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.”