With Florida Gators basketball having finally begun fall practice and just about three weeks away from the team’s first regular season game, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Thursday to discuss how practice is going up to this point.
A ROUGH DAY OF PRACTICE
Donovan lauded the team for how well it had performed over the first few practices but was less enthusiastic about Wednesday’s effort after the off-day on Tuesday. “We’ve been really good the first four or five days. Coming out of an off-day yesterday, yesterday was by far the worst day we had as a group,” he said. “I didn’t think the guys handled the adversity of practice well. That’s an area that we got to get a lot better at right now. The one thing about these guys that’s been pretty constant has been their effort. They’re a pretty competitive group. I didn’t think the attention to detail the first five days was there on Wednesday. We have an opportunity to come back today and improve on that.”
However, he was happy that the team is facing that obstacle now rather than later on in the process. “A lot of times guys get cranky. From a maturity standpoint, we better be able to move past those things. Because our season is so long, a lot of days you’re not going to feel great and you still have to have the mental toughness and fortitude to work through those things,” Donovan said. “It was good that it happened yesterday because the guys were able to see it and correct it. It’s never smooth sailing. I’d rather find out now what we’re dealing with going into the season. I certainly didn’t expect every practice to be totally perfect and great. We have an opportunity to regroup and handle the way we practiced yesterday better today.”
BUILDING A NEW GATORS TEAM
“Erving [Walker] and Kenny [Boynton], their roles and how they’re going to play the game is probably not going to change a whole lot other than that they’ve got more offense on the floor with them,” he said. “Patric [Young], Cody [Larson], Will [Yeguete] and Casey [Prather] are in totally different roles. Scottie [Wilbekin]’s role is pretty similar in terms of what he can do defensively. Brad [Beal]’s first time here; Walter [Pitchford]’s first time here. In a lot of respects, even though we’ve got some returning players, there’s different things they need to do to help our team. I think this is a completely different team from the way it was the last two years.”
For that reason, Donovan has put a hold on installing new offenses, defenses and plays from out of bounds. Instead he wants Florida to try and perfect what has already been implemented before moving forward and adding more layers.
“We could play in a game right now. There’s enough things offensively, defensively and on the sides. I feel confident we could play in a game. I don’t know how good we’d be in a game right now, but there’s enough things in,” he said. “What we need to do right now, before we start putting some more in, is really try to work on the execution part of getting better at what’s in right now. This time of year there’s always a fine line. [...] Most of the guys are coming back so there’s not anything that’s drastically new for them. I’m not dealing with five new players that this is the first time. We’re probably, in terms of the group understanding, a little further advanced. However, in terms of executing it, we’re not great in that right now.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Donovan said junior forward Erik Murphy got a “finger to the eye” on Wednesday and ended up missing practice. He added that it was not his cornea, but a part of Murphy’s eye was scratched. There was swelling and he couldn’t open his eye but after visiting a doctor he was told that there was no damage to the eye and he was cleared to practice Thursday.
» Donovan on if he’s still pleased with the team’s backcourt chemistry: “I feel good about it right now. Our guys are trying to play the right way. That’s something that has been there. We’ve talked a lot about it. They’ve seen film of it. They’ve seen how you can look when there’s an understanding. It’s not so much the extra pass part. That’s a piece of it.”
» Donovan on how Larson has been playing: “Cody has been a guy that is doing a lot of really good things right now in terms of the little things that aren’t going to show up on a stat sheet. I’ve been pleased with what he’s been able to do for our team physically because we need another physical presence up front. I think Will provides that exact thing as well.”
» Donovan on if he’s seen improved shooting from downtown: “I look less at the shooting percentage right now as I do look at the total number of shots being taken. Patric Young has gotten the most shots, and that’s a good thing for our team. After the first five days, Erving was third to last on the number of shots taken. He’s been very dominant in practice with what he’s been able to do. I’m more concerned about the shot distribution in practice rather than the percentages. Casey Prather has not taken a whole lot of shots, and his shooting percentage is not great, but to me he’s playing his best basketball since he’s been here up to this point in time. The percentages come from ball movement, player movement, extra passes, getting good looks and making shots in the flow of the offense. Then what we can do is repetitively work with those guys in practice to get them better shooting the basketball just through the number of shots they’re going to take. We’ve got a very good shooting team. I’m not so sure the stats indicate that now, but I feel confident that we are where we should be.”
» Boynton on being ranked No. 10 in the preseason: “That’s a good accomplishment, but we haven’t proven anything yet. We have to go out and prove that we’re worthy of that ranking.”
» Boynton on if he’s being worn out by practice: “Not really but we’ve been going hard.”
» Boynton on who has been the best in practice: “So far Pat has been going hard. Erv’s been leading the team. Casey and Will have been doing good from last year, they’ve stepped up a lot..”
» Boynton on how Prather is progressing: “His confidence. He’s not forcing it. He’s taking the right shots, finishing and on defense he’s very intense.”
» Boynton on the chemistry in the backcourt: “So far it’s good. Everybody’s making the extra pass.”
» Boynton on what it’s been like playing with three guards: “We’ve been good. Pretty much it’s been fun. I feel like when we play different teams we’ll have a mismatch on someone.”
» Boynton on how the team is doing with the pressure defense: “We’ve been pressing every day. When we all get together on one team, if we try a three- or four-guard lineup, we’re going to get a lot of turnovers. [...] It’s the same press. With our speed this year, we’re going to be alright out there. We can cheat some passes because we have the speed to get there.”
» Boynton on what he’s been doing to improve his game: “Overall I’ve just been hitting the gym a lot trying to keep getting more repetitions. [...] My left hand gotten a lot better, as did my finishing at the rim.”
» Prather said this role this year is to be a rebounder who defends and can slash to the hoop. “We definitely lost Chandler [Parsons], Vernon [Macklin] and Alex [Tyus] so we need people like me ot rebound and defend,” he said.
» Prather on having an opportunity to excel at small forward: “That’s like one of the main reasons why I came here, because of the tradition they have at the three-spot.”
» Prather on how Yeguete is playing: “He’s playing so aggressive, looking tos core more, get to the rim and control the offensive rebounds”
» Prather on how Larson is playing: “He’s physical. He still brings it every day. He bangs with Pat, and that’s hard to do. He just accepts it and doesn’t back down.”
» Prather on why recruits should commit to the Gators: “Because we win here. It’s all about tradition with Coach Donovan and the University of Florida.”