Preseason Q&A Part Three

It’s time for another instalment of the Question And Answer series at Gator Country where I field questions about Florida basketball from subscribers of the site.


As is tradition–I will do as many parts as required in order to answer all the questions that come my way.


If you haven’t already read part two of the series, you can do so here. 


If you want to have a question answered and aren’t yet a Gator Country subscriber, you can do that now and get ready for an excellent season of basketball coverage! Let’s begin.


Northerngator: What area of this team will make opponents fear us most? Three-point shooting, defense, athleticism?


Florida’s staff is confident about the team’s offense and Chris Harry has reported that the offense is ahead of the defense right now, but talking to other coaches in the SEC–it’s defense that will be the biggest concern. Of course, there is a lot of time before the Gators are a finished product–remember, last year the Gators scored the ball pretty well the first couple of weeks and couldn’t guard and then completely flipped the switch and defended well for the rest of the season while, well, really hurting offensively. 


With the incoming transfers the Gators have a good amount of offensive talent, which was on display against Miami in the scrimmage, but I will need to see it be successful for a sustained amount of time before I believe it. Golden is a defensive coach, and the Gators have more length and athleticism than last year when they were a solid defensive club. Look for defense to be the strength of this team once again. 


Atllagator: Can you compare/contrast Alex Condon, Aleks Szymczyk, and Thomas Haugh? Seems like all the same types of players.


Respectfully, I’m going to have the disagree with the assessment of these being the same type of players, and here’s why:


Condon is a lanky 6’11” defensive menace who uses quickness to get into the passing lanes defensively. He loves to rebound the ball, and loves to run in transition even more. His game is fighting for a defense rebound, outletting the ball to a point guard, and then sprinting down the court and beating his man to the rim for a layup. 


Aleks Szymczyk is a pick and pop player largely. He’s got wide shoulders and was a consistent shooter in Germany before heading to Gainesville, and he’s said to be a consistent shooter in practice (though he didn’t see much game action to prove it a year ago). 


Thomas Haugh has more ball handling chops than the other two bigs, and I think in a perfect world Haugh would tell you that he’s more of a small forward than a power forward. He can string together a couple of dribbles before getting into his jumper which the other two can’t really do, and he’s also someone who likes to handle the ball in transition.


I see these players as three fairly different styles of player, and it will give Golden some different tools to play with. 


Bigdog13: Do you think the starting lineup will change after Pullin serves his 3 game suspension?


Not immediately, but I do think eventually Zyon Pullin will demand a starting role. Who starts is less important than ever, and even if Pullin stays on the bench I bet he gets a ton of minutes and has the ball in his hands for a lot of it when he’s on the floor. Given that he is best with the ball in his hands it might work most effectively for Pullin to come off the bench and give an offensive spark in that role, which could hurt the starting potential.


If Pullin never ends up starting for that reason it would be completely understandable, but I do think he is talented enough that he will command a starting role eventually. 


Gatormaine: How about the kid from San Francisco? I saw he is cleared for full contact and apparently is a very good three-point shooter.


The “kid from San Francisco” in question is Julian Rishwain, a 6’5” guard who played for Todd Golden for a couple of seasons before Golden took the Florida job. Rishwain’s best season came two years ago as a junior when he shot 43% from three–the player that Golden is hoping can be replicated at Florida. However, last year couldn’t have gone much worse for Rishwain as he shot only 24% from three and then suffered a devastating season-ending knee injury 20 games into the season. It was thought that he might miss much of the 2023-24 season, but he is ahead of schedule and has been cleared for contact with Golden saying he could be available in a matter of weeks.


Rishwain filled Florida’s final scholarship spot this offseason, so it’s not like he’s going to be expected to do a whole lot. If he can be a 43% three-point shooter again the Gators can probably find a role for him, but if not–it’s hard to see him getting on the floor. 


During Rishwain’s junior season when he shot 43% from three he only averaged 7.4 points per game–so he didn’t bring a lot other than shooting. Then, as a senior last season–he averaged 5.0 points per game while shooting 24% from three.


This might come across as awfully negative, but on the surface–it’s a 5.0 PPG player from the West Coast Conference coming off a major knee injury, and that doesn’t exactly seem like a recipe for success in the SEC.


Digging deeper, it’s a player that by all accounts is a fantastic young man and a great personality to have in the locker room. Given that it was Florida’s final scholarship to fill, this was a zero-risk acquisition, and anything Rishwain brings to the court is gravy. If he is able to be a contributor it will be a tremendous story, and I’ll be cheering for him. 


If you want to read more about Rishwain, you can do so here.


That’s all for now, thank you to our Gator Country subscribers for sending in questions!

Eric Fawcett
Eric is a basketball coach and writer from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His work has been found at NBA international properties, ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @ericfawcett_.