2/3: Donovan on struggling starters, experience

By Adam Silverstein
February 4, 2011

No. 23 Florida Gators (17-5, 6-2 SEC) head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his media availability on Thursday.

STRUGGLING STARTERS

Though redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, senior forward Chandler Parsons and junior point guard Erving Walker have by all accounts had solid seasons up to this point, Florida’s other two starters have yet to find a consistent groove. Donovan is not overly concerned with that fact, pointing out a few nuances to each player’s game.

“He really made a great jump in my opinion coming out of the Mississippi State game,” he said of sophomore guard Kenny Boynton. “In the Mississippi State game, he had some really, really good looks – open looks – and the ball didn’t go in the basket for him. And I really thought that affected him on the defensive end and his energy. He did a phenomenal job on [John] Jenkins. I know he scored 22 points, but it wasn’t from the three-point line, it wasn’t wide-open looks. I think we made him work for it. He got to the free throw line. He had some drives. Even though he was not having a prolific scoring night, he really was locked in defensively to try to do the best job he could on Jenkins.”

For his part, Boynton is getting the message Donovan is sending. “I just try to put the last play behind me,” Boynton said of his attitude when he’s struggling to knock down shots. “Coach Donovan, he doesn’t want anybody out there frustrated or thinking about the last play, he just wants us to play whether or not our shots are falling. Last year was pretty hard for me to do because I wasn’t used to it. This year is easier; [I] just go back and play defense the next possession.”

With senior F Alex Tyus, Donovan thinks the guys he has had to go one-on-one with have caused the biggest problem. “The one thing that’s been hard for Alex is he’s had a lot of very, very difficult match-ups at the power forward spot,” he said. “He’s had some really, really difficult match-ups. Alex has really been trying to focus on defending. Because when you’re going against those kind of guys, and we’re trying to provide some help for him, you probably have a tendency to focus a little bit less on your offense. […] You look at the match-ups he’s had to go against, there’s going to be a dip in offensive production because he’s had to focus so much on playing defense.”

EXPERIENCE DOESN’T WIN GAMES

Asked how the team’s veteran leadership and experience of playing four overtime games (and winning three) this season will help in the future, Donovan simply said it will not by noting that age and “being there” before don’t matter nearly as much as performing to the best of your abilities.

“I don’t think so,” he said of the notion. “Last year’s Kentucky team with all those young guys did pull out close games. There was a thought when I had [Joakim] Noah, [Al] Horford and [Corey] Brewer and they were all sophomores that there was no NCAA Tournament experience … and you have to have an experienced team to go deep into the tournament … and they proved that wrong.

“Just because we’ve won some close games does not ensure the fact that we’re going to win all of them going forward. Anything that’s happened in the past has no bearing on the next time you’re in that situation other than the fact that there’s a level of familiarity. You still have to make the plays that are necessary [to win the game]. You still have to execute, perform and do those things in those situations. Just because you did it last time doesn’t mean you’re going to do it [another] time. You got to execute, focus and do the right things at that time to the best of your ability.”

Parsons neither agreed nor disagreed with Donovan but did point out that the team’s three overtime victories have given the Gators more confidence as a unit. “Having four overtime games and winning three of them really shows something about our team and how we keep playing,” he said. “It’s all about effort, executing our offense, playing defense and getting those big stops when we need them. And then obviously our guys coming up with some big shots.”

QUOTES (After the break…)

Donovan on recruiting Kentucky G Brandon Knight: “Obviously I thought he was a terrific player. I had a chance to watch him quite a bit in high school. As time started to go on, I never felt like we were in a real good position to sign him, so I think we kind of moved on to other things at that point. […] I admire more his work ethic and his commitment to being the best that he can be. That’s the one thing I admire the most about him and that goes for his school work, too. He’s a phenomenal student. Very, very disciplined. Works very hard. So I have great admiration for him in terms of the type of person, student and player he wants to be.”

Donovan on freshman C Patric Young’s improvement: “Patric was going through a real learning and growing process where he was really trying to figure things out. It was probably a bit more difficult for him than he anticipated coming in. To his credit, he realized, ‘There’s a lot I got to learn, there’s a lot I got to get better at.’ He said, ‘I got to really put my focus toward the things that I know I can do right now to help our team.’ Running the floor, defending, rebounding, being physical, blocking out, charges, loose balls – he can do those things. When he puts his mind to doing those things, it makes a difference for our team.”

Donovan on ESPN College GameDay: “It’s a great thing. When I first came here 15 years ago, there was so much of a demand to try to find a way to get your program on TV, to get that national exposure. Now with the TV package … there’s so much exposure. There’s games on all over the place right now. I do think that kind of environment, where ESPN is choosing or selecting a game they want to highlight for the weekend, is a good thing. It’s different today than it was 8-9-10 years ago. That probably was a take-off of what ESPN did with the football. I don’t mind it. It’s a good thing. It creates enthusiasm. It creates excitement. It creates an energy on campus. All those things are always a positive.”

Donovan on what his team can take away from the Vanderbilt victory: “More than anything, it’s just our league – how hard and how competitive it is to win home or on the road. Vanderbilt’s a very, very good team. They came in and really played well and played hard. It was not a thing of beauty on the offensive end of the floor for either team. It was a hard-fought game and a hard-played game. Our guys learning and understanding just different situations we were in. There was times when offense got stagnant. There was times where we had some defensive breakdowns. We had a couple times in the game in the second half [where] we got up by eight, and in both of those situations we gave up three-point shots that cut the lead to five. There’s some things that we can learn and grow from. More than anything else, the game’s we’ve played in this league, it’s just kind of the way it is. It’s never easy. It’s always kind of a battle going in there.”

Parsons on Walker’s clutch shooting: “He’s just got a knack for hitting clutch shots. He’s really comes up big for us. Every time he shoots the ball, I think it’s going in. He’s a great shooter.”

Parsons on Young and Macklin helping each other: “They’ve really pushed each other all year long, starting from the summer. Patric coming in here with his big, physical presence and him banging into Vern, getting him ready for physical, big SEC post players to go up against. They’ve really made each other better. Then obviously Patric Young having to guard Vern, who’s very skilled offensively, it made him a lot better. He’s really improved this year, stepped up and brought energy every time he’s on the court for us.”

Parsons on GameDay: “It’s awesome. The atmosphere it creates with all our fans, our students and our community is really good for us.”

Boynton on Knight: “Brandon, he’s always been a smart player. When he’s on the court, he makes the right plays. When he’s open, he takes the shot or tries to get to the rim. When he sees the open man, he’s a great passer.”

Boynton on if he and Knight still talk often: “Every now and then. Last time I probably talked to him was the night we played against Xavier and they played South Carolina.”

Boynton on if he and Knight are still close: “Yes.”

Boynton on playing against Knight: “Played about five times in high school. We try to make each other better. We compete on the court and then when it’s over, it’s over.”

One Comment

  1. Basshole says:

    I’m excited about this game tomorrow. Even though I think UK should take it, I think we can play up (or down) to any team in the NCAA, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see us get this one. I like these tough games because win or lose, I think it improves the team for the tournament. Go Gators!

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