Editor's Note: This month, ESPN Insider's college basketball and recruiting experts are teaming up to examine how 15 of the nation's best recruiting classes will fit in with their teams in the 2013-14 season. Today's featured program: Florida. Check out the Nation blog each morning for a corresponding post on the key returnee for each of the 15 teams.
The aftermath of Andrew Wiggins’ announcement on Tuesday has been enlightening.
Had he picked Kentucky, then many would have maintained their assumption the Wildcats would be the juggernauts of the 2013-14 season.
By choosing Kansas, however, Wiggins cast some doubt on that notion.
Next season will be bigger than Kentucky basketball. That’s always been the case, but it’s just more obvious now that the No. 1 recruit in America has selected a program outside of Lexington.
Michigan State, Michigan, Arizona, Kansas, Duke, North Carolina and Louisville will certainly be in the national title picture. And Florida should be in that mix, too.
But transfers Dorian Finney-Smith (6.3 PPG and 7.0 RPG for Virginia Tech in 2011-12) and Damontre Harris (6.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG and 2.3 BPG for South Carolina in 2011-12) will be eligible next season. Plus, Billy Donovan’s recruiting class features McDonald’s All-Americans Kasey Hill and Chris Walker. Scottie Wilbekin is back, too.
The anchor of this group, however, is veteran big man Patric Young -- the top returnee for the program.
The 6-9 forward averaged 10.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 1.6 BPG. He had a 58.6 effective field goal percentage last season, 73rd nationally per Ken Pomeroy. He was ranked fifth in the SEC with a 6.87 block percentage (KenPom.com).
His return to the Gators' program potentially signals a philosophical switch for Donovan. In past years, the coach relied on explosive guards who occupied his strong and deep backcourts. His perimeter options tend to be perennially plentiful.
Boynton, Rosario, Bradley Beal and Erving Walker have given Donovan a variety of contributors on the perimeter in recent years.
Next season, however, the Gators will have more answers and options inside.
Finney-Smith and Harris are two big bodies who will make Florida’s frontcourt one of the strongest units in America. Will Yeguete, who averaged 5.5 PPG and 5.8 RPG last season, will help, too.
Young has to be the leader of this crew.
Is he more than just a rugged cleanup man and dunk machine for the Gators?
There's nothing wrong with that role.
He’s been a critical contributor under Donovan. He’s been vital in the team’s three consecutive Elite Eight appearances.
But next year -- more than past years -- I believe Young will have to be a more dynamic player. He has to be a versatile player on both ends of the floor. The SEC is stacked with inside-outside threats that he’ll be asked to defend. It’s also a league that will welcome Julius Randle and feature Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes.
Playing in the paint will be a nightly battle in the SEC.
Last year, Young’s assists, rebounds, free-throw percentage and field-goal percentage were down compared to the previous season. He has to be a more consistent and efficient athlete for Florida.
But if he gives Florida last season’s production, the Gators still boast enough talent to make another run.
That, however, is not the expectation for Young. Can he take his game to the next level? That’s the question he must answer.
The 2013-14 campaign could be one of the most competitive seasons in recent history. The landscape will include multiple teams with legit NCAA title aspirations.
Balance will be vital for any program that ultimately finishes with the crown in Arlington.
Young’s presence will enhance Florida’s flexibility.
If he develops a more diverse post game, a better jump shot and an expansive defensive skill set, then Young might be the reason that Florida breaks through the field and reaches the Final Four.
But he has to touch the ball to be effective.
He averaged 7.1 field-goal attempts in both 2011-12 and 2012-13. Cody Zeller averaged 9.8 field goal attempts last season.
No, he’s not Zeller. This is a different team.
I get it.
Zeller, however, understood his role and could anticipate touches in ways Young could not in previous seasons because of Donovan’s guard-heavy rotation.
One night, he’d take 10 shots. The next night, he’d take two.
Young can’t reach his ceiling alone. Yes, he has to work hard this offseason to address his weaknesses. But he also needs his teammates to feed him.