The transition from high school to college basketball is difficult for any player, including those hyped up with five-star ratings, but the Florida Gators and head coach Billy Donovan have been lucky in the recent past with youngsters that entered the program mature beyond their years.
That may still be the case with freshman forward Devin Robinson, one of the highest-rated high school players in the country last year, but the five-star prospect did not show that maturity on the court in Florida’s exhibition on Thursday night.
“It wasn’t even close [to what I expect]. Really poor,” said Donovan of Robinson’s performance.
“When you’re picking up the ball off the floor and shooting it, the first touch in the game is bombing up shots, that is someone who is totally focused on scoring. He needs to change his mentality in terms of what he has really got to focus on. I thought he got into the game, he played seven minutes and took six shots…he played 17 minutes and took 10 shots, and I can’t say any of them were any good.”
Robinson started the game 0-for-8 from the field and 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. Donovan does not mind when his players miss baskets, especially good looks, but it angers him when one appears to blatantly disregard instructions he gave him in a private conversation before a game.
“Here’s the problem I have. I talked to him before the game, and I know you get freshmen, their first game they’re amp’d up and they’re excited and they want to play well. I spent time with him and said, ‘Listen, this is how guys play well – focus on the things that you can control. And I felt like he was focused on, ‘I need to score, I need to score, I need to score,’” explained Donovan. “He was shooting airballs, he was taking tough shots, he’s driving to the basket in traffic, he’s not making the extra pass.”
In fact, Donovan only liked one shot Robinson made on Thursday, a three-pointer he took late in the contest that just so happened to go in. However, what may have angered the coach the most is what the youngster did at the end of the game.
“There’s six seconds to go in the game and he’s driving down the lane and trying dunk on a guy. How about just dribble the ball out and let’s end the game and we’ll go home? We’re up nine. Just like, where is your focus on what’s going on right now?”
Anyone that follows Gators basketball knows how critical Donovan can be of his players, especially in the offseason and during non-conference play. He is a tough-love coach, one who props his players up but is just as quick to knock them down when they’re not listening.
And that’s what of paramount importance to Donovan – listening and effort. The former may not be there yet for Robinson, but the latter has been apparent in practice. Donovan believes Robinson will bounce back from his misstep and become the better player for it this season.
“This is good for him. He’s a freshman. It’s not like I had a great expectation for Devin coming in here [in his first game]. He’s a great kid, he works hard, he’s coachable. I think he’ll respond and rebound from this, it was good. But he’s got to understand what goes into the game,” Donovan said. “Again, he’s a freshman and he’s going to have his ups and downs, but I think he’s got great potential and great ability. He’s just got to figure out the defensive end of the floor.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Donovan on freshman point guard Chris Chiozza: “I thought he played really well. He really responded. … I give Chiozza a lot of credit because at halftime I got on him and he really responded. I thought he was much more in tune, engaged and did some very good things.”
» Donovan on redshirt senior walk-on F Jacob Kurtz: “I’ve been very, very disappointed with him. Jake is very important to this team and I think sometimes Jake views himself as a walk-on and I think sometimes Jake doesn’t want to step on anybody’s toes. Going into our first game a week from tomorrow, as you can see we don’t have a very full bench of frontcourt players. He can do more and he’s not doing more. He’s got to stop maybe just being this nice guy and happy to be here, and he’s got to start getting back to the things he did a year ago. Because this time last year when we had the suspensions and guys weren’t playing, we had to utilize him. He’s a far better player a year ago than he is right now. I got to find a way to get him back to where he was before.’
» Donovan said after Thursday’s exhibition contest that his son, redshirt senior walk-on guard Billy Donovan Jr. is no longer a full-time player with his team. While he will participate in some practices and help out when needed, the younger Donovan is spending most of his time doing film work with the video team as he has decided to go into the coaching profession. During Thursday’s game, Donovan Jr. was off the court working in the back with the video coordinators.
“Against the wishes of his mother, yes it is, that’s what he wants to do. He wants to coach,” said Donovan. “She wants him to be happy. I think she understands the way it is. I don’t know at what level he wants to coach at; I think he’s a little bit undecided. I think it’s a great profession, very, very rewarding. I think it’s one of those professions where you really got to be passionate about it and he appears to be that way about the game. … He’s really kind of gravitated back towards basketball and coaching and he appears to have that passion. If he does, I think you can really make a great impact and I think it brings great value to your life in a lot of ways.”
Photo Credit: Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun