Odds and ends from Florida Gators in Texas

By Adam Silverstein
March 28, 2013

After coming out of the first weekend of the 2013 NCAA Tournament with two big wins, the three-seed Florida Gators chose to remain in Texas – travelling from Austin, TX to Arlington, TX on Monday – rather than fly home only to be forced to fly back out a few days later. Head coach Billy Donovan has participated in two media availabilities since then and the team has been doing plenty of work on and off the court as well. Here are a few odds and ends that would not fit into some of the other posts here on OGGOA.

» Former Florida center Joakim Noah will be in attendance on Friday. The Chicago Bulls happen to be playing against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday afternoon, so Noah will be in town and able to attend the Sweet 16 game.

» The Gators had a pair of celebrity visitors as guests in practice this week as Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle took in the team’s first workout on Tuesday and Texas Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski wound up in Cowboys Stadium on Thursday to watch the team’s shootaround. Pierzynski is a life-long UF fan.

» Donovan and Carlisle were both members of the 1987-88 New York Knicks though both were just bench players on the team. Also on that squad? Sidney Green, the father of former Florida point guard Taurean Green. Donovan and Carlisle also played with Patrick Ewing, Kenny “Sky” Walker, Bill Cartwright, Gerald Henderson, Mark Jackson and Gerald Wilkins among others. Donovan and his Gators coaching staff actually went out for dinner with Carlisle and his assistants when Florida got into town on Monday. The Gators then went to the Mavericks game on on Tuesday and saw Dallas pull off an exciting 109-102 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

» According to Florida Today’s David Jones, junior forward Will Yeguete had been approached in the past to leave Florida early to play professional basketball in France. He declined. “Not happening. My parents want me to graduate,” he said.

» Students from Florida and Florida Gulf Coast will be featured on NBC’s The Today Show on Friday morning. There will be a live spirit competition between the students on a split screen. Gators fans should wear orange, blue and gear with the team logo and arrive at Gate 1 of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center at 6:30 a.m. sharp. The segment will air on NBC at approximately 7:15 a.m.

» Senior guard Kenny Boynton on trying to get to the Final Four after consecutive losses in the Elite Eight: “Basically you need to remember, but you don’t think about it. We remember the pain it caused for us last year. I think we used it to learn for the next few games. We’ve been close, and our goal is to get further this year.”

» Donovan on being forced to suspend junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin before the first game of the season: “I’ll never forget this. It was one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever experienced as a coach when I told him in my office, ‘We’re not taking you on this trip. You’re not playing.’ And all of our team is on the bus and we’re driving to Jacksonville. And he’s got his book bag over his shoulder and our bus is leaving and he’s walking down past our facility to walk back to his dorm. He’s obviously very emotional and he’s crying. I think those kinds of events sometimes really change you. … I think there’s no question that situation with Scottie helped him.”


» Donovan on playing in a big stadium with less of a background for shooters: “I think nowadays these guys are so used to playing in some of these bigger venues. For a lot of years the SEC Tournament was held in the Georgia Dome. But it’s great we get a chance today to go out there and shoot around and get at least familiar with the site, so to speak. But probably for every team playing it’s a different and unique situation.”

» Donovan on how special the NCAA Tournament can be: “It’s such an exciting time. There’s nothing like this, at all. … I don’t think anything ever compares emotionally, mentally, psychologically to just the NCAA Tournament because the entire nation is captivated by it. The entire nation is looking at it. It’s something that’s really enjoyable, really, really fun. And it’s also very, very painful, sometimes, too. That’s the hard part about the tournament is there is a lot of pain and agony in it. And the tournament in a lot of ways listen, for me, personally, you know, going to a Final Four as a player changed my life in a lot of respects. This tournament has changed people’s lives, regardless if that’s right or wrong, and I’m not saying I agree with that. But things change for people, so to speak, and that’s kind of the exciting part. But also you think about right now there’s times where coaches get opportunities because of this tournament. Players get a chance to go to the NBA because of this opportunity. Assistant coaches get the chance to move on and be head coaches. There’s a lot of things that go in.

“I think it just shows that I think in life, if you can do something well and be successful at it, not only does it help yourself, but it helps everybody involved. Everybody can really, really capitalize on the success. But the losing part is painful, too. And I think for me as a coach now, doing it for as long as I’ve done it, I would say that I get way, way more pleasure for myself personally in seeing other people get a chance to go through it for the first time. See a guy like John Pelphrey, see him go to the tournament, get to the Elite Eight, and Matt McCall, my coaching staff. Those things have become very, very enjoyable to me.”

» Donovan on having so much success in basketball at a “football school” as is often said: “Well, the one thing I definitely noticed when I came in there was I felt like Pat Kennedy was at Florida State and he did a great job. Lon Kruger was at Florida at that time and Norm Sloan was at Florida right before that. I always felt like there was this air, when I got there, that they were trying to get basketball – between Pat Kennedy, Lon Kruger, even Leonard Hamilton – they were trying to get basketball to stand on its own two legs in the state of Florida. They would have these games or tournaments and they’d play them in Orlando or Miami, in bigger cities and things like that.

“The biggest thing I did was I embraced football. I’m not saying those guys didn’t. They were trying to create something that I don’t know if you were able to create, even if you’re able to create today. What I really tried to do, when I say embraced the football thing, one of the things I felt like when I first got there, Florida, Florida State used to play in Orlando. And I’m saying, why are we playing this game in Orlando? Let’s play it the Friday night before the football game on Saturday. The football team is playing in Tallahassee, we’ll play there. When your team is in Gainesville, you come here and play. And it’s been great.

“The passion for football in the southeast is like nowhere else in the United States of America. It’s special. That being said, when it comes to the state of Florida, they are extremely passionate about football. But they are not more passionate about football than they are the University of Florida. There is incredible pride. So whether it be baseball, basketball, football, volleyball, there is an enormous amount of support, fanfare and enthusiasm, and people that are Gators love the University of Florida. That takes precedence over everything. They want everything to do well.”

10 Comments

  1. Ken (CA) says:

    Aam – I know this is way premature, but what do we know about Gators schedule next year? Zona at home, Wisconsin on the road, right? they were both home and home? FSU at home, other than pay to play games and pre-season tourneys (dont know which ones they might be considering or if any rumors there) are there any decent teams we know for sure they will be playing? Not sure what will happen with BE/SEC challenge now

    • Not sure about BE/SEC but ill ask ESPN. Guessing it will still happen but with the new league name.

      Honestly, let’s get into this after the season. Please remind me.

      • Ken (CA) says:

        haha, like i said, i knew it was way early, was just thinking about it tonight wondering what kind of competition we were planning for with the great team we should have next year. I expect us at least to be in the Orange Bowl tourney again, we seem to always do that. Would be really cool to see us in Maui or Anchorage for a change, not sure why n ever do that unless never invited. Should be about time for the once in 4 yrs foreign trip again too

    • calgator says:

      We are playing a “traditional Big 12 power” next year at home. Hasn’t been announced who it is yet.

      • Ken (CA) says:

        oh? i hadn’t heard that….that sounds interesting, and probably another home and home. I like the fact Billy has been scheduling better in recent years, those 25 win seasons in the NIT I guess taught him to be more realistic

    • Crock says:

      The Zona series should be over. Already went home & home IIRC

  2. Ken (CA) says:

    Love Yeguette’s attitude, I bet same will happen with Young, and with the big guys next years, we will never have had that kind of depth up front to work with. I have also been wondering at the sheer size of Cowboy Stadium and how it would be set up as a decent basketball venue that wouldn’t be like a boxing ring in the middle of a sea of floor seats.

    With them choosing to stay in TX, unless it is spring break there right now, how do they as “student athletes” keep up with classwork and studying? Do they remote in lectures or anything, or tape them to feed to the players?

    • Answer in the next post.

      • Ken (CA) says:

        cool, thanks. I am often c curious as to how high level athletes can keep up with studies…I had hard enough time without that many extra-carricular responsibilities. (well aside from all my frat partying, that did make a dent in the studying

  3. Gatorgrad79 says:

    Wondering if fgcu students will repeat the ‘F@#&’ the Gators chant on Today show? So classless! Hope UF students stay classy….

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