Donovan’s discipline, Wilbekin’s work, Young’s extended hand set up Florida Gators for success

Much has been written about the offseason suspension of senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, which lasted five games into the 2013-14 season, and the road laid out for him by head coach Billy Donovan to return to the Florida Gators.

During a Monday afternoon appearance on ESPN Radio‘s SVP & Russillo, Donovan provided additional insight into Wilbekin’s offseason struggles, explaining why he put so many obstacles in Wilbekin’s way while relating a story about how, with one gesture, his floor general went from outcast to full-fledged team member.

First, some background. Suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules – his third infraction overall and second in a seven-month span – Wilbekin was told by Donovan that it would likely be best for him to transfer and start over elsewhere. If he did choose to stay with the Gators, the Gainesville, FL-native’s hometown team, earning his way back in the good graces of his coach and teammates would be a tall task that he may not have the necessary motivation or discipline to scale.

“Scottie Wilbekin’s situation was a unique one not only from the standpoint of a suspension, but I do think there were some guys on our team that were disappointed in him, there were some guys that had to regain trust, so to speak.. And he needed to be put into a situation – because he does have good leadership qualities – to be able to do that,” Donovan began.

“One of the things I felt like in looking at the whole thing is I was very disappointed, our team was very disappointed in some of the choices and decisions Scottie made. When he made the decision that he wanted to stay here and he wanted to battle and fight his way through, I do think there was a lot of guys on our team that were a little bit skeptical of how committed is he to us. How committed is he to this team? He’s making bad choices and in the past he’s not been committed [off the court].”

Continue Reading » Donovan’s discipline, Wilbekin’s work, Young’s extended hand set up Florida Gators for success

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Florida extends Billy Donovan through 2018-19

On the heels of the Florida Gators’ fourth-straight appearance in the Sweet 16, the school on Tuesday released details of a three-year contract extension signed in February that will keep head coach Billy Donovan with the program at least through the conclusion of the 2018-19 season.

Donovan previously signed a three-year extension in Dec. 2011, and his new deal is a near-carbon copy of the previous extension, which was added on top of the six-year contract he signed after returning to the Gators ahead of the 2007-08 campaign.

Donovan’s latest contract will raise his salary slightly, paying him approximately $3.7 million per year, combining his base salary ($220,000) with an activities agreement ($2.77 million), apparel deal with Nike ($225,000), annual longevity bonus ($340,000) and expense/travel account ($100,000 combined).

As part of his new deal, Donovan will be paid $2.67 million for his activities agreement in 2014-15 and 2015-16 (concluding his original deal) before receiving a $100,000 raise to $2.77 million as part of the extension.

The new contract also provides him with a $250,000 bonus for this season, topping him out at $3.8 million before performance incentives. His total earnings for 2013-14 currently stand at $4 million.

While Donovan no longer has a non-compete clause – a restriction put in place as part of his 2007 deal which kept him out of the NBA for five seasons – in his contract, he still must receive express written consent from athletic director Jeremy Foley before discussing – directly or indirectly – a position with either a professional franchise or another college team.

The Gators provide Donovan with a number of incentives in his contract including $37,500 for making the NCAA Tournament, another $37,500 for earning a Sweet 16 berth, an additional $25,000 for getting to the Final Four and another $150,000 for winning the national championship. Donovan can also receive $25,000 for being named the AP SEC Coach of the Year, $25,000 for winning the SEC Tournament title, $50,000 for earning the SEC regular season crown, $50,000 for finishing in the top-10 of the final AP poll, and $50,000 for being named AP National Coach of the Year.

He can also earn either an additional month’s salary for graduating 60 percent of his players or 10 percent of his annual salary if he hits an 80 percent graduation rate.

Donovan has led Florida to five Southeastern Conference regular-season titles, four SEC Tournament Championships, three Final Fours and two NCAA Championships. The Gators will play in their fourth consecutive Sweet 16 on Thursday as they hope to advance to the Elite Eight for the fourth-straight season.

On Saturday, he passed Dale Brown of LSU for second all-time in total wins at an SEC school with 449 but still stands 426 behind Adolph Rupp of Kentucky (875).

Contract talks between Donovan and Foley are informal in nature, a source close to the coach told OnlyGators.com this fall, which is also evident as terms of his extensions have remained relatively consistent throughout his career. Donovan signing his extension is considered to be simply a formality at this point.

Photo Credit: H. Darr Beiser/USA Today

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3/24: Defensive-minded (1) Florida begins preparations for offensive juggernaut (4) UCLA

Head coach Billy Donovan spoke with the media on Monday, two days after the No. 1 Florida Gators (34-2) advanced to the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament for the fourth-straight season and sixth time int he last nine years.

Florida will face the No. 4-seed UCLA Bruins (28-8) on Thursday at approximately 9:45 p.m. in Memphis, TN at the FedEx Forum. The game will air live nationally on CBS, tipping off 30 minutes after the conclusion of the other South Region showdown between No. 10-seed Stanford and No. 11-seed Dayton.

The Gators are 3-0 against the Bruins in NCAA Tournament play with all three games played in the prior eight seasons. UF had to go through UCLA to capture both of its national titles, winning 73-57 to bring home the 2006 championship and 76-66 in the Final Four of the 2007 tournament. Florida is 7-2 all-time in the Sweet 16 with a 6-1 record under Donovan including six-straight wins dating back to 2000.

INJURY UPDATES

Despite being seen after the Pittsburgh game with ice on his knee, senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin said he “feels fine” and that the injury was simply a bruise that he likely suffered by bumping knees during the game.

Donovan said he has not heard any concerns from Florida’s training staff in regards to Wilbekin’s health. “We were off [Sunday] but no complaints. The trainer didn’t say anything. [Wilbekin] went in, he was diagnosed with a bruise or just kind of banged knees – actually thought at first it was some cramps because he’s had some cramping issues during the course of the year,” he said. “But there’s no issues right now, at least that I’ve been aware of or made aware of as it relates to him practicing and going forward.”

Continue Reading » 3/24: Defensive-minded (1) Florida begins preparations for offensive juggernaut (4) UCLA

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Florida-Pittsburgh post-game: Gators return to form with Wilbekin, Yeguete, defense to thank

The (1) Florida Gators (34-2) pulled away early in the second half to take down the (9) Pittsburgh Panthers (26-10) with a 61-45 victory in the third round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the Amyway Center in Orlando, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some players met with the media to discuss the win.

BACK TO FORM

Coming off a widely-panned disappointing performance against Albany, Florida had a choice when it faced Pittsburgh on Saturday – continue its less-than-stellar play and try to squeak out another victory or return to form and regain momentum.

The Gators obviously chose the latter path, which Donovan laid out for his team during practice and game preparation on Friday.

“You always want to play to your identity and who you’ve been and who we’ve been the entire year. I didn’t feel like we did that [on Thursday]. We didn’t play to our identity there, and I was disappointed by that because we really hadn’t done that all year long. That’s why I was disappointed,” he explained.

“I saw things inside of our team that I just did not like. There was nothing bad like in terms of bad attitudes or guys having a problem with one another, there was just this frustration, personal expectation, game not going the way they wanted it to go, and that’s not who we’ve been. I just wanted to make sure they understood that and we got back to who we were. …

“I don’t think any of them disagreed with anything I had to say. And I think that they understood where I was coming from and hopefully that in some way helped us get prepared for this game.”

Continue Reading » Florida-Pittsburgh post-game: Gators return to form with Wilbekin, Yeguete, defense to thank

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Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Orlando, FL: (1) Florida Gators vs. (9) Pittsburgh Panthers

Location: Amway Center – Orlando, FL [Capacity: 20,000]
Time: 12:15 p.m. EDT

TV: CBS (Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner, Kristine Leahy)
SiriusXM: 85/190 | Radio: [Westwood One]
Online Video: March Madness Live | Mobile Video: March Madness Live app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

See the Game in Person: Florida Gators tickets

(1) FLORIDA GATORS (9) PITTSBURGH PANTHERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Jamie Dixon
Record: 33-2 Record: 26-9
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic Coast
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -5.5 | O/U: 124

HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS

» Florida is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history, holding a 7-0 record with that seed and national title the previous time it held the ranking entering the tournament (2007).
» The Gators won the outright 2014 SEC regular-season title for the second-straight year and third time in the last four seasons. UF then went on to win the 2014 SEC Tournament Championship for the first time since 2007.
» The Panthers earned the right to play in the Round of 32 by defeating (8) Colorado 77-48 in the Round of 64 on Thursday.
» Florida has played 55 games in 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, holding a 39-16 all-time in the event. The Gators have played 43 of those 55 games under Donovan, going 32-11 in those contests over 15 NCAA Tournaments.
» UF is 9-4 in Round of 32 games and has now been knocked out in its second NCAA Tournament game since 2005. Florida has advanced to play two games in the tournament in 14 of its 19 appearances. In its last six NCAA Tournament appearances, the Gators have won back-to-back national championships (2006-07) and advanced to three-straight Elite Eights (2011-13).
» Florida is 2-4 all-time against Pittsburgh, but the Gators and Panthers have never squared off since Donovan took over the former team.
» UF enters Saturday’s third-round game on a program-record 27-game winning streak with victories in 32 of its last 33 games.
» The Gators are 84-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» UF is 15-2 this season in single-digit decisions after going 0-6 in such contests during the 2012-13 campaign. Florida is also 1-0 in overtime games.
» Florida is 6-0 in neutral-site games this season.
» The Gators are 23-5 playing as the top team in the country.
» Florida won 30+ games prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history and can set a school record for most wins in a season by winning three more games and advancing to the Final Four.

Continue Reading » Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Orlando, FL: (1) Florida Gators vs. (9) Pittsburgh Panthers

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Florida-Albany post-game: Gators escape, breathe

The (1) Florida Gators (33-2) pulled away in the second half to escape the (16) Albany Great Danes (19-15) with a 67-55 victory in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the Amyway Center in Orlando, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some players met with the media to discuss the tough win.

WHAT WAS THAT?

For a team that has put together its share of blowouts this season, Florida being tied at 39 with Albany in the second half and only defeating a 15-loss team out of the America East by 12 points was understandably deflating. So one cannot blame the Gators for feeling a bit down in the locker room after the game, nor Donovan for being frustrated with UF’s overall performance.

“I’m a little bit baffled with our team right now,” he told the TBS sideline reporter before leaving the court for his post-game press conference.

“I was a little bit disappointed with our defense in the first half. I didn’t think we defended like we normally did,” he said in the media availability. “I thought in the second half we did a much, much better job in that area.”

The Great Danes hit 10 of their first 15 shots but only connected on nine of their last 31 attempts from the field. Nevertheless, the Gators only outscored the underdogs by six points in each half.

Many will chalk up Florida’s struggles to not being “up for the game,” thinking it could handle a 16-seed while playing a second-round game just over 100 miles from its home court. Donovan hopes that is not the case.

Continue Reading » Florida-Albany post-game: Gators escape, breathe

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Fastbreak: (1) Florida struggles but edges (16) Albany in 2014 NCAA Tournament

Getting more than they bargained for with the (16) Albany Great Danes (19-15) the overall top seed (1) Florida Gators (33-2) eventually led by just six at the break but pulled away in the second half for a 67-55 victory in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL.

OnlyGators.com breaks it all down with eight quick-hitters:

It was over when: Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin drained a three-pointer from the corner with just over two minutes remaining in the game to push Florida ahead by 12. He was inconsistent throughout most of the contest, scoring 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting (1-of-4 from deep) with four assists, three rebounds and no turnovers.

Prominent players: Senior center Patric Young achieved his first double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 boards but saw his flow interrupted in the second half when he picked up a third foul. Senior forward Casey Prather not just scored consistently (team-high 16 points) but also registered three blocks and two steals in the game and had one of the best defensive performances of the day.

Bountiful bench: Despite being listed as questionable entering the game, freshman PG Kasey Hill (turf toe) finished with 10 points on the afternoon. He scored eight in the second half when the Gators broke away from the Great Danes and also picked up two steals, an assist and a board. It was Hill’s first double-digit scoring game since Nov. 16, 2013 when he started for UF at home against Arkansas Little-Rock. Joining him as a big-time contributor was redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith, who was one of two Florida players with a team-high 16 points, most of which came in the first half.

Significant stretch: Tied at 39, UF pieced together a 12-2 run – with four-straight points and a steal from Hill and a big three by sophomore guard Michael Frazier – to get a bit of breathing room and lead Albany by 10 midway through the second half. The Gators eventually increased their advantage to 12 points, which was also their winning margin.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: (1) Florida struggles but edges (16) Albany in 2014 NCAA Tournament

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Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Orlando, FL: (1) Florida Gators vs. (16) Albany Great Danes

Location: Amway Center – Orlando, FL [Capacity: 20,000]
Time: 4:10 p.m. EDT (30 minutes after the conclusion of Colorado-Pittsburgh)

TV: TBS (Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner, Kristine Leahy)
SiriusXM: 93/192 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: March Madness Live | Mobile Video: March Madness Live app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

See the Game in Person: Florida Gators tickets

(1) FLORIDA GATORS (16) ALBANY GREAT DANES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Will Brown
Record: 32-2 Record: 19-14
Conference: Southeastern Conference: America East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -22 | O/U: 121.5

HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS

» Florida is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history (2007), holding a 6-0 record and national title the previous time it held this ranking entering the tournament.
» No. 1 seeds are 116-0 against No. 16 seeds since 1989. Only 14 of those games have been decided with final margins of victory in single digits.
» The Gators won the outright 2014 SEC regular-season title for the second-straight year and third time in the last four seasons. UF then went on to win the 2014 SEC Tournament Championship for the first time since 2007.
» The Great Danes earned the right to play in the Round of 64 after defeating Mount St. Mary’s 71-64 in first game of the First Four on Tuesday.
» Florida has played 54 games in 18 NCAA Tournament appearances, holding a 38-16 all-time in the event. The Gators have played 42 of those 54 games under Donovan, going 31-11 in those contests over 14 NCAA Tournaments.
» UF is 14-5 in Round of 64 games and has not been knocked out in its first NCAA Tournament game since 2010. In its last six NCAA Tournament appearances, the Gators have won back-to-back national championships (2006-07) and advanced to three-straight Elite Eights (2011-13).
» Florida is 1-0 all-time against Albany, winning 83-64 in Gainesville, FL on Nov. 10, 2005 in the lone meeting between the programs. The Gators have never lost to an AEC team (6-0, 5-0 under Donovan).
» UF enters Thursday’s second-round game on a program-record 26-game winning streak with victories in 31 of its last 32 games.
» The Gators are 83-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» UF is 15-2 this season in single-digit decisions after going 0-6 in such contests during the 2012-13 campaign. Florida is also 1-0 in overtime games.
» Florida is 5-0 in neutral-site games this season.
» The Gators are 22-5 playing as the top team in the country.
» Florida won 30+ games prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history and can set a school record for most wins in a season by winning four games and advancing to the Final Four.

Continue Reading » Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Orlando, FL: (1) Florida Gators vs. (16) Albany Great Danes

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