Donovan: Gators need conviction, commitment

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Thursday, one week before his team takes the court for an exhibition game against William & Mary ahead of the 2014-15 regular-season opener.

WANTING CONVICTION AND COMMITMENT OR “WE ARE NOT GOOD AT ANYTHING” OR 95 PERCENT OF THE GAME

One week before Florida takes the court in the Stephen C. O’Connell center, Donovan has unleashed his season-long mantra: convicted and committed. In other words, Donovan wants the Gators to be strong, resolute and dedicated – to his coaching, to their teammates and to the program as a whole.

Donovan has seen some early returns from his team’s first few practices, but he nevertheless took his standard pessimistic stance on the team’s overall play so close to the start of the season.

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Billy Donovan on Florida’s practice intensity, Eli Carter’s return, early evaluations, SEC Media Day

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Monday, less than one week after his team began fall practice. Donovan discussed a number of pressing topics facing the Gators as they prepare for the 2014-15 season.

DOUBLE RAINBOW PRACTICES!

Donovan put Florida to work as soon as the team convened for practice last week, holding double sessions on Friday and Saturday with Sunday off and a fifth practice on Monday. Overall, he was pleased with the early results, especially on Saturday when there was a lot of installing and teaching going on with the team.

“Their attitude was good. They worked hard. It was really good effort. I thought there was sustained intensity. I thought the two freshmen, there was a lot thrown at them in those first four practices on Friday and Saturday, and they seemed to absorb it. They have a pretty good basketball IQ, picked things up. I think those guys will continue to get better,” he explained.

Asked why the Gators did not open practice with more pomp and circumstance – such as Midnight Madness (with or without a rap star running out with the team only to airball a shot) – Donovan somewhat avoided the question, instead pointing to his preference to get the team as ready as possible for the season with the time he has allotted.

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Media Day: New challenges ahead for Florida Gators basketball in 2014-15

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan held a press conference last week as part of his team’s media day and discussed a number of pressing topics facing his team as it began fall practice. Below are some links to stories published here on OnlyGators.com last week as well as a wrap-up of everything else Donovan had to say.

Story: Chris Walker suspended three games, Brandone Francis will not play
Story: Billy Donovan stands behind embattled Will Muschamp
Story: Michael Frazier II must step up game, leadership for Gators

NEW CHALLENGES

The 2014-15 Gators basketball team will be a vastly different group…because that’s what happens when you lose four true-senior starters that amassed the vast majority of your points and logged tons of minutes. Florida was so successful last season not just because of those players’ experience but also due to the fact that they had faced so much adversity that they were motivated to overcome any they encountered during their final year in orange and blue.

This year’s team, well, it’s filled with freshman and sophomores that are used to seeing the Gators as one of the best teams in the nation, coming off a season in which the program only lost three games.

“They haven’t faced any adversity,” said Donovan. “That’s going to be, I think, a challenge that these guys have not been tested in. They can go out there, work really, really hard and may not get the results [they want]. …

“There are a couple of concerns for me. There was no level of consistency at all from our returning players outside of Michael Frazier. There were moments that he played exceptionally well, there were moments that they really did a great job, but there was a discipline issue on the court in terms of being reliable guys game in and game out. That is going to be a challenge.”

It’s not that Donovan thinks this group of players is entitled. Rather, “it’s a lack of not living in the real world” for these players, which likely expect Florida to continue or even improve on its impressive showing from last season.

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SIX BITS: Young, Noah, Miles, Tyus, Hernandez

1 » Former Florida Gators center Patric Young is playing his first NBA preseason with the New Orleans Pelicans and is already dropping some highlights. On Monday, New Orleans fell 93-87 to Atlanta, but not before Young could deliver this put-back dunk (skip to 1:35). Young finished the contest with four points and four boards in 11:20. Against Miami in his team’s preseason opener, Young made his only field goal, scoringtwo points to go along with eight rebounds, a block and two turnovers in 21 minutes.

2 » Also on Monday, Chicago Bulls C Joakim Noah got into a heated exchange with Washington’s Paul Pierce during their teams’ preseason game. Noah was relatively calm about the situation until Pierce stuck his pointer finger into Noah’s forehead. Coming back from knee surgery, Noah looked even less fluid than normal during the game and is expected to skip Tuesday’s contest as a precaution.

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The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 20

Couple thousand student season tickets remain unsold

Attendance at sporting events is a growing problem across the nation, and the Florida Gators have been attempting to do whatever they can to try and address the issue in order to reach full capacity at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium each week.

Florida has wired the stadium to drastically improve cellular phone reception (though high-speed wireless internet, at a cost of about $3 million, has not yet been implemented throughout the stadium), begun offering more affordable tickets to recent graduates, opened spring and fall practices to all comers and even formed a council of boosters and students to ensure the program is doing everything it can to get its tickets sold.

UF also worked with the Southeastern Conference and its television partners to ensure that its early-season games were played in the late afternoon or evening, rather than the grueling early-afternoon heat.

Unfortunately for the Gators, the problem has only continued to grow. What was once limited to declining season ticket sales from boosters, those unwilling to spend thousands of dollars to get a couple of seats in The Swamp on Sunday, has now jumped across the field to the student section.

A Florida spokesman told OnlyGators.com last week that the school had “a couple thousand” student season tickets unsold with just two weeks to go before the start of the season. Pressed for a more specific number with 10 days left, the spokesman divulged this week that there are approximately 2,000 student season tickets available (as of press time) with that number shrinking minimally each day.

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Florida Gators G/F DeVon Walker tears ACL, likely to miss 2014-15 season

Florida Gators junior guard/forward DeVon Walker “is expected to miss the 2014-15 season” after tearing his ACL, according to CBSSports.com’s Jeff Borzello.

A spokesman for the team confirmed Walker’s injury to OnlyGators.com early Monday morning.

Walker, who transferred from Florida last offseason over play time concerns but eventually decided to return to the Gators in a reserve role, wound up making seven starts and playing in 35 games in 2013-14.

Though he averaged 2.4 points and 1.2 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per game last season, Walker came up big for Florida in some tough circumstances in Southeastern Conference play when he drained 8-of-14 threes over a five-game stretch. He also played solid defense throughout the year. Additionally, there were three separate five-game stretches during the season in which he averaged 20 minutes or more per game.

Walker being out of commission does not spell doom for the Gators though he was expected to be part of Florida’s regular rotation as a reserve at the two and three. Junior Michael Frazier II returns as the starting shooting guard for UF.

The Gators hope to have redshirt sophomore G Dillon Graham back in the fold after he underwent season-ending surgery to repair bone spurs in his hips. Redshirt junior G Eli Carter should also be available for Florida now more than a year removed from a broken leg suffered during the 2012-13 campaign that sidelined him for most of last year.

UF’s three-member 2014 recruiting class also includes a pair of wing players in five-star F Devin Robinson (Christchurch, VA) and four-star G Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, FL). Though both were expected to get run next season, there are now even more minutes to go around.

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Donovan talks Harris, Horford, Egbunu, NBA

With the Florida Gators making plenty of news this offseason, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Thursday to discuss his program’s incoming transfers and exiting players. He also touched on whether professional teams have contacted him about his services and explained how he responded to those inquiries.

THREE STRIKES AND YOU’RE OUT

Donovan does the best he can to get players to buy in but some simply cannot get out of their own way. Such is the case with center Damontre Harris, who Donovan has dismissed from the team for the second time in six months – this time for good.

Harris was granted the opportunity to return to the Gators after Donovan dismissed him in December 2013 but failed to live up to his promises – dedication to the program, attendance at all team events, communication with the coaching staff and teammates. Having already suspended Harris for a violation of team rules at the start of the 2013-14 season and dismissed him at the end of the fall semester, Donovan finally decided to give up on his reclamation projection after Harris proved no better this time around.

“Damontre is not a bad kid. He’s a good kid but really undisciplined and unreliable in a lot of ways, and [he was] really selling me on the fact that he’s going to be [improved in] that way,” Donovan explained on Thursday. “And then what we basically did was not allow him to play, even though he was eligible to play, and I told him he had to earn his way back on the team, very similar to the way Scottie [Wilbekin] had to do it. …

“He had every opportunity to do that. He had a whole semester to do that and just could not do the things he needed to do, we expected him to do. … This guy was in practice; he was used on the scout team. The things we were talking about is like going to class, being on time, being in the weight room, lifting, showing up to practice, those kind of things.

“Basically, we evaluated him over that two-and-a-half, three month [span] over that second semester and clearly nothing had changed at all. And I was just not going to have him come back in this kind of situation.”

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Pictures, tweets, videos: Florida Gators former and current discuss the Final Four

Support for the (1) Florida Gators (36-3) was riding high on Saturday as the team prepared to play in the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the AT&T Center in Arlington, TX. There was so much written about the team by former and current student-athletes, in fact, that this post had to be limited to those either with ties to the basketball program or in attendance at the game.

Though the (7) UConn Huskies (31-8) were victorious and eliminated Florida from the event, there was still plenty of well-wishers after the contest. Check out the pictures, tweets and videos below for a comprehensive look at what former and current Gators had to say before, during and after the game.

PRE-GAME

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