11/15: Donovan, players speak about Ohio State

No. 9/10 Florida Gators 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 latest media availability in the following post. Additional material from some of Florida’s players can also be found below.

FIRST PHYSICAL TEST COMES IN GAME TWO

Donovan has made it a point over the last two seasons to schedule tough opponents early both to increase strength of schedule and test his team. That is why the No. 4/5 Ohio State Buckeyes are heading to Gainesville, FL, on Tuesday for a rekindling of a recent rivalry.

“This is a great test and a great opportunity for both [teams]. One because it is so early in the season, it is the second game for both of us right now,” Donovan said Monday. “There’s a long way to go, you find out a lot more about your team in these situations. There will probably be some things in the game that we will need to get better at improve on. They’ll probably say the same thing. There’s no question we’re going against a physical frontcourt with [Dallas] Lauderdale, [Jared] Sullinger and [Deshaun] Thomas and that poses great challenges for our frontcourt as well to do the things we are talking about physically.”

But wouldn’t it be better for everyone involved if the game was a few weeks later? “Part of me really, really likes the fact that it is really this early,” Donovan continued. “The opportunity to play against a team clearly that returns four starters, they return guys that won a Big 10 Championship. They’re veterans and they add the best recruiting class in the country to their team. And Sullinger [is] arguably the best player in the country. […] Things are going to get exposed that you gotta get better at and sometimes its better off finding out those things now than it is later.”

YOUNG WILBEKIN COULD PAY DIVIDENDS

Freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin had an impressive showing in his first regular season game, showcasing his poise, crisp passing and mature defense. Donovan raved about Wilbekin on Monday and hinted that he should see the court plenty this season.

“He’s really a disciplined kid, and when I say ‘disciplined,’ he really does the right things at the right time. When you talk about the discipline part of doing your job and doing the things you need to do, that’s what has really enabled him to come in and play,” he said. “His game will get better. As a coach, you always enjoy playing guys [from whom] you kind of know what you’re getting. I’ve been very, very impressed with him. I’ve been impressed with his toughness, and I’ve been impressed with his stamina.”

MACKLIN’s KNEE ACTING UP

Asked about the health of redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, Donovan confirmed that he is dealing with some knee issues – specifically tendinitis and bone spurs. “He’s been in and out of practice here the last couple of days. He’s dealing with some knee issues; it’s nothing that s going to prevent him from playing [Tuesday],” he said. “Going forward that is a concern for me. We’ll have to wait and see, but he’s been battling it now for the last week to 10 days. It’s definitely probably affected him some, but I’ve always been the believer when you step across the lines and put the jersey on, you have to go out there and play.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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Florida basketball 2010 preseason wrap-up

Joining ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive for the 2010-11 basketball season is new correspondent Malik Grady. An OGGOA reader since the very beginning and Florida Gators basketball observer for two decades, Malik will be contributing his unique views and educated takes on head coach Billy Donovan’s squad throughout the season. Please do us a favor and welcome him into the fold after reading his first offering, a review of Florida’s two preaseason games this year.

By Malik Grady – OGGOA Correspondent

BALL HANDLERS

Observers only had five minutes to evaluate freshman Scottie Wilbekin before he was injured, during which time he managed a pair of assists and two steals. He has good size for the point and looked quick with the ball, though he seemed to get a little “high school cute” with it. Last year, after the preseason, then-freshman Nimrod Tishman rarely played again, but Wilbekin seems to be much more in Donovan’s plans considering the three-guard lineup the Gators have practiced with at times.

Junior Erving Walker, last year’s starter at the point, showed a bit of the good news/bad news he did at times last season. He led the team in assists (13 in the two games) but also had six turnovers while simultaneously forcing shots at times. Donovan said he’s seen improvement overall in Walker’s decision making, and he is improving defensively in the press where his stature is actually a benefit.

Fellow junior Kyle McClanahan saw a total of 17 minutes in the preseason but showed some limitations after managing four turnovers in six minutes in his first game and no assists in either. Donovan has expressed confidence in him at times though, so it’s possible he could work himself into emergency duty.

Read the rest of Malik’s preseason wrap-up and prepare for OGGOA‘s 2010-11 season preview (published Thursday)…after the break!
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Basketball wins, four athletes take SEC honors

The University of Florida‘s men’s basketball team began their 2009-10 season Monday night, defeating Saint Leo 95-46 in an exhibition game at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Gators freshman guard Kenny Boynton led the team with 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting while going 5/9 from three-point range. Boynton also contributed six rebounds, two assists and three steals and appeared to tweak his knee at some point in the second half. The extent of the injury is not known, though it did not look serious to those in attendance and it is believed he will be fine to play in Florida’s next exhibition game.

Junior forward Alex Tyus recorded a team-high nine rebounds and added 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting, while sophomore point guard Erving Walker was good for 16 points and led the way with nine assists. Redshirt junior transfer center Vernon Macklin grabbed four rebounds and seven points. Also of note is that Israeli freshman PG Nimrod Tishman wants to be known as “Rod” (good choice) during his Gators career.

Football’s sophmore kicker Caleb Sturgis, volleyball’s senior libero Elyse Cusack and soccer players Lauren Hyde and McKenzie Barney all took home individual awards from the Southeastern Conference on Monday. Sturgis was named Special Teams Player of the Week, Cusack and Hyde both earned Defensive Player of the Week honors for their respective sports and Barney won Freshman of the Week. Sturgis kicked a 56-yard and 44-yard field goal in the Gators win over the Georgia Bulldogs.

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Israeli PG Nimrod Tishman cleared to play for UF

For months, the Florida Gators and head coach Billy Donovan have been waiting for the NCAA Clearinghouse to decide on whether or not Israeli point guard Nimrod Tishman would be eligible to play for the two-time National Champions this season. On Tuesday, that decision was handed down, and Tishman officially became the newest member of the Orange & Blue.

Already cleared to participate in practice, Tishman (6’6″) was impressing Donovan with his work ethic, court vision and ball-handling. During the Florida and SEC media days, Donovan expressed his hope that Tishman would be cleared by the NCAA sooner than later.

Tishman averaged 18.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists at the Under-18 European Championships in France this past summer and was signed to the Gators after Donovan failed to land some of the top point guard prospects in the country during the past recruiting cycle.

On the basketball front, Mark Schlabach of ESPN took an in-depth look at the future of the Gators in his column on Tuesday. Coming off a four-year swing that included back-to-back National Championships followed by back-to-back NIT appearances, Donovan is optimistic that the additions of Tishman, five-star guard Kenny Boynton and others will pay off for his team in 2009-10. “I feel like there’s a difference in our team this year as far as intensity,” Donovan said. “I’m excited about that. There seems to be a better chemistry and a maturity level from growing up. I thought our team the last two years was immature.”

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Tishman cleared to practice, not yet to play

When guard Nick Calathes chose to play in Greece instead of return for his junior season, Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan was left in a predicament. Because Calathes’ decision was made late into the recruiting process and many top prospects had already been thinking about other schools, Donovan was behind the eight ball in bringing in a young ball handler. Would he go with generously 5’6″ Erving Walker as his sole legitimate point guard or give some of the duties to five-star shooting guard commitment Kenny Boynton?

For the 2009-10 season, it will be a combination of Walker and Boynton handling the most of the duties at point, but Donovan took it upon himself to turn over every rock and find someone that could help in the future. That someone is 6’5″ freshman point guard Nimrod Tishman out of Tel Aviv, Israel.

Tishman, listed on the Florida roster and cleared to practice with the team, is still awaiting his approval by the NCAA Clearinghouse, which determines eligibility for all prospective NCAA Division I student-athletes. Part of the hold-up are Tishman’s military duties, which must be waived in writing by his homeland. Until he is officially cleared, Tishman will be unable to play in games. Donovan said he expects to hear about Tishman’s eligibility “well before” UF opens its season against Stetson, but the delay is hurting his chances of playing right away.

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