With the Florida Gators set to begin Southeastern Conference competition on Saturday at home against Ole Miss, head coach Billy Donovan, senior forward Chandler Parsons and junior point guard Erving Walker spoke with the media about their collective 11-3 start to the season and where they can go from here.
PREPARED FOR TOUGH SEC SCHEDULE
Donovan and his players believe that a difficult out of conference slate has set Florida up quite well for SEC competition this year. “Because we’ve played against a lot of different styles and a lot of different teams, I feel like our team is prepared, competitively, going into the SEC now,” Donovan said. “How well we perform and how well we play remains to be seen. But I do think we’ve had a lot of learning experiences, experiences we have been able to grow from.”
Though the team struggled with consistency up until the last week, Parsons believes the Gators are raring to go. “I think we’re ready,” he said. “We’ve played some really good teams. We’ve been in some battles and it has really helped us prepare for conference play.” Walker thinks the last two games have done plenty to help Florida’s confidence. “Definitely. We got a long way to go. We just got to keep going, but I think it’s finally starting to come together,” he said.
WALKER’s MILESTONE, TURNOVER PROBLEMS
Depending whether you are an optimist or a pessimist probably determines how you feel about Walker as a basketball player. On one hand, he has easily been the most consistent scoring threat for the Gators this season. On the other, his assist-to-turnover ratio (which should be 2:1 for a PG) is nearly even. Donovan sees both sides of Walker, who will likely reach 1,000 career points in one of the next two games.
“Point or turnovers?,” a laughing Donovan said when asked his opinion about Walker hitting 1,000. “The one thing I’ve always admired about Erving – and you can say this about any really good player whose got a high competitive level – is they don’t get wrapped up in who is in the program. They realize that wherever they got to go at this level they’re going to have to compete and earn playing time. Erving came in here and really earned his way. […] He’s a great kid to coach. He works very, very hard. I think he has a toughness about him and a competitiveness about him that I love.
“He’s got to make better decisions. I don’t think there’s any question about that. It’s a fine line with any aggressive player. He’s shooting the ball well and he’s been playing with a level of confidence. There’s good turnovers and there’s bad turnovers. We got to eliminate his bad turnovers where he’s down the lane, he’s two deep and he leaves his feet. He’s got to keep his dribble alive and dribble the ball back out. Those are the kind of decisions that I think he’s got to get better at. When you look at the fact that he’s got one more assist than turnover on the year going into SEC play, that’s not a good thing for your point guard. You’d like your point guard to be two-to-one.”
Walker is not really concerned about the milestone. “It really doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. I’ve played a lot of minutes on the court since I was a freshman, so that kind of comes along with the territory,” he said. “It’s nice to have, but it’s not a big deal.”
Donovan announced that only sophomore F Erik Murphy (mid-foot sprain) would miss Saturday’s game as he’s classified as doubtful. Everyone else – including Walker (hip pointer), Parsons (sore ankle), redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin (strained pectoral) and freshman F Will Yeguete (unknown) – is expected to be active. He added that the team was concerned about Macklin because he was having chest and rib pain; the MRI and X-rays both came back negative (for a torn pectoral or fractured ribs, respectively) and Macklin will be able to play as long as he can tolerate the pain.
Read additional quotes from Donovan and the players …after the break!
Donovan on playing well against Rhode Island: “We had a good defensive game all the way around. Certainly the concern coming into the game was them being able to shoot the ball from behind the line.”
Parsons on having a good game against URI: “I’ve just been doing the same things I’ve been doing all year long. I was just fortunate to hit shots against Rhode Island.”
Parsons on his first impressions of Walker: “Obviously I thought, ‘Man, this guy’s little.’ Then I saw he could shoot the ball. He can really shoot the ball. He’s really held his own, and he’s hit some huge shots for us.”
Parsons on Walker hitting 1,000 points: “He’s a point guard but he can score the ball. He has incredible range, and he can really put the ball in the bucket. Game on the line, he’s got ice in his veins on the free throw line. He’s a really tough, hard-nosed player.”
Parsons on his struggles this season: “Shooting 50 percent from the free throw line is not helping.”