Florida center Patric Young didn't spend the off-season trying to diversify his game. Instead, with the help of Gators coach Billy Donovan, Young identified what he did best and worked to improve those skills. If he succeeded, Florida should play deep into the NCAA tournament again.
Young, a 6'9", 249-pound junior, excels at backing defenders deep into the post before taking an entry pass. From there he can rise for an easy layup or dunk without resorting to fancy post moves. "I'm really good at getting guys right under the basket," says Young, who hopes to improve on his 10.2 scoring average from 2011--12. "If I can do that every single time, what's the point in adding something else when people can't stop your Number 1 go-to thing?"
Young's other strong suit is his hustle. Donovan believes that his center, who averaged 6.4 rebounds a game last year, can improve his production by crashing the offensive glass and by outrunning opponents on the fast break. But Young didn't do those things well because tendinitis in his ankle prevented him from staying in top shape. He averaged only 26.5 minutes but still, because of fatigue, led the Gators in fouls with 99. This fall Young passed the team's grueling conditioning test despite an off-season bout of mononucleosis. Donovan would like to see Young's minutes rise into the 30s, and he thinks Young's fitness will make that possible. "Going through what he went through last year, I think he realizes the importance of being in great shape," Donovan says.
Young agrees. He intends to finish first on every fast break, and he hopes that will lead to easy baskets and more wins. "That guy may stay with you five, six, seven times," Young says, "but as the game keeps going on and it's time for you to push through that fatigue and have that willpower, that's what determines who gets there." It also determines who gets to play deep into March.
ROUND OF 32
ROUND OF 64
Projected Starting Five
COACH Billy Donovan (17th season)
2011--12 RECORD 26--11
SEC 10--6 (T-2nd)
WHAT'S BACK Minutes: 67.6% Points: 64.6% Rebounds: 62.5%
9.6 MADE threes per game for Florida in 2011--12, the most in the nation. Kenny Boynton accounted for 3.0 of those, tied for the fourth-highest average of any returning player in Division I.
PATRIC YOUNG Improved conditioning will give Florida's center another way to beat defenses this year.