4/10: Donovan wraps up season and speaks about Young, Yeguete, transfers, freshmen & more

By Adam Silverstein
April 10, 2013

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Wednesday to wrap up the 2012-13 season and look ahead to next year.

A MESSAGE TO THE TEAM: “WE GOT TO GET NASTIER.”

Donovan has not yet met with the Gators as an entire team for a postseason send-off into the summer (that will happen soon enough) but does have plenty on his agenda as it pertains to helping Florida improve in the offseason.

“We need to get better as a team in every area. I thought we did make some really good strides this year on the defensive end of the floor. … We didn’t score the ball as much or as well as I think we’re capable of for whatever reason. We’ve got to continue to try and get better there in that area,” he said. “[I’m] trying to figure out what we can do better in practice, what we can do better coaching staff-wise, what we can do better coaching these guys all the way around.”

One other area in which Donovan stressed that the Gators need to improve is overall team mentality. Basically, he wants Florida as a team to be tougher and more resilient. In other words, he envisions the Gators playing like one of the program’s greatest players did on a consistent, night-in, night-out basis.

“I didn’t create Joakim Noah’s passion, energy, intensity, heart, toughness. I didn’t create that. That was in there. I think as a coaching staff we fostered it. That’s an area our guys need to get better,” he explained.

“We need to be more relentless. We need to be tougher. We need a mental will. We have to be better there. When adversity hits and those things hit, we got to get tougher, we got to get more competitive, we got to get nastier, we got to have more of that internal drive and will in those moments. I think we displayed some of that [this year]. I think there were games where we really displayed that. … I think we got the capability, but we got to be more consistent doing that.”

Read much, much more from Donovan on Florida basketball..after the break!

A BIG MAN RETURNING

Center Patric Young announced through the school on Monday that he plans to return for his senior season. Asked about Young’s decision and how he can improve on the 10-point, six-rebound performances he has posted in each of the last two seasons, Donovan said it all starts with working harder and being more consistent.

“I really have felt that I think Patric has got the potential and ability to rebound more. People want to look at his offense, I think he has gotten better offensively. But I think him playing with a consistent motor would not only help him, it would help our team. And I think he has got the capability of doing those things,” he said.

“Because we have a lot more depth now going into this season with our frontcourt, I think he’ll be challenged a lot more differently than maybe he has [been] and I think that’s good for his growth and development.”

ANOTHER SURGERY AHEAD?

When forward Will Yeguete chose to have arthriscopic surgery on his knee during the middle of the season, he was made well aware that the procedure was unlikely to be a permanent fix or long-term solution. Yeguete decided to have the procedure in order to get back on the court and help his team for the postseason, something he completed missed in 2012 after going down with a foot injury.

Donovan noted a few weeks ago that a second surgery was looming for Yeguete but whether it would happen before the 2013-14 season or after his college career was yet to be determined and would be a decision that the player himself would make. He corroborated that statement again on Wednesday.

“That’s still up in the air right now. There’s a chance that could happen,” he said of Yeguete potentially having the surgery this offseason. “His knee did hold up pretty well. He did have a situation right in-between the Minnesota game and the Florida Gulf Coast game where he had some swelling again. I think that was kind of alarming. They drained it. He didn’t have any problems in the Florida Gulf Coast game or the Michigan game.

“That’s probably definitely an option that is going to be on the table that they’re going to look at and consider probably very strongly. He was able to play with his knee the way it was, so he’s going to have to make a decision of what he wants to do.”

THE TWO TRANSFERS

With Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy and Mike Rosario now out of the picture, Florida will be a brand new team next season even if there are still two returning starters and five total players coming back that averaged at least 17 minutes of court time per game. The two primary additions are already on the roster in transfers F Dorian Finney-Smith (Virginia Tech) and C Damontre Harris (South Carolina).

Donovan cautioned that while Finney-Smith and Harris are both experienced players who will likely play big roles for the Gators, fans should temper their expectations as to not put so much pressure on transfers to come in and become stars.

“Sometimes the expectations on a guy sitting out and the hype and the unknown gets created into something that’s an unrealistic expectation for any kid to meet,” he said.

“Doe-Doe [Finney-Smith] is a very good player. He was a McDonald’s All-American; we recruited him out of high school. I think he’s got great potential and great ability. Damontre Harris, although it’s kind of been an injury-plagued year – after the shoulder surgery he had an ankle sprain that kept him out for a couple weeks – he’s a guy that’s played in the SEC. He’s a very good shot blocker.

“I think those guys add depth, they add experience and at least it’s not a situation where you have an incoming freshman that’s got to learn a whole entire new system. These guys have been here for a year. … They understand what’s going on.”

Whenever a player is looking to transfer, Donovan first asks why. When the answer he receives is playing time (which in most cases it is), he finds out why said player was not able to get on the court and determines if that would keep him off of the floor at Florida as well. Unlike most transfers, however, Finney-Smith and Harris left their respective programs because of coaching changes. They also had something else working for them: Donovan had recruited them and was familiar with their abilities and characters.

“A lot of it depends,” he said when asked why the Gators have had so much success with transfer players in recent years. “There’s more transfers each and every year than there’s ever been. It just seems like that number continually grows. I’m always somewhat selective in terms of knowing [the player]. … It’s got to be a good fit and someone we know and feel comfortable with.”

THE TWO INCOMING FRESHMEN

In addition to the transfers, Donovan has a pair of five-star 2013 commitments set to join the program next season. Florida’s entire recruiting class as it stands right now consists of point guard Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL) and power forward Chris Walker (Bonifay, FL), a pair of McDonald’s All-Americans that could make a major impact next season. However, just like the transfers, Donovan believes jets should be cooled before hype surrounding the players and their potential gets out of control.

“Just because you were great in high school doesn’t mean you’re going to be great in college. Some guys like a Brad Beal or a Mike Miller can come in and make that kind of impact right away and then there’s other guys where maybe it takes them a little bit of time to figure some things out,” he explained. “I think Chris Walker and Kasey hill and Damontre Harris and Doe-Doe, they definitely bring an added value to our team.”

The question surrounding Hill, likely the best point guard to ever commit to play for Donovan, is whether or not he will start next season and, if so, what would happen to Scottie Wilbekin. Donovan did not address those questions directly Monday but comments he made make it quite clear he believes the point guards can play together and potentially start alongside each other.

“Scottie’s got another ball-handler [in Hill]. We’ve got another creator. We got another playmaker back there,” he said. “You can play Scottie anywhere. He’s out there, he can function. … He’s just a basketball player. You can throw him out there and he’ll go out there and play.”

The one major hurdle left for both Hill and Walker is qualifying to attend the school. Though that does not seem to be an issue for Hill, Walker has had some academic concerns and will have to continue working hard in order to play college basketball at Florida next season. Donovan did not seem overly concerned.

“All those guys right now you always worry about until they graduate, [NCAA] Clearinghouse and all those things. Until those guys finish their senior year in high school, we’re never ever going to know until they actually get qualified and cleared,” he said. “In looking at our incoming freshmen, certainly they’re in the right courses, they’re taking the right classes and doing that stuff. I think that stuff will end up playing itself out whenever they graduate.”

STATEMENT ON THE ELITE EIGHT LOSS

“I’ll reflect more in terms of what we need to do to get better. … Losing at any time during the tournament is always difficult. It’s never, ever an easy departure from the tournament. The last two years in that situation we certainly played well enough to win. My feeling in the game was we did not play very, very well and Michigan, I thought, played very well in the game and that is why there was such a hole that we dug ourselves, because they played very well and we did not play well.

“I’m not so sure in the game – if we would’ve played our best game and they would’ve played as well as they did – if we would’ve even won the game. Certainly it would have been a lot closer, we would’ve had a chance, but I can’t sit here and say [winning] would have happened. The disappointing part to me in the game was what I would reflect on is why did we not play as well as we needed to play in such a big moment. That’s something I would try to figure out of what was the reason why. I’m not so sure there is any reason. We had some issues going into that weekend. Will Yeguete, because of his knee, actually missed a whole week of practice. [Erik] Murphy and [Michael] Frazier had the flu and did not practice for two days, practiced one day before the Florida Gulf Coast game. So there were some issues we had to deal with, but at that time, I’m not so sure there’s anybody else in the country that is not dealing with issues at some point in time either. …

“As a whole, for us to win the league, to get to the SEC Tournament championship game, to get to the Elite Eight with an opportunity to go to the final four, that’s where you want to be. You want to be in those moments. You want to be in those situations. I just did not think we played very well.”

CHANGES TO THE GAME AND HOW IT IS OFFICIATED

“The officials are in a no-win situation. What I mean by that is… You get some of these games at the end of the year in the NCAA Tournament and a referee comes in and makes a call. You have an outcry of, ‘Let the players decide the game.’ And then when the officials let the players decide the game, ‘The game’s too rough, everybody’s getting fouled.’ They’re really in a real difficult situation.

“Here’s the alarming thing for me where the problem is I see in college basketball. One, we can take the shot clock down, I think that would be good. The difference is, in the NBA, you have a much wider lane and you’re playing with a deeper three-point line so immediately there’s more spacing on the floor. The NBA hand-check rules and what they do there and with zoning rules, there’s less contact. Our game in college has way more contact than the NBA. I’m not saying we have more physical players but there’s more contact in our game that’s allowed that you can’t do in the NBA. I’m not saying we should model ourselves after the NBA, but I’m saying it as an example. …

“Ninety-six percent of the fouls that were called in the NCAA Tournament were on-ball fouls. So when you think about that, there’s always been – by any official – you have to protect the guy with the ball. He’s got to be able to dribble freely, shoot freely, but you can take a charge and do those things. The problem with college basketball is – I can tell you this right now – there’s not four percent of the time there’s fouls off the ball. When you look at when a shot goes up and there’s two guys going after the ball, there may be off to the side a guy that’s completely bear-hugged. Some might say he’s not involved in the play. The reason he’s not involved in the play is because the guy is being held. I think off-the-ball cutting, when guys are trying to make cuts, the contact and holding and those things.

“The other thing that’s happened was an adage 10-12 years ago was the officials are going to officiate the game and the players and coaches must conform to the way the game is being officiated. The only thing we ever wanted was just a level of consistency. Now what I think has happened is the game starts physical and players are not adjusting. They’re still doing what they need to do and now the officials are adjusting. If there’s a certain thing that’s being called a foul and it happens 15 times, it needs to be called 15 times. … I don’t know necessarily what the solution is. … Until we get everybody under one umbrella… What happens is we all start out with good intentions in October … and then everybody kind of goes into their own little thing. … I don’t know what the solution is; I just know that right now it’s all over the place as it relates to one constant theme of there being one body of college basketball officials.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On his mentor, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, winning his second national championship: “I was really, really happy and excited for a couple of reasons. I felt like the Hall of Fame was probably long overdue for him. I thought he should’ve maybe been inducted a while ago. Certainly getting inducted now, I’m very happy [for him] about that. Obviously at this stage and point of time in his career, to win a national championship at two different schools is phenomenal. For me personally, I was very, very happy for him.”

» Donovan said he will spend the next three weeks on the road recruiting sophomores and juniors. Florida does have one open scholarship at this time, so he noted that the team would certainly consider its options – such as bringing in a transfer – though nothing is on the table at this point in time. “Right now we would look at that from a transfer situation but there’s no one we’re necessarily involved with,” he said.

» On if video reviews during games are ruining the “flow” of the game: “I don’t think there’s anything bad about going to a replay monitor, especially when an official doesn’t see what’s right. … It seems like they’re stopping the thing a lot of flagrant one, flagrant two, raising elbows, those kinds of things.”

7 Comments

  1. Gatorgrad79 says:

    It was obvious through the whole tournament that our team needed to find their mean and nasty, but they never did….hope they can find that passion next season!

    • Michael Jones says:

      Tournament? How about the whole season? How about being mentally soft the whole last three seasons? But kudos to Billy D. for seeing it, saying it, and now doing something about it.

      We need more hard workers, blue collar guys who are willing to bang and do the dirty work that it takes to win ball games. Hopefully Harris and some of these guys coming in have that mentality. Prather and Yeguete already play that way. . and Wilbekin sometimes. Need to get everyone else on board.

      You need to look no further than Louisville to see how teams get rewarded (even unfairly so) for crashing the boards relentlessly and driving to the basket relentlessly. Aggression gets rewarded. Heck, the whole Louisville first 6 (including Hancock) should have probably fouled out every tournament game but the refs get mesmerized and hypnotized by the onslaught of non-stop aggression and finally just stop making calls.

  2. Ken (CA) says:

    Great wrapup Adam. Title had me worried, thought maybe folks were starting to announce transferring out (like Ogbueze, who might be great to redshirt this year and be ready next). If Yeguette surgery is serious with long rehab, this would be perfect time for him to have it as well, and medical redshirt next year while deep up front.

    I heard a rumor from my boss that at some point Donovan was considering the UCLA opening, although I have not seen that anywhere else, had you heard anything about that? I can’t see any reason why he would want to change, he seems quite happy and in a good place in his life in G’Ville, and could easilly be there for the next 20+ yrs without being on the hot seat with what he has accomplished

    • B.S. rumor. Two sides never even spoke.

      • Ken (CA) says:

        not surprised at that, although being in CA, it could have just been a major wish list option. Nice to clarify, I would have been shocked with what he has built at UF to see him jump to a pressure cooker like UCLA…when you can fire a coach who took you to 3 final 4 in 10 yrs and got to 2nd round NCAA this year, lost with best player having broken leg in finals of PACT 10 tourney and NCAA, that is pretty pathetic.

        • Ken (CA) says:

          especially with the players he has at UF next year. That is an incredible depth of talent 5 McD all american on a single team, 3 with extensive CBB playing experience, and depth across every position, I can’t imagine walking away from that

  3. Michael Jones says:

    The officiating in the championship game was a joke. Louisville probably had the better team and might have won anyway, but we’ll never know because of the ridiculously one-sided officiating.

    The whole “let’em play” deal is a joke too, because there are rules for basketball and they should be enforced. It’s even worse when only one of the teams is allowed to “let’em play” as was the case with Louisville throughout the tournament.

    Knocking dribblers off the ball, constant hacking, goal tending not called, just basically crashing into and jumping into people and always getting the call (or no-call). Took away a lot from the fun of the tournament. How McGary could get mauled and undercut over and over without a call and yet Burke perfectly blocks Silva and a foul gets called. . . just a few of many examples of how the refs stunk up that final game.

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