Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Freshmen Give UF Lift; Newcomers Showed Up with Right Attitude, Gators' Macklin Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Freshmen Give UF Lift; Newcomers Showed Up with Right Attitude, Gators' Macklin Says

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL DIROCCO

GAINESVILLE - Vernon Macklin expected Florida's freshmen to hit campus with a know-it-all attitude and a sense of entitlement.

That's the way he behaved when he arrived at Georgetown in 2006.

But when practice began in October, Macklin and the rest of the older players were surprised at how humble, hardworking and unassuming the five newcomers were.

"Going to Georgetown and playing with other freshmen that were All-Americans, those guys came in like I did: I thought I had everything figured out," Macklin said. "These guys didn't do that. These guys came in and just wanted to learn, listened to coach [Billy] Donovan, and listened to us. Those guys came in like sponges. They absorbed everything that we told them and talked to them about and they're helping us win games."

The contributions that former Providence standout Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete, Casey Prather and Cody Larson have made do not necessarily show up on the stat sheet every night. Their biggest impact has been at practice, where they have forced the older players - Macklin, Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus in particular - to get better or get benched.

The result is a team that won the Southeastern Conference regular-season title, went 26-4 and is a probable top-four seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

"[The freshmen] help us get better, and we help [the freshmen] get better," Erving Walker said. "It goes hand in hand."

Especially for Macklin. The 6-foot-10, 240-pound center's stats aren't up drastically from last season - he's averaging 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds this season, compared to 10.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season - but banging against the 6-9, 245-pound Young every day has allowed Macklin to handle the physical play in the SEC much better than he did last season.

"There are certain guys that like physical confrontation, and Patric is one of those guys," Donovan said. "In the frontcourt in order to get better, you have to have guys that like physical confrontation. …

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