GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- "How many college games have you seen already?" Billy Donovan asked moments after his Florida Gators started their season with a 77-60 win over UNC-Wilmington, and I knew where he was going.
Same place most coaches with ranked teams go after their first game.
He wanted to know how his team compared to others.
What I told Donovan is that I haven't seen enough to know (the season just began!), but that an uneven start is hardly unique, even for a team ranked ninth nationally. Yeah, Chandler Parsons committed four turnovers while Kenny Boynton missed all six of his 3-point attempts, and that wasn't ideal. But what I mostly saw Friday night here at the O'Connell Center is a Florida team that's big and talented and experienced in the frontcourt, and deep enough to wear opponents down. I watched six guys score at least nine points, eight guys play at least 16 minutes. Was I blown away? No. But there's not a single thing that happened that has me wanting to change my prediction that the Gators will win the SEC, and I actually found myself pleasantly surprised by one of the Florida freshmen.
McDonald's All-American Patric Young?
(He looked physically imposing, but completely lost.)
Top 75 recruit Casey Prather?
(He was fine, but forgettable.)
The freshman who made the biggest impact for Florida -- and looked the most comfortable on the court, by far -- was Scottie Wilbekin, an unheralded recruit from Gainesville who was listed as a 17-year-old high school junior as recently as May. Wilbekin is now a 17-year-old college freshman because he graduated early to enroll at Florida early. The 6-foot-2 point guard finished with five assists and four steals in 17 quality minutes against UNC-Wilmington, and he's going to be somebody Donovan can and will use in the rotation to relieve starting point guard Erving Walker.
"Scottie, I thought, played very, very well," Donovan said. "I felt after the first couple of weeks of practice that he was going to be a guy that's going to play for us and be able to be pretty helpful. It's impressive what he's done, really in a lot of respects, as a senior in high school. ... I think he's going to really help."