A four-year member of the Florida Gators basketball program under head coach Billy Donovan, former forward Adam Allen – a four-star recruit coming out of Milton High School – was forced to retire due to multiple knee surgeries. No longer with the team, he has joined OGGOA as a basketball columnist and will provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2011-12 season.
Ending the regular season with three losses and lacking inspired play down the stretch is not what any Florida fan wanted to see from their preseason top 10-ranked team heading into the 2012 SEC Tournament. However, there is still hope for this battle-tested team going into the postseason.
In order for this team to be able to make a run in either of the upcoming tournaments, the players will have to learn from their mistakes and play with more passion than they have been since losing sophomore forward Will Yeguete to injury. At this point in the year, there is no room for mistakes and no excuse not to leave everything on the table each and every time they step on the court.
The way this team finished the season is comparable to the 2007-08 team that I was a part of. In fact, I read here on OGGOA that head coach Billy Donovan even compared the two teams before this squad’s slide to end the season.
We had a great chance of making the NCAA Tournament that year but instead played not to lose (as opposed to being aggressors) and ended our season on a 2-5 skid. We didn’t realize how much passion we needed to play with on a game-by-game basis until the coaching staff kicked us out of our gym and put us through a few incredibly intense practices a day at P.K Yonge High School and Florida Gym. We weren’t even allowed to wear our practice gear because Coach Donovan said that we didn’t deserve to have “Florida” on our chests while we were playing such uninspired ball.
He was right.
After those intense practices, we made a run in the NIT and got all the way to the Final Four, beating San Diego State, Creighton and then Arizona State before losing to UMass in Madison Square Garden. We came together as a group after Alabama knocked us out of the SEC Tournament, and it is somewhat ironic that Florida will face that same opponent this year in second-round action.
Though the Gators will not have to beat the Crimson Tide to earn a NCAA berth, Florida will have to overcome at least that obstacle in order to maintain/improve their seed.
This year’s Florida team is definitely more talented and has experienced tougher tests and more success than the players on the 2007-08 team did that year. I would expect that they are experiencing some of the same “tough love” that our team did from Coach Donovan during my freshman year even though they have not fallen off the way we did.
Once the ball is tipped up Friday in New Orleans, LA, the Gators have an opportunity to prove they have learned from their mistakes and have refocused their attention on what it takes to be successful during the madness that is the month of March.