2010-11 Florida Media Day: Billy Donovan speaks

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan and a number of players represented the team at the 2010-11 Florida Media Day on Wednesday in Gainesville, FL. Read on for news and notes about the upcoming season, first from Donovan.

DEPTH MEANS LESS IS MORE

It was obvious listening to Donovan speak Wednesday that he is excited about his team going into the season. With just a handful of weeks to go before Florida plays its first meaningful game, it is the Gators’ depth that he thinks will be integral to the team’s success. And because the team is so deep, Donovan hopes it will also be molded into an unselfish group, similar to the teams that produced back-to-back National Championships for him in 2006 and 2007.

“Right now today we have depth. And when I say we have depth, we have bodies, we have numbers,” Donovan said. “Can [sophomore forward] Erik Murphy really carve out a role for himself? Can [senior F] Alex [Tyus]? Can our veteran guys? For us to be a better team, some of our veteran guys are gonna have to take less. And that’s what really made that 2006-2007 team special. Because you know what? [Joakim] Noah could’ve scored more points. [Al] Horford could’ve scored more points. [Corey] Brewer could’ve scored. They all could’ve scored more, but they understood that less was better for the team.

“We’re going to have to have some older guys understand that less is better for the team. It’s OK for them to have less provided that we can somehow find a way to utilize that depth. Who is going to emerge out of that younger group? Looking at it on paper, we have depth. But you don’t have depth if you don’t have guys that can get into a role.

“We had depth a couple years ago in our front court but none of those guys could emerge to take control of the role that was out there for them, and then we didn’t have depth. I’m hopeful these guys, just with their mentality and their attitude so far, will take that on and give us the depth that we think we have.”

TWO SENIORS STEPPING UP AS LEADERS

Florida brings back three seniors this year with Tyus, F Chandler Parsons and redshirt F/C Vernon Macklin all coming together to form as a solid frontcourt. However, Donovan expressed that it was Parsons and Macklin in particular who have really stepped up as leaders for this young team through the offseason.

“Verbally right now [Parsons] and Vern are doing a great job, but I think the verbal part only goes so far. When they get on the court their actions have got to back it up,” Donovan said. “Chandler and Vern in particular, those two guys, want kind of that responsibility. It’s good for both of those guys. Vernon probably in the beginning first half of the season was kinda feeling his way through and then he started to show signs of the reputation he had in high school. And then Chandler, coming off of his sophomore year, really felt like he had something to prove and kind of got through that a little bit.

“Both of those guys, to me, they’re in a little bit of a danger zone in the fact that they now gotta take that next step and not get complacent and get comfortable. They’re trying to do all the right things and I would say the best thing they’ve done is with some new faces in our program, they’ve really tried to incorporate the group and make it a team and they’re reaching out and doing some of that stuff. And up to this point in the time with Chandler and Vern I’ve been very, very happy with what they’re trying to do leadership-wise.”

Read the rest of this 3,000-word recap of Donovan’s presser…after the break!
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FOUR BITS: Horford, Richard, Lawrence, LSU

1 » Over the last month two sources have told OGGOA that the Atlanta Hawks are working feverishly to sign former Florida Gators two-time National Championship-winning forward/center Al Horford to a long-term extension. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, Horford was selected to his first NBA All-Star team last season. He averaged career-highs in points (14.2), rebounds (9.9), field goal percentage (55.1%), free throw percentage (75.3%) and minutes (35.1) while starting all of Atlanta’s games in 2009-10. Horford was named a team captain this offseason and should receive a deal for more than the five years and $60 million given to former teammate F/C Joakim Noah by the Chicago Bulls early this week.

2 » On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Bulls announced Wednesday that they have waived former Gators F/C Chris Richard after re-signing him on Sept. 27. Richard filled in for Noah while he was nursing a plantar faciitis injury last season, playing in 18 games and averaging 2.1 points and 3.3 rebounds. OGGOA spoke to Richard early this summer in an exclusive interview, which you can read here.

3 » Former Florida wide receiver T.J. Lawrence, now playing for the Florida A&M Rattlers, is finally happy as he has been seeing the field and getting plenty of playing time. On Wednesday he told The Famuan that he wanted to leave the Gators a full year before he actually did. “I guess I wasn’t happy,” Lawrence said. “I wanted to leave a year earlier, but I said I’d stick it out another year. I had to make the decision to leave because I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t playing as much as I wanted to.” Now Lawrence feels he is “being utilized how I want to be utilized.” He has 11 receptions for 166 yards this season, both team-highs.

4 » During the SEC conference call on Wednesday, LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles noted that starting defensive end Sam Montgomery will miss the remainder of the season after tearing ligaments in his right knee. Montgomery will likely undergo reconstructive surgery.

Photo Credit: Atlanta Hawks

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F/C Chris Richard: “All I can do is give my best.”

Former Florida Gators forward/center Chris Richard is a busy man. Entering his fourth season of playing professional basketball, Richard just returned from summer league action and was in his hometown of Lakeland, FL, when OGGOA caught up with him for an exclusive interview covering his college career, professional future and charitable efforts.

Though he is headed back to Chicago soon to workout and attempt to earn a contract, Richard has been concentrating on getting his foundation, The Rich Kids Project, off the ground.

Designed to help and provide opportunities for underprivileged and at-risk youth in the Polk County area, the organization aims at assisting children financially while, at the same time, ensuring that they are building a foundation for their future. “I want to teach substance and individuality through education, arts and just basic knowledge,” Richard told us. And even though the charity is based in Lakeland, he hopes it can grow big over time – with your help. More information on Richard’s charity will be available in the future.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Coming out of high school as Mr. Basketball in the state of Florida, you chose to sign with the Gators. What other schools were you considering and why did you end up picking Florida?
CHRIS RICHARD: “At the time I came out of high school, I could have went to just about any school in the country. I got recruited by everybody from North Carolina to Maryland to Indiana … all of the Florida schools. I only wanted to go to Florida. Growing up, once I got into basketball and once I got into sports, for whatever reason, Florida just stood out to me. I was a big Florida basketball fan. I grew up kind of liking Florida State and Miami football-wise. I [also] have family that actually lives in Alachua, outside of Gainesville, so going up there every summer – it kind of grew on me. I chose [Florida] over Florida State and Alabama.”

AS: You did get some playing time early on in your Gators career, but last two years is when your role increased. Losing its three top veterans, the team was significantly underrated going into the 2005-06 season. At what point did you guys realize that you had something special going on?
CR: “You know what, honestly, I know it sounds cliché and everybody says it, but once we got together that summer … Everybody went home for summer break and we came back to start working out for the season, and once we got back and started playing with each other, that was our first time playing together without David [Lee], Matt [Walsh] and Peep [Anthony Roberson]. So we never really saw what each person was capable of doing because everybody’s role was a little bit different that previous year. Just coming in and playing pick up, it was just a lot different. And we saw that on any given night that it can be anybody’s night. So we kind of took that and kind of embraced that and thought it was an advantage for us because we knew that we didn’t have any selfishness on the team. So nobody minded playing backseat … everybody just helped each other and kept it going.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Chris Richard…after the break!
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TWO BITS: Smith’s commitment, Florida profiled

1 » With former Florida Gators running back Emmitt Smith set to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday in Canton, OH, a number of local newspapers have been profiling his exploits both on- and off-the-field. The Pensacola News Journal covered Smith’s commitment to the University of Florida, a very interesting story especially for those not around at the time. Apparently Smith told everyone at Escambia High School that he would don the colors of the school he would choose prior to his announcement. Showing up in red and white, he indicated that he would be committing to Nebraska – a pre-planned deception. “When they called him up to sign, they called him up last,” his mother Mary Smith recalled. “And when they asked him where he was going, Emmitt said, ‘Well, I’m wearing Nebraska colors, I guess I will be going to the University of Florida. There were some very excited people there.”

Some even credit Smith with turning the Gators program around. “It meant a heck of a lot,” said school historian and former media relations director Norm Carlson. “We had the probation, all the other problems in the [19]80s, and we were in need of something to uplift the program and Emmitt was it. I think just the fact he signed with Florida, it really buoyed spirits of Florida fans and certainly the people here.” Former head coach Galen Hall agrees. “Emmitt came here when it looked the bleakest for the Gators, because of the probation we were facing. And for him to come and be a part of it meant a great deal. It allowed us to go out and sell the fact that, hey, here’s a young man who could have gone anywhere, but he’s coming to Florida.”

2 » Concluding a series in which the schools with the brightest future in both football and basketball were determined, CBS Sports listed Florida at No. 1, citing head football coach Urban Meyer’s intensity and head basketball coach Billy Donovan’s determination as the catalysts. Dennis Dodd did a nice job covering Meyer’s health scare, but Gary Parrish takes it to another level while looking at what Donovan has done in his time at Florida. A standout quote is Donovan recalling what he was told prior to the 2005-06 season. [There are some other great quotes, too, so read the article.]

“I’ll never forget this,” he said. “I’m talking to this AAU coach, and I don’t want to name him, but I’m talking to him and he’s telling me, ‘You guys are going to be awful. You’re going to be terrible.’ We were recruiting one of his kids, and he was like, ‘Geez. Who’s my kid going to play with? Joakim Noah? That guy is a role player. Al Horford? He’s a project. Taurean Green is not an SEC guard, and Lee Humphrey is a mid-major catch-and-shoot guy… So he’s telling me all this and I’m listening, but the whole time I’m sitting there thinking, ‘I don’t know. I kinda like these guys. I think we’ve got a chance to be pretty good.’”

Photo Credit: Pensacola News Journal

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Gator Bites for Tuesday, July 27th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share with our readers. In those instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» Former Florida Gators dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, who spoke exclusively with OGGOA for an interview on Friday, is headed to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Tuesday to join Congressional sponsors in support of an anti-stalking bill. Andrews, a victim of stalking herself, will appear along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) to introduce the Simplifying The Ambiguous Law, Keeping Everyone Reliably Safe Act (STALKERS).

» With training camps set to begin in just a few days for the Denver Broncos, rookie quarterback Tim Tebow may end up being a hold out – something that is likely beyond his control and is in the hands of his agent. Nevertheless, The Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla has put the onus on Tebow, calling a potential holdout a “dire dilemma” and one that is “destined to make folks mad,” whether it be fans or fellow players. Fact is, Kiszla is simply trying to paint Tebow as imperfect in this piece…which is true for everyone. Should he not be at camp on day one, he will be shortly after, as Tebow’s goal is to get on the field. But he does have to listen to his agent in this regard.

» The Gainesville Sun caught up with Gators four-star athlete De’Ante “Pop” Saunders on Monday. Saunders, the team’s very first commitment for the 2011 signing class, reaffirmed his desire to play in Gainesville, FL, after he was recently seen wearing Florida State gear. “They were giving me [a hard time] about wearing a Florida State helmet because I didn’t bring my helmet,’ he said. “That’s all it was. I forgot to bring mine and that’s all they had. I’m still here. I’m still Florida.” Saunders plans to enroll early.

» OGGOA has learned that four-star defensive end recruit Aaron Lynch (Cape Coral, FL) is leaning toward Notre Dame and Florida State with Florida now in a distant third place. According to our source, Lynch is concerned about playing time with the Gators and has formed a solid relationship with the staff in South Bend, IN.

Seven more Gator Bites on Corey Brewer, Brad Beal, Houston Nutt, Dallas Baker, Marreese Speights and Udonis Haslem…after the break!
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TWO BITS: Tebow=Elway? Young=Horford/Noah?

1 » Columnist Woody Paige of The Denver Post has taken to calling former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow the Denver Broncos’ next John Elway. You know, the nine-time Pro Bowler who happens to be the best quarterback in the franchise’s history. Colleague Dave Krieger takes issue with Paige’s praise asking, “Seriously, can we just stop? […] Tebow is no Elway. And we will do him and everybody else a favor if we kick the habit of pretending he is.” Read the rest of what Krieger had to say in the Post. For a little more on Tebow’s progress, you can check out this video update from NFL Network.

2 » The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway put together a nice piece on incoming four-star 2010 power forward commitment Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL). Sure to be a defensive-minded presence for the Gators next season, Young knows what it takes to make an impact. “You can always be selfish on defense,” Young said. “No one is going to complain if you are getting too many rebounds and keep running the floor and that’s primarily what I do. So I’m just going to come out there and play a big role and do whatever I can to help the team.” Even head coach Billy Donovan has taken to comparing him to two former Florida stars – the Atlanta Hawks’ Al Horford and Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah. “[Young] is a very physical, high-energy, likes-contact guy,” Donovan said. Check out the Sun’s article for more from Young and Donovan.

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Gators in the 2010 NBA Playoffs – Rd. 1, Gm. 1

Now that the 2010 NBA Playoffs are underway, six former Florida Gators are playing important roles on their squad’s active rosters as they compete for a chance appear in the 2010 NBA Finals. OGGOA has put together a comprehensive summary of these players’ performances from game one of the first round.

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Florida Gators in the 2010 NBA Playoffs

With the regular season wrapping up Wednesday night, the participants in the 2010 NBA Playoffs have now been determined. There are six Florida Gators with roles on their squad’s active rosters among the 16 teams competing to appear in the 2010 NBA Finals. OGGOA has put together a comprehensive list of these players.

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