No. 14/15 Florida Gators (20-5, 9-2 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 following his press availability Friday.
PARSONS DAY-TO-DAY FOR WEEKEND MATCH-UP
Though he will travel with the team to Baton Rouge, LA, senior forward Chandler Parsons (deep thigh bruise) is questionable to play in Sunday’s game and will almost certainly not be in the starting lineup for Florida, Donovan said Friday. Parsons has been hobbling around all week after injuring himself last Saturday against Tennessee and has been receiving treatments multiple times per day.
“Because of the internal bleeding in his leg, the first 48 hours were pretty critical in terms of him staying off of it, on crutches, elevation,” Donovan said. “The pain in his leg is subsiding. He’s done some workouts in pools, but he has not done any running. He has not done any shooting. “
Donovan, who noted that Parsons will make a “full recovery” has had “no issues” and could be “100 percent” by next Thursday, said he has a “50-50″ chance of playing Sunday, partially because he will not have practiced all week up until the game. “If he does play, I’d say that he probably definitely will not start,” he said. “It would probably be a situation where we put him in there just to see how he [feels]. As a coach, I’m going into the game planning that he’s not going to be able to play. I know in his mind he wants to play, thinks he’s going to play.”
Aggravating the injury further is not an issue UF needs to worry about, Donovan noted. “We’re not concerned that, if he does play, there’s going to be any more damage to his leg,” he said. “He’s going to be padded up enough that, if he did get hit there, they’re confident it’s not going to be an issue.”
Luckily for the Gators, the LSU Tigers (10-15, 2-8 SEC) are one of the worst performing teams in the Southeastern Conference. Nevertheless, Parsons has been on fire for Florida recently, notching three consecutive double-doubles before getting injured.
He will probably be replaced in the starting lineup by either freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin or freshman guard Casey Prather, Donovan noted. Prather would be the more natural fit, while Wilbekin would push Walker to the two and Boynton to the three. “When you got a really good player that’s out, it’s got to be a collective group of people that’s got to try to raise their play,” he said.
ADDITIONAL TIME OFF CAN BE GOOD OR BAD
With at least two games per week since 2011 began, the Gators have not had much time to relax, recover and get healthy in the second half of the season. Playing Sunday after eight days off could be a gift or a curse, Donovan said.
“We’ve been on a pretty regular schedule, playing a lot of games. This is the first time probably since Christmas break that we’ve had [extra time off],” he noted. “We play Thursday-Saturday-Tuesday. Although we have a little bit of a break with one game in 12 days, we then have a lot of games in a short period of time. […] You’re always concerned how your team is going to come out and play when you have eight days off.”
One group with no issues about the extra time off is the players. “This break has done a lot for us,” sophomore guard Kenny Boynton said. “[Thursday] we had a great practice. The LSU game, we should be energized. We should come out with a lot of intensity and be ready to play.” Walker agreed. “It was huge for us, especially with Chandler being hurt right now,” he said. “The extra time to rest up may help us get him back on Sunday.”
Check out Donovan’s thoughts on Walker’s freedom with the ball…after the break!
TRUSTING ERVING WALKER WITH THE BALL
Though Walker has made plenty of big buckets for Florida, his propensity to turn the ball over and rush plays has drawn plenty of criticism (including from OGGOA). Donovan explained why he provides Walker with so much freedom and is able to trust him so much with the ball.
“For me, here as a coach at Florida, that’s always my battle with those guys. When I say ‘battle,’ just with point guards,” he said. “Sometimes those guys hear it from me a lot. The biggest thing I say to those guys is, ‘With freedom comes responsibility.’ I would tell Jason Williams when I had him, ‘Hey Jason, I don’t care if you throw it out your ear, around your back or through your legs, but if you turn it over, you’re coming out of the game. You’re coming out. You better complete the pass.’
“With Erving, he’s enough of a competitor that he has gotten better. There was a time there where he was turning it over too much and I had to sit him. I try to use that as a challenge for him. ‘Here, run the team. Do what you do.’ He’s got to start to see things how I see things a little bit. In order to have that kind of relationship, you’ve got to give that freedom. If you’re trying to control every single thing while they’re out there playing, I think it’s tough. There’s been some times where Erving’s really made some poor decisions and some bad choices, and there have been some things that he’s done a really good job in. I’ve got confidence in him. I like coaching him. My relationship is good with him. He’s seeing things more how I’m seeing them, and I’m not so sure last year he saw them that way.”
Donovan on LSU being a “bad” team: “A lot of times, when you go into a game like this, people look at a team’s record and say, ‘Well jeez, they lost eight-straight. How good are they? They’re playing a lot of young guys.’ I always look at how a team competes and plays. In fairness to them, they started the league off 2-0 and then got hit with a rash of injuries. They’re a good team. They have size, strength, they defend very well.”
Boynton on how his defensive effort has changed since high school: “I chose games to play defense in high school.”
Boynton on if the team was tired going into the SEC Tournament last year: “We were tired and we were so worried about the NCAA Tournament. That was a distraction. This year we’re going in with a clear mind. We just want to win the SEC Championship.”
Boynton on if Walker is the most confident player on the team: “Yes. He has the biggest heart. All of us are confident.”
Walker on Parsons not starting: “We would love to have him, but we’v ebeen preparing this week without him, as if he’s not going to play. He’s a key component to our team, but I think we’re going to be ready even if we have to go without him. We have other guys that can step in and play good minutes.”