Gators defeat Tigers 88-62 in exhibition finale

No. 9/11 Florida Gators men’s basketball finished its short exhibition season undefeated, taking down the Georgetown College Tigers 88-62 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL, on Wednesday night.

Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton led the way for the Gators with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting (4-of-9 from downtown) with three assist, while junior point guard Erving Walker was effective on both ends of the floor, scoring 11 points on 3-of-8 shooting with seven assists and six steals. Senior forward Chandler Parsons contributed to the effort with nine points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals.

As a team, Florida shot 55.9 percent (33-of-59) from the floor and led 44-19 going into halftime. The Gators started the second half with a lack of intensity and focus likely due to their large lead, allowing the Tigers to score 43 points in the final 20 minutes.

“Top 10 teams don’t hold a team in the first half to 32 percent from the field, 14 percent from the three-point line and then look at the second half, defensively, [and not do the same],” head coach Billy Donovan said after the game. “To give up 53 percent in the second half from the field and 50 percent from the three-point line, to me, is the reason why I don’t believe we’re a top-10 team. Because of that right there. Top 10 teams, to me, don’t do those things.”

Florida officially begins the 2010-11 season on Friday, Nov. 12 when they take on UNC-Wilmington at 7 p.m. The game will be available live on Sun Sports

Other stat lines:
- Senior F Alex Tyus – eight points (4-of-7), two assists
- Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin – 10 points (5-of-6), four rebounds
- Sophomore G Erik Murphy – seven points (3-of-5), three rebounds, two steals
- Freshman C Patric Young – seven points (2-of-4), three rebounds, two blocks
- Freshman G Casey Prather – four points (1-of-5), three reb., two blocks, two steals
- Freshman F Will Yeguete – six points (1-of-1), three rebounds

DONOVAN’s POST-GAME QUOTES (After the break…)
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11/2: Donovan, players on second exhibition

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his latest media availability in the following post. Additional material from Florida’s starting five can also be found below.

TYUS’ COMMITMENT NEVER IN DOUBT

Though senior forward Alex Tyus nearly transferred after his sophomore season and tested NBA Draft waters last year before ultimately deciding to return to the team, Donovan never questioned his commitment to the University of Florida at any time.

“After his sophomore year a lot of it had to do with the position and where he was having to play. I don’t think it was necessarily any ill feelings towards Florida or myself,” Donovan said. “It was probably this thing that was ingrained into him early on in his career by a lot of different people that he had to play this position in order to become this kind of player. It was really the furthest thing from the truth, and it really was not reality.

“I’ve never really questioned his commitment. Alex is a great kid, he wants to win, I think he has a good relationship with his teammates. It was probably a product of him being younger and getting advice and opinions from some people that maybe really didn’t understand what the reality was of some of the situations.”

MACKLIN NEEDS TO STEP UP AS A LEADER

With so many freshmen set to play significant minutes coming off the bench this season, Donovan has been impressed with the leadership shown by two of the team’s seniors – Tyus and Chandler Parsons. However, when it comes to redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, Donovan sees room for improvement and attributes the gap to Macklin never being in a similar situation before.

“Vernon in particular has got do a better job leading this time of year for us. He’s got to understand the big picture in terms of what we’re trying to do. Vernon has got to prove that he can lead under duress, under adversity, under difficult circumstances,” he said. “I’ve tried to create some adversity in practices for him and for our team to see how they will respond. I don’t think Vernon has responded like I would like to see him respond. He’s done a great job up to this point. He’s played well and he’s worked hard. He himself has got to be able to handle and be a calming force in a lot of ways for our team. There’s no doubt in my mind that he can do that.”

Macklin understands what Donovan is looking for and hopes to satisfy his coach’s request. “I’m a vocal person, I just got to not let little things get to me and not have them affect the way I still be vocal in practice,” he said. “If something is not going my way, I still got to be a vocal person.”

WILBEKIN INJURY UPDATE

Freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who had been impressing Donovan daily in practice, strained his neck in the Gators’ first exhibition game and has not practiced since. He will sit out Florida’s exhibition finale against Georgetown College. “We’re hoping to have him back maybe by the weekend,” Donovan said. “[That’s] maybe a little bit on the positive side, maybe [he’ll practice] a little bit later than that.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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Florida routs Florida Tech 92-58 in exhibition

The No. 9/11 Florida Gators took the court at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center for the first time during the 2010-11s season and came away with a 92-58 exhibition game win over the Florida Tech Panthers on Thursday night.

Every member of the Gators saw action Thursday, though it was sophomore guard Kenny Boynton who led the way with 24 points and five rebounds on 10-of-15 shooting (4-of-6 from downtown) in 25 minutes. Freshman forward Casey Prather, seeing the court for the first time while wearing the orange and blue, also played for 25 minutes and earned a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Senior Fs Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus were the Gators’ other offensive standouts with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Parsons also contributed four rebounds, four assists and four steals, while Tyus added three boards. Junior point guard Erving Walker was the team’s main facilitator, playing 24 minutes and recording six assists.

Also in their first game for Florida as freshmen, center Patric Young took two charges, F Will Yeguete scored six points and grabbed eight rebounds, F Cody Larson played 15 minutes, and PG Scottie Wilbekin played five minutes before straining his neck and sitting out the second half.

As a team the Gators shot 50 percent from the field (37-of-54), out-rebounded the Panthers 46-28 and forced their opponent into 30 turnovers. Highlights included a powerful LeBron James-like block by Young and numerous dunks by Tyus including an inbounds alley-oop in the first half.

POST-GAME QUOTES (After the break…)
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10/26: Donovan speaks on starters, freshmen

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the key news and notes from his latest media availability in the following post. Additional quotes after the break.

STARTING FIVE SET

Considering Florida’s entire starting five from last year returned this season, it should come as no surprise that junior point guard Erving Walker, sophomore guard Kenny Boynton, redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, and senior forwards Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus will take the court for the Gators to start each game. Donovan confirmed such on Tuesday, noting that he is pleased with how his starters have been playing in practice but that roles might change depending on how they play together.

“We’ve got five guys obviously returning from a year ago. That doesn’t necessarily mean their roles are going to be that this year. Anytime you move from year-to-year, guys’ roles can change,” Donovan said. “Erving Walker went from playing off the ball his freshman year to strictly being the point guard of our team. Chandler early in his career had to play some power forward spot for us just because of our lack of depth, and he certainly last year clearly played the small forward spot. Roles can change but the one thing those five guys have is a level of experience under their belt and a lot of games under their belt. With that being said, it’s really hard to get better in practice. One of the things we’ve struggled with is that balance between of really trying to get better in practice through competition.”

FRESHMEN PROVIDING GREAT DEPTH IN PRACTICE

Donovan cited the fact that the deep freshman class is really helping the older players in practice on a daily basis even though the competition level is not at its highest point yet. He has matched up each freshman with an older player with whom they go head-to-head every day. “It’s me vs. you because I’m making you better and you need to make me better; when you can create that kind of environment, your team has a chance to get a lot better. Patric Young has made Vernon better, Vern has made him better. [Mike] Rosario has made Boynton better, Boynton has made Rosario better. Scottie Wilbekin – Erving Walker, Casey Prather – Chandler, Will Yeguete – Alex, Erik Murphy. We’ve got enough now that the practices are at a level physically competing wise that guys are in a position where they have to compete on a regular basis.”

He is also impressed with how the youngsters have handled the heavy workouts and are trying to play to the level of what was an NCAA Tournament team last year. “I’m a little bit cautious with freshman after a week of practice to sit there, start giving guys a lot of praise,” Donovan said. “What happens is, they haven’t hit the wall and the grind and what happens there. But as of today, they’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do – I think all the guys have.”

Even Parsons has noticed. “Coach really emphasizes that you can go as hard as you can just for as long as you can because there’s basically a sub there waiting for you at basically every position,” he said. “It’s different. My first couple years, we’re going three-on-three or four-on-four and you’re not getting off the court until you get the amount of stops coach wants or until he’s happy. At least now you’re going hard and you’re rewarded because there’s a sub there for you. It’s just nice having some depth there.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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Coaches vote four Gators onto All-SEC teams

Four Florida Gators were selected by Southeastern Conference coaches on Wednesday to represent the school on the league’s preseason All-SEC teams.

The coaches voted senior forward Chandler Parsons to the All-SEC first team and sophomore guard Kenny Boynton, senior F Alex Tyus, and junior point guard Erving Walker to the All-SEC second team.

Florida’s four selections led the SEC with Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt each being represented by two players.

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Growth, maturity make Parsons a Donovan favorite

When senior forward Chandler Parsons joined the Florida Gators in 2007, he became a part of a program that was expected to maintain prominence following back-to-back National Championships. Instead, he was the sixth man for a team that was in the midst of rebuilding itself after losing its six best players to the NBA Draft and graduation.

Like most freshmen, he entered college cocky and sure of himself, confident that he could dominate on the court the same way he did against his less talented high school competition. Coming to the realization that he was a small fish in a big pond – rather than the other way around – was something that took two years for Parsons to understand.

“I came in here with the wrong mindset, thinking I was going to be the man and I could just come out here and do what I did in high school against college guys,” Parsons said Tuesday. “That was proven wrong and, after the first two years, I really had a heart-to-heart with coach [Billy] Donovan. He really pushed me, and I realized that I’m going to have to buy into this system for me to be successful here and for us to win. That’s what’s most important.”

Donovan saw his struggles coming from a mile away. The team’s leading scorer off the bench as a freshman, Parsons expected his talent to carry him through his sophomore year and the rest of his college career.

“He was never in the right place mentally,” Donovan said of Parsons’ mindset after his first two years. “I saw it coming his freshman year and tried to talk to him about it. He was never in the right place mentally going into his sophomore year. He just wasn’t prepared to really deal with it. He dealt with it after his sophomore year and then I think he really started to become better.”

With a new mindset to go along with his physical gifts and abilities, Parsons has become one of Donovan’s favorite players, someone who listened to his instructions and proved that he could do exactly what his coach wanted.

“He has grown as a person, as a player, as much as any player I’ve ever coached,” Donovan said. “From where he was at to where he is now, a lot of it for Chandler was this image and this unrealistic perception of who he thought he was. The crossroads came for him where, after his freshman year, he really thought it was going to be pretty easy to play 18 minutes, ‘I’ve got a year under my belt. I’ve got this all figured out. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that.’ And all of a sudden he got really, really humbled. He didn’t have a great sophomore year, he was really up-and-down. He was not a guy that we could really, really rely on.
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FOUR BITS: ESPN coverage of Florida basketball

1 » With Florida Gators basketball’s 2010-11 season set to begin Thursday in the form of an exhibition match against Florida Tech, ESPN heaped some praise on the program Tuesday. First up was Andy Katz, who sees a team that is ready to return to a championship level of play after a few years of mediocrity.

“It definitely feels like the last three years, that I’ve been another player, not been able to do anything great with my teammates for the fans and the University of Florida to remember me,” senior forward Alex Tyus told Katz during a recent interview. “If we have a great year this year, hopefully they’ll remember the guys who came in after Al and Jo and left with their piece of the pie.”

Fellow senior forward Chandler Parsons recounts what happened that first season after the Gators’ best six players left. “It was as tough a time as I’ve ever been through,” he said. “We got kicked out of here [the Florida practice facility] and practiced in high school gyms two or three times a day when we were getting ready for the NIT and then after the season was over. But that’s what coach [Billy] Donovan does — he pushes you and puts your back against the wall to get the most out of you.”

Katz touches on a number of other topics in his article including junior point guard Erving Walker noticing a lack of leadership upon arriving in Gainesville, FL, sophomore guard Kenny Boynton setting his sights on the Final Four and freshman power forward Patric Young never wavering on his commitment.

2 » Also spotlighting Florida on Tuesday is ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford, who has named Young as the No. 2 overall 2011 NBA Draft prospect in the Southeastern Conference. Ford believes Young “looks like a 27-year-old NBA player in his prime” and calls him “an absolute physical specimen that has drawn comparisons to a young Dwight Howard.” Saying Young is “already an elite defender and rebounder,” Ford spoke with a NBA general manager who said “He’s one kid who could step in right now and play for an NBA team because of his defensive ability. Where he goes offensively really determines his ceiling, but his floor is already very high.”

3 » To Young’s credit, he told The Florida Times-Union in April that he plans to play for the Gators for either three of four years while earning his degree. “I’ve always wanted to play in the NBA, but I have a backup plan and that’s to have an education,” he said. “That ranks second, right behind my faith, in terms of importance. I eventually want to do something else in basketball, whether it’s to be an announcer, work for a team or have a business involved in the sport.”

4 » Former Ohio State walk-on Mark Titus, now a writer for ESPN Insider, has tabbed UF to win the SEC this year. He also took a humorous look at how Florida and its Gator Chomp still haunts his dreams. “I had nightmares about the Gator Chomp for weeks after losing the 2007 National Championship to Florida. But even though I hate it so much, there really is nothing like it in college basketball. […] Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go battle the recurring night terrors of Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer opening and closing their arm-jaws amidst a wave of confetti. Thanks, Florida.”

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2010 SEC Media Day: Georgia better than Florida?

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan and senior forward Chandler Parsons represented the University of Florida on Thursday by appearing at a number of press conferences at the 2010 Southeastern Conference Media Day from Hoover, AL.

GEORGIA, NOT FLORIDA, THE BEAST OF THE EAST?

Though Donovan is thankful that his team is getting recognition, he believes going into the season that Georgia is the best team in the SEC East and one of the most talented in the nation. “Clearly Georgia was a team last year that was on the cusp of really having an unbelievable season,” he said. “Georgia, to me, is as good as anybody not only in our league, I think they’re as good as anybody in the country. [...] They have two [F Trey Thompkins, guard Travis Leslie] placed on the All-SEC first team. We have none.”

Donvoan continued to downplay the hype surrounding Florida pointing to how the team struggled to make the NCAA Tournament. “Would the feeling be different if we didn’t make the tournament than it is right now? We’re kind of a feel-good team,” he said. “The reality is we got knocked out in the first round, we finished fourth in the East last year.”

DEPARTURES ARE GOOD AND BAD

Being able to help players develop into future NBA stars is a talent that would fill any head coach, including Donovan, with pride. However, being successful in that regard is not without its disadvantages for the program as a whole. “It’s a positive when you can have players go through your program and have the opportunity to play in the NBA,” Donovan said. “In a lot of respects, we were constantly starting over, and the early departures were something that was very difficult to deal with.”

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QUOTES (After the break…)
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