3/9: Players discuss upcoming SEC Tournament

By Adam Silverstein
March 10, 2011

As the No. 12/12 Florida Gators (24-6, 13-3 SEC) prepare for the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament, four of the team’s starters discussed the successful regular season while looking ahead to all of the game action ahead of them. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the media availability.

MOTIVATION TO PLAY AS A TEAM

At the start of the season, head coach Billy Donovan kept repeating that Florida was failing to come together as a cohesive unit and instead consisted of players who were worried about “getting their own.” Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton insists that all changed after UF dropped a tough neutral site game (in Orlando, FL) to Central Florida.

“We had a meeting – players only – we told each other it’s not about the individual. That’s going to come [in time],” he said. “After the UCF game, it made a lot of sense. We played selfish that game. After watching film, we had a meeting and we came together and said we had to play together as a team in order for us to get where we want to be. That was the start. Every game after that we came out and played as a team.”

Now the team is focused on maintaining that edge. “All we can do is stick together as a team and keep practicing hard and just be ready for the games,” junior point guard Erving Walker said. “It’s one and done now. We’re not going to be satisfied with just winning the regular season SEC. We want to do more things.”

MOTIVATION TO WIN THE SEC TOURNAMENT

Capturing the 2011 SEC regular season title, the Gators could suffer a letdown with their eyes focused on the 2011 NCAA Tournament. The players insist that will not happen and point to the fact that they were unable to cut the nets after defeating Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN, as just one of the many motivating factors they have in their back pocket.

“That’s definitely a motivation. Coach told us we have three more chances to cut down the nets – in this tournament, the Final Four and the championship. We definitely want to try to achieve those goals,” Boynton said. Senior forward Chandler Parsons has a similar mindset about the upcoming event. “That’s something you always want to do – climbing up on that ladder and cutting down the nets. That’s definitely some extra motivation for us to get it done in Atlanta,” he said.

PREPARING FOR AN UNKNOWN OPPONENT

Florida secured a No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament. With that position comes a day of extra rest and evaluation, but the Gators will not know their opponent on Friday until Tennessee and Arkansas square-off the day before. “We’ll be ready for both,” Boynton said. “I’m not sure who we’ll play, but we’re going to prepare for both of them in practice. No matter what – we’ll be ready.”

In the meantime, Florida has been focused on defense in practice, according to Boynton, with special attention being paid to taking charges, help defense and overall team improvement. “You really just got to work on yourself right now,” Parsons noted. “We’re worrying about our team and what we got to do.”

IMPACT OF FRESHMEN BEING FELT

Donovan has complimented, throughout the entire season, the efforts of his freshman class and how their talent and tenaciousness has improved the Gators overall. Now their fellow teammates are also singing their praises.

“Sitting down and watching those young guys bring the energy they have is great. It helps our team out. Watching those guys bring energy every single day is good for our team,” redshirt center Vernon Macklin said.

“When they first got here, they got us to do different things. They came here with a defensive mentality. Those guys stepped up and took charges early without even coach asking them to do it. They did a lot of things early on without coach telling them to do it. It made us look at ourselves and say, ‘If these young guys can do it, we can do it.’

“These guys came in, just wanted to learn and listen to Coach Donovan and listen to us also. Those guys came in like sponges and really absorbed everything we talked to them about. They’re helping us win games right now.”

QUOTES (After the break…)

Walker on sacrificing individual stats for the team: “This is a mature group and we’re willing to do that.”

Walker on his improved assist-to-turnover ratio over the last few games: “It’s just guys making shots and we’re playing well as a team right now. People are finding each other. Just as long as I don’t turn the ball over – I’m working on that. The assists can come and go. Guys are playing great and just making shots right now.”

Boynton on if the SEC Tournament is a must-win event: “We’re taking every game one at a time; our focus is to win this tournament.”

Parsons on winning 2011 SEC Player of the Year: “I was just honored to get that. For there never have been a player at the University of Florida to get that award…it’s an honor. I never could have done it without my teammates and my coaches and everyone here. I’m sharing it with my whole team.”

Parsons on the award being a four-year honor: “If you would have told me three years ago that I would have been Player of the Year, I would have never believed it. It just shows how hard I’ve worked and how far I’ve come.”

Parsons on Nick Calathes reaching out to him: “He texted me. He said, ‘Congratulations.’ He’s real happy for me and he’s real happy for our team.”

Macklin on being pleased with Parsons’s award: “I’m happy for him. He’s been here through the ups and downs. I’m happy for this guy. He’s been through a lot for the University of Florida. He helps us out a lot. He’s a great player, and I’m glad he won it.”

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