No. 13/15 Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan met with the media this week ahead of his team’s showdown with the Florida State Seminoles on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Gainesville, FL at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The game will air on ESPN2.
Still dealing with its fair share of ailments, Florida basketball has two players out of action for the forseeable future. The most recent injury was suffered on Monday by sophomore guard/forward DeVon Walker, who sprained his foot early in the first half of UF’s win over Middle Tennessee State. He had started every game thus far for the Gators.
“It’s day-to-day right now. X-rays came back negative, no break. It’s not even a sprained ankle. It’s a mid-foot sprain,” Donovan explained on Wednesday. “He tweaked his ligament kind of down on the bottom or the side of his foot, so he’s just doing treatment day to day and he’s not even going to practice today. He may practice [Thursday] so I’m not really sure where he’s at.
“It could take 10 days. It could take a couple of days. A lot depends on how he responds. I think the biggest thing is just making sure it wasn’t a break or a tear and they’ve eliminated all those things so that’s a positive sign.”
Florida is also waiting to see when freshman point guard Kasey Hill will be able to return from his high-ankle sprain, which was originally supposed to keep him out a month. Donovan said Hill is making “positive progress” but would not update his timetable.
“He’s not going to be available for the game against FSU. So you know, I really don’t keep a whole lot of pulse on that,” he said. “Once I find out what the injury is, the trainer’s dealing with him and kind of gives me updates. He is progressing, he is getting better, he is improving. But he’s not remotely close to getting back to the court yet.”
It is starting to sound more and more like Hill will beat his original four-week timetable (no surprise). Expect to see him back potentially as soon as UF’s home game against Kansas on Dec. 10.
TRANSFER’S FUTURE LOOKS MURKY AT BEST
Only one of the Gators’ two big-name transfers has suited up for Florida this season. Though redshirt junior center Damontre Harris was going to miss just a few games for a violation of team rules, he has not returned to the program and may not – ever.
Asked about Harris on Wednesday, Donovan admitted that he has not spoken to the player in a while and only knows that “he’s going to class and those kinds of things.”
Donovan then said the following about Harris’s future at UF:
“Myself, my staff, we support people here. We’re always willing to reach out and to help. But when it is a consistent pattern of behavior – of not accepting, taking the help or going where you’re supposed to be, being where you’re supposed to be or doing what you’re supposed to do – [it’s a problem].
“At a certain point, he’s got to want to say, ‘This is what I want and this is what I’m prepared to do.’ He has not done that. He has said, ‘This is what I’d like: I want to play on the team.’ Well, this is what you have to do. What he wants and what he has to do are not matching up. I’m now at a crossroads in the dilemma. Does he want to play? Does he not want to play? It’s easy to say that but there’s going to be some things he’s going to have to go through to get back on our team. He’s not going to just come in here and say, ‘I want back on the team.’ ‘Great, come on down to practice, we’ll throw you on and give you a uniform.’ He has got a lot of work to do.
“I think as coaches, we realize we’re dealing with young men and [are a] part of their growth. But he has a lot of work to do inside of his team; a lot of work. I think our guys like Damontre and want to help Damontre, but they’d also like to see Damontre help Damontre. That, I think, is what’s so difficult as a coach. When you have all the resources here at Florida to really help someone in every possible area – on the court, off the court, academically, weight room, film – and you’re not taking advantage of it.
“At some point, he’s the one responsible. … He’s in the dorm. It’d be very easy for him to come over to my office to talk. He’s not come over here one time. And I’m certainly not going to chase him around. That’s got to be something he wants to do.
PREQUEL TO THE FOOTBALL GAME
Donovan maintained once again this week that he prefers to have the Gators and Seminoles square off the night before the football game. He believes it creates a great atmosphere and is simply the right thing to do from a scheduling standpoint.
“I think for our fans it’s obviously a great weekend,” he said. “I always feel like coming out of this game we’re always going to end up being a better team, we’re going to find out more about our team. I think it’s a good game to play. I just personally like it around the football weekend because I think it’s great for our fans.”
Florida-Florida State is only scheduled the day before the football game when both contests are in Gainesville. Donovan also explained why that is the case while recapping all the incarnations of the game during his time at UF.
“I think from a philosophical standpoint, being here now starting 18 years, you know I’ve had a chance to be part of the game in a lot of different areas,” he said. “When I first got here the game was played in Orlando every year. And then we kind of got it back to the campuses. And then we did it the Friday night before the football game.
“I think because Florida State, Leonard [Hamilton] at times has liked to do some of these non-exempt tournaments where you go take a trip [in November] … sometimes those dates are not feasible for both programs and I think non-conference scheduling has sometimes gotten in the way with that. So I think we’ve just kind of come to an agreement that generally in Tallahassee we’ll play the game sometime in the beginning of December and then when we play it here we’re going to play it the Friday before the football game.
“I’ve just always thought that’s been a real good environment, it’s been good for all our fans. But I also think Florida State, their philosophy in scheduling a lot of times has been to try to get to some of these tournaments in November around Thanksgiving. And you know, it’s fine with me, they’ve got to do what’s best for their program. So sometimes it hasn’t been able to work on both ends.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On the emergence of redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith: “He’s doing well. I still think he can play better. I think he can play with more energy. I still think he can rebound better. He’s a very, very unselfish guy, I think that’s first and foremost with him. And to try to get him not to be selfish but sometimes to be more assertive to play with more energy, to do some of those things. … We’re going to need him to continue to grow, develop, get better, be assertive, be aggressive. We’re going to need that from him.”
» On his assessment of the team at this point: “I think with what we’ve had to deal with, the hand we’ve had to deal with, since the start of the season, our guys have done a pretty good job. I think the one thing that’s hard is what you’d like to do as a coach is to just have your group as a whole with you from start to finish so you can kind of grow as a group. … We played against Middle Tennessee State without two point guards. We played against Wisconsin with some guys out with suspensions, injuries. We’ve had to deal with some different stuff. I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating. It’s more disappointing a little bit, because you would like to as a coach to be able to have your guys, to be able to practice and work on things, to get better as a group. But we haven’t had the luxury to do that. … I think our guys, to their credit, are trying to do the things we’re asking them to do. And I think they’re doing a pretty good job of it.”
» On Florida State and its guards: “They are a very, very long and athletic team. They are playing very good basketball. They have played well all year long. They’ve got some experience. They’ve got some young guys. They can play really big if they want to or they can go with a small lineup. Okaro White is a multi-dimensional guy, an older guy that can play a lot of positions and do a lot of things so they are a very, very good team.”