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
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.”