Allen’s Alley: Previewing the 2011-12 Gators

A four-year member of the Florida Gators basketball program under head coach Billy Donovan, former forward Adam Allen – a four-star recruit coming out of Milton High School – was forced to retire due to multiple knee surgeries. No longer with the team, he has joined OGGOA as a basketball columnist and will provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2011-12 season.

College basketball season has arrived, and the excitement is in full force surrounding the new-look Florida Gators squad. Florida basketball has the potential to be one of the best programs in the nation this year and should be one of the most exciting teams to watch from November to March.

The Gators feature what could be the best backcourt in the nation to go along with a rather inexperienced but talented frontline that has been waiting to prove itself.

There is no question that this team possesses the talent to be great but concerns surround the backcourt chemistry and keeping
everyone happy with playing time.

Guards senior Erving Walker, junior Kenny Boynton, sophomore Scottie Wilbekin and sophomore Casey Prather already have experience playing together, but how will the addition of two potential star players in freshman Brad Beal and redshirt junior transfer Mike Rosario wind up working long-term?

In head coach Billy Donovan‘s portrait, he sees a perfect combination. Many wonder how the talented guards will share the ball and allocate shots amongst one another. The only true “pass-first” guard is Wilbekin but sharing the ball will be an issue with this group. Coach Donovan will have the guards playing together and feeding off each other because he is the best in America at getting players to understand their role and what they need to do to help the team win.

Read the rest of this edition of Allen’s Alley…after the break!
Continue Reading » Allen’s Alley: Previewing the 2011-12 Gators

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FOUR BITS: All-SEC, Oliver, Meyer, Jones

1 » The Southeastern Conference announced its coaches’ preseason All-SEC first and second team selections on Wednesday, and three Florida Gators were honored on the lists. Senior point guard Erving Walker and junior guard Kenny Boynton both earned first team nominations, while sophomore center Patric Young was the only UF representative placed on the second team. Walker and Boynton were both on the media’s All-SEC second team, and Young was left off.

2 » Former Florida safety Louis Oliver was one of six people inducted into the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame on Tuesday evening. Fellow former Gators student-athlete Dara Torres was inducted previously. “It is very flattering,” Oliver said, according to the Sun-Sentinel. “I am very excited to be in a group that includes a group like [Dan] Marino, Coach [Don] Shula, H. Wayne Huizenga, Michael Irvin and those types of people. Just to be recognized with those people puts me in a category that most people aren’t in. It’s not Canton, Ohio, but it is a really big deal for me.”

3 » With Joe Paterno stepping down from his job as head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions at the end of the season, former Gators head coach Urban Meyer is obviously going to be the No. 1 name on the list of the university and fans. Meyer discussed his admiration for Paterno at the 2011 Outback Bowl but has also said on numerous other occasions how much he is enjoying his time off from the game. However, Meyer is not the only candidate as Miami head coach Al Golden and Rutgers top man Greg Schiano could also be in the running for the job. The fact of the matter is that Meyer may very well not be ready to return to college football and could also look at the sport’s landscape (with major violations and legal issues going on at his supposed top two destinations of Ohio State and Penn State) and choose to wait a bit longer.

4 » Central Florida Knights head coach Donnie Jones was suspended three conference games without pay and publicly reprimanded by the NCAA on Wednesday for being aware of contact between a recruiter for a sports agency and student-athletes and not preventing it. The recruiter allegedly paid tuition and travel expenses for some players and recruits. “As the program’s head coach, I accept responsibility for mistakes when they occur,” he said in a statement from the school. A former assistant at Florida under head coach Billy Donovan, Jones took his UCF team to Gainesville two Saturdays ago for an exhibition game against UF.

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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (35-23)

With just days to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 basketball season gets underway, the first half of OGGOA‘s series – The Countdown – takes a look at those players on the roster wearing jerseys ranging from No. 35-23.

35 – Walter Pitchford V (Grand Rapids, MI)
Freshman forward
6’10” 221 lbs.

Quick Bio: A three-star recruit coming out of high school, Pitchford was the last player to join the Gators’ 2011 signing class. He originally committed to DePaul in 2010 but requested a release from his signed scholarship when the head coach was fired; Pitchford wanted to attend Summit Christian Academy prep school for a year and reevaluate his options. DePaul and the NCAA initially denied his request before eventually granting it in July, paving the way for him to commit to Florida.

2011-12 Outlook: Though the Gators do not have much size, Pitchford is still quite raw as a player and will likely see the fewest game minutes of anyone on the roster this season. “Walter is still learning and growing,” head coach Billy Donovan said in mid-October. “Walter is not any different than a lot of freshmen that come in terms of figuring out how hard they have to play, better competition, what to do, where to go, what’s happening.” Pitchford said in April that Donovan plans to have him on the court as a stretch four who will have opportunities to play on the perimeter at times.

34 – Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD)
Redshirt freshman forward/center
6’9” 231 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010-11 Season: A three-star power forward coming out of high school, Larson is quite athletic and quick for his size and position. Though he averaged 19.8 points and 7.8 rebounds as a high school senior, Larson redshirted last season and will play his first regular season minutes this year.

2011-12 Outlook: Back with the team after being indefinitely suspended over the summer, Larson is expected to see major playing time as a reserve at the four and five. He is the primary backup to sophomore center Patric Young and could have a big role this season. “Cody is a big body who can rebound and run the floor and step out and knock down jumpers,” former Florida forward Chandler Parsons told OGGOA last week. “He just has to bring it every night and provide energy and whatever else the team needs. He could really help out down low this year.” Donovan has also praised him. “Cody has been a guy that is doing a lot of really good things right now in terms of the little things that aren’t going to show up on a stat sheet,” he said. “I’ve been pleased with what he’s been able to do for our team physically because we need another physical presence up front.”

33 – Erik Murphy (South Kingstown, RI)
Junior forward/center
6’10” 230 lbs.

Quick Bio: The first-ever player from Rhode Island to be named a Parade Magazine All-American, Murphy was a four-star commit in 2009 who has played as a backup in each of his first two years with UF. He is shooting 55.7 percent for his career, 40 percent from downtown and 69.2 percent from the line while averaging 2.4 rebounds per game.

2010-11 Season: Murphy earned one start in 2010-11 when Parsons was injured and unable to play. Otherwise he served as the primary frontcourt reserve off the bench behind a veteran unit. He averaged 4.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 33 games and scored in double digits three times. Murphy shined in the NCAA Tournament against UCLA, scoring seven points on 3-for-4 shooting.

2011-12 Outlook: Like Larson, Murphy was indefinitely suspended for most of the offseason but rejoined the team and earned a starting role this year. He was 6-of-9 from the field and 3-for-4 from downtown for 17 points in the team’s exhibition against Catholic. “I’m just going to try to play my role, do what coach asks and do whatever I can for the team to help us win,” he said last Wednesday. Murphy jumped up to 230 lbs. in the offseason and said that his much-needed weight gain has helped him become stronger and more durable. “A couple times both seasons I got banged up a bit,” he said. The weight [gain] has definitely helped me. I’m in the best shape of my life. It feels good, and I feel comfortable right now.”

24 – Casey Prather (Jackson, TN)
Sophomore guard/forward
6’6” 212 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010-11 Season: A highly recruited swingman and four-star player coming out of high school, Prather saw 6.7 minutes of action per game as a freshman but served mostly as a roleplayer during the season, averaging 1.2 points and 1.1 rebounds per appearance. He wound up starting two games due to Parsons’s injury and scored double-digits once – on 5-of-8 shooting against North Carolina A&T.

2011-12 Outlook: Prather, who can play in the frontcourt or backcourt, is one of the Gators’ most versatile players. His length and athleticism allow him to move the ball, get open in space and attack the basket, but he is still trying to refine his touch and become an all-around player. Prather had a team-high seven rebounds in the exhibition and will be counted on to hit the boards hard all season long.

23 – Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO)
Freshman guard
6’3” 207 lbs.

Quick Bio: Arguably the best player ever to sign a national letter of intent with Donovan and the Gators, Beal was a five-star recruit and one of the top five players in the country coming out of high school last year. The 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year, he averaged 32.5 points, 5.7 boards, 2.8 assists and 2.7 steals per game as a high school senior. Beal is the 14th McDonald’s All-American signed by Donovan and also a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Missouri. In the offseason, Beal led the United States’s U17 FIBA World Championship team to a gold medal and captured the tournament’s most valuable player honor.

2011-12 Outlook: A starter from day one, Beal joins a veteran backcourt that has been playing together for three years. He has been a model freshman in practice so far and could be a big catalyst for Florida in 2011-12. Beal scored a 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting (4-for-7 from downtown) with five dimes in the exhibition game one week ago and could very well be the team’s best offensive player this season due to his ability to hit open shots and slash to the basket. “He’s been a guy that’s absorbed everything pretty well,” Donovan said of Beal. “He’s more advanced than most freshmen in terms of being able to retain and understand what we’re trying to get done. Coupled with the fact that he’s a talented and gifted player. He’s been unfazed, so to speak, by what he’s gone through. It’s been challenging, but it’s not like he’s lost or confused. He has a really good understanding and feel of what we’re trying to do and [he] is able to do that.”

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11/8: Donovan, players talk season opener

With Florida Gators basketball opening the 2011-12 regular season at home Friday against Jackson State, head coach Billy Donovan, senior point guard Erving Walker and freshman guard Brad Beal met with the media Tuesday to discuss how practice has been going and what preparations have been made for the first game of the season.

REBOUNDING REMAINS THE FOCUS

There is no question that the Gators are going to be able to score and score often this year, so Donovan has spent the last week trying to teach his players rebounding techniques that will help them fill in the other parts of their game. He believes that Florida can be a good collective rebounding team even though their guards lack the size to hit the boards as hard as some other players might.

“They were a little taken back and surprised with practice on Friday because I said to them, ‘Let’s take the 20 threes we made out of the game right now. Let’s look at it without that – us defensively and rebounding wise.’ When you shoot the ball well, it cures a multitude of sins. But when you don’t shoot the ball well, sometimes those things are a lot more exposed,” Donovan said, referring to the team’s need to improve its rebounding.

“We’re not a long, big, strong, athletic team with unbelievable size, so we’re not going to be a team that just is all of a sudden going to be a great rebounding team.”

That is why Beal is going to have to step up for the Gators. Starting at the three, he will be off the ball most of the time and have an ability to crash the boards when shots go up. “Clearly Brad is the best rebounder from that position of our perimeter guys. He’s got to do a better job getting in there because he’s capable. It’s a little bit new for him in terms of what we’re asking him to do, but we need him [to rebound],” Donovan said.

Beal said Florida has been attacking the basket a lot more in practice but realizes that he must personally be responsible for grabbing boards game-in and game-out. “I definitely have to do a better job of rebounding,” he said. “Coach Donovan has been on my head ever since our scrimmage game. He’s just been on me about rebounding. I have to take the initiative and just get in there and rebound with the bigger guys.”

COUNTING ON YOUNG’s AWARENESS

Considering the Gators are going to be taking so many perimeter and mid-range shots, Florida is going to need a solid post presence to play off of during games. That presence is sophomore center Patric Young, who has been working on cutting down his fouls and staying on the ground rather than being caught out of position in the air.

Donovan praised Young’s effort and ability but said he needs to learn how to stay away from bad situations and ensure that he is in the correct position on the court.

“The one thing that I’m trying to get him to understand is because he’s so athletic and because he plays hard and has a really good motor, there are times that he can really make incredible, exceptional plays by being totally out of position,” he explained. “Trying to get him to understand positioning on the court offensively and defensively is something I have been trying to work with him on.”

In games that the Gators struggle scoring, Donovan said defense will obviously be of paramount importance. In that regard, he said that Florida should not have to count on Young to handle everything inside.

“We have the ability to be really good defensively because I do think this team has more speed and quickness than we had a year ago, but we don’t have the length we had a year ago,” he said. “We can collectively be good at it, and we do a pretty good job of it. Because of things we have to do defensively, we got to do some things to try and protect Patric. Sometimes we double team in the low post so he doesn’t pick up fouls.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan said the starting lineup would likely remain the same for the season opener but noted that it could change at any given time depending on how players perform. He added that whichever players start is not of great significance to him in the long run as long as the players do well in whatever role they receive.

» Donovan on how he will divide up minutes amongst the guards: “I never try to preplan that stuff because so much happens in the game that you have to be ready to adjust and make decisions based on what’s going on in that game.”

» Donovan on how good of a shooting team Florida is this year: “We’re a much better shot-making team than we have been. The last two years the way we played, we really did not have a power forward that shot the ball. […] The last two years, we always gave ourselves a chance because we were able to rebound the ball. When you have a good shooting team, that part of it can get lost. You could have a bad shooting night at a key time during the season. […] I do think offensively we have a chance to be explosive.”

» Walker on this being his last year with Florida: “It should be a fun season. We just got to keep working hard, play every game like it’s your last because you never know.”

» Walker on sophomore PG Scottie Wilbekin: “He’s one of those guards that is going to get in there and bang, play great defense and run the team – he does a good job at that.”

» Walker on how different the team is this year: “This team has a good confidence about it. Not arrogance but just confidence. We feel like we can be a special team. Guys see that, listen to coach, and I think this is one of the hardest working teams I’ve been on since I’ve been here.”

» Walker on if it’s exciting to play a tough non-conference schedule: “It’s very exciting, but it also brings out a better focus because we know we got tough challenges coming ahead. We got to be prepared for them. Playing in these big games serves no purpose if you don’t win many of them.”

» Walker on being the SEC’s active leader in career scoring: “That doesn’t mean anything to me. That’s in the past. I’m just looking at the present and the future.

» Walker on how junior G Kenny Boynton has improved: “Just watching him play, he’s more mature and his midrange has got a lot better. His ability to finish at the rim and even his jump shot, I think with another year of experience he’s become a better player.”

» Walker on former players coming back to Gainesville: “It just shows how much they love it here and how it is a great place to come back [to].”

» Beal on the team’s chemistry: “The chemistry is great. I feel great, confident and comfortable with the team that we have. Everybody is playing together as a team, and everything is fun and flowing right now.”

» Beal on how he’s standing up to collegiate-level competition: “I’m humbled but at the same time I know that this is an elite level and I’m not here for no reason.”

» Beal on learning to foul less often: “Just being aggressive and smart basically on defense, not committing silly fouls. Most of the fouls I had were pretty dumb fouls. Mostly being smart, staying on the ground and playing good defense.”

» Beal on what the guards are learning from each other: “I’m kind of the biggest guard, so I guess I have a more physical body than those guys do. I can teach them to finish more towards the rim, but at the same time they’re teaching me how to be quicker and off the dribble because the game is lot faster. I’m just learning from these guys, and I’ve picked up a lot of things from them.”

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11/3: Florda vs. Catholic post-game notes

The No. 8/10 Florida Gators soundly defeated the Catholic Cardinals Thursday evening in an exhibition match at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some Florida players discussed the contest as well as their outlook for the upcoming season.

GUARD PLAY A BIG HIGHLIGHT

Considering every Gators starter scored in double figures and the backcourt was raining threes all night long, Donovan had little to criticize after the game when it came to how his most talked about unit played. He was mostly impressed with their effort, especially how many resists the team recorded over the course of the game.

“There has been so much talk about our backcourt and how all of that is going to work. The thing I’ve said all along is that I really felt like in practice for the last two-and-a-half-to-three weeks, they have really played unselfishly, shared the ball and worked well together. Today kind of displayed that,” he said. “With the way they’ve been unselfish passing the ball, it was really what I’ve seen for the last two-and-a-half weeks of practice.

“I made the comment that I think we’re explosive offensively. Certainly we got it going in the first half there. I was really pleased with the unselfishness of 31 assists, the ball movement, those guys playing together, them looking for each other. I thought we got a lot of great looks. We shot 57 percent from the field and shot a really high percentage in our scrimmage.”

Even though Florida shot 40 treys in the contest, Donovan said that because they were open shots created by ball rotation, he was perfectly fine with that figure and result (the team shot 50 percent from beyond the arc).

“The one thing that was kind of interesting in the first half was I think we took 37 shots in the first half, and I think we took maybe 23-24 three-point shots. I didn’t like the balance there, but I can honestly say I don’t know if we took one bad three-point shot in the first half,” he said.

“I can’t remember a game since I’ve been here that we took 40 three-point shots. We took 40 three-point shots and made 20. There were a few bad ones there in the second half, but for the most part in the first half with the way the ball was being moved around we got some good looks. We made some adjustments in the press; we were disruptive. I thought we did a lot of good things.”

BEAL AND ROSARIO INTRODUCED TO GATOR NATION

Though Thursday was not an official game, it was the first time that Gators fans got to see guards freshman Brad Beal and redshirt junior transfer Mike Rosario active for Florida. Beal was explosive with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting (4-for-7 from downtown) and added five dimes to his line.

“What you saw tonight is what I’ve seen since he stepped foot on campus. He’s very advanced. He’s got a really high basketball IQ. He lets the game come to him. He’s really an efficient scorer. He does a lot of different things,” Donovan said after the game. “What you saw tonight is what I watch every day in practice. He’s that kind of player. He gets the team; he gets the chemistry. They all understand that when you have a self-awareness of yourself in terms of you care about trying to play the right way because you care about the guys on your team, that’s a good thing. I think Brad has that and embodies a lot of those things.”

Rosario was also quite effective, posting 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting (4-for-7 from downtown) with six assists and two steals. As the Gators’ sixth man, Rosario saw more court time than three starters did (24 minutes). Donovan believes both Beal and Rosario will go a long way to helping senior point guard Erving Walker and junior G Kenny Boynton play even better this year.

“They’re going to relieve some pressure off those guys in a positive way,” he said. “Those two guys are warriors. They’ve played a lot of minutes and there has been a lot on their shoulders. I have the utmost respect for both of those two guys. What you’re seeing now is Erving [and Kenny] not having that scoring power around him, how much has fallen on both those guys shoulders, and they have still tried to go out and do what they can at a high level. They got help now.”

MUST HIT THE GLASS HARDER

Florida outrebounded Catholic 36-31 on Thursday but that is not saying much considering how much more athletic and talented the Gators are than the Cardinals. Donovan realizes that rebounding will be a work in progress for UF this season, calling it the team’s biggest challenge going forward.

“We need to rebound the ball because we’re so explosive offensively, and it’s so hard when we’re coming down to floor to match-up with us. We eliminate a huge strength of our team in broken floor situations if we get dominated on the glass and we have to constantly inbound the ball,” he explained.

“Part of the reason we went on that huge run and the score just exploded was we got stops and steals and we got out of transition. All of a sudden the floor is spaced, the ball is moving around like it is, and it’s finding guys who are getting pretty high percentage shots for good shooters. My thing for the rebounding for us is not so much that we have to do it, but it takes away a huge strength for our team if we get annihilated in the backcourt. We got to get better there.”

No Florida player posted double-digit boards on Thursday with sophomores center Patric Young and guard/forward Casey Prather each registering a team-high seven rebounds.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on how his son Billy Donovan, Jr. performed for Catholic: “I was really proud of him. I thought he played aggressive. It was a hard situation for him to walk into. I did not know what to expect. The thing that I was the most pleased with was that he really was not overwhelmed in the situation. He just tried to do what the coaches and his team asked him to do. I thought he really played well and did a good job. He’s got a great opportunity to have a great career there. […] To be able to come back here and – their whole team – they really competed hard. Certainly they were overwhelmed talent-wise, but they really played hard and competed and I was happy for him.”

» Donovan on how Young has been cutting down the fouls: “He’s been pretty good. In our scrimmage against UCF he had two fouls in 40 minutes. He did a really nice job. He was effective and physical. It’s going to be a learning process for Patric. The biggest thing I’m trying to get him to eliminate is the silly fouls.”

» Donovan on the press: “What we can’t do is put our defense and Patric in a bad position in the back end of the press for fouls.”

» Donovan on what else Florida has to do offensively: “When you have a level of awareness of people around you, you’re inclined to make the extra pass. We got to have more of a presence in the paint. That’s not meaning Patric, because Patric provides a presence for us. We have to have a presence in terms of driving and penetrating.”

» Beal on playing his first game in the O’Dome: “With it being my first game, [I was happy with] just how unselfish we are. Everybody got a chance to play. Everybody got to touch the ball. Everybody scored. With the type of team we are, I’m realizing we can be a pretty good team.”

» Beal what it felt like to finally play college ball: “It was real important. I’ve been waiting on this for a long time. The nerves were kicking in at first, but once the game started, everything was going, I had fun and just relaxed.”

» Beal on how Donovan felt about playing his son: “He wanted to beat him but at the same time he wanted him to do good. He was talking to him a little bit on the floor.”

» Beal on if it is easier playing off the ball and with veterans: “It makes it easier for everybody. Last year obviously they had a lot of trouble with that. Now we have a huge backcourt as well as we have power inside. It’s going to be hard to defend us both inside and outside.”

» Beal on how he thought the press worked: “Up front we did real good in the press. We did exactly what Coach Donovan wanted us to. We have to get better at our defense and rebounding. Those are the two main keys coach Donovan always points out to us.”

» Rosario on sharing the ball: “That’s a big thing because a lot of people in the nation think that by us having Kenny, Erving Walker, myself and Brad Beal, how are we going to share the ball? Right now we’re just putting our focus on the defensive end, moving the ball around and making each other better.”

» Rosario on playing off the ball: “I love playing off the ball here, and I love the role I have to play. It take sa lot of pressure off of me because I’m surrounded by a lot of good players.“

» Rosario on the defensive effort: “We did a good job on the defensive end. we got a lot of things to clear up and to get better at in practice. I’m sure coach is going to go over those things in practice and watch film.”

» Boynton on how Beal played: “Even in the scrimmage that we played, Brad played the same exact way. He’s a smooth player. He doesn’t force anything and has a great basketball IQ. I think he’s going to continue that throughout the season.”

» Walker on team defense: “We got to continue focus defensively because that can be our Achilles heel. We have to gang rebound as guards, get in there and it’s not going to come pretty every night.”

» Walker on Donovan watching his son: “I think it was a good moment for him. I think he enjoyed it. I actually thought he is son played really well and made some shots. I thought he played hard.”

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Three-pointer crusade leads Florida past Catholic

No. 8/10 Florida Gators basketball had the perfect tune up on Thursday evening, defeating the Division-III Catholic Cardinals 114-57 in an exhibition match at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Sporting new uniforms and playing on a redesigned home court, Florida had six players score in double figures in the contest, which saw them lead from start to finish.

Gators junior guard Kenny Boynton posted a double-double and led all players with 21 points and 10 rebounds while hitting 6-of-11 attempts from downtown.

Freshman G Brad Beal (20 points, five assists), redshirt junior transfer G Mike Rosario (18 points, six assists) and senior point guard Erving Walker (15 points, four assists) also shot well from beyond the arc, combining to go 11-for-20.

Sophomores center Patric Young and guard/forward Casey Prather each grabbed a game-high seven rebounds; Young added 10 points and three steals.

Junior F Erik Murphy was 6-of-9 from the field and 3-for-4 from downtown for 17 points, and sophomore F Will Yeguete added nine points on 5-of-6 shooting from the charity stripe. Redshirt freshman F Cody Larson and freshman F Walter Pitchford were the only Florida players unable to score in a combined 22 minutes.

As a team, the Gators shot 57.1 percent from the field (40-of-70), 50 percent from three (20-of-40) and 70 percent from the free throw line (14-of-20). Florida outrebounded Catholic 36-31, led their opponent in steals 16-3 and scored 50 points off turnovers.

Cardinals G Billy Donovan, Jr., Gators head coach Billy Donovan’s son, led Catholic in points (13) and minutes played (27). He received a friendly ovation before the game and when being pulled from the game at the end of the second half.

The Gators will have a week off before officially beginning the 2011-12 season. Florida takes on Jackson State in their regular season opener on Friday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. in the O’Connell Center. The game will air live on FOX Sports Florida (check your local listings).

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11/2: Donvoan on Florida’s preparations

With Florida Gators basketball competing in an exhibition game Thursday in Gainesville, FL against Catholic University, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Wednesday to discuss how practice has been going and what preparations have been made for the exhibition contest.

THE EXHIBITION PLAN

Considering the results of Thursday’s exhibition game do not count toward the team’s regular season record, Donovan plans to ensure that every player gets on the court and sees some time as long as they are healthy and able to do so.

“Playing an exhibition game like we are, the talent discrepancy is certainly there. There is a different feeling when you put the uniform on and you’re under the lights and there is a crowd there. It’s a different feeling than being in practice, and I think that’s something they need to experience before the first game,” he said.

“Guys like Patric [Young] and Erik Murphy, Brad Beal, Cody Larson, Will Yegeute and Casey Prather, those guys were really in small roles a year ago. […] It’s always good – the things we’ve preached and talked about behind closed doors – to see how well we can do those things out in the open.”

Unlike the past few years, Donovan appeared quite confident in his team heading into the exhibition. “We were way ahead of schedule in terms of getting what we needed to get in,” he said. “We’re probably more prepared to play a game this year than maybe the last couple of years when we had five new guys last year.”

One of the reasons he feels that way is because of how unselfish the guards have been with the ball in the backcourt. “I really talked to them a lot about just they have to make the extra pass,” he said. “They got to make the game easier. We have too much shooting. There is no reason to turn it over or take a bad shot. We’re constantly talking to them about that. That’s an area that has been a strength for our team at this point at time, but we have not played under the lights yet.”

ROTATION MAY NEVER BE SET

With so many young players on the team who are flexible and able to play multiple positions, Donovan noted Wednesday that there is not likely to be a completely set rotation heading into a particular game. “I don’t know if you ever really have a set rotation,” he said. “Once you get to the first media timeout at 16 minutes, you’re dealing with fouls and fatigue. A lto of times that can vary how your rotation could go.”

Donovan said that Murphy and Yeguete can both play some center but that Larson is the primary backup at this point in time. Yeguete and Prather can also replace Murphy at the four depending what lineup is on the floor.

DONOVAN VS. DONOVAN

An interesting twist to Thursday’s showdown is that Donovan’s son William plays for Catholic and will be returning home to Gainesville to play on the court he’s watched his father coach on most of his life. Donovan said checked with his son before agreeing to the game but is excited for the opportunity.

“Their coach called and wanted to see if we’d be interested in doing it. I didn’t want to put him in an uncomfortable situation. He said he had no problem with it. It’ll be fun,” he said. “I’m sure for him it’s nice to be back, but it’ll probably be a strange feeling considering the fact that he’s seen so many games from the stands and now he’ll be on the court.”

Donovan said his son “had absolutely zero interest in playing for me” but is enjoying his time at Catholic even though he knows that he will probably not play professional basketball in the end.

“He’s always been pretty level-headed. He’s always been pretty realistic with himself. He loves basketball and works very hard at it. I think he realizes that in terms of playing there’s probably not going to be a future in it after college. There’s other things he has interest in,” he said. “He’s a lot more well-rounded than I was. I was pretty [focused on] one thing and that was it. I admire him for that because he’s very well balanced and versed. My wife and I are just proud of him.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On his initial impressions of Beal: “He’s been a guy that’s absorbed everything pretty well. He’s more advanced than most freshmen in terms of being able to retain and understand what we’re trying to get done. Coupled with the fact that he’s a talented and gifted player. He’s been unfazed, so to speak, by what he’s gone through. It’s been challenging, but it’s not like he’s lost or confused. He has a really good understanding and feel of what we’re trying to do and [he] is able to do that. […] He’s continued to remain very humble in his role right now, and I think that’s been a positive in terms of building up chemistry.”

» On redshirt junior transfer G Mike Rosario not starting: “I haven’t really talked to Mike about that at all. For Mike, he has started a lot. The biggest thing for Mike is just being more and more consistent each and every day. Because of the starting lineup tomorrow, that doesn’t mean that’s going to hold true for the first game.”

» Sophomore point guard Scottie Wilbekin is out of action after breaking a part of his knuckle on his index finger. He will not have surgery but will be held out for a bit so it can heal. Donovan said he probably could have played in the exhibition but will not though he is doing light contact work in practice.

» Donovan was discouraged that Florida was outrebounded by eight boards against UCF but said that aside from some turnovers, he though the offense was moving the ball well and playing unselfishly.

» On sophomore G/F Casey Prather: “The one guy I was really disappointed for was Casey Prather. He has really played well and he got hurt and missed practice all day Saturday. We went twice on Saturday. He just was not himself physically. We had off on Tuesday, so I haven’t seen him since Monday. He felt a little bit better. He’s worked so hard and he’s done so well, ire ally would have liked to have seen him healthy.”

» On if his wife is OK with him playing his son’s team: “Not great with it, no. It’s hard for her. She just wants him – it’s her son – she wants it to be a good experience and for everything to go well. I don’t know if she’s wearing Catholic stuff. I think she’s happy it’s an exhibition game and it really doesn’t count for anybody.”

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Murphy, Yeguete look to fill Florida’s frontcourt

With the departure of three senior starters from their frontcourt due to graduation, the Florida Gators are hoping to support what is being called one of the best backcourts in the country by solidifying the area around the hoop.

That task falls primarily into the hands sophomore center Patric Young, who showed flashes of dominance in 2010-11 while averaging 3.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 17.8 minutes per game. Young will be a major presence in the paint for UF all season, but the Gators also need some players to compliment Young down low.

Junior forward Erik Murphy has earned a spot in the starting five and hopes to do what he can to ensure Florida goes far this year.

“I’m just going to try to play my role, do what coach asks and do whatever I can for the team to help us win,” he said on Wednesday.

At 6’10” and 230 lbs., Murphy has added some much-needed weight in the offseason in order to be more physical down low and stay healthy for the duration of the season.

“A couple times both seasons I got banged up a little bit. The weight [gain] has definitely helped me,” he said. “I’m in the best shape of my life. It feels good, and I feel comfortable right now.”

Sophomore F Will Yeguete may have only played 7.1 minutes per game last year, but his average of 2.6 rebounds was second-best off the bench only to Young (3.8).

Yeguete has been told by head coach Billy Donovan that he is being counted on to be a rebounding machine, a role he embraces tremendously. “I know that’s my first thing – defensively getting rebounds,” he said.

Though he is comfortable with that assignment, Yeguete has also been trying to improve his offense in order to stay on the floor longer and contribute even more to the team.

“I’ve tried to be more aggressive offensively. I can’t just play defense,” he said. “Coach D wants me to be a fixture on offense and not turn the ball over. I’ve been working on it a lot lately and the whole summer, so I think it’s coming along pretty good.”

Both Murphy and Yeguete are excited for Thursday’s exhibition game at home against Catholic University. The former believes it will be a great tune-up before regular season action begins next Thursday.

“Coach is really focusing on defense, playing well together, which we’ve been doing in practice every day,” Murphy said. “We’re just trying to come together and fine tune a little bit before the season starts.”

Yeguete is ready and raring to go. “We’re really excited to start the season,” he said. “It has been a long way since last year. We worked hard during the summer and the conditioning has come a long way. We’re really excited about the season and have high expectations, so it’s going to be fun.”

Florida hosts Catholic in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center at 7 p.m. The game will air live on GatorVision.tv only, but OGGOA will have live coverage of the game on Twitter.

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