No. 2 Florida Gators basketball (23-2, 12-0 SEC) takes a break from its long road stretch with a home game Wednesday against the Auburn Tigers (12-11, 4-8 SEC). Before the first practice of the week, Florida head coach Billy Donovan met with the media to discuss the upcoming contest and difficult road ahead.
Freshman point guard Kasey Hill played only 14 minutes off the bench on Saturday after injuring his groin during the game and being sidelined for the duration of the contest. On Monday, Donovan announced that Hill would miss practice and deemed him “doubtful and not going to play on Wednesday.”
Hill’s absence means senior PG Scottie Wilbekin will see an extended stay on the court, but the Gators will also need others to handle the ball when Wilbekin does take a seat. Donovan plans to go with a committee of redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith, sophomore guard Michael Frazier II and sophomore G/F DeVon Walker, all of whom handled the ball earlier this season when both Wilbekin and Hill missed games.
Donovan also noted that neither DeVon Walker nor freshman F Chris Walker were injured on Saturday but neither saw much action (seven minutes combined) due to a variety of factors including Florida’s frontcourt not being in foul trouble and the seniors not getting winded during the second half.
Though Wilbekin was named SEC Player of the Week on Monday, senior center Patric Young has been just as integral of a piece for the Gators over the last week, stepping up with some huge plays against Tennessee and a great second-half offensive performance on Saturday at Kentucky.
Asked to evaluate where Young has made the biggest improvement this season, Donovan noted that his consistent work ethic has really made a difference in his game on a day-to-day basis.
“I think Patric has been one of those guys, through his career, where he’s had a good game and inevitably, he would come back feeling very, very good about himself and sometimes unwilling to kind of go back down to the cellar and prepare again,” he said.
“I think a lot of times for young players, it’s always easier to prepare when things don’t go well because you want to get back and redeem yourself. When things are going well, you have the tendency to say, ‘OK, everything is OK, everything can stay as it is,’ and the reality is that it’s not going to stay how it is. You have to go back down.
“I would have to say he has become a consistent worker. He has become consistent in practice. … He’s worked harder at that than I’ve seen him work in the past in that area of his development.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Donovan on what Florida can build on from being in a close game with Auburn one month ago: “I think we can take things from that game in terms of things that we need to do better, adjustments or changes. They’re going to basically do the same thing. I don’t know if there’s going to be any correlation from one game to the next. I think Auburn is a very, very good team, and I think a lot of times people look at results and the result of a record and try to identify what a team is. … They’re playing very, very good basketball. … This is a team that has played very, very well and has given itself a chance, whether home or away, they’ve played very, very good basketball.”
» Donovan on the areas in which the Gators can still improve: “I think we can get better at shooting the ball from the free throw line; I think we’ve made some improvements there. I think we still have breakdowns on defense in pick-and-roll coverage. … I think we can get better in our on the ball defense in terms of one-on-one and being able to cover straight line drives. I think offensively, we can continually get better in terms of shooting the basketball; I don’t think we’ve shot the ball great in the last few games. … I think we can get better executing on offense; there’s times we’ve executed pretty well and there’s been times we need to get better. I don’t think there’s one area of the game right now that I couldn’t tell you we couldn’t afford or use the opportunity to get better. I just think that it’s a constant growth of trying to improve each and every day.”
» Donovan on Florida sticking to a “game-by-game” approach and how it has served the team well thus far int he season: “There’s always some kind of residual effect after a game, whether a player didn’t play well, or he didn’t play enough, or a guy played great and thinks he’s got it all figured out, or he was in foul trouble – there’s some kind of effect your team deals with coming out of the game. Are our guys willing and prepared today to start all over again in the process of getting ready to play on Wednesday night and be willing to not skip steps? To come to practice and start with film, to start practice and actually stretch and warm up correctly to get ready to practice well, to do the things in practice with a focus, an effort and an intensity to continually get better? That’s the hardest part, is after a game is over with whether you win or lose, you have to start all over again. … So are we willing to take ourselves all the way down to the bottom and realize that we’re starting off at the bottom and now we’ve got to obviously prepare and build and get ready for this next game? And after the Auburn game, are you prepared to go all the way back down to the cellar again and have to prepare and go back up? And that is a tedious, grinding, fatiguing, hard process to go through, but it’s one you have to go through I think in order to be successful.”
» Donovan on the biggest challenge for a growing team: “The challenge I always talk to them about is, ‘Are you prepared today to battle human nature?’ Human nature says, ‘Let’s take it easy, we just had two good wins, everything’s going to be fine, everything’s OK.’ You’ve got to constantly battle and fight that every single day, and as a coach, you try to educate them on that.”
» Donovan on his players repeating may of the often-recited lines and phrases he utters: “I only like it if they believe it.”