With no offense to Erving Walker and Brad Beal, two very talented basketball players, the Florida Gators are better without them. It’s not exactly the classic case of addition by subtraction, because head coach Billy Donovan wouldn’t say no to having either on his team this year, but somehow the Gators are better this year without Walker and Beal; and the reason is Scottie Wilbekin.
Beal and Walker were the 2nd and 3rd leading scorers respectively on Florida last year, while Wilbekin is just the 5th leading scorer for the Gators this year, but that’s why Florida is better with him as the point guard. Unlike the lead guards starting for Florida the past few years, Wilbekin is not looking for his own shot and not looking to score a lot of points on his own. Wilbekin is playing the role of a point guard that spreads the ball around and looks to get his teammates involved, which is exactly what the Gators need. Fellow guards Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario are the guys that are doing much of the scoring for Florida, both averaging 13 points per game, and it’s because Wilbekin knows to get them the ball and make sure they are the players getting most of the shots, even at the expense of his own scoring.
Wilbekin also recognizes the presence of Florida big man Patric Young, and his need to get touches in the post. Unlike most college big men, Young is a more-than-capable scorer in the post; he just needs opportunities. In past years, with more scoring-oriented guards running the show, Young would be ignored and not receive the ball inside, much to the dismay of Donovan. But this year, with a distributing point guard like Wilbekin, Young is getting the ball more and giving Florida a more balanced offensive attack.
In addition to Wilbekin averaging 5.5 assists per game this year, which has paced the Florida offense this year, he is also one of the best on-ball defenders in the country. He has the size, quickness, and intensity to handle most other point guards, and that has helped give the Gators a better defense than they’ve had in years past.
The proof is in the pudding. Florida has had a quality team for many years, including last year’s elite-eight team. But not since their back-to-back national championship teams have the Gators dominated their competition in such convincing fashion, as they have this year. There are a lot of reasons for it, but towards the top of the list is Wilbekin, who has excelled as a distributor and a defender. He is different from the starting point guards Florida has had in recent memory, but the Gators appear to be better off with Wilbekin leading the way.