Patric Young to return as senior

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida Gators could have one of the nation's strongest frontcourts in 2013-14 now that center Patric Young has decided to return for his senior season.

The 6-foot-9, 249-pound Young, who averaged 10.1 points and a team-high 6.3 rebounds this season, said he wanted to finish his degree and spend another season playing for coach Billy Donovan.

That will give the Gators six frontcourt players on the roster -- including signee Chris Walker, whom ESPN ranks No. 14 in the class of 2013.

"I have the chance to finish my degree and play another season for Coach Donovan with great teammates and friends at a place I love," Young said. "These first three years have gone by in a flash, and I can't believe it is my senior year already. I have gotten better as a player and better as a man at the University of Florida. I believe God has my future in his hands, so all I am worried about now is getting better this summer and making it the hardest I have trained in my life."

Young, who has averaged 10.2 points and 6.4 rebounds since becoming a starter as a sophomore, was projected to be a late first- or early second-round pick in the upcoming NBA draft. ESPN senior NBA writer Chad Ford ranked Young as the No. 34 prospect.

Young's priority in the offseason will be his conditioning and improving his offensive game and free throw shooting. Donovan has criticized Young for not being able to play through fatigue and for being a nonfactor in games when he is tired.

Young's offensive game is still limited to jump hooks, and he is a liability at the free throw line. He made only 48.9 percent of his free throws last season after shooting 59.3 percent from the free throw line as a sophomore.

The Gators were not deep in the frontcourt this past season, which ended with a loss in the Elite Eight for the third consecutive season.

Young and 6-10 Erik Murphy were the starters, while 6-7 Will Yeguete was the top reserve. When Yeguete missed nearly a month after knee surgery, Donovan was forced to use 6-6 guard/forward Casey Prather as a power forward.

Young's return certainly helps the depth. In addition, the Gators will get two transfers eligible next season: 6-8, 205-pound forward Dorian Finney-Smith (Virginia Tech) and 6-10, 228-pound Damontre Harris (South Carolina). Finney-Smith averaged 6.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game for the Hokies in 2011-12. Harris was named to the SEC's All-Defensive team after averaging 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in 2011-12.

Prather (6.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg last season) and Yeguete (5.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG last season), UF's best post defender and key man in the Gators' full-court press, will be seniors. UF also is counting on getting something from 6-6 sophomore forward/guard DeVon Walker, who averaged just 4.0 minutes per game.

The 6-10 Walker (Bonifay, Fla./Holmes County) was one of two UF signees. The Gators also added point guard Kasey Hill, ESPN's No. 2 point guard and the nation's No. 9 overall player.