ARLINGTON, Texas — Those alley-oops and no-look passes Florida Gulf Coast point guard Brett Comer dished out in wins over Georgetown and San Diego State didn’t even make Florida coach Billy Donovan bat an eye.
Gators assistant Matt McCall has seen them, too.
While Comer is a newcomer on the national stage with his highlight-reel passes, the Gators are very familiar with the 6-foot-3 sophomore guard.
Comer played at Winter Park High in Orlando and was a teammate of former Duke guard Austin Rivers, a one-time UF commitment. Donovan recalled Thursday Comer and Rivers competing in summer camps at UF. And before Comer signed with FGCU, he committed to Florida Atlantic, where McCall was an assistant at the time.
“For people who have not had a chance to see him play, he to me is one of the better passing point guards there is in college basketball,” Donovan said Thursday. “He reads defenses as well as anyone I’ve seen.”
In perhaps the most important matchup of Friday’s Sweet 16 clash between Florida and FGCU, Florida point guard Scottie Wilbekin will try and slow down Comer and his play-making ability.
Comer is averaging 12 assists per game in the tournament, including a career-high 14 on Sunday in FGCU’s 81-71 win over San Diego Sate. He is also averaging 11 points and four rebounds, playing an instrumental role in a 21-2 run against Georgetown and a 17-0 spurt against San Diego State.
The Atlantic Sun Tournament MVP, Comer has an assist on 64 of FGCU’s 144 dunks and has cut down on his turnovers after averaging 4.3 giveaways per game as a freshman.
“Brett sees the floor as well as any point guard I’ve seen,” FGCU coach Andy Enfield said. “He just has the gift of seeing the play develop. I knew he was talented, but he has really surpassed what I thought he could be as a sophomore.”
Aztecs coach Steve Fisher left March Madness impressed with the way Comer pushes the upstart Eagles up and down the court.
“They play with a swagger, and they have a right to do that,” Fisher said. “They play tremendous together, and they feed off Comer. He finds people, and others know if they run, they’re going to get an alley‑oop and they’re going to get a chance to look good themselves.”
As the Gators remained in Texas this week to prepare for the Eagles, Wilbekin watched plenty of film of Comer and the Eagles.
A defensive challenge is nothing new for Wilbekin. He already has been assigned to Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson and Minnesota’s Andre Hollins this postseason.
Wilbekin has seen enough of Comer to have an idea of what the Gators need to do to keep the Eagles from soaring. The Gators need to limit FGCU’s transition game and on offense, get the ball inside to big men Patric Young and Erik Murphy, who have a height and bulk advantage over FGCU’s interior players.
“They do a good job when Comer gets into the lane of cutting and moving without the ball,” Wilbekin said. “We just have to make sure we don’t lose sight of our man and get caught ball watching and let our man get behind us.”
Donovan’s faith in Wilbekin to help set the tone offensively and defensively has grown throughout the season.
A backup his first two years, Wilbekin replaced Erving Walker as Florida’s starting point guard this season and directed the Gators back to the Sweet 16 for a school-record third consecutive season. Wilbekin hit a huge 3-pointer to turn back a Minnesota rally late Sunday in Florida’s 78-64 win over the Gophers. He also got a couple of critical defensive stops late to cool off Hollins.
“I think he has three qualities that enable him to be very, very good [defensively],” Donovan said. “He’s got great feet. He is a physical defender. And then I would say the third thing is he is a guy that’s a very tough-minded defender maybe more so than any guard I ever coached. He puts a lot of value on defending.”
Wilbekin’s defensive prowess is no stranger to Comer, who said Thursday he remembers Wilbekin from AAU camps growing up and has watched him play in the tournament.
“Scottie is a great on-ball defender,” Comer said. “He’ll probably do a great job of denying me. But I have Sherwood [Brown] and Chase [Fieler] and Bernard [Thompson] that can come on the offense and slide to the wing and do what they do.”
While Wilbekin will be matched up on Comer for much of the game, he’ll need help to slow down FGCU’s Dunk City fast break. The Gators must play fundamentally sound defense in the halfcourt, too.
They want to make Comer and the Eagles work for every point.
“He’s a great passer, but to prevent it you’ve got to stand in front of your man,” Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton said. “They make a lot of cuts. You can’t let a person get back-door on you and make it easier for them.”