Gators Need Full Reserve Tank; Backup Players Must Give Florida Quality Minutes during the Postseason

By Dirocco, Michael | The Florida Times Union, March 9, 2007 | Go to article overview

Gators Need Full Reserve Tank; Backup Players Must Give Florida Quality Minutes during the Postseason


Dirocco, Michael, The Florida Times Union


Byline: MICHAEL DIROCCO

ATLANTA -- Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford, Lee Humphrey and Joakim Noah are very good players, but they can't carry the entire load for the Florida men's basketball team during stamina-sapping postseason play.

To be successful in the Southeastern Conference Tournament -- and, eventually, the NCAAs -- the Gators' five starters must have help, possibly even more than what they already receive from top reserves Chris Richard and Walter Hodge.

"I don't expect much out of [the bench] other than to play hard and do the things we need to do," coach Billy Donovan said as sixth-ranked Florida (26-5, 13-3) prepared for tonight's SEC quarterfinal against Georgia at the Georgia Dome. "If we get scoring out of them, it's a bonus."

Richard, a 6-foot-9 senior center, is having the best season of his career (5.7 points, 3.4 rebounds per game), and on Wednesday, league coaches named him the SEC's Sixth Man of the Year.

Hodge, a 6-foot sophomore, has averaged 6.5 points and 18.8 minutes per game, and Green calls the backup point guard "probably our most improved player."

After that, the Gators can't count on much more quality minutes. Dan Werner and Marreese Speights have received the most playing time out of the team's four freshmen, but their contributions have been spotty.

Werner hasn't made a significant contribution since Jan. 9, when he shot 2-of-5 from the field and scored four points in a 79-72 victory over Arkansas. He has missed his last eight shot attempts, although he does have six assists and two turnovers in the 14 games.

Two weeks ago, Donovan said it appeared the 6-7 Werner had a confidence issue.

"I'm pretty confident," Werner said. "Not as confident as I'd like to be, like in high school, but that's part of being a freshman in college."

Speights has played more than four minutes in an SEC game just twice (seven against LSU and five against Alabama), but he has made 11 of his last 12 shot attempts dating to Florida's victory at Auburn on Jan. 27. His playing time depends on matchups: Donovan uses Speights against teams with big, physical frontcourts. …

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