Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Thursday to preview Saturday’s game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the 2014 Orange Bowl Basketball Classic and discuss his team as it heads into the holiday break.
GATORS MAY ADD MUCH-NEEDED DEPTH
A mid-season transfer from Duke, redshirt sophomore forward Alex Murphy has yet to suit up for Florida in a game but looks poised to take the court for the first time in Saturday. All Murphy needs to be cleared for action is for the school to post his fall semester grades, which would immediately make him eligible as it would mark the conclusion of the semester.
“We’re just trying to remain optimistic he’ll get an opportunity to play on Saturday,” Donovan said.
“This week I’ve tried to put him in a little bit more to try to get him kind of caught up and up to speed and what he needs to do. And he’s a smart kid, Alex. He picks up things pretty quickly. So I’m not really worried about that,” he added.
With Murphy practicing with the Gators for the last year, he is capable of being brought into the regular rotation without much of an adjustment. His knowledge base will go a long way to helping Donovan factor him in to his plans from the get-go.
“I think Alex’s position is an interesting one just because he’s pretty cerebral, he can play a lot of different positions, we can move him around,” Donovan said.
“We can play somewhat big because he can slide back and play at two for us. We can play a little bit smaller and we can play him at the four and Doe-Doe at the five. We’ve got a little bit more flexibility in terms of lineup and that I think will be a work in progress for our team in terms of how practice is concerned. We haven’t had really a lot of time to really work on that kind of stuff.”
Murphy’s last name is obviously quite familiar to Florida fans, who likely hope he can contribute just as much as his brother Erik Murphy did during his time with the Gators. Donovan has been cautious not to put that pressure on Alex Murphy.
“I think one of the things you become very conscientious of, it’s the same thing with Jon [Horford], it’s the same thing with Alex, for most of their lives there’s always been that normal tendency to compare brothers. It’s natural, and I’ve always been sensitive to try to stay away from that. I don’t reference their brothers. I don’t talk about their brothers. I try to treat them as individuals, who they are, what they can bring to the table. They’re just different.
“I never get into, ‘Well, you’re doing this, but your brother did this. You need to do this like your brother.’ I stay away from that, I really do. … It’s not that hard because they’re both personalities are different. They’re totally different. … You get two boys together from the same household and everyone thinks they’re just going to be exactly alike, act alike, play alike, be alike, and they’re totally different. They just are. It’s easy. It’s not that hard.”
FLORIDA MAY LOSE A TOP GUARD, AGAIN
Redshirt junior guard Eli Carter has not had the best luck during his basketball-playing career. Despite mostly recovering from a broken leg he suffered at Rutgers before transferring to Florida, residual issues from the injury forced him to miss most of the 2013-14 season.
Finally healthy entering 2014-15, Carter suffered a midfoot sprain early in the campaign and has played sparingly since. Though he is feeling a bit better and has seen some limited action as of late, Carter may wind up missing Saturday’s game after being diagnosed with strep throat this week.
“I don’t know where Eli’s gonna be at again this weekend. He hasn’t been practicing for the last couple of days as he’s got an illness. They’re doing some tests for strep and that kind of stuff. I think right now he’s been diagnosed with strep,” explained Donovan.
“He didn’t have a practice [Wednesday], didn’t practice [Thursday], gonna see how he feels probably [Friday]. How much we’ll get out of him, I don’t know; he’s pretty sick right now.”
Donovan continued: “I feel bad for him. Personally, it’s been hard. He’s never been able to quite get into that kind of rhythm that he had, I thought, in the Miami game. I thought he played pretty well against us. I don’t know where his foot’s at. I didn’t think he moved particularly well in the Jacksonville game, to me. And in practice, he’s not moved great. I can’t tell from my standpoint. …
“But yeah, you feel bad for him. He’s a really good kid. He’s obviously going through the injury he had at Rutgers. It’s been an uphill climb for him all the way. But the one thing about him is, if there’s one guy who can handle it, it’s him. He’s pretty even-keel. He doesn’t get too high, get too low. He pretty much stays on an even-keel.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On the Gators improving their shooting over the last few games: “I think we are probably getting a little bit of a better understanding of where our shots are coming from – and when [they are coming]. The other part of it too is just being disciplined and fundamental in terms of how they shoot the basketball. I think there’s not a player out there that, when they shoot, the ball doesn’t want it to go in; once the ball leaves your hands, you don’t have any control. All you can control is getting a good rep. … Our guys were undisciplined in a lot of ways, so I tried to get them to understand the importance of being disciplined and fundamental shooting the basketball. … I think our ball movement has been really good; I think that’s been important. I think we’ve screened better. And I think guys are making the extra pass. All those things have probably contributed and factored into it. But I think because you are dealing with shooting, there’s going to be some games where you don’t shoot the ball well. And I understand that but we’ve got to make sure that our ball movement is still good and we’re getting and taking good reps.”
» On Florida winning its last three games by an average of 36 points: “If we played those teams to start our season, we would not have had the margin of victory we had in those three games. We’ve gotten better; we’ve improved. We’re not where we need to be, but we’ve made some strides. I do think in all three of those games, the margin of victory I think was an indication of us getting better, but I also think too there were some things that those teams had very difficult time dealing with. … So I think some of it is us getting better, and some that’s been maybe our opponents, too.”
» On redshirt freshman forward Dorian Finney-Smith scoring consistently in the last game: “He shot the ball well and he scored but to me it’s all mentality-wise with him. He has a tendency to kind of shift into wanting to be, it’s almost like, ‘OK. I played really, really well against Jacksonville. Can I get a break now? Can I kind of go back?’ But he’s got to be much, much more consistent. Now the one thing I will say is, since the Jacksonville game, he has been more consistent in practice. He’s played with more intensity and passion. He’s done a better job with that, and he needs to do that and I need to help him as best I can as a coach to stay on him about those things.”
» On his evaluation of Wake Forest point guard Mitchell Wilbekin, the younger brother of Scottie Wilbekin: “I would say probably coming out of high school, Mitchell was probably a little bit more gifted than Scottie was offensively. I think Scottie developed into a really good offensive player. I think scoring for Mitchell comes very easy. I think it’s pretty impressive for him as a freshman to be able to shoot the percentage he’s shooting from behind the three-point line. As a freshman, he’s getting a great opportunity there with Danny [Manning]. I think Scottie was probably further along defensively. In a lot of ways, they’re totally different players. They each have their own strengths. … I would say they are really different. I think the same thing can be said between Erik Murphy and Alex: they’re totally different players.”
» On a 10-day break upcoming between Saturday’s game against Wake Forest and Florida’s next contest against Florida State: “You always get concerned when those guys go home when they come back, there’s always a concern for that, you know, they get right back in the flow of things, but I also think too that during the holidays, it’s always nice when those guys can get a few days to get a break with their families. You always worry about that as a coach, just in terms of what’s being put in their head, their mind and how they’re doing and, if they’re not playing well or if they are playing well, we’ll have to come back. … With this team, it’s going to be a process. As much as I want to as a coach prepare them for what’s getting ready to come, to prepare them to have the experience those four seniors had, their journey’s going to be totally different. They’ve got to go through some of these experiences.”