A four-year member of the Florida Gators basketball program under head coach Billy Donovan, former forward Adam Allen was forced to retire due to multiple knee surgeries. No longer with the team, he took two years off from playing basketball but has returned to the game as a graduate student at Rollins College.
Allen, who first worked as a basketball columnist with OnlyGators.com throughout the 2011-12 season, has rejoined the website this year to provide his unique perspective on the Gators throughout the 2013-14 campaign.
It would be an understatement to say that I’m impressed with how Florida has handled the early-season adversity thrown its way. The Gators have done so likely better than any other team in the country could have and that is unsurprising due in large part to Donovan’s tremendous coaching.
A tough non-conference schedule combined with injuries, suspensions and ineligible players would deflate most teams. Florida, however, accepted and even embraced the challenges at hand, competing hard even when victory seemed like it might be impossible (such as on the road at Wisconsin).
The reliability of the Gators’ senior class – and more importantly the play of fourth-year forward Casey Prather – has allowed Florida to weather the early season storm despite playing a number of games with a heavily depleted roster. Prather stepped up in a major way while some of his teammates were suffering Donovan’s wrath.
Dismissing redshirt junior center Damontre Harris now seems like a no-brainer the way Donovan described the situation but do not underestimate how harshly he disciplined senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin in the offseason and the way that impacted both the player as well as the team.
He humbled Wilbekin in order to ensure the floor general completely bought in to the best interests of the program moving forward. The suspensions may have cost the Gators at least one of their two top-25 losses but rest assured Florida will be better off come March because of what Donovan did in October.
During my time with the program, Donovan made it abundantly clear he had zero tolerance when it came to dealing with players who broke team rules.
We never had issues with failed drug tests to my knowledge, but a number of players were suspended for missing class or not being punctual. His demands were never unrealistic but usually required us to complete challenging physical tasks along with designated study hall hours to get back in his good graces.
Donovan intended to ensure players tackled their responsibilities with discipline and represented the name across their jersey in a positive light. He would often tell us to “Be a professional,” just like he is every single day he steps foot on the court or into his office. That attitude is a major and often overlooked reason as to why the Gators have been so successful in recent years.
And it may very well result in a special 2013-14 season for Florida.