12/15: Donovan on free throws, Boynton, Beal

With No. 13 Florida Gators basketball set to face the No. 22 Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday at the 2011 Orange Bowl Basketball Classic in Sunrise, FL, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Thursday to discuss what preparations he and the team have been making over the last week for the squad’s next game.

ADDRESSING THE FREE THROW WOES

Donovan has been adamant over the last two weeks that he is doing whatever he can to help his players improve their free throw shooting. Having so much time off (though the Gators were studying and taking tests most of the time) has given Florida the ability to work on it even more than they normally would during a game week.

“It’s something we’ve got to get better at, something we’ve spent time on. That’s probably an area of the game we’ve maybe underachieved in right now because we have guys who are better shooters from the line than maybe what we’ve displayed up to this point in time,” he said Thursday.

“There’s certainly guys that got to go up there with more confidence and a better focus. You have to work on it. There’s nothing you can necessarily really do. If there was something you could do as a coach, every team would shoot great from the free throw line. It’s something they’ve got to really focus in on and something they’ve got to really understand the importance of. And they do. They understand that and want to get better at it. I think they’re willing to work at it. As our focus gets narrowed in that area, I’m hopeful we’ll get better there.”

Junior guard Kenny Boynton noted that Donovan has “been trying to solve it this whole week” by having the players shoot either 50 or 100 free throws after every practice. He also calls them to the line late during practice and has them shoot free throws with the threat of running suicides if a player misses one or both.

BOYNTON RETURNING HOME

A product of South Florida, Boynton loves playing in the OBBC each year as it gives his family and friends a chance to watch him on the court without having to make the trek up to Gainesville, FL.

“I got a couple people coming this year. It’s definitely a fun game going back down there. It’s right down the street from American Heritage, where I went to high school at,” he explained. “It should be fun. It definitely feels like a home game. Everyone will be there, but when we get on the court I have to just get out there and play.”

Donovan likes playing in Sunrise for a different reason.

“The one thing that’s great is that we always want to recruit Broward and Dade County. We’ve had obviously a fair number of players from that part of the state. Being able to get down there is good,” he said. “I know we’ve got a large contingency of Gator alumni and boosters that are in South Florida. Since I’ve been here, I’ve always wanted to try to play a game down there once a year because it’s been good for our program and it’s been good to be able to get down there and play.”

He’s also expecting to see the good version of Boynton on Saturday, something that was absent against Arizona but reappeared versus Rider.

“In the Arizona game, he’s 2-or-11 from the field and really hadn’t distributed the ball and made the passes that he had been doing this year. The thing that he’s got to understand is that the game is a long time; the game is a long game. If you’re efficient on offense – you take high percentage shots and you shoot a good percentage – you’re always going to have – in our style of playing – an opportunity to score,” Donovan explained.

“The thing for him to take his game to another level is to do what he did against Rider: He goes out there and shoots a high percentage from the field, he gets five or six assists and no turnovers, he plays a really good floor game and he shot the ball well. I still believe that if Kenny Boynton is not scoring and/or making shots, it is not the end of the world for him and our team because there’s so many other things he does.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on the No. 1 thing the team needs to improve on aside from free throw shooting: “Us getting more cohesive on offense – that’s going to be important. Patric [Young]’s game against Arizona helped because I think our guys were able to see clearly – when he gets the ball with angles in the right areas to score, he can certainly score and we found him. Our guys understanding how and when to find him is important. Patric understanding when and where to throw it out of the post is important. Spacing when there’s penetration, Erving [Walker] not getting caught up in the air, us not driving the ball in too deep or taking ill advised shots.”

» Donovan on how freshman G Bradley Beal is developing: “He’s far along just because of his mental capability to be able to handle what’s being thrown at him. I do think right now there are going to be ups and downs for him because he’s a freshman and not every game is going to be perfect and ideal. He’s learned, he’s grown, he’s gotten better. He’s understanding the speed of the game; the speed of the game was probably something that was maybe a little bit surprising to him. You think you’re open and you have time to shoot the ball and those gaps close pretty quickly. The length of people running at you in relationship to maybe what was running at him in high school.”

» Beal on what has changed for him: “I’m probably not as nervous as I was. It started to come natural, and I’m starting to play within the flow of the game. I’m not really forcing anything; I’m really just relaxing and enjoying the game.”

» Beal on an adjustment he has to make: “Probably getting my shot off quicker because Coach Donovan has told me it’s taking a lot to get my shot off. Really just trying to quicken my shot, quicken my release and get the ball in the air faster.”

» Beal on if it is tough to shoot faster: “It’s pretty easy to do because you really don’t change anything. You just have to focus on jumping quicker and releasing it quicker. The form doesn’t change or anything like that. Coach Donovan said most of my shots are missed because of my legs. I’m starting to play lower to the ground and getting my legs more involved in my game.”

» Boynton on pushing the tempo against Texas A&M: “It’s definitely important. The most important thing is for us to get back on defense. We watched them play yesterday, and the coach preaches getting a good shot in the first seven seconds. They do a good job at that. I don’t think they like playing much in the half court, so we’re definitely going to try to limit their fast break possessions.”

» Boynton on Beal’s attitude this year: “His attitude has been positive since day one. I think Brad is doing a great job overall. He works hard, stays after in practice. Even when its not going his way, he keeps a positive attitude. Young players usually get down on themselves in games, and I think that’s a great thing about Brad.”

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