10/26: Donovan speaks on starters, freshmen

By Adam Silverstein
October 27, 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.

STARTING FIVE SET

Considering Florida’s entire starting five from last year returned this season, it should come as no surprise that junior point guard Erving Walker, sophomore guard Kenny Boynton, redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, and senior forwards Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus will take the court for the Gators to start each game. Donovan confirmed such on Tuesday, noting that he is pleased with how his starters have been playing in practice but that roles might change depending on how they play together.

“We’ve got five guys obviously returning from a year ago. That doesn’t necessarily mean their roles are going to be that this year. Anytime you move from year-to-year, guys’ roles can change,” Donovan said. “Erving Walker went from playing off the ball his freshman year to strictly being the point guard of our team. Chandler early in his career had to play some power forward spot for us just because of our lack of depth, and he certainly last year clearly played the small forward spot. Roles can change but the one thing those five guys have is a level of experience under their belt and a lot of games under their belt. With that being said, it’s really hard to get better in practice. One of the things we’ve struggled with is that balance between of really trying to get better in practice through competition.”

FRESHMEN PROVIDING GREAT DEPTH IN PRACTICE

Donovan cited the fact that the deep freshman class is really helping the older players in practice on a daily basis even though the competition level is not at its highest point yet. He has matched up each freshman with an older player with whom they go head-to-head every day. “It’s me vs. you because I’m making you better and you need to make me better; when you can create that kind of environment, your team has a chance to get a lot better. Patric Young has made Vernon better, Vern has made him better. [Mike] Rosario has made Boynton better, Boynton has made Rosario better. Scottie Wilbekin – Erving Walker, Casey Prather – Chandler, Will Yeguete – Alex, Erik Murphy. We’ve got enough now that the practices are at a level physically competing wise that guys are in a position where they have to compete on a regular basis.”

He is also impressed with how the youngsters have handled the heavy workouts and are trying to play to the level of what was an NCAA Tournament team last year. “I’m a little bit cautious with freshman after a week of practice to sit there, start giving guys a lot of praise,” Donovan said. “What happens is, they haven’t hit the wall and the grind and what happens there. But as of today, they’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do – I think all the guys have.”

Even Parsons has noticed. “Coach really emphasizes that you can go as hard as you can just for as long as you can because there’s basically a sub there waiting for you at basically every position,” he said. “It’s different. My first couple years, we’re going three-on-three or four-on-four and you’re not getting off the court until you get the amount of stops coach wants or until he’s happy. At least now you’re going hard and you’re rewarded because there’s a sub there for you. It’s just nice having some depth there.”

QUOTES (After the break…)

Donovan’s opening statement: “We’ve had a really, really good week. We’ve dealt with a couple guys being banged up – Erik had an ankle sprain that kept him out for a couple days and Cody Larson got sick and was out for a couple days. Both those guys are back, they’ve been back in practice – both of them since Sunday. […] First week I think it has been good. We obviously got a lot of new guys so there’s a balance between getting enough stuff in and also going at a pace right now where they’re not so far behind mentally. In terms of the energy, their focus and they way they’re physically competing, I think that’s been a real positive. There’s a lot we got to clean up and get better at, but I like where they’re at right now in the terms of the way they’re approaching practice and the way they’re competing.”

Donovan on the freshmen eventually hitting the wall: “There comes a point where you can really tell internally how much guys are willing to battle and fight through things when they get difficult. Those guys have tried to do that to the best of their ability. Because they’re young, sometimes getting them to channel their emotions the right way [is an issue]. As a coach, when you confront them and challenge them, how they respond to me is a big key.”

Donovan on playing Macklin and Young together: “We scrimmaged on Sunday and I had a quarter where we played Vernon and Patrick together. I had a quarter where we played Wilbekin, Boynton and Walker together. If the game [Thursday] dictates that we can do some of that stuff, I’d like to look at doing some of that stuff where we can take a look at some different combinations and different lineups.”

Donovan on how Macklin and Young have played together: “Because Patric and Vernon have been competing against each other in practice, they probably haven’t had enough reps playing with each other. Right now there’s probably a bit of getting in each other’s way a little bit – not in a bad way, but they’ve got to understand spacing together. Vernon’s learning a totally different position. Because Patric’s a freshman, I want to keep him at the center spot so he has one spot to learn. Vernon’s now having to learn the power forward spot a little bit when he’s on the floor with him. It’s not great right now. I think it will get better and it’s something I’m committed to trying to help get better because I think those guys can play together.”

Donovan on his high expectations for Macklin: “When you go through not playing a lot at one school and you transfer and you’re sitting out, you have this huge reputation as a McDonald’s All-American, [you think,] ‘Can I live up to this hype and expectation? How am I going to handle this?’ What we need Vernon to do is…Vernon just needs to rebound the ball better, he needs to run the floor, he needs to be a presence for us. He’s better offensively now than he was a year ago. Is he a guy that we can, when we need a basket, throw the ball inside to? I don’t know that yet. We’ll find out as the season goes on. But I need him to lead a little bit more. It’s great to lead right now when everything’s pretty smooth sailing. I like guys who can lead when it really gets rocky and rough and adversity sets in. He has a very, very strong voice on our team and he’s a good kid and he wants to win, but we need him to step up as a player and be better than he was a year ago. That means everything – he needs to rebound better, he needs to defend better, he needs to stay on the floor without fouling like he did a year ago early in the season, he needs to be present offensively where we can throw the ball into him and he can get off good shots around the basket. He needs to step up all-around, his overall game.”

Donovan on his expectations for the freshmen: “I worry more about the older guys than I do the younger guys to be honest with you. I don’t think the younger kids right now really have any idea or concept or clue. They’re coming in trying to help any way they can. The expectation part of it a lot of times has to be set-up by the older guys explaining to them what this is about. I’ve said this before, there have been times where our team has been ranked. […] A perfect example comes to mind. Chandler and Alex, when those guys were freshman, we beat Vanderbilt here at home and we got ranked for the first time. Vanderbilt was a ranked team. We were 18-3 and went on the road to Arkansas and were down by 25 points in the first half. That is a product of not being able to handle expectations, not being able to handle winning. The one thing, I think, that’s good for us is the way our schedule’s set-up. We’re playing teams right now, early in the season, that are clearly ranked higher than we are. That’s a good thing. We’re going to get a barometer and criteria of where our basketball team’s at.”

Donovan on Walker and Boynton’s improvement: “He and Boynton, to me, have gotten better. They’ve gotten better. The same thing can be said for [them] as it relates to Chandler. You may not see this drastic change in their game, but Kenny is understanding shot selection a lot better. He’s really passing the ball very well, he’s making extra passes, he’s making things easier for other people out there. Erving the same thing can be said. I’m not seeing as much of the driving down the lane, leaving his feet, getting caught up in the air, trying to jackknife. [He’s] staying on the floor, understanding that he can’t put himself in certain situations. I definitely have seen growth in those two guys back there in a positive way.”

Walker on improving: “Being more focused, slowing down when I’m dribbling and just slowing down my decisions and taking my time more. I’m trying to stay more in balance when I shoot. Being in the weight room this summer has helped me with that.”

Young on his strength, hurting teammates: “I actually broke Casey’s nose earlier this summer on accident. You can ask everybody on the team, they all got a little scar from me.”

Young on Macklin as a mentor: “He’s got five years of college experience on me. Him being a leader to this team already, I’ve learned so much like how hard it is to guard the post for one thing, that you got to take your time because the little guards out there will try to take the ball from you. You got to keep playing hard and never get discouraged. The guard can’t get their shots off if you can’t demand a double team in the post sometimes.”

Parsons on improving: “It’s tough. It’s all about handling expectations. It’s all about a mindset you have to have. I came in here young and immature. I didn’t see the big picture at first. He made it real clear what I needed to do and what has to be done for us to win and for me to grow as a player individually.”

Tyus on how he and Parsons have changed: “[We’re] totally different. We were like some little kids. Now a lot more mature on and off the court, more experienced as far as playing.”

Tyus on expanding his range: “I tried to shoot some threes when I’m open in practice, mainly trying to get the confidence so in the game I can knock them down.”

Tyus on practice being more competitive: “It’s been a lot better. Over the years we haven’t really had a lot of guys to have good practices. Now with Pat and Will and Murph and Vern, it’s more like a game-like situation where the other team’s best players are out there on the court all the time.”

Tyus on Young transitioning: “He’s doing well as far as rebounding. Remembering everything, remembering the plays and things like that is I guess one of the things he’s trying to work on. I think that’s the biggest thing for him – if he knows what he’s doing, he’ll be able to play more and look better and do more.”

One Comment

  1. Gatorbuc15 says:

    Man that is a really impressive starting 5. That combined with the talent we have coming in will make for a very dangerous team.

    They will be a force to be reconed with.

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