Florida is counting on its increased experience — in returning players and newcomers — as the Gators open the season Tuesday night against visiting Elon.
The newfound wealth of upperclassmen is a major change from last season.
A quartet of transfers with substantial experience, and 6-foot-11 forward Colin Castleton, whose 12.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game last season were among the team’s best numbers, have Florida looking for significant improvement from last year’s 15-10 squad that reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
An exhibition victory Monday night against Division III Embry-Riddle gave a sign of what might be coming for the Gators.
“I thought we showed in glimpses that this is a better passing team than we’d had here in a few years,” Florida coach Mike White offered.
Exciting, too, could be the newcomers, with four of the players racking up a combined 3,882 points in college.
Myreon Jones averaged 15.3 points a game for Penn State last season and CJ Felder has arrived after posting 9.7 points per outing for Boston College. Graduate transfers Brandon McKissic from Missouri-Kansas City and Phlandrous Fleming Jr. from Charleston Southern were all-conference selections in their leagues.
Elon, which went 10-9 last season, is coming off an appearance in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament championship game. Yet the Phoenix were picked sixth in the league’s preseason poll.
“Understand this program is about playing your best basketball when it matters most,” third-year coach Mike Schrage said.
Guard Hunter McIntosh will be in his third season, leading the team with a 15.7 scoring average last season.
“I see myself continuing to grow as a lead guard, a playmaker,” McIntosh said. “We have a lot more weapons. We’re working every day to put us in the best position come March.”
The wild card could be Jerald Gillens-Butler, who transferred to Elon after two seasons at Butler, but three games into last season he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. The Phoenix also expect to have Zac Ervin back after a knee ligament injury caused him to miss last season.
“It has been great to have depth,” Schrage said.
Elon will have a diet of high-profile opponents prior to Christmas, facing West Virginia, Marquette or Mississippi, North Carolina, and Arkansas.
“I know those are the games Hunter McIntosh wants to play in,” Schrage said. “I know those are the games I want to coach in.”
–Field Level Media