The following excerpt comes from Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, the “bible” of college basketball now in its 32nd printing. Edited by SEC Digital Network contributor Chris Dortch, Blue Ribbon is a 400-page preview that features full stories on 345 Division I teams. To order a copy, go to www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 877-807-4857.
Key returning player: Patric Young (6-9, JR, C)
No one on famed Muscle Beach has anything on the chiseled Young in the physique department. And if you talk to the guy, you quickly realize he’s smart, introspective and wants to be good, dominant even.
Florida coach Billy Donovan wants that, too, obviously. So why hasn’t Young consistently played up to the level his physical gifts and intelligence would seem to portend? Last year he had nothing but opportunity after the Gators’ rugged frontcourt from the season before was gutted by graduation, and he played well enough. But Donovan thinks Young is capable of much better.
“I think he thought the adjustment of going from playing off the bench to a starter was going to be an easier transition,” Donovan said.
It wasn’t, and Donovan knows why—fatigue.
“Patric plays in bursts,” Donovan said. “He has two-minute bursts that he can sustain. I told him he needs to be the best-conditioned frontcourt player in the country and learn how to play through fatigue and keep his motor running longer than a minute or two.”
Another issue with Young, just as it is with most young players who have legitimate NBA aspirations, is that he’s measured his worth by his offensive production. Donovan has some advice for him.
“Patric came in here as a very raw offensive player, and he’s going to get better every year of his life going forward,” Donovan said. “But he’s not going to be a No 1, 2 or 3 scoring option in the NBA. He’s gonna be a rebounder and a shot blocker and run he floor. He’s got to be an effort guy. He’s got to be like [Serge] Ibaka from Oklahoma City, or like some of the kids we’ve had in our program.
“We’ve had guys go on to play in the NBA—[Al] Horford, [Joakim] Noah, [Matt] Bonner, [Udonis] Haslem—those guys could all play through fatigue and keep going. Joakim just got paid $60 million [when he resigned with the Chicago Bulls in 2010], and he’s a non-scoring guy in the NBA.”
None of this is to suggest Young can’t be a scorer. But Donovan wants him to realize his strengths and play to them.
“Can Patric make a jump hook?” Donovan said. “Absolutely. Can he make a 15-foot jump shot? Absolutely. He’s a physical kid who doesn’t shy away from contact. He’s a terrific kid who’s all about team. He wants to win.
“What he needs to learn is that you have to get in incredible shape. Last year he played 26 minutes a game. He should play more than that.”
And if he does, Young just might lead the Gators to the Final Four berth that’s barely eluded them the last two years.
Key newcomer: Braxton Ogbueze (6-0, FR, PG).
Desperately in need of a point guard to be the eventual replacement for Erving Walker, Ogbueze, rated by ESPN as the No. 7 point guard in the class of 2012, was a find for the Gators. He’s Donovan’s kind of player, a guy who, during high school routinely dragged himself out of bed at 4 a.m. to work on strength and conditioning before hitting the court for basketball-related drills.
Donovan loves him some gym rats, and Ogbueze qualifies. Whether he starts this season at the point, given that Scottie Wilbekin has already played the position on a limited basis for two years, is uncertain. But Ogbueze will play.
“I think he’ll be capable,” McCall said. “He can shoot it. He can put it down. He has pretty good quickness and speed. And he’s just a tough kid.
“He’s not at the level that Scottie’s at, but a lot can change. His discipline and worth ethic are second to none.”