Gators open season with North Florida

Never one to miss out on a teaching opportunity, Billy Donovan wasn’t the least bit dismayed by Florida Southern’s three-point barrage last Friday night in Florida’s 110-88 exhibition win over the Moccasins at the O-Dome. Florida Southern hit 13-30 from the three-point line and the 88 points were more than the Gators gave up in any game last season when they made it to the Elite Eight round of the NCAA for the third straight year.

“I’m happy they were able to make the amount of threes that they made because it was a great opportunity for us to show film and really use a lot of those things in terms of corrections and teaching points and those kind of things,” Donovan said Thursday afternoon before the Gators went through their final tune-up for Friday’s season-opener against North Florida at the O-Dome (3 p.m., Sun Sports).

Donovan can expect something similar from North Florida. The Ospreys don’t have great size but they have an athletic team that shoots the ball well, particularly from the three-point line. Donovan knows that for the Gators to play at a similar or higher level than last season that the defensive effort begins at the three-point line.

“That’s an area that we’ve got to get better at,” Donovan said. “You know, we were, inside the three-point line and even behind the line last year, a really, really good defensive team. And that’s an area where we’ve got to continually get better, and it starts from behind the line.”


The Gators could get some minutes out of Michael Frazier, who missed last week’s exhibition game with Florida Southern due to mononucleosis. Scottie Wilbekin, Damontre Harris and Dorian Finney-Smith remain suspended, but if Frazier can play the Gators will have eight scholarship players and two walk-ons available.

There are no new injuries to report this week although Kasey Hill has been slowed a bit with some back problems.

Kasey Hill has been dealing with some back issues. He should be cleared to play. He’s been in an out of practice this week. Frazier, we’ll probably find out a lot more of what he is actually capable of today (Thursday) in practice and what his status is for tomorrow. Eli Carter will be cleared to play. Will Yeguete is cleared to play.”

Donovan said Frazier has not been practicing but has begun doing drills again.

He did do some individual work yesterday. He got into a few non-contact drills. He’s cleared — not to go through practice — but he’s cleared to at least see how he responds. So we’ll do a little bit more with him today. And basically that’s a decision between the trainer and the doctor, so we’ll probably have a better idea after practice or tomorrow whether or not he’ll be available.”


Suspensions, injuries, sickness and suspensions have made this one of the most difficult preseasons for Donovan and his staff. The team the Gators send out on the floor Friday will look a whole lot different than the one the Gators will play with in January.

We’re hopeful we get the full complement of players back and have a full roster. What our team looked like on paper before the year started, maybe we’ll look like that at some point during the season,” Donovan said. “Right now, it’s just about guys we have getting ready for tomorrow.”


Donovan expects a big season out of Patric Young, but he knows his senior center is a far better person than he will ever be a basketball player.

In a day and age when a lot of kids have the opportunity to go to the NBA, here’s a young man that decided he wanted to stay in college,” Donovan said. “I think that says a lot about him in terms of his priorities and what’s important to him in his life and going through a four-year experience and getting his degree and maybe playing basketball after it’s over with.

The one thing that’s great about Patric, to me, is he is so gifted and so talented in every area of his life that he can do anything he wants. That’s the beauty of him is he can do anything he wants because he’s that gifted. He’s gifted as a student. He’s a great interview. He’s a great speaker. He’s got a good heart. He’s a good person. So there’s a lot of things that he can do.”


With Wilbekin suspended until December, freshman Kasey Hill is the only true point guard on the roster. Hill scored 17 points against Florida Southern although he didn’t hit a single outside shot. Donovan knows Hill has the quickness and athletic ability to get to the rim off the bounce, but he’s looking for improvement over what he’s seen so far.

It’s one thing to go by somebody and then there’s another thing in terms of making the right decision, the right play or being able to finish,” Donovan said.  We haven’t had somebody like that in a while. Kasey has to do a better job finishing. He’s good at it, but he needs to a lot better for as much as he’s in the lane. Now in the game against Florida Southern on his drives in the open floor to the rim, he was taking layups. It’s going to be a little bit different when there’s 6-10, 6-11 guys back there altering shots or at the basket. Can he still finish those kind of plays?”


The Ospreys of the Atlantic Sun Conference finished 13-19 last season. The focal point of North Florida’s offense is 6-6, 230-pound Travis Wallace, who averaged 14.2 points per game last year. Beau Beech is a 6-8 shooting guard who averaged 7.9 points per game last year.

Donovan said the Ospreys have plenty of shooters and a very athletic team. They shoot it from three or four different positions. They’re athletic across the front line.

It’s the first game of the season and although the Ospreys will have three new starters in the lineup including a freshman point guard, Donovan has a pretty good idea what to expect.

They are going to play hard. They’ll play with great energy and great effort. They’ve got a lot of different pieces, and even though some of those pieces are new, I think they still have some very, very talented pieces.”


NORTH FLORIDA: Travis Wallace (6-6, 230, SR); Charles McRoy (6-6, 205, SR); Demarcus Daniels (6-7, 190, SO); Beau Beech (6-8, 190, SO); Dallas Moore (6-0, 160, FR)

FLORIDA: Will Yeguete (6-8, 230, SR); Casey Prather (6-6, 212, SR); Patric Young (6-9, 240, SR); Kasey Hill (6-1, 181, FR); DeVon Walker (6-6, 195, SO)

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.