The Gators officially open up their season on Friday night against North Dakota State. This years team is unranked and has a totally different look than the years past. The most senior player on the team is junior guard Walter Hodge. Of the 12 players, the Gators have 2 juniors, 3 sophomores and the rest are freshman. Gator fans have seen their team win back to back championships and look good doing it. Fans will have to remember that these players have talent, but will be learning on the fly this season.
Even though the Gators lost the core of their team, they are not without talent on the roster. Billy Donovan has done a great job of recruiting in the past couple of years and the cupboard is not bare. The Gators have talented players on the team and if they buy into Billy's system early the team could very well exceed expectations. Expect the Gators to run a faster more up tempo game then they have in the past and they may go back to pressing more often they have in the past couple of seasons. Donovan has the athletes and numbers he needs to run his press for most of the game and with a young team this may be the best system to run and put the pressure on the other teams. Here are the players that will be running that system:
Jai Lucas - Freshman - PG
Lucas was the 7th ranked point guard last year by rivals.com. In his senior season he averaged 26.3 PPG and 7.5 assists per game. He was a 2007 McDonald's All-American and a Parade All-American as well. Lucas is very quick and has great vision. He looks to get other people involved and is a true point guard. Lucas is also a great defender, which Donovan strives for in his players.
Walter Hodge - Junior - SG
The most senior player on the team and the only member left on the team from the back to back national championship squad. Hodge was a great player off of the bench last year, but with all the starters gone he now has the chance to step up and step into the lineup. He is a great offensive guard and also had the second most assists on the team last season. His defense is not as good as one would hope, but it is not bad.
Marreese Speights - Sophomore - C
Speights actually got some time in last year for Al Horford and Joakim Noah when they needed a breather or were in foul trouble. He looked very good in his short time last year and was a big force down low. His is a very good rebounder and makes great passes out of the post. He has a great wingspan, which will help him to block shots. Speights has great natural talent, his defense is great, and he showed his offensive prowess last year as well.
Nick Calathes - Freshman - SF
Calathes was actually ranked higher as a point guard than Lucas by rivals.com and other recruiting websites. His abilities and body type allow him to play point guard, shooting guard, or small forward. He has great vision, great perimeter shooting, and can talk the ball to the hole when he needs to. He is one of three people in Florida High School basketball history to be Mr. Basketball for the State of Florida for two consecutive years. In his senior season he averaged 27.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4,6 assists a game.
Dan Werner - Sophomore - PF
Werner also go to play a little last season to give the starters a breather. Werner is able to play both the power and small forward positions. He has great range and is a great three point shooter, while also being able to play the physical game down low and get the rebounds that the Gators need. He reminds many of former Gator Matt Bonner in some regards of the way he plays.
Jonathan Mitchell - Sophomore - F
Adam Allen - Freshman - F
Hudson Fricke - Freshman - G
Chandler Parsons - Freshman - F
Shayne Payne - Freshman - G/F
Michael Weisenberg - Junior
Alex Tyus - Freshman - F