Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Wednesday, one day before his team hosts the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Gainesville, FL at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
GETTING TO THE POINT
The high-ankle sprain suffered by freshman point guard Kasey Hill will leave the Gators without a floor general on Thursday (considering senior Scottie Wilbekin remains suspended, but Donovan is not worried about how it will impact the team.
“Sometimes guys think because they dribble the ball across half court and make an entry pass that means they’re a point guard.
“I’ve often felt like, to me, a point guard is somebody that has the ability and the wherewithal to make plays and make good decisions. In a lot of situations, you can have a lot of point guards on your team,” he explained.
In that respect, Donovan noted that both sophomore guard Michael Frazier II and redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith can fill in as ball handlers. Frazier has more experience with Florida’s offense, while Finney-Smith used to run the point in high school and occasionally for his AAU team.
“I think we have enough ball handling to initiate and start offense. I think we’ll be OK. I think if we are dealing with any pressure, hopefully utilize it as a chance to open up the floor and play fast. But certainly need to take care of the basketball and make good decisions,” he said. “But I do think we have enough ball handling. We don’t necessarily have a primary, pure point guard on our team at this point in time, but I do think we have enough handling and skill to be able to handle it.”
Fraizer will get first crack at it on Thursday. Donovan will simplify the offense he calls during the game that way Frazier can simply “[initiate] offense with a pass, or pass to somebody” before cutting, moving and getting right back off the ball. “I think that he’s got to understand what we’ve got to flow in and out of … letting our offense flow where he can move off the ball, maybe play like he’s normally played up to this point in time.”
Finney-Smith will be used more like Chandler Parsons was when Erving Walker found a seat on the bench two seasons ago, an assignment Donovan said he feels “very comfortable” with going forward.
“I’m pretty confident in my ball handling, so if coach needs me to play point, I’ll do it,” Finney-Smith said Wednesday. “We just got to find a way to win without a point guard. … It’s nothing new. You just have to adjust.”
Though Donovan did not address Wilbekin’s suspension past Thursday’s game, chances are he will be cleared by the coach to return for the Gators’ next game on Monday.
Senior F Will Yeguete has yet to miss a game this season despite being limited all offseason following knee surgery. Not only is Yeguete on the court, he’s playing a career-high 23.5 minutes on average through four games, but that increased playing time is not being reflected in his overall numbers.
Yeguete is averaging a career-high 1.3 turnovers and just 4.5 rebounds per game (down 1.3 from last season, 1.8 from 2011-12) while shooting a paltry 41.2 percent from the field (down 12 percent from last season, 17 percent from 2011-12). His lack of explosiveness is noticeable when going up for layups and rebounding, and he is struggling to hold onto the ball when it is passed his way.
“Offensively he’s got to have a better awareness right now. For a frontcourt player, when you look at his shooting percentage right now over four games, I think he’s right around 41-42 percent from the field, which is way, way too low,” Donovan said.
“He’s got to have a better awareness. Even his turnovers, I think against [Arkansas] Little Rock he maybe had zero assists and four turnovers. … He needs to have a better awareness in terms of his offense.”
Yeguete said he feels “close to 90 percent” healthy and hopes to improve his confidence as the season goes on. “I’m really trying to keep on striving every day to getting better, getting stronger, getting more lift. I think I’m getting there,” he explained. “To get up the floor quickly and be more explosive, that’s the biggest thing for me right now.”
The one facet of Yeguete’s game that has noticeably improved is his free throw shooting. After hitting only 57 percent of his attempts in 2012-13, Yeguete has not missed this season (6-for-6).
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Donovan on when Wilbekin’s suspension will be lifted: “He’s still got a lot more things he’s got to do. I’m not going to jump days and forecast him taking care of things he needs to take care of, but he’s done – up to this point in time – I’m really proud of him. I’m really pleased with him. He’s done a very, very good job. But for me, I’d rather just go one day at a time before I start making things of what he’s going to do to get back on the floor. He knows what he has to do. If he stays on course then he’ll have a chance to get back on our team. He’s done a very, very good job. More so than anything else, I really admire and appreciate how much he’s changed for the better in a lot of ways.”
» Donovan on Florida’s rebounding margin improving over the last two games: “We’ve had a hard time working on rebounding with the amount of injuries we have. You start throwing balls up on the backboard and you start putting the bubble up there and guys are crashing into each other. You kind of open yourself up for more injuries.”
» Donovan on Hill’s mindset and trainers erring on the side of caution: “He seems to be in good spirits. … [Tuesday] he was in here, according to the trainer, for about eight hours. He’s been in here all day around class. He’s eager to get back and wants to get back. But it’s kind of like this is what he’s doing with right now. He’s just working as hard as he can in terms of doing the things he’s capable of doing to try and get himself healed. But he’s really in a good place, it think, right now mentally in terms of … this is what I need to do. … The one thing you don’t want to do to his game is have him come back where he’s not fully healed or he’s hobbled and he can’t play to his strengths. His game is a game that’s played in the open floor with speed, going to the rim, finishing.”