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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Listening to Nick Calathes talk, you would never know he's one of the most decorated high school basketball players in Florida history.

Calathes is a "yes sir, no sir" gentleman, who even corrected himself once when he said the more vulgar form of the word "heck."

Many say the 6-foot-6 freshman guard bears a strong resemblance to UF coach Billy Donovan.

Staying humble is his mantra, an example of keeping his focus pointed in the right direction.

"I have a good part in the system and whatever coach asks, I'll just try to do the best I can," Calathes said. "That's all anyone can do, and I don't think I'm any different."

Calathes may have trouble admitting it, but he does stand in a rarified air of his own.

The freshman's resume is loaded with accolades almost too numerous to count.

To begin with, the former Lack Howell High star is the leading scorer in Seminole County history and third overall in Central Florida, behind former Memphis standout Darius Washington Jr. and former UF guard LaDarius Halton.

Calathes is also only the third player to be elected Mr. Basketball in the state of Florida as a junior and the third to ever win the award twice.

During his senior year, Calathes was named the Gatorade Player of the Year, and he was a starter on the 2007 McDonald's All-American East team.

With all that in mind, Calathes enters the Gators' program with more promise than perhaps any player in the Donovan era.

In a rebuilding year it seems obvious that he would play a major role, but it has yet to be decided whose shoes Calathes will fill.

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"He's got the ball-handling skills in the open floor to certainly be a point guard, but how he handles the ball against pressure or against quick, athletic guards, that remains to be seen," Donovan said. "I think Nicky's a versatile player. He'll be all over the place."

Calathes understands he must handle the complicated role by putting in extra time at the gym and by paying attention to areas of his game he once neglected.

"I never used to box out in high school, and I'm learning to box out now," Calathes said. "Every possession counts, and that will be good for us. In high school we killed everybody that we played. Now I'm playing the one, two and three, so I need to box out, rebound and do all the little things."

A celebrated group of former Gators know firsthand what Calathes brings to the court.

In the past year, when the 2006 Gators were celebrating their second national title, the '04s took some time to keep a tradition alive.

Similar to the famous pick-up game between the '04s and former players David Lee, Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson in 2005, the old Gators took on the new ones in a five-game battle.

Calathes drew the assignment of Corey Brewer.

Calathes said the matchup gave him fits, but he managed to hold his own.

"It was real fun," he said. "They got us three out of five, but that's five NBA players. We we're just trying to compete, and we did."

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