12/16: Donovan discusses team, Kansas State

No. 24 Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his latest media availability in the following post.

TIME OFF A MUCH-NEEDED BREAK FOR FLORIDA

With their longest stretch off between games this season coming to a close, the Gators have been trying to improve while simultaneously studying for finals over the last week. Nevertheless, Donovan believes the time off has been a positive for the team, which has plenty to improve on through its first nine games this year.

“That’s been good for us,” he said. “It’s been pretty productive. We practiced on Sunday and Monday, took Tuesday off and then Wednesday was a pretty big day for our guys academically. It’s always a balance. There’s so much demand on them academically in terms of papers and finals and things like that. We were able to get some work done on things we need to. Practice time has been good for our team. We have been able to address and work on some things we need to improve on.”

What exactly has the team made adjustments to over the last week? “Offensively just our ability to move the ball, catch the ball, pass it,” Donovan said. “Being a little bit more cohesive on offense. Trying to take advantage of our personnel. We’re getting better in that area. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think we’ve made some positive strides.

“The last four games we’ve done a pretty good job in terms of field goal percentage, defense, the number of points allowed. I’d like to see us defend the three-point line a little bit better than we are, but we got better there. The next step is: Can we put it all together? Can we defend like we need to and can we execute offensively in terms of taking advantage the five guys on the floor – them making decisions to make the game easy for each other.”

SHOOTING ISSUES ARE CONCERNING BUT CORRECTABLE

As a team Florida has really struggled shooting from, well, all over the floor. Though everyone is having issues, no one is performing worse right now while putting up shots than sophomore guard Kenny Boynton. Donovan, though concerned with his recent performances, believes confidence is the way Boynton can improve.

“That’s a really hard thing. One of the things I try to do as a coach is give our guys confidence. The worst thing is when a guy has an open shot and is tentative. That’s a real hard thing,” he said. “I think Dan Werner a little bit last year went through that. He wasn’t really sure when to shoot, when not to shoot. And you’re trying to instill confidence and give that confidence. At the end of the day, when a guy is shooting the basketball, as much as I can tell them to shoot that basketball, ‘I believe in you,’ the confidence still has to be internally that they believe it’s going in. And I try to help in that area.

“Kenny, in the last couple of games, has played phenomenal. He’s played great floor game. He’s defended very well; he’s been a much better help defender. He’s helped on the backboard and obviously his assist-to-turnover ratio has been much better. When you focus on things that you can do and you have control over, you have a better chance of making shots.”

To his credit, Boynton is doing exactly what Donovan is asking him to do. “You just keep shooting until you know, one game, it gets on, and then everything else will fall in place,” he said. “Not really too much in my head. Other than [three-point range] I’m shooting the ball 50 percent from the field. I just got to find other ways to score.”

Read much, much more from Donovan and UF basketball…after the break!

FRONTCOURT STEPPING UP FOR THE GATORS

Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin struggled with knee tendinitis – and senior forward Alex Tyus struggled in general – but both of Florida’s primary frontcourt assets have been stepping up as of late. Donovan shared his thoughts on what has changed in recent games and how the team can best utilize both men going forward.

“[Macklin]’s definitely feeling better health-wise. I think that has a lot to do with it,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to really perform well [when you’re injured].

“Our guys have done a much better job of finding him. We’ve got him the ball in areas of the floor where he’s been able to do something with it. Vernon Macklin’s not a shot-creator off the dribble; he has to have someone get the ball to him. There was probably a lot of times during the course of early games that he’s standing in the post with guys on his back and our guys are not even looking. […] We’ve got him the ball in areas of the floor where he can score.

“Alex has played better because we have gotten him the ball offensively in areas that he can take advantage of his ability. He’s gotten to the glass, and that’s really helped his ability to offensive rebound and he’s gotten out in transition. The more we can work inside-to-out and play through Vern and play through Alex, it will hopefully open things up for our perimeter.”

FRANK MARTIN’s IMPORTANCE AND FRIENDSHIP

Donovan is close with a lot of NCAA head coaches but had exemplary things to say about No. 5 Kansas State Wildcats top man Frank Martin, claiming he is partially responsible for the immense success Donovan had with the Gators early on.

“He and I are very close. If it wasn’t for Frank, we would have not played in the 2000 National Championship game,” he said. “The reason I say that is two of our starters – Brent Wright and Udonis Haslem – were Miami High guys and Frank coached them. Frank did a great job coaching them and, while he was coaching him, those guys won state championships. So when you win state championships, you have an idea what it’s like to win.

“One thing I’ve always admired about Frank is he’s a hard-nosed, tough, competitive guy. He gets his team to work; he gets them to play hard. He’s got great passion for the game. In this whole coaching fraternity network of people, outside of guys that have worked for me, he’s a close friend. When you’re in the state and you’re starting out a program like I did when I first got here, and somebody says, ‘OK, I’m going to take my kids and put them in your care, in your hands.’ And they’re good players? I’m indebted to him for having that much trust and confidence in [me].”

QUOTES (After the break…)

Donovan on if playing a good team like Kansas State is a win-win game: “You want to be in a position where you can win some of these games. […] This is an opportunity for our basketball team to play against clearly one of the best teams in the country. You got to win some of these games too, that’s what you want to be able to do. The biggest thing for our team right now is getting them to see and understand that, when you play against these kind of teams, and when you play this kind of schedule, your issues as a team are going to flour, they’re going to get exposed, they’re going to be out in the open.”

Donovan on each side of the ball affecting each other: “The human element, to be honest with you, not great. We haven’t [handled it well].”

Donovan on how the team can improve its shooting: “How do we address it? Get a lot of shots up. Try to get them repetition, get them confidence. Let them see they’re putting time in shooting the ball.”

Donovan on Kansas State as a team: “Great defensive team and a little bit different. Some similar philosophies in that both teams try to be disruptive. Both teams try to take you out of a flow. Both teams go about it doing it maybe a little bit different. We do it with pressing, changing defenses. They do it with all-out denial all over the court. They don’t want you to make one pass. […] They’re in that mix when you talk about the 10 best teams. They’re one of those teams – no question.”

Boynton on getting to play in South Florida: “It’s going to be a good experience. You want to go home and play in front of your family. To have a great team to play like Kansas State, I couldn’t ask for more.”

Boynton on Macklin’s contributions: “Vernon has played his best in these last couple games. And in practice he’s still playing good, so I think he’s going to keep this up.”

Senior F Chandler Parsons on Boynton’s struggles: “Obviously we want him to shoot well, but if he’s just playing the way he’s supposed to play, as long as he keeps playing defense and keeps taking good shots, there’s really nothing we can do about it.”

Parsons on getting out of a rut: “You just tell him to keep shooting. He can’t make it mental or start thinking he’s doing something wrong. He’s just got to keep playing confident. He’s a great player; he’s just got to keep playing like it.”

Parsons on feeding Macklin and Tyus: “It’s big. We obviously want to play inside-out, and those guys have been playing very well for us.”

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