Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Tuesday, two days before his team takes the court for an exhibition game against Barry University on Thursday ahead of the 2014-15 regular-season opener.
SHUT UP AND PLAY
Sources told OnlyGators.com over the weekend that the Florida-VCU “secret scrimmage” held on Nov. 1 went swimmingly, at least for the teams’ respective offenses. Donovan basically confirmed that information on Tuesday.
“Defensively, we have a really, really long way to go. And I think a lot of it, to be honest with you, is just we’re not very cohesive at all right now,” he said.
What Donovan is speaking to specifically is the fact that the Gators currently have too many voices in the huddle. Though the players are coming from a good place – trying to improve as leaders by following in the footsteps of last year’s seniors – that is not exactly what Florida needs right now.
“Guys are being told this, told that and what happens is you’ve got everybody trying to talk and step up and be a leader in a positive way,” he explained. “Inevitably, we’re never on the same page. So we’ve got to work better in terms of us being connected.”
Though the Gators “get along well” and have “great chemistry” as teammates, it is not bleeding over to the floor, according to Donovan, because each player on his own does not have everything figured out. If each man can first ensure he is doing his own job, then perhaps later on they can worry about helping coach others.
In the meantime, Donovan and the rest of the coaching staff needs to be the lone voice that the players are listening to when it comes to direction on the court.
“I think it all comes out and stems from a really, really good place, but I think it needs to be more of myself [leading] because there’s almost like too many voices and too many guys feeling like, ‘OK, I need to step up for our team. I need to do this.’ And it’s not good right now because we’re not a cohesive group in terms of defending collectively together,” he said.
Those additional voices also inevitably lead to Florida’s younger players feeling like their mistakes are being harped on. Rather, Donovan prefers that the Gators get into the huddle and rally the group, cheering each other up and getting on the same page.
“They just need to be connected where, when you get in the huddle, you have this feeling of, ‘I don’t want to let down the guy next to me.’ They’re not at that place. They’re at the place of, ‘I need to tell the guy next to me what to do and I need to help him and guide him and lead him.’ They don’t need that right now. They need to show the guy standing next to him, ‘Listen, I’m committed to this position, I’m committed to you,’ and those relationships become really, really important when they’re on the floor playing together. And that’s what we need more of, like, ‘I don’t want to let you down.’
“And I think any time I’ve been around a really good team, that’s always been the main staple of really good teams. It’s that there’s been an incredible connection and bond and a care and a love inside the team that they’re playing for one another. We’re not doing that right now at all, and I think [Monday] was good. [Monday] was a step in a better direction of that.”
Fifth-year senior center Jon Horford is confident that Florida will get to that place eventually.
“Time, experience, everyone buying in, it’s something that happens over the course of a season,” he said. “Very, very rarely is it something that [happens immediately]. It’s a good thing in a way because you don’t want to peak too soon. I don’t think we’re close yet, but we’ll get there.”
That’s not to say the Gators are doing nothing well right now. Florida has the talent to potentially be a higher scoring team than it was a year ago, in large part because UF’s ball movement is superb.
“One thing that definitely does stand out is that we’re a very good ball movement team. We’re innately very, very unselfish. We really pass the ball and share the ball very well,” Donovan said. “But I think on the defensive end of the floor, we’ve got to get much, much better. And I think we’ll get much better if we we’re more connected.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On running a three-guard lineup during the secret scrimmage against VCU and whether that will be a norm: “You’ve really got to put some different lineups out there. … I’m almost trying to do some of these lineups, so to speak, because we’re going to be dealt with that hand there [of players missing games]. … We are at times somewhat small in the backcourt.”
» On Frazier needing to rebound better for the Gators this year: “I think he needs to get back to, where he provided a lot of help for us his freshman year, rebounding the basketball. He’s going to have to rebound the ball some. And Michael is a good rebounder, but I think he’s got to do a better job of getting in there and rebounding for us and helping us in our frontcourt.”
» On the status of redshirt junior guard Eli Carter (leg, ankle): “Eli is moving a lot better. I think he’s got to get better conditioning a little bit. He is pushing, and we haven’t had to sit him out at all. That’s been good. The biggest thing Eli can do, we’ve got to get to a place where a guy like Eli in particular really invests in his teammates. What I mean by that is Eli is very well respected inside of our team from the standpoint that here’s a guy that has played two years in college and played at a pretty high clip. He played in a good conference. But Eli can be quiet. Eli can be a guy that can [stay] to himself. Sometimes younger guys look for direction, and Eli is one of those guys that comes in here like, ‘I know my job, I know what I’m going to do.’ He’s the other extreme than a [Finney-Smith], but what happens is when you get to that place right now, you’re not connected with the group like you need to be. That’s what I want to see him do a better job of, trying to be more open and receptive in not being so quiet.”
» On players having each other’s backs on Tuesday: “It was a very interesting thing, it was really good [Tuesday] what happened. The team, [Tuesday], the losing team had to run. And Devin Robinson was exhausted, so he didn’t finish the sprint in time. So I made him do it again. And he didn’t finish again on time, and I made him do it again. So as you can imagine, guys are starting to get irritated. Well Eli Carter’s team won, so he jumps in there and grabs Devin Robinson, basically drags him down the court, drags him back and he makes it.”
» On the team’s physicality improving: “We’ve gotten better there. We spent a lot of time on that area of the physical part. I thought we did a better job. We can still get better. We are doing a better job physically of putting our bodies in place and that’s another thing you know where when you put your body in a play for your teammate, basically you’re letting your teammate know that you’re really important to me. That’s what all that means right there. It’s easy to jump out of the way or go try and block a shot, you know, it’s a spectacular play; but to sacrifice your body in a play for your teammate speaks volumes about your commitment to those kind of guys.”
» On Barry University, which Florida will host Thursday evening in its lone exhibition game of the season: “They’re a very physical team. They’ve got five guys that all played Division I; they all transferred in there. They’ve got big, strong physical guys around the basket. That’s going to be really, really important. … Clearly this is a great game for us [to compete in]. Us being undersized, [rebounding] is going to have to be a challenge and a priority for us on Thursday night.”