GAINESVILLE -- Before Patric Young played his first game as a Gator, there was talk about his future in the NBA.
The 6-9, 249-pound center has the type of physique and ability scouts fawn over. He was picked as a McDonald’s All-American following his final season at Providence High in Jacksonville and was named to the All-Southeastern Conference Freshman Team in his first season in Gainesville. But, according to coach Billy Donovan, Young has yet to live up to his potential and isn’t yet ready for the next level.
And that’s just fine with Young. There’s plenty left to accomplish, he said.
That starts with erasing the painful memory of consecutive close exits in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament.
“There’s not a day that doesn’t go by that I still don’t think about it,” he said at Florida’s media day on Oct. 10.
Florida basketball, of course, rose to the national spotlight following consecutive national championships in 2005-06 and 2006-07, led by frontcourt stars and current NBA players Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Mareese Speights.
If Young wants to follow in their footsteps, both professionally and collegiately, he has a lot of work to do, starting with his conditioning and decision-making.
As a sophomore in his first season as a full-time starter, Young averaged just 26.5 minutes per game because of what Donovan called learning “how hard it was to sustain intensity for a long period of time.” When Young got tired, he got sloppy and that led to foul trouble. Young had a team-worst 99 fouls last season.
“I’m not so sure if there was anything that really could have prepared him for what he went through and what he experienced,” Donovan said. “The biggest thing for Patric in all this stuff is mentally being in the right place to be able to deal with the confrontation every day of pushing himself to go to the next step physically. … I think from a maturity standpoint, that’s an area where Patric has got to get better.”
Young’s availability is a big deal for UF, which is extremely thin in the frontcourt with just three eligible players taller than 6-6.
And with four-year starting point guard Erving Walker graduating, and star freshman Bradley Beal joining the Washington Wizards after being selected with the third overall pick in June, the onus to carry the team falls mostly on Young’s shoulders.
Donovan said Young also needs to step up his game on the glass. Beal, a 6-3 shooting guard, actually led the team in rebounds last season, while Young finished with just 6.4 per game.
If he does all that, Donovan said, Young’s future — and UF’s success — will take care of itself.