Just a few days before his team boards the USS Bataan to take on the Georgetown Hoyas in the Navy/Marine Corps Classic, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan met with the media to discuss his concerns heading into the 2012-13 season.
A MISSING PIECE FOR FRIDAY
Junior forward Casey Prather broke out in a big way last postseason, but concussion issues have stalled his court time in a big way this fall. After suffering the second concussion of his career nine days ago during a scrimmage, Prather finally returned to practice Monday with hopes of playing on Friday. Unfortunately, he took an elbow to the head during practice and suffered his second concussion in as many weeks, effectively knocking him out of this week’s contest.
“He was totally healed from the first one, so there is no problem as it relates to this necessarily being prolonged because he did have a concussion before that,” Donovan explained. “He got elbowed on a rebound and went down midway through practice. Obviously now with what everybody is doing with concussions, he’s got to go through a series of baseline tests and do those things. They don’t think it’s as bad as it was before, but I would say that he right now is probably not going to play on Friday.”
Though Prather is not a full-time post player, his size (6’6”, 208 lbs.) gives Florida another option down low, especially on defense and when trying to rebound. Considering the Gators are relatively light in the frontcourt this season, not having Prather on Friday is going to hurt and has Donovan considering other options such as playing junior center Patric Young, senior F Erik Murphy and junior F Will Yeguete at the same time.
“I think we’re going to have to look at that now. We have to look at that now just because of Casey’s situation,” Donovan said. “We have not done that a lot. I felt like, with Casey’s injury, I knew he was going to be back for this game. I didn’t anticipate that happening again to him. We’ve got three days here … that we’re going to have to look at some different lineup things.”
REBOUNDING THE GREATEST CONCERN
Donovan was dismayed last week when Florida outrebounded Division II Nebraska-Kearney by just three boards. He tore into the Gators’ effort in the game but said Tuesday that he was pleased the way the team, including his veterans, bounced back and practiced on Monday.
“I was very pleased with the way we came back the next day on Friday. I thought we had a really good practice. I thought they agreed that there were a lot of things we did in that game that were uncharacteristic of the way we practiced. I think there was a recognition of areas that we needed to get better in,” he said.
Though Donvoan recognizes that rebounding with an undersized team is difficult, especially without Prather in the fold, he is indeed worried that UF is not getting better in that area fast enough heading into the regular season.
“To me it is still a major concern. I don’t like it. I think we can be a whole lot better. I think it’s got to be a collective effort by our guys in the game,” he said. “In the exhibition game, I think Patric and Erik together combined for a total of 40 minutes and they grabbed seven rebounds – two guys. That’s not good enough. They’ve got to go after the basketball on the glass. They’ve got to come down with it. They got to go hard after it, and our guards have got to get in there now, too. One of the things that is bothering me as a coach is we don’t leave the floor. We are the best on-the-floor rebounding team in the country but unfortunately as we’re standing on the ground, someone else is jumping. It’s a point that has really been pounded home.”