Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan met with the media following Thursday’s 101-71 exhibition game victory over the Nebraska-Kearney Lopers. He discussed the performances of individual players and his team as a whole, noting that Florida has a ways to go in the next week before the 2012-13 season begins.
“I was really disappointed with our defense. I really felt like these first three weeks we had spent an enormous amount of time breaking down tape, showing our guys edits, video from every aspect of our defense from transition defense to our half-court defense to finishing possessions with rebounding. Not taking anything away from Nebraska-Kearney, I thought their kids played hard, they played together. I’m sure they were very excited to play, and they’re a good team. But clearly from a talent standpoint and a size standpoint, we had a huge advantage over them. I just saw, time and time again, our older veteran guys getting beat off the dribble, not rebounding the basketball. We had a three-rebound margin against a Division II team. I was much more pleased with our freshmen. After coaching those guys for three weeks, they in a lot of ways do not know what they’re doing, but they’re committed. They’re committed to working hard. They’re committed to try to get better. They’re really committed to the game. I question our older guys’ commitment to really defending and rebounding like we need to. That was the disappointing part to me. I’d rather have those younger guys out there making some mistakes. They’re really getting after it and giving everything they have.”
“HE THINKS HIS FOOT IS PART OF HIS HAND”
Redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario spent the offseason becoming more mature and getting back in Donovan’s good graces. Yet when he had the opportunity to show it on the court Thursday night, Rosario reverted into his form from last season. He committed four turnovers, went 0-for-3 from downtown and simply looked sloppy on the court at times. Donovan certainly noticed and did not hold back when discussing the player’s performance after the game.
“Yeah, I don’t think he really played very well at all. For some reason, I think he thinks his foot is part of his hand when he dribbles. He kicks it off his foot all the time. He turns it over way too much and he’s way too careless with the ball,” Donovan said.
“I think Mike tried today, but when he’s turning the ball over like that and we’re getting his liability on defense… I thought he tried on defense, but he’s got to get better there. He’s giving me a much better effort than he has in the past, but I thought he was just OK today [defensively].”
Rosario started for Florida but will have to prove in practice over the next week that he deserves to remain in that role. Otherwise Donovan could pull the trigger quickly and go with another player at the small forward position.
SHOWCASING OFFENSIVE CHOPS
Scoring most of his points on put-backs, dunks and layups last year, junior forward Will Yeguete is not expected to be a big-time offensive weapon for the Gators. Donovan noticed during practice that Yeguete has improved his scoring around the basket but was more impressed at his overall performance on Thursday.
“I think it’s different for him for what he does in terms of being all over the place, hands, deflections, rebounding. I didn’t think when we started practice he was in great shape, nor any of our guys. I also didn’t think he was pushing through it when he needed to. To his credit, I think he’s really focused on it since the Rollins scrimmage to try and get better. I’m proud of the way he played tonight and the way he’s practiced this week.”
Yeguete posted a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds (six offensive). He also registered two steals and went 4-for-5 from the charity stripe, a tremendous improvement over his 35.9 percent efficiency from the free throw line a year ago.
“I was just excited to be out there, just to play in front of our fans and be back on the court,” the player said. “I was just so excited to be back there, it’s been a minute since I’ve been out there and in front of our fans.”
Though Donovan was happy with what Yeguete brought offensively, he still wants him to concentrate on his niche with the team, which is playing defense, working at the front of the process, deflecting passes, rebounding on both ends and tipping the ball in. Yeguete is the only player on the team that is successful in all of those areas, making him an important piece to the not-so-deep frontcourt.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Donovan on Florida’s lackluster defense: “I still think that we have really good potential defensively, but I have to say that I was really surprised and disappointed and bothered with how we played defensively, collectively as a group tonight. I would say I am extremely alarmed and concerned about our team on that end of the floor and our team’s commitment to that end of the floor. You’re giving up 71 points at home, again nothing taking away from those kids, giving up 71 at home to a Division II team, that’s a problem.”
» Donovan on the 21-point and efficient shooting performance put on by freshman guard Michael Frazier II: “I’ve seen a lot of different guys come out, first game as a freshman and make a lot of shots. It’s a long year. I never, ever try to put anything into one game. […] I don’t get overly excited when a freshman shoots the ball well, has a good exhibition game. It’s a long year and for those freshmen there are always ups and downs.”
» Donovan on junior forward Casey Prather (concussion), who did not play in the game: “I’m not overly concerned just based on that he has progressed. There’s a series of tests that he has to go through before he can get cleared to get back on the floor. Every time, every day that they perform these tests, the symptoms are getting better and better for him to get back on the floor.”
» Senior G Kenny Boynton on how the freshmen played: “They all, the freshmen came in and did what was asked of them. Mike shot it well. Braxton [Ogubeze] ran the team well, Dillon [Graham] hit open shots and DeVon [Walker] provided intensity.”
» Frazier on how he can improve going forward: “Coach stresses rebounding and defense and defensive stops and turnovers. Just trying to take care of the ball, box my man out on shots and play hard on defense.”