The newly-minted No. 7/8 Florida Gators (14-2, 4-0 SEC) are coming off a quite successful week but in the midst of preparing for another tough one with two road games in a four-day span. Head coach Billy Donovan met with the media after Saturday’s game and on Monday during his weekly press conference to discuss a number of issues concerning the team.
NOT TAKING CREDIT FOR NO. 400
Donovan has always been one to deflect personal achievements to the team as a whole, so it was no surprise on Saturday when he chose to prop up those that helped Florida achieve 400 total wins under his leadership rather than bask in the glow of the tremendous achievement.
“It’s always special when you have friends and family [in attendance], your players and crowd and stuff. Like I said before, all those individual things as it relates to coaching, it’s much, much more a reflection on the players I’ve had a chance to coach here. That’s really what it’s about,” he said.
“For me to be here and to be a part of 400 wins – I don’t look at them as my wins, I look at them as University of Florida wins. Just seeing even Jason Williams, who was here [Saturday] watching the game, he was a part of that, too. There’s a lot of guys that were not in the building that were a part of it. I never look at those things as being something I did. It’s always a ‘we’ thing. There’s a lot of people involved. I happen to be the head coach, so the won-loss [statistics] are on my record but overall there were a lot of people that were not here that played a significant role in it.”
Now 400-160 (.714) as the Gators’ coach, he is only the third in SEC history to claim 400 victories with one team behind Adolph Rupp (Kentucky) and Dale Brown (LSU). Donovan is now 48 wins away from tying Brown’s total of 448.
After the game, he received an ice water bath courtesy of junior center Patric Young and was certainly surprised by that celebration. “Basketball coaches don’t have that happen to them very often, but I’ll tell you what, that was really, really, really cold. I mean, really cold. He got me pretty good,” Donovan admitted. Young added, “He didn’t see that coming. And I did not hit him with the cooler like Alabama hit Nick Saban.”
UPPING HIS INTENSITY LEVEL
Speaking of Young, he has played fantastic basketball over Florida’s last two games, combining for 27 points, 15 rebounds, five steals and four blocks while going 11-for-17 from the field and 5-for-6 from the charity stripe. Perhaps more importantly, he has showed a renewed intensity and the type of consistent effort that Donovan has been hoping to pry from him over the last two seasons. Young also had two powerful dunks on Saturday including this ankle-breaking move midway through the second half.
ONE MAJOR INJURY CONCERN REMAINS
The Gators have been hit with an aggravating number of injuries early this season. As of press time, only one player remains out of action due to his ailment and that is junior forward Casey Prather (high-ankle sprain). According to Donovan on Monday, Prather spent last week in a boot before taking it off and beginning rehabilitation work on Monday. As high-ankle sprains take longer to heal, it is unknown when he will be able to return to the court.
“The major concern with injury right now is bringing him back too soon and having to deal with lingering pain and discomfort and him being hobbled by this the rest of the year. Our feeling is, since we’ve come this far, let’s try to get him fully healthy,” he said.
A source close to the program told OGGOA on Monday that Florida’s hope is to have Prather back for at least a portion of its three-game homestand from Jan. 30 to Feb. 5. Whether his injury is fully healed by that time so he can participate as a full-go in practice leading into a game during that seven-day span remains to be seen. Donovan said Monday that Prather has already been ruled out for the next two contests.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On Florida’s impressive defense: “We’ve got to keep getting better. It’s an everyday commitment to guard, in my opinion. … Our guys are taking pride in it. They can see what happens when you’re committed to it – all five guys, not just one guy. … We’ve really been able to get better in that area. Did I think it would happen this quick or this soon or this fast? I don’t know, but I felt like we had the ability to be much better than we were a year ago.”
» On problems with the Gators’ cohesion early in the season: “Everybody was missing everybody way too much. I just tried to talk to them about utilizing each other’s strengths and talents to the best of our ability. I started to see us get better in that area in the second half of Air Force, at Yale, and I think we’ve gotten better. I told our guys, our goal every game should be to try and get 20+ assists. That’s how we have to play because then you have balanced scoring, now you’re finding the open man. … [Saturday] we were moving the ball so quickly that it found a guy wide open, and I think that’s the right way to play.”
» On junior F Will Yeguete and how much he impacts each game: “I describe him as a guy that is a rare breed because he really values and takes pride in doing a lot of the dirty work things. … He’s a great defender, he’s a great rebounder, he’s a terrific loose ball guy, he puts his body in plays. I never, ever want him to ever feel, form myself as a coach, underappreciated or undervalued because those guys are hard to find. You could always go out and find a great shooter. You can always go out there and find a guy that can jump real high. But when you talk about a guy that can do things that really impact the outcome of the game on loose balls, hustle plays, by putting his body in plays, rebounding, those guys are really hard to find.”
» On how to be a winner: “If you want to be comfortable, you’re never ever going to really reach your true potential.”
» On the team’s mentality at this point: “Our team is invested. That doesn’t mean that we’re never going to lose a game again, but we’re making the proper investment and we need to continue to do that.”
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