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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10/18: Donovan speaks on leadership, 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.

POST PRESENCE SHOULD HELP SHOOTING PERCENTAGE

A lot of factors contributed to the backcourt’s inefficiency shooting the ball last season. Looking back on the 2009-10 team, junior point guard Erving Walker and sophomore guard Kenny Boynton were basically on an island without any depth behind them. This led to the duo being fatigued and forced to shoot lower percentage shots earlier than preferred. Donovan believes that will no longer be an issue this year. He expects Walker, Boynton and senior forward Chandler Parsons to get “better and cleaner looks” than they had previously as Florida will be making it a point to establish a scoring presence inside early and often.

“[The players] have shot the ball pretty well in practice. Right now our defense is probably ahead of our offense. Chandler even made a comment to me that he thought in practice it was a lot more difficult to get to the rim, it was a lot more difficult to rebound, things that maybe he was able to do the last couple of years he sees as more difficult,” Donovan said. “The shooting part of it, I think Kenny and Erving and even Chandler will be better shooting the ball just with having a better understanding of shot selection. Both Erving and Kenny, part of their struggles percentage-wise, was a lot of minutes fatigue wise, we really needed them to score, and probably were in situations where they had to take some more difficult shots. Those guys, up to this point, have shot the ball better – maybe because they’re older.”

LEADERSHIP MAKING AN IMPACT

For the first time since the Oh-Fours left for the NBA and the remnants of the back-to-back National Championship teams graduated, the Gators have strong leadership in the form of upperclassmen who can do so both with their words and by example. “In terms of our older guys, they’ve been very good leadership-wise, they’ve practiced well,” Donovan said. “They’ve done a good job trying to lead. We went some tough physical practice here Friday, Saturday, Sunday. So far up to this point in time I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”

Donovan also spoke about how important it is to have a team with some depth experience-wise. “Any time you have leaders and older guys that have been through it there’s no question it’s helpful. They can set a standard or measuring stick for your younger guys to understand where they got to get to,” he said. “Any coach would always want some upperclassmen and older guys on their team. That’s always a positive.”

PATRIC YOUNG “PLAYS LIKE TARZAN”

The entire freshman class has impressed Donovan with their energy, enthusiasm and effort through his team’s first three practices. And while all of the freshmen stand out in different ways, physically no one commands attention like four-star power forward Patric Young. Listed at 6’9” (though he will argue 6’10”) and 245 lbs., Young looks as if he was chiseled from stone and plays as if no one can hurt him.

“He’s been really, really blessed physically,” Donovan said of Young. “You can see guys that look great physically, but they don’t’ play well physically. It’s the old, ‘Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane.’ He plays like Tarzan. Physically he goes after it. He enjoys contact, he wants physical confrontation – he likes that. There [are] a lot of guys that don’t want any part of that.”

One of Young’s most promising characteristics is his love for defense and shot blocking, something Donovan realizes is a major positive but must be corralled and used appropriately. “We are definitely a better shot-blocking team [with Young] and have more of a presence at the rim,” he said. “When you’re constantly leaving your feet to block shots, there [are] two things that really end up becoming a problem. One is fouls of guys being out of position and getting fouls. The second thing is, when they leave the floor, you can break block-out situations and you can give up a lot of offensive rebounds. So as much as Patric Young, energy-wise, just wants to jump around the lane and try to block shots all the time, for every shot he blocks he’s given up two or three offensive rebounds when he doesn’t block-out. And the decision of, ‘When do I go chase a shot and try to block it or when do I have to go back and try to block-out,’ those are things experience-wise that take a lot of time to figure out.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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Florida honored by media in preseason SEC poll

The Florida Gators were predicted by members of the media on Monday to win the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship in men’s basketball.

Florida earned eight first-place votes for the overall title and 13 first-place votes for the East division crown. Mississippi State, which received 18 votes to win the West, followed them in championship polling with three votes. Kentucky was tabbed as second in the East with three votes.

The Gators return all five starters from a year ago and have significantly beefed up their bench with a young but talented freshman class. The media elected two starters, senior forward Chandler Parsons and sophomore guard Kenny Boynton, to the preseason All-SEC second team. Boynton was named SEC Freshman of the Year last season.

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2010-11 Florida Media Day: Players speak, too

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, now from the players.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP ON THEIR MINDS

Though Donovan is trying to keep egos in check, that does not mean he wants his team to lower their expectations for the year as a whole. In fact, if you ask senior forward Chandler Parsons and junior point guard Erving Walker, nothing less than a national title is unacceptable.

“They asked me today, ‘What’s your goal?’ I said, ‘National championship.’ I don’t expect anything less,” Parsons said. “We want to win the SEC Tournament championship. That’s our goal. We want to be the best possible team that we can be. If that’s us getting to the Final Four, if that’s winning the national championship, we just want to continue to work hard every day and improve. [...] I think we have what it takes. We’re experienced, we have good guards, we have size, a great coach. I don’t see why not.”

“We don’t really talk about it that much but everybody knows, a goal is everybody wants to compete in a national championship,” Walker added. “But we all know, and I know Chandler knows, it’s a process. We can’t just jump to that. I feel like we can get there. I’d be lying to you if I told you I didn’t. But I know we’re not there yet, there’s no need to jump to March when we’re in October. It’s definitely nice to hear [the talk].”

BOYNTON: THE SHOOTER

Sophomore shooting guard Kenny Boynton improved significantly toward the end of last season but an albatross around his neck all year was his poor shooting percentage. He made a concerted effort to work on that this offseason.

“Last year I never knew when it was going to go in, I was just shooting it,” Boynton said. “Now I know when it’s off and how long it’s going, and I think it’s just a better shot now. I feel like in workouts I’ve been knocking down my midrange shot a lot. That was definitely a big thing I wanted to work at.”

Boynton now releases the ball “more in front of my head”. He has seen an increase in control and accuracy.

“I learned that you gotta put a lot of work into this,” he said. “It’s not just going and taking shots. It’s watching film, it’s studying the guys that you’re playing against. It’s mentally going into the game and being prepared, knowing that it’s more than just basketball.”

Read the rest of this recap of the players’ media availabilities…after the break!
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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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