2008 Florida Gators Basketball Preview
The 2007-2008 season was coach Billy Donovan’s 12th with the Florida Gators (24-12 overall, 8-8 SEC). After guiding his club to two straight National Championships in 2006 and 2007, Donovan, whose team lost a lot of talent last season and finished fourth in the SEC East, coached the Gators to a semifinals defeat in the NIT. In the semis, Massachusetts defeated them 78-66.
The primary force the Gators lost from last season is center Marreese Speights who scored an average of 14.5 PPG, grabbed 8.1 RPG and had 1.8 BPG. True freshmen Eloy Vargas, who’s six-foot-ten and 215 pounds, and Kenny Kadji, who is six-foot-ten and 245 pounds, will likely be given the chance to play. Both show good height but lack the bulk to bang. Power forward Dan Werner (27.2 MPG, 9.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.5 APG, 44.0 FT%, 77.3 FG%), a junior, is a workhorse with a solid three-pointer. Sophomore forward/center Alex Tyus (12.7 MPH, 4.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.3 APG, 54.0 FG%, 54.3 FT%) showed some fine shooting and rebounding chops last season. Chandler Parsons (20.7 MPG, 8.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.4 APG, 47.2 FG%, 62.7 FT%) offered fine moments both inside and from downtown.
As a freshman last season, guard Nick Calathes (32.6 MPG, 15.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 6.1 APG, 42.6 FG%, 72.4 FT%) led the Gators in scoring. The versatile Calathes is an expert passer, fine free throw shooter and tough rebounder. It’s hoped after one-year of experience, he’ll improve his decision-making. Senior guard Walter Hodge ((30.6 MPG, 10.4 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.9 APG, 48.0 FG%, 75.6 FT%), who played on both National Championship teams, was consistent from downtown. He also showed better-than-average speed. Combo guard Jai Lucas (30.1 MPG, 8.5 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 2.3 APG, 46.0 FG%, 71.4 FT%) adds depth to the backcourt.
With a stable of experienced returning talent and some fine recruits,
these Gators should do better than last year’s team. Donovan
looks to get his guys back to the Big Dance in 2008-2009. They won’t
make it to the Elite 8 but a victory or two in the NCAA tourney
is not out of the question.