The Florida Gators have come up with a new definition for the word “swag,” and it just so happens to be the team’s motto for the 2013-14 season.
“Strengthen – When – Adversity – Grows. We need to strengthen as adversity gets more and more in our face. We need to stay together and be connected,” explained senior center Patric Young on Thursday while in Birmingham, AL, for the 2013 Southeastern Conference Media Days.
Head coach Billy Donovan is in favor of the new saying and took some time to discuss the genesis of the motto after Young left the stage.
“Those guys came up with it themselves. It’s what they wanted to do. One of the things I’ve always believed in as a coach is you’ve gotta be able to handle adversity together. So they kind of came up with this thing — Strengthen When Adversity Grows — is kind of what it means,” he said.
“It’s really on them; they did it. It was up to them. I do think that for our team this year, one of the things I’m looking at is how well we can be connected. I think our guys have great relationships; they get along. But there’s a different bond and a different connectedness that they’re talking about to continually be a team that’s an elite team, and I think that’s what they’ve tried to work on.”
It would be difficult to believe that adversity could loom heavier over the Gators at any point this season than it already does just one week into fall practice.
Florida spent the first week practicing with just seven scholarship players despite having 11 on the roster. Neither senior forward Will Yeguete (knee) nor junior transfer guard Eli Carter (leg) had been cleared for contact, redshirt junior transfer C Damontre Harris is dealing with hamstring problems, and sophomore G Michael Frazier II has been bothered by a viral infection that Donovan feared was mononucleosis.
“We’re not a healthy team. We’re dealing with seven scholarship players in practice. We don’t have our full roster. I think our team, what it looked like on paper in the summertime, is not the team that we’re dealing with right now,” he said. “We’re a few weeks away from opening up. The practice with the guys we’ve had in practice has gone well. They’ve worked hard. But we have a long way to go right now.”
Additionally, senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin will be suspended to start the season and five-star F Chris Walker, a 2013 commitment, failed to academically qualify for enrollment and will not join the team until December, if at all.
“I would tell you right now today, if we had a healthy Eli Carter, if we ended up having Will Yeguete healthy, and we got Frazier there, and Damontre Harris, and Scottie Wilbekin, and Walker’s here, and we’re all starting on October 11th with that group fully healthy, then we have a chance to be really, really good. But our team doesn’t look like that anymore. That’s not what our team is. I’m hopeful that maybe as we move through the year we can get to that place, but we’re not there right now,” Donovan said.
The pieces started coming together late Thursday after Donovan and Young arrived back home in Gainesville, FL.
The Gators announced that Frazier does not have mono, an ailment that likely would have kept him off the court for 4-6 weeks. He has been cleared to return to practice.
Yeguete and Carter were also cleared by trainers for limited contract drills. Neither is all the way back just yet but each is certainly much closer than he was a week ago.
The news was not all positive for UF, however, not that it ever has been this offseason. On the same day that three players were cleared to return, sophomore G Dillon Graham rolled his ankle during practice and had to be carried off the court.
If things continue to fall into place for Florida, the hype of being a preseason top-10 team may be well-deserved by the time the conference schedule rolls around.
“We have a chance to be a team that may be a team [in] December, January that is in a position to reach its fullest potential. We’re not there right now,” said Donovan.
“Most of our practices have been four-on-four. I think it’s been very challenging for those guys, physically, without any subs. And like I told them, time keeps moving, every day that goes by we’re moving closer and closer to playing games. Regardless if we’ve got seven guys or five guys or six or 11, we can’t call up and say, ‘Well, listen, we don’t have our full team and we’re not going to be able to play today. Can we reschedule the game?’ We’ve got to practice and try to maximize whatever it is we have right now.”
Donovan has made a career from getting the most out of his players and making lemonade out of some overly sour situations. He will have another opportunity to do just that early in the 2013-14 campaign.