CHOMPING On: What to do about Dan Werner

By Adam Silverstein
February 11, 2010

Covering the Florida Gators as close as I do every day, I sometimes find the need to vent regarding some of the coverage, news, opinions and general sentiments surrounding the program. In those instances, OGGOA presents CHOMPING On:

That is the question on every Florida Gators basketball fan’s mind Thursday morning: What can head coach Billy Donovan do about senior forward Dan Werner? While the question is very straightforward, the answer is actually just as simple: Nothing.

Read the rest (trust me, there is plenty more) after the jump!

Donovan’s hands are tied. Before I explain why, let us just go over how awful Werner has played so far this season. In addition to shooting a career-low .336 from the field (was previously .433 as a starter), he is .279 from beyond the arc (down from .333) and has a 1.19 assist-to-turnover ratio, the lowest in his career. He is averaging two turnovers a game and has given up the rock three or more times in eight of 24 outings this season.

Werner is shooting 3-for-34 from downtown since Dec. 10, has five baskets in his last 223 game minutes played (20 points) and has put up the following shooting efforts: 0/3, 0/4, 0/4, 1/8, 0/4, 1/6, 1/6, 2/8, 2/7, 1/5 and another 1/5. The most heartbreaking stat for Gators fans? He is playing his worst when it matters the most: Werner is only shooting .161 (5-for-31) since Jan. 12.

Perhaps worst of all, he has lost any shred of confidence he once possessed. Athletes across the world have to deal with criticism; the good ones or those who are strong in mind are able to either ignore or overcome it to play at a respectable level. Werner has proved incapable of doing so. He now appears nervous every time he touches the ball and will even triple-clutch before shooting.

It has gotten to the point where he is a liability on offense, not only because of his inability to score, but due to the fact that opposing teams are no longer devoting defenders to cover him. Every time Werner was on the court Wednesday against the South Carolina Gamecocks, he was ignored by the defense, who used the extra defender to man-up whichever Florida player had the ball.

Though the Gators shot perfectly fine Wednesday, the extra on-ball pressure provided by the Gamecocks was part of the reason for Florida’s season-high 20 turnovers. Some miscues came as a result of sloppy play, but the Gators were forced into a solid amount of them due to increased and consistent pressure on the ball.

So how can someone playing so poorly remain on the court for an average of 24 minutes a game since Jan. 16? Simple: his coach has no choice in the matter. With sophomore center Kenny Kadji out for the season, junior F Chandler Parsons excelling in Werner’s old starting role and freshman F Erik Murphy already getting nine minutes a game, there are no more big bodies on the roster for Donovan to use as substitutes.

You may argue that Donovan could give Parsons and Murphy each five more minutes on the court, effectively limiting Werner to 14 a game. But Parsons is still recovering from a knee injury and both junior F Alex Tyus and redshirt junior C Vernon Macklin need to be spelled, too. Werner has to play and, defensively, Florida could do much worse than a guy who works his tail off, takes charges and is a big body in the middle.

So while Werner may be a nice guy with a good heart, has solid defensive skills and a desire to do anything humanly possible to help his team win (traits that are all respectable and should be appreciated by Gator Nation), the fact is that he is not capable of playing at this level of basketball anymore.

This is not meant to come off as disrespectful or insulting to Werner. Heaven knows I probably would not have held up this long in his shoes with the heavy criticism he has received throughout his career. However, the reasons to “get off his back” are diminishing with each passing game and ignoring the detriment he is to the team game-in and game-out would be an ignorant stance for me to take.

I’m just curious as to who it is exactly that votes for the “Mr. Basketball” award in New Jersey…or in Florida for that matter (Ray Shipman, 2008).

29 Comments

  1. Sean says:

    Spot on.

  2. …or Mr. Basketball NY Jonathan Mitchell…

  3. SC Gator says:

    Hear, hear!

    Look, he’s a nice guy, I’m sure, but he’s a damn liability the moment he steps on the court. He can’t shoot the ball any longer, so he’s not a scoring threat at all, and he stumbles into stupid turnovers every time I look. You are correct, there is nothing that can be done about it, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

  4. Preston says:

    I’d trade Werner (Mr. New Jersey) straight up for one of those muscle heads on Jersey Shore. Surely they would grab atleast 1 rebound in 21 minutes of play.

    But it all honesty, I simply don’t understand how people believe that Werner is the worst player in the SEC.

    In my honest opinion, Werner is the BEST player in the SEC, and it’s not even close.

    When the Gators play against Arkansas, Werner is Arkansas’ best player,
    When the Gators play against South Carolina, Werner is South Carolina’s best player.
    When the Gators play against LSU, Werner is LSU’s best player.
    etc. etc. etc.

    WERNER= BEST PLAYER IN EVERY GAME HE PLAYS!!!! (it just happens to be for the other team)

  5. Mark01 says:

    I think you have to cut down on his and Shipmans minutes anyway you can.

    Give Murphy more, Give McLanahan more minutes. I liked what I saw from him in limited time. The guy probably outplays Shipman everyday in practice. Lets see what he can do.

    Plenty of walk ons have become good contributors. Don’t dismiss him because he is not on scholarship

  6. dude says:

    get the f–k off werners nuts.. hes in a slump! give the kid a f–king break… dont know what the hell ur talking about

  7. Mr2Bits says:

    Where was the “Chomping On’ bits back in football season and Adazzio? That would have been fun.

    I can’t even watch these games anymore as they are making my hair fall out. Werner sucks ass more and more each week but the whole damn team is 2 buzzer beater losses from being a 10 seed in the NIT

  8. Mr2Bits – http://www.onlygators.com/12/11/2009/chomping-on-effect-of-billy-gonzales-departure/ (on Billy Gonzalez). Don’t have much time to write these otherwise, takes a topic that I really have a strong opinion on. Also wrote something on Addazio way back after the Arkansas game, but it was not part of the “Chomping On” series, I suppose.

    dude – Thanks for the intelligent comment.

  9. John Boof says:

    I don’t think I really count him as a “big man.” He defends well usually, but he doesn’t get up off the floor, so he has no height advantage when the opponent does. I can’t really count him as a big man unless he is up high enough to alter/block shots and/or muscle his way to rebounds. His rebounding role seems to be to block out and grab loose balls after they hit the ground.

    We need him — he is our 6th man. But we need him to improve in areas he is able. That includes defending shots and driving to the basket to draw fouls. He’ll never improve in those areas until he stops playing so timidly. He can help in ways other than shooting. His ball possession/control is not any better when he plays timid compared to when he plays aggressively. He is more effective when aggressive (was impressive in one of our home games – UGA game I think) and plays with energy, and I’d rather see 15 minutes of aggressive play than 25 minutes of timid play from him any day.

  10. John Boof – Good point, wasn’t trying to insinuate that though…just that he’s a bigger *body* compared to anyone else on the bench who would get additional minutes (like Shipman). You hit it on the head though – he has become too timid and, at least when he played aggressive, he was able to contribute.

  11. Mitch says:

    Werner has been effective when he gets the open look inside the foul line. There was a time when he would shoot that shot and make many of them. If they leave him open for that shot he has to take it. Im sure he would hit a better percentage than Boyton from 3, where he seems to have the green light to shoot whenever he wants. If you ask me, Werner’s demise is a small part of the problem. Boyton not coming in and playing the way he was expected is the real problem with this team. I guarantee Billy planned on a lot more offensive firepower from Boyton.

  12. I don’t think you can say Boynton’s underperforming is the biggest problem considering that Walker has been overperforming to counter-balance him and Tyus is playing the best ball of his career. There are a ton of problems with the Florida basketball team and Werner is not the biggest one, but he has caused the most uproar among fans which is why he has become the focal point for their unrest and will likely wind up as the Goat for the last 2-3 seasons even if he does not deserve it.

  13. Mitch says:

    Adam, Boyton was mentioned in the same breath as Wall at UK. Many saw him as a one and done. He is nowhere near that level. At this point I dont even see him as a sure fire NBA player. When you sign what is considered a top 10 player out of high school, you expect much more than Boyton is delivering. He has shown no game other than jacking up 3’s. Gator’s needed him to be a 20 ppg scorer to compete at high level this year. As for Walker, he is what he is, I dont see him as over-performing. He has had way too many lapses in key situations. Tyus, looks good. In fact Tyus should be taking many of the shots Boyton is using up.

  14. I never heard him mentioned in the same breath as Wall, the latter was always held to a higher level from people I spoke to and things I read. Boynton and Brandon Knight (senior in HS) drew comparisons, but Knight appears to be far and away more talented. Right now, you are dead-on about Boynton, but he is a freshman and not all first-year players coming out of high school perform at the level Wall is and Derrick Rose did. Perhaps he is not meeting your expectations based on all of the praise he received, but you cannot speak for Donovan (which is what you did earlier and I disagreed with).

  15. Drew 4 Orange and Blue says:

    Parsons and Tyus are carrying this team……I also had higher expectations from Boyton and although he seems to have upside it’s tough to see him as a dominant college player…as far as Werner the article echos what most of us have been saying…..I agree with Mitch…he would probably be best around the elbow…he did have the winning spike to ice the Bama game 🙂

  16. g8ter27 says:

    Wow, and I thought it was only me that thought he sucked (except I have been saying it since the start of last season)…when N. Iowa is ranked and we lose at home to S. Alabama there appears to be something wrong on the recruiting front.

  17. brlgator says:

    Adam I think I speak for everyone here when I say I wish you d write pieces like this more. I know they are time consuming but i d be content if you cut down on the length of them if it meant you could post these more often. Lets take oggoa to the top (if its not already there)

  18. jmlives says:

    Great post.

    He did a lot early, especially in Jersey. I keep waiting for him to get angry on the court and start fighting back. We could use an aggressive defensive player underneath the basket and he has fouls to give. If he played with a chip on his shoulder he would be able contribute more.

  19. jmlives says:

    Also to keep things in perspective, we lost this game due to poor free throw shooting and terrible game planning at the end. A four point game with 2 minutes to play and we start fouling when we aren’t even in the bonus? That was awful.

  20. Mitch says:

    Adam, with regard to Brandon Knight, he looks to be the real deal. However, between Knight and Austin Rivers, if I could only have one, it would be Rivers. He is the complete package. Better ball-handler and outside shooter than Knight from what I have seen. I sure hope we get both, but Rivers is as close to cant miss as Ive seen recently.

  21. I agree with you Mitch. However, the Gators already have two five-star shooting guards committed (Rivers, Beal) for 2011…not sure if Knight would want to be the third. It would probably take one of the two dropping UF for that to happen. Rivers would be the most likely to drop simply because of the high level of interest from Duke and Coach K.

  22. Mitch says:

    Adam, wont matter with Knight if he were truly a one and done

  23. Mike S. says:

    I feel bad for Dan. I never thought it would be possible to regress througout your 4 year college career but first Brett Nelson and now Dan Werner. I don’t get it. Not sure what Dan did from March to Oct of ’09but it couldn’t have been hoops 8 hrs a day. I hate to get down on kids doing their best but since early last season I have called Dan the “Anchor”. Never met a rally he couldn’t kill. Never met a play he couldn’t make a turnover on. Never met a shot he couldn’t clank off the rim. Never met a game he couldn’t drag us under in. Billy may not have a choice but we don’t have to like it. I wish him the best in life. Hopefully he gets his degree. He has no future in sports as a player.

  24. Tanner says:

    Werner is a solid sixth man going through a shooting slump. I think the most important thing for him is to realize that he doesn’t need to make the threes right now. Walker, Boyton, and Parsons are giving a decent enough outside look that we are ok with him slashing for the vast majority of his points. However, if taking one or two three point shots in a game gives him the opportunity to get out of the slump, I’m all for it. Dan is a solid defender, is smart with the ball (look at who triggers most of our inbounds plays), and is only in a shooting slump. Shooting is only one facet of the game, and at that he only took 3 shots in the South Carolina game.

    Make no mistake, this loss was all about a sloppy performance by the starters. The starting 5 had 17 turnovers. The starting 5 went 9-18 from the line. You’re right that Dan is the goat, but let’s remember that calling someone a scapegoat implies an unfair or biased assessment. Case in point: you mention his A/T ratio, but you fail to note that this is higher than the team average, for someone who is ostensibly a big man.

    Keeping it in perspective, and rooting the Gators to the NCAA,
    Tanner

  25. Tanner- Thank you for your comments. A “solid sixth man” is supposed to be able to score or provide a spark off of the bench – Werner does neither (and never did – plus he used to be a starter). It is not just about his inability to hit the three. Re-read the article, he isn’t shooting anything inside or outside of the three-point line. Also, you mention him “slashing for the vast majority of his points,” but Werner neither slashes nor scores. As I pointed out above, he’s scored 20 points in his last 223 game minutes. All he contributes on offense is as an extra player to pass the ball through.

    As for your second paragraph, I think I should point out that this column was not about Wednesday’s game. The South Carolina loss simply served as a nice platform to help make this argument. Additionally, calling someone a Goat does not imply that it is unfair or unjustified…it simply means that it is the person that receives the majority of the blame whether or not they deserve it. Werner deserves a lot of blame, but not all of the blame. His A/T may be higher than the team average, but there are tons of players who don’t register any assists, which brings that average down.

  26. Drew 4 Orange and Blue says:

    I don’t really see him as a good defender….he is decent in zone and on help defense but he can’t guard an average player one on one…the one thing he gave us his first couple of years was toughness because we had some very soft teams but I think he is a below average defender.

  27. Tanner says:

    Make no mistake, I don’t think he is being properly utilized right now. I know that he isn’t slashing a whole lot right now, but when he does, it is working. I’m not arguing that he should be a starter either, I think that coming off the bench suits him. When I said solid, I didn’t mean outstanding. Chris Richard was outstanding, and he did provide a spark. Dan Werner is solid, in that he provides minutes for others to rest while keeping the game even. He isn’t going to open up a game, but if he were going to do that, he would be starting.

    Look up scapegoat.

    He is that. I think that it would help for him to be a little bit more comfortable in his role, and I see that as the main problem. But even if he played his role to perfection, we need to play better.

    He and Parsons are forwards who handle the ball pretty well. They both have similar stats, and are only behind Walker and Boyton in their ball handling (naturally). I don’t know what more you want in that department.

  28. Tanner, I’m not going to sit here and argue with you over semantics. Just because Werner takes up space and court time does not make him solid, being productive would. And no thank you, I don’t need to look up scapegoat, I know the definition and I am the one that called him that in the first place. You cannot compare how Parsons and Werner handle the ball…Parsons has been bringing it up the court and helps run plays while Werner just stands in a spot and lets the ball pass through him. Parsons also makes a conscious effort to take it to the hole and draw fouls. I understand you may disagree, but we are all entitled to our opinion. Thanks for commenting.

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