With the Florida Gators beginning 2012-13 fall practice, head coach Billy Donovan and the entire team met with the media Wednesday to discuss the season ahead. Below are links to the four stories that have already been published as well as all of the odds and ends that did not make it into a separate post.
THE GATORS’ NEXT STARTING POINT GUARD IS…
There was no question going into any of the last three seasons that Erving Walker would be starting at point guard for Florida. But with Walker graduating last spring and the Gators’ options relatively slim at the position, Donovan has an important decision to make for that starting roster spot. Though he did not officially announce his choice on Wednesday, comments he made about replacing Walker in the starting five intimated that the job would go to junior Scottie Wilbekin.
“I think you’re going to lose guys every year,” he said. “That’s just part of basketball. I think this is a new team, a new identity. Erving was as senior and Brad [Beal] had the opportunity to go early in the draft, so that’s kind of what happened. I don’t think our guys are sitting around saying they need Erv or Brad to be back. We got to create our own identity and some other guys got to step up. I’m not asking anybody to be Erving Walker. I’m not asking Scottie to be Erving; I’m asking Scottie to be Scottie. I’m not asking anybody to be Brad Beal. I’m asking whoever it may be to be their own guy and to provide for our team what we need.”
Wilbekin, an incredibly solid defender who came out of nowhere to shoot 45.7 percent from downtown last season after hitting 28.3 percent of his attempts in 2010-11, has never averaged more than 17.1 minutes or 2.6 points per game in his career. That should all change this season, and one would be hard pressed to argue that he does not deserve the opportunity considering how much he has done for the program.
Other options at point guard during the year include senior Kenny Boynton and freshman Braxton Ogbueze, who was considered one of the best point guard prospects in the nation last season. Boynton has yet to truly play point guard at the collegiate level, and Ogbueze does not have the experience one needs to take on such a task right away, especially with so many tough tests early in the season.
TRANSFERS CAN’T PLAY BUT WILL CERTAINLY HELP
Read the rest of this post…after the break!
The Gators have 13 scholarship players on the roster for 2012-13 but two of them, along with one walk-on, will be unable to play this season after joining the team as transfers from other institutions.
Forward/center Damontre Harris, a junior who joins Florida after spending two seasons with South Carolina (and starting 30 games last year), was named to the 2012 SEC All-Defensive Team after averaging 2.3 blocked shots per game along with 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds. Joining him on scholarship is sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith, a 2012 ACC All-Freshman Team standout who started 30 games for Virginia Tech and averaged 6.3 points along with 7.0 rebounds.
Donovan explained what his plans are for both players during their redshirt transfer seasons and how he expects them both to contribute to the team on a daily basis.
“We’ve got to do two thing with those guys,” he said. “One, there has to be a strong investment made by our coaching staff to help those guys develop as players. Like any transfer, and I saw it with Vernon Macklin and I saw it with Mike [Rosario], it’s a hard thing when you start getting into Janauray and February and it’s practice, practice, no reward of playing.
“I think Damontre can be a great asset for Patric Young, playing against him every single day. I think Dodo [Finney-Smith] is a guy that creates a level of competitiveness. The one thing that’s going to be interesting with practice that was different then a year ago is we have a lot of depth in practice. We have a lot of guys where practice can be very competitive. The one thing that’s great with those two guys is Damontre has played two years in this league, so he knows what its like to play at this level. Dodo’s played in the ACC, so he has an idea. So you’re bringing two players in that have a lot of experience that I think can help the players on this team that are returning form last year that are going to be playing.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On keeping the team’s focus away from reaching the Final Four (for now): “Our guys really need to be careful with the fact of the mentality being that we got to try to get over the hump and get to the Final Four. We could actually end up being a better team than we were a year ago and maybe not go as far. With that being said, there’s no guarantee right now that we’re even an NCAA Tournament team. You have to earn your way into that. You have to work your way into that. Our guys need to understand that, and I think that they do.”
» On the “process” of playing together as a team: “What needs to happen is being committed to the process and being committed every day to what needs to be done and being committed to the areas that we have to get better at as a basketball team. Because we open up with Georgetown, third game of the year we’re playing Wisconsin, it comes at us pretty quickly in November to really find out where we’re at as a basketball team. I think, like anything else, there are rewards at the end of the year that you want to experience, but you don’t experience those rewards at the end of the year until you take care of what’s in front of you today. Obviously I think that this is a unique sport in basketball because I think it is the only sport that covers both semesters, so this is a long, long process for our team. I really believe you have to embrace the process, be committed to the process and really enjoy the process of getting better as a player, getting better as a team and understanding that there’s a price to pay. In anything in life, the investment that you make into something, there’s going to be results at the end that are going to reflect what kind of investment you make.”
» On if he has determined what Florida’s identity will be this season: “From a coaching perspective, you look at your team and the one thing that is clear right from the get-go is that we have incredible potential defensively. Erving was, at times, a guy whose size became a factor defensively. Whether we were zone or man, his size was an issue. Scottie, size-wise, brings a different element to the table. A guy like Brad Beal, as talented and as gifted as he was, being a freshman there were some ups-and-downs he had defensively as a young guy. Now you have [Casey] Prather, who I think is a very good defender and hopefully after the way he played last year can provide us more this year. Will Yeguete is now back healthy. He’s a terrific defender. I think Patric’s got the ability to defend and block shots. Even some of our guys that are younger – a DeVon Walker, Braxton Ogbueze – I think we have very good potential defensively and we need to really capitalize on our ability potentially defensively. We do need to change some things on offense because our team is a little bit different. Last year, clearly the identity was we can really shoot threes and had a great shooting team. I think we have a good shooting team, but we probably with the loss of Walker and Beal, don’t have the same depth shooting the ball as we did a year ago.”
» On how it feels to be in 17 years into coaching the Gators and how he has changed: “Some days it doesn’t go by fast. It really is unbelievable for me. I can’t believe how quickly it has gone by in so many different respects. I think I probably have changed. I think through life and your experiences and the different things you go through, I think you’re always changing and evolving as a person. I hope it’s for the better. How I’ve changed, so to speak, as a coach…I’m not really sure. There’s certain things philosophically I’ve always believed in that we still do today – probably managing different situations, managing different moments in the season. I always say this about coaching: There’s certain experiences you always can relate back to, but the one thing that’s exciting about coaching a new team every year is there’s different challenges because you’re dealing with different people. The way somebody responded to a similar situation five years ago may not be the way they respond to it now because the people are different. I think that I’ve grown, changed, probably have gotten older and more mature as I’ve gone through it for 17 years. And hopefully I have gotten better.”
» On the biggest change he’s seen to college basketball in general while at Florida: “There was a time there where guys were able to go out of high school and then that obviously changed where it became one-and-done. I think the landscape of college basketball has always been changing. The recruiting rules have changed. We went through long period of time where you couldn’t call, couldn’t really text message. Now that’s opened up and now you can do it. I think the game is constantly evolved. The other thing that I’ve found is through strength coaches, through our trainers, the importance of diet and nutrition and rest and managing the intensity of practice. You’re always walking a fine line. Are you doing too much or are you not doing enough? Are guys getting enough rest or not getting enough rest? Do they need to be pushed more or do they need to be pushed less? Are they tired? Should they be tired? Are they mentally tough? You’re always walking that line all the time in every aspect of your team. I think the players, in a lot of ways, have changed – not for positively or negatively – I just think kids are a little bit different than maybe it was 15 or 20 years ago. Like I said, you’re trying to evolve and look at things through different players’ eyes or changes that have taken place in college.”
» Donovan said the freshmen have done a good job overall of handling the strength and conditioning process. He likes the attitude they have shown in practices so far but noted that he will have to see how consistently they perform in order to better judge how and how much they will play overall this season.