Florida football got you bummed out? Allow the basketball team to provide a little distraction. The Gators held their media day today, and here are a few of the most interesting storylines (to me, anyway).
-Expectations are high again
Florida will enter this season surrounded by the highest expectations since the 04s left town with all those championship rings, and rightly so. The Gators return all five starters and add McDonald's All-American Patric Young to a squad that made it to the NCAA Tournament (losing its first-round game to BYU in double overtime).
But UF coach Billy Donovan is doing his best to knock down the hype. Here's what he said today:
"You know the perception is, in today’s environment in basketball, where you have a team that went to the NCAA tournament and returns all five starters, the expectations and the perception is that you’re going to be really, really good. This is a team that needed a 75-foot shot from (forward) Chandler Parsons against North Carolina State. That needed a game-winning shot by Chandler against South Carolina. That needed a game-winning shot by Erving Walker at Alabama to get into the tournament. So the reality is that this group really hasn’t done a lot. This group really hasn’t accomplished a whole lot.”
Compare that to Parsons, who said the feeling heading into this year is "totally different" from 2009:
"I think our goals are a lot higher this year. Not getting to the NCAA Tournament my first two years, last year we were just like we have to get there. I think we are just worried about this Friday and getting our chemistry right, getting all the plays down and just coming together and becoming the best team we can.”
How good can they be? Parsons says he feels they have a team to make a run at a national title.
-Kenny Boynton says he's back with a refined shooting technique
The Pompano Beach native led the Gators in scoring as a freshman (14 ppg), but at times, he and backcourt partner Erving Walker struggled with shooting. Boynton finished the year at 37.6 percent, hitting 29.4 percent of his three-point attempts.
Here are some of Boynton's shooting lines from UF's final 14 games:
2-11 in loss to Tennessee
2-9 in win vs Miss St.
3-9 in loss to Xavier
2-7 in win vs Auburn
2-12 in win vs Ole Miss
2-15 in loss to Vanderbilt
Then, he went off for a combined 50 points in the Gators' last two contests, his first back-to-back 20-point games in four months. During the offseason, Boynton said he flew to Los Angeles to work with a shooting coach familiar with Donovan, and he's happy with his results so far, saying his mid-range shooting is much more consistent.
“Basically, I am releasing it more in front of my head where as last year I never knew when it was going to go in, I was just shooting it. Now I know when it is optimal and how long it is going. I think it is a better shot now.”
The 6-foot-9, 225-pound freshman from Jacksonville looks like the kind of guy Urban Meyer would like to suit up on the football field. He'll see playing time at forward and center this year, and Donovan said he wants Young to focus more on rebounding and defense than scoring.
That's fine by Young, who said that's the role he wants to play.
"That's basically what I'm known for, is being a real physical guy who's going to come in there and do the dirty work," Young said. "I love contact, I do love contact. That's just what I think basketball is, it's a contact sport. So why not go out there and hit everybody?"
That doesn't mean he won't be a factor on offense. His strength (he says he's the strongest on the team) will be an asset inside.
"[Teammates] call me Karl Malone and Dwight Howard," Young said. "They tell me I need to stop lifting weights and do more stretching."
"I can probably bench [Erving Walker] once and just throw him out of the building."
Young is proving to be a quotable fellow, so expect to see a lot of ink spilled in his honor. And he made a splash shortly before leaving media day, taking an alley-oop and throwing it down with one hand. As one reporter said after the dunk, "I haven't seen that around here in a while."
-New players will make practices more productive
Macklin has to deal with Young, and the guards will be pushed by Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario, a McDonald's All-American in high school. Rosario will have to sit out this season, but he's already having an impact on the starting guards in workouts.
"My main goal this year is to get stronger -- that's one of my weaknesses -- and just to work on my game, get better and make my teammates better," Rosario said. "I want to try to help the young guys out with my experience, help the freshmen get to where they have to go. I feel like that's my responsibility this year."
Boynton said Rosario's presence means he has to play better defense in practices, as Rosario can spot up from just about anywhere. He put on a brief shooting clinic for reporters Wednesday.
-Agents are on Billy D's mind, too
Agents have been a hot topic in college football this season, but they're a problem for basketball coaches as well. Donovan spoke about the issue Wednesday, saying the main problem is that during the offseason, college players want to keep preparing for professional careers, and because they can't do that with their college coaches, they have to go other places where agents could be lurking.
"I'd say it's probably as bad (as in football)," Donovan said. "It's amazing because I think in a lot of ways you see a lot of this pop up right now and a lot of people act like they can't believe it happens. It's been going on for a long, long time. I don't think there's anything to necessarily do about it in the sport of basketball until the Players' Association who's in charge of the agents, the NCAA and David Stern, if they could all somehow come together and resolve it."