Notebook: Hill still getting comfortable

Notebook: Hill still getting comfortable

Freshman point guard Kasey Hill was in a groove before his high ankle sprain against Southern on November 18. Since returning in two games against Kansas and Memphis, Hill is still trying to get back into form. Scottie Wilbekin has returned to the starting lineup at point guard while Hill is still battling to get back to full health.

It showed in the first half on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. Kasey Hill's play was sloppy, turning the ball over and taking forced shots while slowing the offense down. In the first four games of the season, the offense depended on Hill being on the floor. It was the opposite during the first half on Tuesday.

Things changed at halftime.

Hill came out and played well, even hitting the first three-pointer of his career.

"I was really proud of him," Billy Donovan said. "Coming out of the half, I give him a lot of credit because he really responded because he wasn't playing great. Then he got in there in the second half and did a lot of good things to help our team and had a lot to do with us going on a run there when the score was close."

Hill showcased his speed in the open floor halfway through the second half. Michael Frazier pulled down a rebound and immediately got the ball to Hill, who went over half the court by himself, twisting between Memphis defenders. It ended seconds later with Hill going to the basket and using his left hand to finish with a layup.

There was still a missing extra gear. Hill had it in the early part of the season but didn't on Tuesday. Donovan estimated that the freshman is playing close to 85 or 90 percent on his ankle. He even sprained the other ankle last week in practice, and Donovan is hoping the explosiveness comes back soon.

"I still think he's bothered," Donovan said. "I don't think he's healed enough that he's going to be explosive and fast in the open court, but I don't know if he's got that confidence level in his foot like he needs to get back to. How long that's going to take, I don't know. That's something that's going to probably be a work in progress."

YOUNG COMING ON: As the schedule has gotten tougher, the play of Patric Young has improved. The Florida center averaged 8.1 points and 3.8 rebounds in the first seven games of the year, but in the last three against Connecticut, Kansas and Memphis, Young is averaging 12.3 points and 7.0 rebounds.

The consistent effort made Tuesday possible. The eight points and eight rebounds weren't the most impressive night in the stat sheet, but he played with energy that changed the game for his teammates.

"The thing I'm pleased in his maturity level is he got the ball inside and took as many or maybe one more shot than anyone else on our team in the first half," Donovan said. "He had a lot of shots around the basket that he did not finish in the game. There were times in the past that would have deflated him and taken away his energy.

"It was good to see him battle through that when the ball wasn't going through on certain possessions for him, but he still kept chasing balls and was active on the glass. He was very, very dominant and had good energy. Even though he didn't have a big scoring night, he did a lot of other things that impacted our team."

WALKER FITTING IN: Five-star freshman Chris Walker continues to practice with the team despite having no idea when he'll be able to play. Donovan ruled him out for Saturday's game against Fresno State while the Gators wait to hear from the NCAA Clearinghouse.

It's still a learning process for the forward. Donovan mentioned earlier in the week that Walker spent his first week of practice being dominated by Young on practice. Donovan wants to make sure the expectation level remains realistic for the freshman.

"What happens is when you have a player that has not been seen and has a reputation and is big, expectations or what this guy is going to be get totally blown out of proportion," Donovan said. "Then when the guy comes and start playing he becomes a disappointment. I just don't think that's fair to Chris."

Walker hasn't played in an official basketball game since winning the state title in February. He has spent less than one week in practice in Gainesville. While the Gators are in midseason form and mostly focusing on game plans at this point in the year, they still have to find time to teach Walker what the Gators do on both sides of the ball.

There's no telling how long it will be before Walker gets cleared and Donovan trusts him on the floor, but the head coach knows what he's getting at some point in his career at Florida.

"Chris is going to be a very, very good player," Donovan said.

Ideally, Walker comes on fast and gives the Gators another weapon to head into Southeastern Conference play with. Donovan said they shouldn't have to rely on Walker because of the experienced big men on the roster, but the possibility of playing a lineup with Walker at power forward and Young at center did add some excitement to Donovan's mind.

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