GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -Florida guard Nick Calathes spent more time watching from afar than leading by example this summer, a concern for Gators coach Billy Donovan.
Calathes, the Southeastern Conference freshman of the year last season, worked with the Greek national team in June and July. He returned to Gainesville in mid-August, but almost immediately injured a groin muscle and hasn't fully practiced since.
So at Florida's media day Wednesday, there were more questions about Calathes' health and leadership ability than his jump shot and passing skills.
``He's really not been an active participant for almost 12 weeks right now with our team,'' Donovan said. ``He's there every day. He's trying to do everything he can to help provide some leadership, but I always think that it's very, very difficult to turn into a leader when you're not around all the time.
en hard for him to sweat with those guys and talk to those guys, and help them.''
Calathes led the team in scoring and assists last season, averaging 15.3 points and 6.1 assists - both school records for a freshman. He was third on the team in rebounding, made a team-high 58 3-pointers and got to the free throw line 199 times.
But Donovan wanted more from him this summer. He wanted Calathes around to bond with teammates, help Florida's six newcomers adjust to college life and become the leader the Gators need him to be.
``That's what I want to be,'' said Calathes, who tried out for Greece's Olympic team but was cut. ``It's tough for a leader to go over to another country and not be with the new guys to help them out. We've got six new freshmen. But I'm here now and I think I can help out.''
It might not happen soon, though.
Calathes strained his right groin in late August and has been limited since. He expects to be on the court when practice begins Friday, but Donovan wasn't nearly as confident.
``He's getting better,'' Donovan said. ``He's moving in the right direction, but there's no question he's not fully healed right now.''
The Gators certainly need him on the court.
or who knows, knock on wood, maybe he gets hurt. You never want to say that, but you never know. These last couple weeks ... other guys are stepping up and taking more a leadership role on the court.''
With or without Calathes, the Gators are looking for better results this season. They started 18-3 last season, but went 3-8 down the stretch in conference play and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998.
Donovan responded by kicking the players out of the practice facility, a motivational tactic he hoped would teach them to appreciate what it took to win championships. It might have worked. Florida won three games in the NIT - Calathes led the way with 43 points, 25 assists and 24 rebounds - and reached the semifinals, losing to Massachusetts.
``We know what it feels like to be in the NIT and not be in the NCAA tournament, watching March Madness,'' Calathes said. ``This year, I think we're going to have our heads straight and take each game at a time, step by step.''
And maybe find a leader.
``There is no leader on our team that I can sit there and say this one person is the leader of our team,'' Donovan said. ``What we've got to do is try to help some of these guys develop into the type of leaders that I think they can become. There's guys on our team that have leadership qualities and leadership abilities, but we've got to find a way as a coaching staff to bring that out.''
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