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Tuesday March 28, 2006UF Players and Coaches Prepare For Final Four

Gainesville, FL

University of Florida Head Coach Billy Donovan
March 28, 2006
Media Luncheon

Opening comments…
“We are excited for the opportunity to play on the last weekend of college basketball in Indianapolis. George Mason, like most this time of year, is very balanced with five guys in double-figure scoring. They have two low-post players who are good passers and good offensive scorers. They have athleticism and strength. They have three guards that are interchangeable, who can shoot threes and drive it. Going into this game, it is very clear how good George Mason is just based on the teams that they have beat up to this point in time. So, there is a lot to get ready for, and we are excited for the challenge to play them.”

On Joakim Noah and Al Horford…
“Our teamhas played unselfishly all year long. Joakim (Noah) and Al (Horford) have rebounded well for us, they have given us low-post presence, they have given us shot-blocking and they certainly add a different dimension to our team. There are different types of players and these two compliment each other pretty well.”

On players handling the increased media attention…
“Our guys have to be able to handle that pressure. There are a lot of distractions, there is a lot of tugging and a lot of things you have to deal with that are different from the regular season. No one on our team has been to this point, and I am doing the best I can, with the experience that I have had, to narrow their focus. I want them to enjoy where they are at because it is the pinnacle of college basketball to get to this point. At the same time, you have to keep the focus there and put yourself in position to play the best basketball.”

On the focus on Joakim Noah’s success…
“Jo is such a captivating kid with such a great personality and enthusiasm. One thing that I respect about him is that when the media comes to him in the locker room or wherever, he wants to spread it around. He doesn’t view himself as a celebrity or a team leader. He just doesn’t look at it that way, and our guys respect that. Jo is also smart enough to know that each guy on our team has played a significant role in where we are going to right now.”

On the team’s chemistry…
“The important thing with team chemistry is for guys being able to accept the other guys, not for what they like about them, but for their faults. The hardest thing is to be around someone or care about someone who rubs you the wrong way. Once you can deal with that and look through it, that is when the chemistry and the bond grow. Over and over again, our guys have displayed a genuine level of love, care and concern for one another. It has allowed them to accept each other for the good and bad.”

On growing since the 2000 Final Four appearance…
“I probably have a greater level of appreciation now in winning an SEC Championship last year, this year and having the chance to go to the Final Four, to see it make other people happy. Looking back, I was just so focused on just doing my job and help our team grow and develop, but I probably didn’t take the time to see other people so happy. One of the great moments I will always remember is, after beating Villanova, our trainer came to me and said, “Thank you coach, you don’t know what this means to go to a Final Four.” That is what I enjoy focusing on more now. I want everyone to feel good about playing a part in this and look forward to getting to that point where you cut down the net.”

Sophomore Center Al Horford

On George Mason:
"I can't consider them a mid-major team. I don't look at them that way. They are a really good team."

"I don't know who's saying that (we should easily beat George Mason) because they beat Connecticut and (UConn) was the popular pick to win it all. So if (George Mason) beat them, you cannot say them we are just going to steamroll over them. But I know that we're going to come out and win the game."

On the team's popularity on campus:
"Everyone's showing us a lot of love. Everyone is pretty excited about what's going on right now."

On making the Final Four:
"We're pretty excited about it, but we've got to this point and now we're trying to go on and win a national championship."

"(We want to) do what we've been doing all year, and keep the same routine. We really don't have to change anything."

Junior Guard Lee Humphrey

On the team's chemistry:
"We all get along really well. We're with each other all the time so we're real close."

On Billy Donovan:
"Coach has a good personality, we're with him a lot. We get to see all the different sides of him. He is intense especially at practice. But he is good at coming up with some quick comments to throw out at us. He is a fun guy to be around, on and off the court. He's not always business."

"Sometimes he'll pick up the ball and shoot it around or play a game of horse."

 

Sophomore Forward Corey Brewer

On the key to the Gators' postseason run:
"We're playing defense, we're not giving up three pointers. Three pointers are the equalizers of college basketball like Coach Donovan always says."

On playing in the McDonald's All-American game:
"Rudy Gay was my roommate. It was a lot of fun. Rudy is a good guy. (LSU center Glen Davis) is a clown. All the guys had different personalities."

On the SEC sophomore class which includes himself, Joakim Noah, Glen Davis and Rajon Rondo:

"I feel like that class was one of the best ever, when we came out of high school. We had something like nine guys go to the NBA and the sophomore class is playing well in the NCAA (tournament) right now."

 On not looking past George Mason:
"It's very important to (focus on George Mason). They're no pushovers, they could beat us and we'll be back here Saturday night."

Sophomore Forward Joakim Noah

On the youth of the Florida team:
"It's so overrated. When you are playing basketball, it is not about youth or age. It is about experiences that you have on the court. Corey Brewer and Al Horford started their freshman year. I may not have gotten the same amount of playing time that they did last year, but we have been through a lot this year. We won the first 17 games, and then we went through losing three games in a row, we have been through a lot. We have played in a lot of pressure situations. We have been through a lot of ups and downs. The (NCAA) tournament is the big test and we've handled it pretty well so far."

"We're not thinking about next year. Right now, it is all about seizing the moment. This experience is indescribable."

On fulfilling his dream:
"It hasn't been fulfilled yet. It will be if we win (the national championship). Then the dream will come true."

On the attention he has received:
"It's tough. I know that without my teammates I would not be getting the publicity I am getting right now. In the beginning, I worried about how my teammates would react. It is weird when one person is getting all the attention, because deep in my heart I know that everybody deserves it. I know that without guys like Corey Brewer and Al Horford, I would not be getting all the high percentage shots that I am getting. I am busting my butt and working hard, but so is everyone else. We are sharing the ball and playing unselfishly. We are not worried about statistics, it is all about winning. We're all on the same page especially on defense."

On Florida being a team of destiny:
"I don't look at it as being destiny. I look at it in terms of playing basketball and having fun. Basketball is something that we have been doing since we were little kids. (The media attention) is the hardest part. Playing basketball is not the hard part, I have been doing that all my life. Before the game, I am so nervous, but when the ball goes up, I realize that this is the game I love. It's not our destiny, it's basketball, we play possession by possession and hopefully we win."

On when he realized this season was going to be special:
"I remember coming back from Coach Donovan's house in Lee Humphrey's little truck, that hardly worked and no one said anything for a while. Then all of a sudden, (Lee) was like 'Jo, we're going to be really good'. And I looked and him and said 'Humpty, you're right.' I think we always knew it could something special, because everyone has the same goals on this team and that's winning."

On Lee Humphrey:
"Lee doesn't get the credit he deserves, because if he weren't out there it would be a lot harder. Even if he does not hit the shots, which he has been, it opens up the floor for the rest of us. "

On Coach Donovan:
"He's like my father away from home."

Senior Forward Adrian Moss

On Florida's defense:
"Defense has always been important to Coach (Donovan). It's just that we're playing better defense this year. Coach (Donovan) has always been an offensive-minded, but he also puts a lot of emphasis on defense."

On Assistant Coach Larry Shyatt:
"Coach Shyatt is a great guy. He's a pleasure to be around. He's always happy and upbeat. The first time at met him, I was in the cafeteria at Fort Union (Military Academy) with (Florida Assistant) Coach (Anthony) Grant and Coach Donovan.  He was trying to get me to go to Clemson (where Shyatt was head coach), but I decided to come here instead."

Junior Center Chris Richard

On George Mason:
"I think they're more of a traditional Cinderella. But at the start of the tournament, we were the Cinderella. No on thought we would make it this far, but now we're in the Final Four."

On George Mason's bench:
"We press a lot and that forces all five players on the court to run around a lot because someone has to break to the ball. So the post players are running a lot more than they are used to. Since we have four good post players coming in and constantly running, it wears them down a lot more because they aren't used to that."

On making the Final Four:
"It's great for us as a team. It will help us out a lot in the long run. I think we will always be remembered, whether we win (the title) or not. But if we win, we may go down as the best Gator basketball team ever. It may be other teams (in Florida history) that had more talent than us, but in terms of accomplishment, no other team has won a national championship. We won the SEC (tournament), we are back in the Final Four, and we broke a lot of (school) records. I think we may go down as one of the best Florida teams ever.

On Coach Donovan:
"I think he's calm with us, not because we are a young team, but we're a smart team. We pick up on things real fast. We make his job a lot easier. The only time he gets mad is when we're not focused and not playing as a team.

Sophomore Guard Taurean Green

On George Mason:
"I didn't know anything about them before the tournament. They made some noise in the tournament, they proved that they are a good team. They can shoot and they have some good post players. They like to play pressure defense. We have come ready to take on those challenges. It's going to be a 40-minute game."

On adjusting to different styles:
"We've had to play a different type of game every game (in the NCAA tournament), Against Georgetown, we had to play defense for 30 seconds every time, Villanova liked to play up-tempo, so we just have to adjust."


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