One of the biggest storylines in college basketball this season is the Florida Gators’ backcourt. People are saying it is the deepest and most talented backcourt in the country, and comparing their lineup to the four-guard lineup Villanova employed in the mid-2000s with Randy Foye, Allan Ray, Kyle Lowry, and Mike Nardi that helped Nova reach the Elite Eight in 2005. People see the Florida backcourt and they see a fourth-year starter in Erving Walker, a third-year starter in Kenny Boynton, a 16-point per game scorer from the Big East in Mike Rosario, and a top-five recruit in Bradley Beal. However, what people don’t see when talking about that backcourt, or just choose to overlook, is Scottie Wilbekin.
In fact, in Dime’s own preview of Florida, Wilbekin’s name was not even mentioned. While people overlook Wilbekin when talking about the 2011-12 Gators, it is hard to overlook what he did for last season’s Elite Eight team as a 17-year-old kid.
“I had been playing AAU ball with the guys I came in with for three years (Will Yeguete and Patric Young) after my junior year,” says Wilbekin when explaining why he skipped his senior year of high school to enroll early at Florida. “At that point it was just determining if Florida was the right fit for me, but ultimately I decided I wanted to stay home in Gainesville for school and enrolled at Florida after that.”
Wilbekin is a sophomore point guard who was the first guard off the bench for Billy Donovan last season while serving as a backup to both Boynton and Walker. He played 17 minutes a game and only averaged 2.4 points per contest, but that is not what got him on the floor last year, and won’t be what gets him on the floor this year. He had the best assist-to-turnover ratio on the team last season, and is viewed as the only pure point guard on the Gators’ roster. However, even more importantly, Wilbekin is likely the team’s best perimeter defender. Last year, upon entering the game, Wilbekin was usually charged with guarding the other team’s best player – a task ranging from Kentucky’s Brandon Knight to BYU’s Jimmer Fredette in the NCAA Tournament.
“Yeah I love that,” says Wilbekin about his role as a defensive stopper. “That’s my favorite thing to do, get stops on defense and making big plays on that end really gets me going. Coach Donovan told me that he wants me to be even more of a pest on defense this year and have more of an impact on that end which is something I’m really looking forward to.”
While having four other guards on the roster who are all capable of being All-SEC performers might discourage someone in Wilbekin’s position, he sees it as a chance to get better. There are few guards in the country better than the ones Florida has this year, and the opportunity to go up against them each day in practice makes games almost easy for him. He figures if he can limit those guys every day in practice, then there are few guys in the country he won’t be able to match up with. Additionally, with all the hype surrounding Florida, one might think Wilbekin would be disappointed his name is not usually attached, especially considering he was part of an Elite Eight team last year, but that doesn’t bother him either.
“Umm, no”, he says about if the media attention his teammates garner bothers him. “I just look at it from the standpoint of when I do something that deserves to be recognized then they will recognize me, but I haven’t done that yet and I can’t worry about that stuff. I just need to focus on getting my game better, but I’m happy for all the other guys and not worried about that.”
While Wilbekin can play off the presence of four elite guards on his team and the lack of media recognition he gets, the reality is that all five of Florida’s guards are going to have to share a certain number of minutes, and Wilbekin likely will not play as much as he did last year. Saying that, it is likely that the now 18-year-old sophomore will do something worthy of recognition this year, and many members of the media will be left wondering why they never mentioned Wilbekin’s name when talking about Florida’s elite backcourt.
How far do you think the Gators can go this season?
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