With No. 13/14 Florida Gators basketball days away from beginning their Southeastern Conference schedule with a road contest against the Tennessee Volunteers early Saturday afternoon, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Thursday to discuss what preparations he is making for the squad’s next game.
TRYING TO GET THE TEAM HEALTHY
Injuries and illnesses have been piling up for Florida recently but Donovan is confident the Gators will be able to put them all in the back window soon. Redshirt freshman forward Cody LarsonCasey Prather (flu) have missed action recently due to being sick, and senior point guard Erving Walker and freshman G Bradley Beal have also caught a bug. However, all four are expected to be in action Saturday especially seeing as how Beal only missed one day of practice and Walker did not miss any.
During practice Thursday, junior F Erik Murphy got hit with an elbow by sophomore center Patric Young while the two were jostling for a rebound. Murphy had 3-4 stitches above his eyebrow, according to Donovan, and should be fine for the game. The only outstanding injury that Florida is keeping an eye on is redshirt junior G Mike Rosario’s ankle, which was recently twisted and caused him to miss the UAB game.
EARLY BIRD CATCHES THE WIN
Florida and Tennessee will meet Saturday with an 11 a.m. tip-off, an unusual time for a southeast college basketball game, but Donovan said he completely understands the scheduling and has no problem with it whatsoever.
“It’s just the price of having our league wanting to play on TV as much as it is. Everybody, whether it’s a 9 [p.m.] game somewhere whether it’s an 11 a.m. game, I think we all realize we’ve got to do things for the league and the exposure that ESPN is giving us,” he said. “I think that’s a part of it but, you know what, we’re playing at 11 a.m. and so are they, so we just have to make sure we are ready to play.”
Junior G Kenny Boynton is excited for the early start because he actually prefers it and thinks that the Gators are prepared for the change of pace. “Our team, we’ve been practicing early to get ready for this game, and we’re going to come out ready,” he said. “Usually one of the teams don’t come out ready since it’s an early game, but I think we need to be an enforcer.”
ROAD WOES NOT GETTING FLORIDA DOWN
“I think that’s something that we got to do a better job at and will need to do a better job in Knoxville,” Donovan said. “I also think our ability to make really good decisions, and I don’t necessarily mean turning the ball over, but making good decision of when to shoot, when not to shoot, when to go inside – all of that stuff with our team being on the same page, I think that’s got to get better, too.”
Boynton is confident in Florida’s ability to win on the road and pointed to how well last year’s team played away from home once it hunkered down and practiced hard, which is what he said the Gators have been doing this week.
“We played some tough teams on the road, and we let Rutgers slip [by us], but we’ve seen the mistakes we did on the road against those three teams, and I think we’re going to do a good job playing against Tennessee,” he said.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Donovan on Beal’s recent struggles: “There’s a different level of talent he’s dealing with right now. For him to go through what he went through last game and what he went through from Rutgers, he has to go through that in order to take the next step as a player, to understand the speed and pace of the game, to understand that he’s got to play out of his comfort zone a little bit in terms of the speed of the game. Him going through the process of coming from high school to college and how different it is, I just think there’s a real learning curve there for him, and I don’t think he’s different from any really talented freshman.”
» Donovan on Young developing offensively: “Patric’s gotten better. The biggest thing for him is a combination of our guys finding him in good spots on the floor and also him working to get to those spots on the floor. He’s been a lot more efficient offensively because when he has that good deep post position we’ve found him and we’ve gotten him the ball to him in the right areas of the floor. Where Patric is probably not as effective is when he catches it maybe a couple steps off the lane line and now all of a sudden the guys on the perimeter can really sink down and provide help as he works his way to the basket.”
» Boynton on Young’s aggressiveness in practice: “Whether it’s been a pick or a rebound, Pat’s hit everyone on this team.”
» Sophomore point guard Scottie Wilbekin on if he’s been tagged by Young yet: “No, he’s never got me. I stay out of his way.”