They see me every day in practice. So I’m just trying to fill my role any way I can.”
Young, a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, is a physical presence underneath the basket at 6-foot-10, 245-pounds. One NBA scout who watched the Xavier game told me he had a “body to die for.”
But Young isn’t a scorer in the mold of Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger or versatile Kentucky big man Terrance Jones. Young is at his best when he’s doing the physical things — defending, rebounding and blocking shots.
Donovan rewarded Young with his first career start against Rhode Island. Young responded with a career-high eight points and five rebounds in 22 minutes. Young has had issues with foul trouble, but offensively, he’s been at his best at the foul line. After making all four of his free throw attempts against Rhode Island, Young is shooting 78.6 percent from the free-throw line, best among Florida big men.
With Erik Murphy (mid-foot sprain) questionable and center Vernon Macklin (shoulder) still ailing, Young could continue to play an important role in the frontcourt when Florida opens SEC play Saturday against Ole Miss.
— Florida’s tougher non-conference schedule could pay dividends if the Gators find themselves on the bubble again this March. Florida finished the non-conference portion of its schedule 11-3, with an RPI of 14 and strength of schedule of 7. The Gators should get a further boost in the RPI with eight games against four division opponents in the RPI top 60 — Kentucky (5), Vanderbilt (15), Tennessee (39) and Georgia (56). With its win over Rhode Island, the Gators are currently 2-2 against teams in the RPI Top 50 and 4-3 against teams in the RPI Top 100.
— Donovan said he feels fortunate that Murphy’s mid-foot sprain suffered Sunday in practice wasn’t more serious. “At first we thought it was broken,” Donovan said. “The X-Rays came back negative on Monday so it was sprain.” Murphy, meanwhile, tweeted Wednesday that trainers were using Emu oil on the foot sprain. “Apparently (Hakeem) olajuowan used to put it on his knees for tendinitis,” Murphy tweeted. “Feelin a little better tho.”
— In more injury news, freshman forward Will Yeguete is getting treatment on a hip flexor injury he suffered in the second half of the Rhode Island game. Donovan said Yeguete took a knee to his hip.
— Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton has become a master of the four-point play. Boynton notched his fourth and fifth career four-point plays against Xavier and Rhode Island. “If I think it feels good when I release it, I just fall and try to pick up the foul,” Boynton said following the Xavier game. “It’s been working.” Boynton has made free throws all five times after he’s been fouled on 3-point attempts.
— Interesting take from an NBA scout who told me during the Xavier game he thinks Donovan should re-think his strategy of recruiting scoring point guards. The scout said he would start 17-year-old freshman Scottie Wilbekin at point guard, while having Boynton and Erving Walker split time at shooting guard. “They’d both be gone in a year,” the scout said with a laugh. “But that’s what I’d do.”
— Former Gator walk-on guard Shane Payne was arrested late Monday night on charges of third-degree felony battery charges and misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest. According to a Gainesville Police Report, Payne struck a GPD officer with his elbow after he refused to get off his cell phone after a traffic stop. The officer had warned Payne not to put his hands in his pocket during the traffic stop, but Payne did anyway to answer a cell phone call. Payne appeared in nine games as a freshman walk-on for the Gators during the 2007-08 season but did not make the roster the following year.