Florida vs. Nebraska-Kearney: Gators pull away late behind freshmen in 101-71 exhibition win

Will Yeguete is always smiling, but this may well be the best picture anyone will ever take of him smiling. - Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Florida didn't get all that much from its starters against Nebraska-Kearney. But freshmen Michael Frazier and Dillon Graham both made up for that.

Florida's 101-71 exhibition win over Nebraska-Kearney was the sort of perfunctory big-bank-take-little-bank game that you get when a major-college basketball program invites a small school to campus for an exhibition. And I don't want to read too much into an exhibition game ... but here's what I think might stick from what I saw tonight.

  • Michael Frazier may just be a complete guard/forward with size and athleticism, and Florida has not had a player like that since Matt Walsh ... who may not be better than Frazier is. (Bradley Beal was more like a guard, and doesn't have the size Frazier has; he's also got athleticism and instincts that make him incomparable in Florida history.) Frazier was sort of underrated and forgotten among the Florida recruiting flurry over the last two years, with Braxton Ogbueze's commitment overshadowing his own in the summer of 2010, the commitments of Kasey Hill and Chris Walker building a tremendous 2013 foundation, and transfers Damontre Harris and Dorian Finney-Smith each providing big names that had already played Division I ball. But Frazier was always a top-100 player, and his move from Tampa Plant to Montverde, where he teamed with Hill in the backcourt for a nationally elite high school team, probably helped his development. On this night, he flashed a beautiful stroke, not all that different from Beal's, and drained five of six threes en route to 21 points. He was adequate on defense and good on the boards, and if this section seems long for a freshman with one exhibition game under his belt and little of the hype that elite freshmen get, well: Wait until you see him play.
  • Dillon Graham was looked at as a shooter and little else when he committed, and his very white skin tone and origin (The First Academy, near Orlando) combined with his donning of Lee Humphrey's old number might have helped pigeonhole him in some minds as a perimeter sniper who couldn't hang inside. I'm happy to report another race-based stereotype is wrong: Graham's shot looks very good, but his athleticism was the best part of his game, with a dart through traffic for one lay-up, a Chandler Parsons-ish swoop to the tin for a putback lay-in, a fast break dunk that was a welcome departure from 8,000 lay-ups by Walker and Kenny Boynton, and an attempt to dunk over someone that would have been the single most incredible dunk I've seen at the O'Dome. Don't judge ballers by skin.
  • Braxton Ogbueze is quick and decisive with the ball, and seems comfortable driving at the hoop and putting up a shot without having to arc it impossibly over a defender like Erving Walker did for four alternately exhilarating and exasperating years. Scottie Wilbekin still doesn't have the athleticism to do much of that on offense, and his shot (he went 1-for-8 on the night) hasn't developed into the stroke necessary to make him a threat on the perimeter. But Wilbekin's an exceptional defender for a point guard, one who can harry with his tenacity, instincts, and length, and Ogbueze isn't as tall or long. So that's going to be a competition to watch all year: Can Ogbueze's offense get him a chance to take the reins from Wilbekin, or will he settle into being the tip of the spear for a freshman-heavy bench mob that could score cheap points in bunches? Will Wilbekin develop enough offensively to make opponents play 5-on-5 instead of 5-on-4.5?
  • Boynton was not explosive, just sound. He ran the point for a bit and looked fine doing it; he barked out some instructions and looked natural as a leader. He could also figure into the logjam at point guard, especially if Frazier/Graham push enough at the 2 to necessitate lineups with Boynton-Frazier/Graham in the backcourt. But one thing he's probably not doing tonight? Talking to Erv:

  • Will Yeguete got extended burn at center against an undersized team, and looked very good there, capably putting the ball on the floor and grabbing a couple of offensive rebounds that led to putbacks. He showed no ill effects from the broken foot that kept him out of Florida's stretch run in 2012, and still seems like an ideal stretch forward coming off the bench. He also never stops smiling. It's impossible not to root for the dude.
  • Neither Erik Murphy (19 minutes) nor Patric Young (21 minutes) played a lot, and in an exhibition, it's hard to tell whether that's about conditioning not being up to par or the foot just being off the gas pedal. Neither one did a lot on the boards, either, though, with both struggling to find good rebounding position inside and assertively bring down the ball and keep it. (Young, in particular, had one potential rebound get stripped once he landed, which is awful for a guy who is as obviously chiseled as he is.) Casey Prather's absence made Florida even smaller than usual in the frontcourt, but outrebounding a very small team 32-29 is not what dominant frontcourts do. And Murphy and Young are a senior and a junior, respectively; it's not like they haven't had chances to become good rebounders.
  • DeVon Walker is very small, marathoner-armed even compared to fellow freshmen Frazier and Graham, and I would guess that every minute he got tonight is one a healthy Prather gets in a game that is still up for grabs. He's just not ready for prime time at Florida yet, and he'd do well to redshirt, get stronger, and retain another year of eligibility.
  • In case you're caught wondering who the first walk-on off the bench for Florida is: Jacob Kurtz came in to an ovation in the final moments and scored the Gators' last basket of the night to crest the century mark. That was cool.
  • I got to the game late (in my defense, uh, I had to shave?) and walked in at 9-2 Florida, but what I've heard is that Florida players' Twitter handles were on the board in pregame intros. That's a surprising move, despite these Gators having been wildly entertaining on Twitter since 2010 (if you remember Vernon Macklin and Parsons having prank wars on Twitter, you know why), because sometimes Prather will tweet something like this.

Anyone else go to the game, or catch it on GatorVision? Anyone have any specific questions? I'm around.

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