It’s not often a college basketball coach’s greatest challenge is trying to figure out how to mix a top ten class in with the top seven payers returning from the national champs. Actually, I bet no coach has ever had to deal with that situation; although I’m sure every coach would love such a challenge.
The Gators are unquestionably a better team than they were a year ago at this time. Florida has seven players back, all of whom have far more experience than they had last October. Most, if not all of them are also bigger and stronger heading into this campaign. Additionally the Gators have lost Adrian Moss and David Huertas while adding a much more talented quartet of freshmen. Dan Werner, Jonathan Mitchell, Marreese Speights and Brandon Powell will be key elements for the future of Gator Basketball but their roles for this season are yet to be determined. Donovan talked about working the rookies in and making sure the team chemistry is disrupted as little as possible.
Donovan On how this team will be different from last year:
BD: It is going to be different because anytime you add different ingredients to the “soup” it’s going to taste different. We don’t have Adrian (Moss) here, David Huertas is not here and we added four new players. Now those four players have got to handle their roles. And our guys have all got to work on the team chemistry part. I think it’s like if you were living in a house and all of a sudden you had three new guys living in your house every thing is peaceful for a while it may change the complexion of your house a little bit. I’m not saying I view the freshmen as outsiders but we are a different team.
On what they’ll miss from Adrian Moss:
BD: I understand when people sit there and they say, ‘you know what, even though you lost Adrian Moss he really wasn’t that big of a contributing factor when you look at the stats’. Adrian Moss was a great leader and a great locker room guy when he had his energy focused in the right way. Yeah, when you look on paper it was not a big loss losing Adrian in terms of stats (11 min., 3.1 pt. 2.4 reb.) but in terms of what he did for his five years here he did a great job with Horford, Noah and some of our post people.
On what the freshman class has shown in early workouts:
BD: I would say that the freshmen as a group in terms of the things we’re throwing at them right now is not the fastest at picking things up. Horford, Noah, Brewer and Taurean Green were very quick as them or some of the other groups I’ve had. These guys, it’s been a little bit slower process for them. They have shown up with a lot of humility and understanding that there are veteran guys ahead of them.
On Marreese Speights:
BD: This is a great year for him playing against the front court he’s going to be playing against, because he doesn’t understand each day how hard he has to compete against those guys to be effective. His level of consistency has been up and down but he has great potential and great ability. This is going to be a great experience for him in terms of learning and growing.
On Dan Werner:
BD: He’s got the ability to play two positions. He can play a little “3” and he can play some “4”. He gives us a different complexion in the front court because he can really shoot, he has very good range. He’ll be a nice compliment if he’s in there with a Noah, Horford or Chris Richard because he can stretch the defense. He’s a tough kid, a competitive kid; he’s a guy who can help our basketball team this year.
On Lawrence Mitchell:
BD: He’s another guy that can play a couple of positions, but we’ve probably thrown too much at him right now having him learn two positions. We’re probably going to settle in on one spot for him (likely small forward behind Corey Brewer) because that’s a lot to learn. That’s why last year I had Walter Hodge just playing the “2”. But Jonathan is going to help us
On Brandon Powell:
BD: He’s a very good athlete, highly, highly competitive. He’s lacking experience in picking up the things we do in our system and he just needs to gain that experience. He could end up being a lock down defender for us, because he has the ability, athleticism and toughness to be that type of defender. He gives us athleticism and length in the backcourt.
An early prediction would be that Warner plays the most among the freshmen followed by Powell, but that’s just a guess. Injuries may do more than anything else to determine which of Florida’s freshmen see significant time this season. However one thing is obvious: they will ALL be major factors for the Gators in the 2007-08 campaign and beyond.