Back from Brazil with a gold medal, Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan shared his thoughts on the upcoming season as part of the Southeastern Conference‘s summer teleconference on Monday.
FRONTCOURT MIGHT HAVE TO LEAD THE WAY
Doing a 180 from last season, which saw the team run through the veteran backcourt and extremely talented freshman Bradley Beal, Donovan admitted Monday that he may very well lean on his experienced frontcourt to lead the way for the Gators this season.
“I do think with Erik Murphy being a senior, Will Yeguete played a lot as a sophomore before he got injured, Patric Young a year older, Cody Larson a year older…I think clearly depth-wise we have some really good experience,” he said. “Any time you lose a starting point guard like we are with Erving Walker, and then you obviously lose a top-five pick in Brad Beal, that certainly changes the complexion of your backcourt. For Scottie Wilbekin and Braxton Ogbueze as a freshman and Kenny Boynton, we’ll have to create an identity back there. That’s something I’ve given some thought about.
“Defensively, because of Erving at times with his size, defensively we struggled at times against bigger guards. Scottie is a bigger, stronger guard. Braxton is a strong guard as well. I feel pretty confident in terms of our frontcourt and what’s returning but any time you take a point guard off of a team that has been a starter for three years, there’s a different element and dynamic that you have to deal with as you go into the season.”
That is why Donovan could lean on Boynton to run some point this year; he can help the team win while simultaneously improving his skill set for NBA evaluators. He will also utilize redshirt senior Mike Rosario plenty and get contributions from junior Casey Prather, who came on strong in the postseason.
CAN THE FRESHMEN CONTRIBUTE?
“My biggest concern going into last year’s recruiting was Erving was going to be a senior, Kenny Boynton would have the opportunity to at least look at putting his name in early, Mike Rosario was a 1,000-point scorer in two years at Rutgers and Brad Beal I thought had the opportunity [to go pro]. I was really worried if we lost Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker and Brad Beal that we need to make sure from a recruiting standpoint that we had some depth back there,” he said.
“That was kind of our focus, and I think because we had some young frontcourt players returning at that point in time, a lot of kids probably looked at what kind of room is there for me to play. We didn’t really add a lot of frontcourt pieces in the incoming freshman class but more than anything I was concerned going into this season if we really would have lost all of those guys to the draft, to graduation, what kind of situation we’d be in.”
Donovan has yet to determine how much time each freshman may or may not see on the court but is excited to evaluate them all during the limited time they have together over the summer.
“I think the kids that are coming in understand that there’s the possibility that there’s going to be some experience and some depth with Rosario and Scottie Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton,” he said. “But they also know after a year or so that things will really open up. The kids coming in seem like very good team guys. I’ll get a lot better feel now in July because we can work these guys out and be on the floor with them, and I’ll probably know more before we get started in the fall.”
MORE COMMUNICATION = FEWER TRANSFERS
Donovan pointed out Monday that college basketball players have been transferring at an alarming rate over the last few years, and he believes that the new NCAA rule allowing coaches and recruits unlimited contact via phone calls and text messages may help aid that issue.
“From a social media, electronic standpoint now, the communication that you are able to do now is totally different than it was 10 years ago. If you look at the last 3-4-5 years in college basketball, there has been a monumental transfer rate every year. It seems to get higher and higher. I think a lot of that has to do with some of the recruiting model, with the limitations on what we have been able to do contact-wise with players,” he explained.
“I have never felt like, as a coach, I’ve really been able to get the chance to know a prospect or that a prospect has not really got the chance to know you [with the old communications rules]. If you’ve got a player that you’re recruiting geographically that’s close to your campus that has the ability to come on campus and develop that kind of relationship, it is kind of a better feel of the player. The player has a better feel of your program. But I think once you’re recruiting away from your area so to speak and you’re limited to what we’re limited with…even in July you can’t make any phone calls and do those things. I thought it was a process that really promoted everybody making bad decisions and choices.
“Now between caller ID and e-mail and text messaging…these guys have the ability to communicate with who they want to communicate with and not communicate with people they don’t want to communicate with. If anything, if a kid is being inundated with a lot of messages by a lot of different schools, I think what it does is it allows that player to get a lot more serious earlier about who does he really want to look at. Who are the schools he is most interested in. Any time you open up the lines of communication between two parties, I think that’s the healthiest and best way to get to know each other.”