Who backs up Kasey Hill at point guard?

Kasey Hill might be the most heralded point guard recruit that Billy Donovan has ever landed at Florida. Looking at the first month of the season, Hill might also be the only point guard Donovan has. With All-SEC defender Scottie Wilbekin doing penance for violating team rules until December and Rutgers transfer Eli Carter, who is as comfortable at both the point and wing, coming back from a broken leg and still working himself back into good enough physical condition to practice, Hill is Florida’s only certain option when the season begins in less than a month.

A McDonald’s All-American from Clermont via Montverde Academy, Hill is easily the quickest guard Donovan has ever recruited but for all his ability, he still has to learn a complicated offensive scheme – Florida runs as many offensive sets as any team in the country – while also picking up a defensive philosophy rooted in shutting down the perimeter and taking away the three-point shot. It’s a lot for any freshman to take on, especially someone who will have the responsibilities of principle ball handler and starting the offense.

Through Florida’s first two days of practice, Donovan says he hasn’t had to dumb things down so that Hill can keep pace.

“I have not been in a situation where I’ve had to hold back and go a little bit slower,” Donovan said Saturday morning. “He’s kind of absorbing and picking up everything we’re putting in so far.”

Donovan hasn’t hesitated to pit Hill against Wilbekin head-to-head in practice, figuring that the experience Wilbekin has picked up while playing a vital role in three straight Florida appearances in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament will rub off against a precocious freshman. Although he can’t play until December while working his way back from suspension, Wilbekin is allowed to practice with the team.

It’s a chance for Donovan force Hill to learn on the fly against a premier defender who has earned his lock down who has earned his lock down reputation.

“I’ve separated those guys because I think that for Kasey to go against Scottie as a veteran guy is a good thing,” Donovan said. I also think that Scottie’s future based on him holding up his end of the bargain and taking care of his responsibilities in the next phase here before he actually comes back to playing in games and those kind of things – I think that Kasey needs to be in a situation where he may have to stand on his own two feet a little bit right now.”

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 It is possible that Carter will be able to contribute at some point in the month of November, but Donovan can’t begin to tell you when or how much. A junior with two years of eligibility remaining, Carter comes to Gainesville with a scorer’s reputation but he was an outstanding point guard in high school and filled in at the point at Rutgers where he averaged 14.9 per game last year and 13.8 in 2012.

Ideally, Donovan would like to keep Carter on the wing opposite shooter deluxe Michael Frazier where he could balance the floor with a three-point shooter on either side. Frazier, whose job it was to come off the bench and bust up zones last year as a freshman for the Gators, gained valuable experience playing for Donovan and the USA team that won the gold medal at the under-19 world championships in Prague during the summer.

Donovan has actually toyed with the possibility of Frazier taking some backup minutes at the point but thought better of it.

“I don’t know if a guy like Mike Frazier if that would take away too much of what he does well in terms of shooting the ball and scoring by putting the ball in his hands,” Donovan said.

So with Wilbekin sidelined the first month, Carter out until who knows when and Frazier probably not an option, who gets the backup minutes at the point until the Gators are back at full strength? One option would be 6-4 sophomore Dillon Graham, who averaged 3.5 minutes a game last year as a freshman. The other would be Virginia Tech transfer Dorian (Doe-Doe) Finney-Smith, a 6-8 athletic freak who can play and defend all five positions on the floor.

“Right now that’s who we would probably be looking at – Doe-Doe, Dillon Graham – those guys would be the most logical right now,” Donovan said.

In high school in Orlando, Graham was Mr. Basketball for the state in his classification. He has a good shooter’s touch from long distance and is a high flyer who first caught Donovan’s eye by dunking on Shabazz Muhammad at an AAU tournament in Atlanta.

“Dillon is a very good passer,” Donovan said. “He’s a good distributor and he’s got good speed.”

As a freshman at Virginia Tech, Finney-Smith actually played all five positions, sometimes in the same game. Playing on the same AAU team (Boo Williams Summer League) with James Michael McAdoo (North Carolina) and Justin Anderson (Virginia), Finney-Smith was the full time high post and backup point guard.

Finney-Smith’s versatility allows Donovan to go big or small with his lineup. Donovan is already contemplating using Finney-Smith and senior Casey Prather together quite often because they can interchange from the wing to the high post. But, Finney-Smith is such a good passer and ball handler that Donovan knows he can use him to eat up some minutes at the point until Wilbekin and Carter return.

“Right now that’s who we would probably be looking at – Doe-Doe, Dillon Graham – those guys would be the most logical right now,” Donovan said.

Having a versatile player like Finney-Smith will help Donovan compensate until his roster is intact.  Right now he’s without Will Yeguete, who can defend all three front court positions, along with Carter and Wilbekin. After the semester break in December, Donovan will also pick up 6-10 Chris Walker, who should be declared eligible by the NCAA.

When everyone is healthy and eligible, Donovan will have a roster that from top to bottom gives him more options than he’s had perhaps the 1999-2000 season when the Gators reached the NCAA title game.

“I think that with a full complete roster that we have a really athletic team,” Donovan said. “We don’t have great depth right now at certain positions because of the injuries.”

At some point that changes. The only question is when.

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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.