2/3: Donovan on struggling starters, experience

No. 23 Florida Gators (17-5, 6-2 SEC) 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 media availability on Thursday.

STRUGGLING STARTERS

Though redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, senior forward Chandler Parsons and junior point guard Erving Walker have by all accounts had solid seasons up to this point, Florida’s other two starters have yet to find a consistent groove. Donovan is not overly concerned with that fact, pointing out a few nuances to each player’s game.

“He really made a great jump in my opinion coming out of the Mississippi State game,” he said of sophomore guard Kenny Boynton. “In the Mississippi State game, he had some really, really good looks – open looks – and the ball didn’t go in the basket for him. And I really thought that affected him on the defensive end and his energy. He did a phenomenal job on [John] Jenkins. I know he scored 22 points, but it wasn’t from the three-point line, it wasn’t wide-open looks. I think we made him work for it. He got to the free throw line. He had some drives. Even though he was not having a prolific scoring night, he really was locked in defensively to try to do the best job he could on Jenkins.”

For his part, Boynton is getting the message Donovan is sending. “I just try to put the last play behind me,” Boynton said of his attitude when he’s struggling to knock down shots. “Coach Donovan, he doesn’t want anybody out there frustrated or thinking about the last play, he just wants us to play whether or not our shots are falling. Last year was pretty hard for me to do because I wasn’t used to it. This year is easier; [I] just go back and play defense the next possession.”

With senior F Alex Tyus, Donovan thinks the guys he has had to go one-on-one with have caused the biggest problem. “The one thing that’s been hard for Alex is he’s had a lot of very, very difficult match-ups at the power forward spot,” he said. “He’s had some really, really difficult match-ups. Alex has really been trying to focus on defending. Because when you’re going against those kind of guys, and we’re trying to provide some help for him, you probably have a tendency to focus a little bit less on your offense. […] You look at the match-ups he’s had to go against, there’s going to be a dip in offensive production because he’s had to focus so much on playing defense.”

EXPERIENCE DOESN’T WIN GAMES

Asked how the team’s veteran leadership and experience of playing four overtime games (and winning three) this season will help in the future, Donovan simply said it will not by noting that age and “being there” before don’t matter nearly as much as performing to the best of your abilities.

“I don’t think so,” he said of the notion. “Last year’s Kentucky team with all those young guys did pull out close games. There was a thought when I had [Joakim] Noah, [Al] Horford and [Corey] Brewer and they were all sophomores that there was no NCAA Tournament experience … and you have to have an experienced team to go deep into the tournament … and they proved that wrong.

“Just because we’ve won some close games does not ensure the fact that we’re going to win all of them going forward. Anything that’s happened in the past has no bearing on the next time you’re in that situation other than the fact that there’s a level of familiarity. You still have to make the plays that are necessary [to win the game]. You still have to execute, perform and do those things in those situations. Just because you did it last time doesn’t mean you’re going to do it [another] time. You got to execute, focus and do the right things at that time to the best of your ability.”

Parsons neither agreed nor disagreed with Donovan but did point out that the team’s three overtime victories have given the Gators more confidence as a unit. “Having four overtime games and winning three of them really shows something about our team and how we keep playing,” he said. “It’s all about effort, executing our offense, playing defense and getting those big stops when we need them. And then obviously our guys coming up with some big shots.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 2/3: Donovan on struggling starters, experience

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Checking in on former Florida Gators in the NBA

With the 2010-11 NBA season still in full swing, a number of Florida Gators have been making strong impressions on the league with a few having a significant impact on their team’s game-to-game performance. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores for approximately the first third of the season to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished thus far. Figures below are per-game averages:

F/C AL HORFORD, Atlanta Hawks: 17.0 points* [57.1% shooting – team-best], 9.8 rebounds [team-high], 3.3 assists, 0.85 blocks, 0.81 steals, 83% FT …in 33.4 minutes with 26-of-26 starts

C JOAKIM NOAH, Chicago Bulls: 14.0 points [51.4% shooting], 11.7 rebounds [team-high], 2.7 assists, 1.63 blocks [team-high], 1.17 steals, 73% FT …in 36.8 minutes with 24-of-24 starts

F/C DAVID LEE, Golden State Warriors: 14.8 points [44.6% shooting], 10.1 rebounds [team-high], 3.8 assists, 0.18 blocks, 1.00 steals, 72% FT …in 35.9 minutes with 17-of-25 starts [17 games played~]

PF UDONIS HASLEM, Miami Heat: 8.0 points [51.2% shooting], 8.2 rebounds [team-high], 0.5 assists, 0.23 blocks, 0.54 steals, 80% FT …in 26.5 minutes with 0-of-27 starts [13 games played`]

G/F COREY BREWER, Minnesota Timberwolves: 9.6 points [36.9% shooting, 28.3% downtown], 3.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.19 blocks, 1.81 steals [team-high], 75% FT …in 25.1 minutes with 3-of-26 starts

F/C MATT BONNER, San Antonio Spurs: 6.9 points [43.3% shooting, 51.5% downtown (team-best)], 3.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.28 blocks, 0.33 steals, 75% FT …in 21.4 minutes with 0-of-24 starts [18 games played]

C MARREESE SPEIGHTS, Philadelphia 76ers: 4.9 points [45.0% shooting], 3.6 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.33 blocks, 0.19 steals, 65% FT …in 12.5 minutes with 0-of-25 starts [21 games played]

PG JASON WILLIAMS, Orlando Magic: 2.4 points [37.1% shooting, 31.8% downtown], 1.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.5 steals …in 11.4 minutes with 0-of-25 starts [14 games played]

G/F MIKE MILLER, Miami Heat: Has yet to play this season after breaking his thumb during preseason practice; is expected to return to his team soon.

NOTES
* SG Joe Johnson averages 17.1 points per game for Atlanta, 0.1 more than Horford.
~ Lee has missed eight games after suffering a serious infection in his elbow.
` Haslem is out for the season after tearing a ligament in his foot.

Photo Credit: Atlanta Hawks

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SIX BITS: Moss, Tebow, Lochte, Brewer, Mincey

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive end Jarvis Moss’ career with the Denver Broncos was uneventful with the former first round pick totaling only 29 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble in under four full seasons with the team. Cut by Denver on Nov. 17, Moss cleared waivers and signed with the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday. Moved to outside linebacker his last two seasons with the Broncos, Moss will return to his natural defensive end position with the Raiders and is set to back-up second-year player Matt Shaughnessy. He could play as soon as Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

2 » Speaking of Denver, their season appears to be getting worse and worse with each passing week. Even though head coach Josh McDaniels may be in danger of losing his job if he does not show some signs improvement over the next few weeks, he does not believe the time is right to try playing former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow more. “I don’t know. Not willing to go there,” he said, according to The Denver Post. “That’s not the case right now, so we’ll think about that when that happens.” McDaniels has had opportunities to get Tebow some playing time at the end of blowout losses this season but has declined on at least two occasions. “We haven’t had too many situations like that, but there’s a lot that could go into it,” he said. “I think each game is different. I think we’ve had the one game against Kansas City where you felt like there was a situation there but there are some other things that played into that. We’re not adverse to [putting him in late], we just haven’t had many opportunities to do that this year.”

3 » Former Florida swimmer and three-time Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte was named Male Athlete of the Year for the second-straight year during the 2010 USA Swimming Foundation Golden Goggle Awards on Monday. Lochte once again had a dominant summer in the pool, nearly breaking the 200-meter individual medley world record in a winning performance at the Pan Pacific Championships in August.

Three more BITS including FSU already declaring victory…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Moss, Tebow, Lochte, Brewer, Mincey

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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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NBA season begins, Gators look to make impact

The 2010-11 NBA season tipped off Tuesday night with nine former Florida Gators standouts on professional rosters. Some won National Championships while wearing the Orange & Blue, others went undrafted, but all want to prove that the Florida basketball program has and can produce legitimate NBA stars.

Al Horford, F/C, Atlanta Hawks
2009-10: Averaging career highs in points (14.2), rebounds (9.9), field goal percentage (55.1), free throw percentage (78.9) and minutes (35.1), Horford also contributed 2.3 assists and 1.1 blocks per game last year. For the second-straight season he led his team to the second round of the NBA Playoffs where, like in 2008-09, they were swept.
2010-11: The Godfather was named a captain in Atlanta during the preseason and will be a restricted free agent when the year ends. The Hawks are believed to be making a concerted effort to resign the first-time NBA All-Star and No. 3 overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft to a five-year deal worth $50-60 million.

Joakim Noah, F/C, Chicago Bulls
2009-10: Averaging a double-double with career highs in points (10.7), rebounds (11.0), blocks (1.6), assists (2.1), free throw percentage (74.4) and minutes (30.1), Noah was also good for 2.1 assists per game and shot 50.4 percent from the field. He missed 28 games with a plantar fasciitis injury but regained his form before the playoffs, which saw Chicago fall in the first round.
2010-11: Noah was rewarded by the Bulls for his hard work with a five-year, $60 million extension in the offseason. His defense and shot blocking makes him an elite big man in the league and, with Chicago adding All-Star forward Carlos Boozer to the frontcourt, some of the pressure he felt to do everything for the team defensively may be relived.

David Lee, F/C, Golden State Warriors
2009-10: Averaging a double-double for the second-straight season with the New York Knicks, Lee posted career-highs in points (20.2), assists (3.6), blocks (0.5) and free throw percentage (81.2) along with 11.7 rebounds while shooting 54.5 percent. A fan favorite who was a victim of circumstance due to the blockbuster free agents available this summer, Lee was moved to the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade.
2010-11: Agreeing a six-year, $80 million contract with Golden State, Lee will once again play for an up-tempo offense in which he will be able to shine. Though he will not be relied upon as heavily with the Warriors as he was with the Knicks, Lee will have ample opportunities to showcase his talent on the left coast.

Profiles for six more former Gators basketball players…after the jump!
Continue Reading » NBA season begins, Gators look to make impact

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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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2010-11 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!
Continue Reading » 2010-11 Florida Media Day: Billy Donovan speaks

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

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