Along with forward Casey Prather and since transferred Cody Larson, Scottie Wilbekin was first in the summer of 2010. First on campus, first in the dorm, first to meet the coaches on his first day of classes, all of which makes sense seeing as how Wilbekin plays the point guard spot, or in basketball jargon “the one position.” Will Yeguete came next, and Patric Young a few days after that. They didn’t all arrive at the same time but this group of seniors would quickly gel, and Wilbekin, the youngest member of the group would lead them.
Much like his fellow seniors, defense came naturally from a talent standpoint, it was the offense that needed work, and Wilbekin put the effort in with late night shootarounds with coaches and teammates to get better. He described that first day as “weird and new,” now on the precipice of the unprecedented (an 18-0 conference season) he’s leaning on staples that could be described as normal and old.
“In order to do that we’ve got to do what we’ve done all year and just focus on the game, try to win the game and that’s how we get all those extra things,” Wilbekin said.
Sometimes extra things aren’t desirable. Wilbekin learned that the hard way with a suspension to start his senior year. It was the second suspension of his UF career, and coming back to the team would only come with a warning and a challenge from his head coach to change or transfer.
“For our team to be better and for him to be better, he needed to change,” Donovan told reporters in mid-February. “Really, the point of me asking him to transfer if that’s what he wanted to do was really more under the umbrella of, ‘If you don’t want to change and you want to stay who you are and you want to be doing the things that you’ve been doing that are not going to work here, then you’re better off moving on.”
Wilbekin did what he needed to do, and emerged as a front-runner for SEC player of the year while he was doing it. It’s been a long journey and a full career for the 17-year-old boy that showed up first on campus. He and his fellow seniors are now men, practically nursing home age by current college basketball standards, but Saturday they’ll step on the court for the final time in orange and blue. By about 2:30 they’ll be done revving up home crowds and Gator chomping while the Rowdy Reptiles go ballistic after a spur of the moment scoring run.
Eventually firsts turn into lasts in life, and when the clock hits triple zeroes on senior day, Wilbekin will allow himself to feel the finality of his achievements, with the knowledge of course that there is more to come.
“That’s how I want it to be,” Wilbekin said. “Obviously I want to make the most out of it, but I can’t let whatever moment it is, and the rest of the guys can’t let whatever moment it is be bigger than the big game we have to play. That’s what we’ve been trying to focus on.”