Florida-Alabama preview: Donovan talks status of Walker, Grant, three-point defense

By Adam Silverstein
January 21, 2014

Location: Coleman Coliseum – Tuscaloosa, AL [Capacity: 15,383]
Date/Time: Thursday at 7:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN2 (Rece Davis, Bob Knight)
SiriusXM: 85 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

href=”http://www.gatorzone.com/basketball/men/bios.php” target=”_blank”>Roster | Schedule
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Record: 15-2 (4-0 SEC) Record: 8-9 (2-2 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -5.5 | O/U: 123.5


» Alabama actually leads Florida 73-62 in the all-time series, but the Gators boast a 19-5 record under Donovan. UF has won seven-straight against UA and nine of the last 10 games in the series. However, the Gators are 17-47 on the road against the Crimson Tide (5-3 under Donovan) with three consecutive victories.
» Florida is on a nine -game winning streak and has won 14 of its last 15 games.
» Donovan is 12-2 against his former assistants, 6-0 going head-to-head with Grant.
» The Gators are 67-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» Florida is 7-2 this season in single-digit decisions after going 0-6 in such contests during the 2012-13 campaign. UF is also 1-0 in overtime games.
» The Gators defeated top-15 teams in consecutive games for the fourth time in program history and first time ever in non-conference regular season play.
» Florida is 2-2 against ranked opponents this season with both losses coming in true road games and the victories occurring in a home contest and neutral-site game.
» The Gators are 3-2 in true road games this season.
» UF has used seven different starting lineups in 17 games.

No. 6 Florida Gators (15-2, 4-0 SEC) head coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Tuesday, two days before his team is set to face the Alabama Crimson Tide (8-9, 2-2 SEC) on the road Thursday at 7 p.m. in Tuscaloosa, AL.


Suffice to say, Donovan is fed up with discussing Walker, who joined the team on Dec. 14, 2013 but has already missed eight games as he (im)patiently waits on the NCAA to announce his clearance and subsequent availability to play in games.

“As it relates to Chris, just listen to us and our school. I’m not going to address it anymore,” he said. “Certainly we’re hopeful he gets back soon but there’s been no indication that there’s any truth to that at all. Whenever he gets cleared, and certainly we all hope it’s soon, believe me, I’m not going to throw a guy in a game and have him pop up and you guys not be aware of it. The minute he gets eligible, cleared, and he’s able to play, I’ll let you know. Anything else that’s out there about that is not true.”

Donovan also refused to discuss whether the issue holding up Walker’s clearance has to do with impermissible benefits.

“The hardest part for me is I don’t know all the details because it doesn’t involve our institution. I’m just focusing on our team, the guys that are here right now and letting our administration handle it. I have not been privy to any conversations between the NCAA, our school, Chris or any of those other things,” he explained.

“The only thing I’ve been trying to do with Chris is each and every day trying to help him get better as a player, provide the resources he needs academically, try to work with him on the court to get better. In terms of all the details and hangs up, I don’t know all those details because when there’s something going on like this, there’s ethical conduct forms that are signed. That stuff has to be kept confidential, be kept between Chris and the NCAA, kept between our administration and the NCAA. I’m not involved in any of those conversations. I trust our administration and what they’re doing. Hopefully it will be resolved in a timely fashion. I know everyone is involved one way or another to know what’s going to happen.”

Though Donovan claims to have no knowledge of Walker’s situation, the fact of the matter is that Florida has been jerked around by the NCAA with the player’s date of availability a complete mystery. Well-informed sources close to the program have believed that Walker would be cleared on a number of different dates only to have them go by without the player getting word that he can step on the court.


The Gators are ranked 260th in the nation (out of 345 teams) in three-point field goal defense (.359), an astounding statistic considering Florida is ranked 43rd nationally in overall field goal percentage defense (.396) and is only allowing opponents to shoot .415 from two-point range.

In fact, it is the biggest flaw in the Gators’ overall team game right now, even as Florida struggles to find consistent three-point shooters of its own (outside sophomore guard Michael Frazier II).

“I think it’s been a little bit of defensive breakdowns. We’ve come off help a little bit too much. We’ve fallen asleep on a couple of screening actions,” explained Donovan.

“The one thing that has been good is we haven’t had that game where we’ve given up 10, 11, 12. The percentage has not been great, but I also think teams’ average number of threes that they’re taking before they play us, that number is down; they’re not taking as many against us, which is a good thing. We’ve got to do a better job there.”


» Donovan on a pair of forwards deep on the bench – sophomore DeVon Walker and redshirt junior walk-on Jacob Kurtz being able to contribute: “I think one of the things that’s been good with our team is our team has recognized that when we’ve been down a man or have been short some personnel, we’ve had some other guys step into some roles. And I tell our guys all the time, ‘Whether you play 12 minutes or play 25 minutes, what are you doing with the amount of time or minutes that you’re being given?’ … Those guys have handled themselves very, very well where in some games they don’t know how many minutes they’re going to play and they’ve been ready to play, which is the most important thing.”

» Donovan on Alabama head coach and former Florida assistant Anthony Grant, against whom Donovan is 7-0 all-time: “I think he has done a really good job. … They’ve played the most difficult schedule of anybody in our league based on computer rankings and what other teams have done, so I don’t think their record, per say, is any indication of what kind of team they are when you talk about playing at UCLA, playing at Duke, playing Wichita State, playing Xavier, playing some of the teams they’ve played against and it’s been really challenging. When you play against really good teams anything can happen. I think Anthony has done an amazing job in a lot of respects. I will say when you do have some unexpected departure as he had from last year’s team to this year’s team, certainly there’s some different guys and people that have to step up into different roles. But he’s got a really, really good core group of young guys that will continue to get better.”

» Donovan on Crimson Tide point guard Trevor Releford: “I don’t think he’s going to sneak up on anybody. He’s been clearly one of the best point guards in this league since he’s come in here. He had an incredible freshman year and has played very, very well. He’s really a guy that does a lot of different things. He shoots the three. … He’s as good of a guard in the country, in my opinion, when he gets in the lane at finishing around the basket. He gets assists, he knows how to play, he’s experienced, he’s logged a lot of minutes and he’s clearly one of the better point guards in our league.”


  1. fsdjkfdskl;fd says:

    Could there be another offense or potential for one that they are looking at when speaking of Chris Walker, because this is ridiculous.

  2. gatorboi352 says:

    “Well-informed sources close to the program have believed that Walker would be cleared on a number of different dates only to have them go by without the player getting word that he can step on the court.”

    And that’s why I keep telling people stop believing what you read. Nobody knows anything about his situation. This is the ass backwards NCAA we’re talking about here.

  3. Michael says:

    This is the same NCAA which when Hurricane Katrina hit and flooded the 9th ward and Southern University, told my Nigerian 7-footer, and transfer to Southern U., “You are on your own regardless of the fact your school is flooded, you have nowhere to go, and you are thousands of miles from home…and scholarship homeless, sorry. Oh, and don’t forget, no NCAA School is allowed to touch you (also known as the Monte Towe rule), or that would be an NCAA infraction.

    And don’t get me started about the NCAA “Administrative review” on SAT tests. What a joke!

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