Key Losses: F David Lee (13.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg), G Anthony Roberson (17.5 ppg, 2.4 apg), G/F Matt Walsh (14.6 ppg, 3.0 apg)
Postseason: NCAA: Defeated Ohio 67–62, lost to Villanova 76–65 in the second round
Guaynabo, PR/Florida Air Academy
Humacao, PR/Arlington (FL) Country Day
Jacksonville, FL/M. Raines
Deerfield Beach FL/North Broward Prep
Hodge will give the Gators a scoring option at the point, but he also may win more minutes because of his ferocious defense. Huertas is a 6-foot-5 shooter who could give other guards match-up nightmares. Like Corey Brewer last year, Kitchen is capable of doing the dirty work. This group will have to contribute this season for Florida to have a chance for success.
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About a month removed from his 40th birthday, mired in a mid-life crisis not of his own creation, Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan remained oddly serene. Earlier that June day, Gators guard Matt Walsh had announced he would remain in the NBA Draft, forfeiting his senior season. Donovan praised Walsh, then plowed ahead and answered the next, obvious question. No, point guard Anthony Roberson probably would not return for his senior season.
Add those departures to the loss of senior forward David Lee, and Donovan would have to follow the first SEC Tournament title in school history with his first rebuilding job since he arrived in Gainesville in 1996.
But he hasn't panicked. Neither have the players who will return.
Lee, Roberson and Walsh scored 59 percent of Florida's points last season. Youngsters Corey Brewer, Al Horford and Taurean Green offered glimpses at their potential, but coaches hadn't asked them to score much. They must reinvent their games to fit their new roles. But can they replace the trio that left?
"I don't think you can replace them," Donovan says. "I don't think there's a team in the league that's losing as much as we're losing."
Donovan won't try to replace Lee, Roberson and Walsh. Instead, he'll build his team around the strengths of the sophomores who will lead the Gators in nearly every major statistical category. Brewer and Horford set the tone last season as the Gators tried to shed their "soft" reputation by emphasizing defense and rebounding. Brewer, a pliable 6-8, 185-pounder capable of reaching around an opposing guard, plucking the ball and streaking for a dunk, typically drew an opponent's top scorer. Horford blocked 51 shots, giving Florida the fear-inducing inside presence it lacked in past years.
"It's not really a lot of pressure," Brewer says. "A lot of people don't think we're going to have as good a season as we had last year, but I feel like with the guys we have coming back and the guys coming, we can have a great season."
The Gators' chemistry may allow them to equal more than the sum of their parts. Brewer, Horford, Green - the likely successor to Roberson at point guard - and center Joakim Noah infused last year's Gators with the fun-loving spark the team had missed for several years. The sheer joy of playing together made the players work harder.
"And we're even closer this year," Horford says with a grin.
With Lee gone, someone will have to develop into an inside scoring threat. Senior center Adrian Moss missed much of last season with back problems, and concerns about Moss' health leave Horford and junior Chris Richard as the two most likely candidates. Horford is Florida's second-most athletic player behind Brewer, while Richard finally developed the nasty streak he needed late last season. If Richard can replicate his SEC Tournament performance for an entire season, he could force opponents to account for him on both sides of the floor.
The athletic Noah also could contribute as a scorer and shot-blocker. He spent his offseason bulking up in the weight room to prepare to battle in the paint with the SEC's bruisers.
Should Green replace Roberson, look for him to distribute before seeking his own shot. That could benefit junior guard Lee Humphrey, a spot-up marksman who can drain a three but isn't as versatile as Walsh was. Freshmen Walter Hodge and David Huertas could give Florida more outside scoring threats. Brewer is the Gators' best slasher, and he has a promise for those who believe they can simply outscore Florida because it lost so much firepower.
"If we score, we score," Brewer says. "But I know one thing, we're going to lock up (on defense)."
If the Gators don't find some way to make up for the offense they lost, they face a steep climb back to the NCAA Tournament. But Donovan doesn't seem worried about that. Last year, Brewer and Horford seemed capable of scoring in bunches, but the youngsters always deferred to the big three. With those players gone, Florida's young stars can assert themselves. Just don't expect the Gators to win many shootouts.