Florida’s success in 2012-13 will hinge on the play of four wild cards.
Mike Rosario, Casey Prather, Braxton Ogbueze and Michael Frazier II are unknowns. If all four are duds, the Gators will struggle to generate offense.
But if one or two can turn into a top-flight offensive threat, Florida could be in line for a special year.
One of coach Billy Donovan’s biggest challenges this season will be finding consistent scoring options.
Given that Kenny Boynton has a strong chance to finish his career as UF’s all-time leading scorer, Florida’s ability to fill it up wouldn’t seem to be in question.
Although Boynton led the team in scoring last season, the offense ran mostly through Erving Walker and Brad Beal, neither of whom will be back this year.
Boynton’s scoring could even decrease as he plays more minutes at point guard and attempts to become a distributor. Either way, Donovan’s teams have never been about one player carrying the offensive load.
So who is going to step up?
Fans have been waiting for Patric Young to show up with a dominant post game to match his imposing physicality, but don’t hold your breath. Young and Donovan have both said Young’s focus remains on defense, rebounding and running the floor — not becoming a more potent option offensively.
Erik Murphy averaged double-figure points by drilling 59 threes last season, but don’t expect those looks to come as easily with Beal and Walker out of the picture. Donovan has praised Murphy’s improved physicality and post moves, but after two seasons of watching Murphy do little aside from hang on the perimeter, I’ll believe it when I see it.
Scottie Wilbekin is taking over at point guard, and according to all the chatter, he’s improved his ability to drive and hit the three. But for the past two seasons he’s been involved in a lower percentage of offensive possessions than anyone else on the roster, so I don’t see him suddenly carrying the load.
This means the Gators will have to rely on one of four breakout candidates to step forward.
Rosario seemed like the most likely choice a week ago, but he turned the ball over four times and missed badly on all three of his tries from beyond the arc in Thursday’s exhibition. The talented but mercurial redshirt senior has drawn praise from Donovan for his consistency in practice, but translating that to the court is a different story, especially on defense.
Frazier led UF with 21 points in UF’s exhibition win against Nebraska-Kearney, proving only that he has elite range and can hit open shots.
Ogbueze also made an impressive debut, showing explosiveness and athleticism en route to 15 points. Boynton said Ogbueze could be the type of scoring point guard the Gators need, but it was just one game against Division II competition. Donovan loves the effort of the two freshmen, but he cautioned against buying into one good day.
Prather flashed in the NCAA Tournament last season, and his athleticism is undeniable. But he’s never curbed the turnover problem, and two concussions in nine days smells like the start of a long-term issue.
The Gators should be a great defensive team, but the offense will lag behind unless an unexpected contributor can rise to the challenge.
Contact Greg Luca at [email protected].