10/18: Donovan speaks on leadership, freshmen

By Adam Silverstein
October 18, 2010

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the key news and notes from his latest media availability in the following post. Additional quotes after the break.

POST PRESENCE SHOULD HELP SHOOTING PERCENTAGE

A lot of factors contributed to the backcourt’s inefficiency shooting the ball last season. Looking back on the 2009-10 team, junior point guard Erving Walker and sophomore guard Kenny Boynton were basically on an island without any depth behind them. This led to the duo being fatigued and forced to shoot lower percentage shots earlier than preferred. Donovan believes that will no longer be an issue this year. He expects Walker, Boynton and senior forward Chandler Parsons to get “better and cleaner looks” than they had previously as Florida will be making it a point to establish a scoring presence inside early and often.

“[The players] have shot the ball pretty well in practice. Right now our defense is probably ahead of our offense. Chandler even made a comment to me that he thought in practice it was a lot more difficult to get to the rim, it was a lot more difficult to rebound, things that maybe he was able to do the last couple of years he sees as more difficult,” Donovan said. “The shooting part of it, I think Kenny and Erving and even Chandler will be better shooting the ball just with having a better understanding of shot selection. Both Erving and Kenny, part of their struggles percentage-wise, was a lot of minutes fatigue wise, we really needed them to score, and probably were in situations where they had to take some more difficult shots. Those guys, up to this point, have shot the ball better – maybe because they’re older.”

LEADERSHIP MAKING AN IMPACT

For the first time since the Oh-Fours left for the NBA and the remnants of the back-to-back National Championship teams graduated, the Gators have strong leadership in the form of upperclassmen who can do so both with their words and by example. “In terms of our older guys, they’ve been very good leadership-wise, they’ve practiced well,” Donovan said. “They’ve done a good job trying to lead. We went some tough physical practice here Friday, Saturday, Sunday. So far up to this point in time I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”

Donovan also spoke about how important it is to have a team with some depth experience-wise. “Any time you have leaders and older guys that have been through it there’s no question it’s helpful. They can set a standard or measuring stick for your younger guys to understand where they got to get to,” he said. “Any coach would always want some upperclassmen and older guys on their team. That’s always a positive.”

PATRIC YOUNG “PLAYS LIKE TARZAN”

The entire freshman class has impressed Donovan with their energy, enthusiasm and effort through his team’s first three practices. And while all of the freshmen stand out in different ways, physically no one commands attention like four-star power forward Patric Young. Listed at 6’9” (though he will argue 6’10”) and 245 lbs., Young looks as if he was chiseled from stone and plays as if no one can hurt him.

“He’s been really, really blessed physically,” Donovan said of Young. “You can see guys that look great physically, but they don’t’ play well physically. It’s the old, ‘Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane.’ He plays like Tarzan. Physically he goes after it. He enjoys contact, he wants physical confrontation – he likes that. There [are] a lot of guys that don’t want any part of that.”

One of Young’s most promising characteristics is his love for defense and shot blocking, something Donovan realizes is a major positive but must be corralled and used appropriately. “We are definitely a better shot-blocking team [with Young] and have more of a presence at the rim,” he said. “When you’re constantly leaving your feet to block shots, there [are] two things that really end up becoming a problem. One is fouls of guys being out of position and getting fouls. The second thing is, when they leave the floor, you can break block-out situations and you can give up a lot of offensive rebounds. So as much as Patric Young, energy-wise, just wants to jump around the lane and try to block shots all the time, for every shot he blocks he’s given up two or three offensive rebounds when he doesn’t block-out. And the decision of, ‘When do I go chase a shot and try to block it or when do I have to go back and try to block-out,’ those are things experience-wise that take a lot of time to figure out.”

QUOTES (After the break…)

On practice so far: “It was really good. Just effort, energy. I’ve always said this: If you go through the first weekend and you’re saying, ‘Geez, we didn’t have good practices,” you’re in trouble. I think three years ago I could have said that. Definitely what I’ve seen is we’re much, much more physical than we were a year ago, the last couple of years. Our guys are physically competing at the level I’d like them to. We certainly have a lot of areas we gotta get better at and improve on. It is a little bit different that we play a game in 13 days. There’s a lot we gotta get in and a lot we gotta get done.”

On how the freshmen are coming along: “We’ll have a much, much better feel of the freshmen. When you have Patric Young playing against [redshirt senior center] Vernon [Macklin], you have [freshman G] Casey Prather going against Chandler, [freshman PG] Scottie Wilbekin going against Erv…you’re talking about these young guys being in three days of practice and you got the older guys that have been doing this for three years. And it can sometimes be a little bit demoralizing like, ‘Gosh, I’m so far behind.” But they also gotta realize too that you’re talking about, in some cases, two or three years in relationship to three days. Their energy has been very, very good. They play very hard. They’re very, very physical, and they’re tough kids. That’s what our team needs and what our team maybe has been missing a little bit. I’m hopeful that those guys can continue.”

On the physical fitness of the freshmen: “Patric and Casey Prather and [freshman F] Will [Yeguete] and [freshman F] Cody Larson, they’re battling and they’re fighting and they have a threshold to push through fatigue and they’re really trying to do that. That’s always a positive sign where they’re not trying to give in, they’re trying to continue. It’s a lot on those guys’ plate because there’s things that we’re putting in that Chandler’s been doing now for three years, Vernon’s been doing it now starting his third year, [senior F] Alex [Tyus] has been doing them for three years. Not only are they having to try to play hard and compete, they’re having also to think about, ‘This is all new to me.’ So there’s a lot on their plate right now. One of the things I have to do as a coach is not allow them to get frustrated, feel like they’re behind on certain things and lose their energy and intensity in practice because maybe they’re thinking too much.”

On the frontcourt freshmen being able to play: “Usually when frontcourt players come in the two things that they struggle with the most is the conditioning of this style of play – running and getting up-and-down the floor – and then the second issue is are they physically ready to compete at this level? Our freshman – Will Yeguete, Cody Larson and Patric – those three guys are physically capable of being in an SEC game and physically competing. […] How well they can understand the system, carve out a role and a niche, those things are important.”

On Wilbekin’s maturity both physically and mentally: “He’s a very, very tough kid. He’s tough. He’s mentally tough, he’s physically tough. Any time you miss a year of high school there’s some things that he’s going to probably be a little bit behind on. We’re going up and down and running and doing that stuff on a regular basis and I don’t see him really physically getting tired or totally overwhelmed. He’s going to be able to contribute to our team.”

On Larson finding a good path: “Anytime any of these guys come from such a long distance away there’s always an adjustment period. For Cody his reference point of Florida is pretty much me just because I was the one that recruited him, spent time with him, the relationship was there. I talked to him about him trying to make good decisions like I do all those guys, but he seems to be happy, adjust pretty well. Cody’s a very unassuming kid. He doesn’t say a whole lot. Very, very nice.”

5 Comments

  1. zach says:

    Hey adam i am pretty sure that Young got bumped up to 5 star. That is if your going by the ratings on rivals.

  2. Basshole says:

    Definitely like what I’m hearing about the team. Should be an interesting year.

  3. Gatorbuc15 says:

    Can’t wait to see Young play this season!
    He’s gonna be a good one!

  4. Timmy T says:

    With the football team struggling a bit, all this good news out of B-Ball camp is a welcome sight.

  5. SC Gator says:

    TT – Isn’t that the damned truth?

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