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Monday March 12, 2007Men's Basketball Prepares For First Round Of NCAA Tournament

Gainesville, FL

University of Florida Head Coach Billy Donovan

Media Luncheon Quotes

March 12, 2007

 

Opening statement:

"We're very excited and honored for the chance to compete in the NCAA Tournament, and we're honored to be a No. 1 seed. I had a chance to watch Jackson State a little bit this morning, and they're a team that’s very athletic. They pressure the ball, and they've turned their opponent over quite a bit this year. They've got a great scorer in Trey Johnson. Anytime you look at a scorer, you look at how many shots he's getting up and how many attempts he gets at the basket, but the one thing about him is he's really an efficient offensive player, and I think he'd be able to score in our league like he does right now. He gets to the free-throw line, he shoots threes, he can post, he can get it off the dribble, he's very good offensively and he's probably as talented as any offensive player we've played this year. There are games where he's played against a Georgia Tech or an Alabama and gotten over 30 points. They were on a five-game streak, playing Mississippi Valley State in their championship game, they were up by about 20 at halftime. We'll have a lot to prepare for, because for the last two months, we've had some common opponents, even in the SEC Tournament. We played Georgia for the third time, Ole Miss and Arkansas for the second time, so there's a familiarity with those teams. Starting Friday, however, we'll have to start playing some teams that we're unfamiliar with, and get ready to play."

 

On the influence seeding has on a team:

"I don't think it really makes a difference. When the ball goes up to start the game, I don't think the kids are saying, ‘Hey, I'm a No. 1 seed and therefore we should play differently.’ I think the expectation of this team has been the same all year - it has been very high, but I do not think it makes a huge difference. I don’t think our guys have any concept of that stuff. Sometimes when people say, ‘What are you playing for’ and it's a No. 1 seed, No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament. What they're playing for is a tournament championship, and they're playing to win. They're not worried about seeding. It's out of our control, so it doesn't make much sense for us to think about it too much. When we're all there on Friday, and the ball goes up, it doesn't matter how you're seeded. It's all in how you play."

 

On the desire to win:

"Our guys are smart enough to understand that last year they won the national championship with a No. 3 seed. We’ve gotten to the Final Four with a No. 5 seed. I don’t think it's that big of a deal with what our guys have had to deal with. I think they've all done really well this year. They want to win, and they want to do it together. They're focused on going out and winning and they know that if they don't play well, they're not going to win, regardless of how they're seeded.

 

On the effect being a No. 1. seed could have on opponents:

"The target has not grown. It's really about us. It's about what we need to do. Our guys know that everyone's going to play very well. We've got to get our best shots, and our guys have handled themselves very well. The same thing could be said for Ohio State, Kansas, North Carolina or anyone else, you're playing against teams that want to win, and I think seeding has everything to do with the level of work you've produced all season, but once you've gotten that, it's about playing."

 

On Taurean Green and the backcourt:

"Really, if you look at his assist-to-turnover ratio, especially in the last game of the regular season against Kentucky and then the three games of the tournament, he's done a better job of making decisions and shot-selection. He's gotten the ball to the right spots. I feel like our player and ball movement has maybe not been ideal in some of those road games. When your backcourt, or your point guard, does a good job of taking care of the ball, regardless of what team you are, it's always going to help your team. Lee (Humphrey) and Taurean, I think the last four games, have done a nice job. There was a stretch there where Lee didn't shoot the ball well, and neither did Taurean, and our turnovers were up. That stuff falls on their shoulders, but that's false responsibility because our big guys handle the ball a lot and they play a role in team turnovers. Jackson State is a team that does have pressure, and in the game on Friday, they will be ready, just like we will be. I've been pleased with the way we've responded in the final games of the season. Taurean and I have a great relationship and I've really enjoyed coaching him because he's so competitive and he really has a strong desire to succeed. Sometimes as a coach, you can forget the body of work that he's done in this three-year period he's been here. I have all the confidence in the world in him with the ball in his hands. I have all the trust and confidence in the world in him. That's not to say I don't get upset with him, and sometimes you won't see it, but I'll become upset with him across the court. That's all part of the process of him evolving and getting better as a point guard, but I have total trust and confidence in him and in our team. The greatest compliment I can give this team is that they care. I know they care, and I think anytime you're dealing with a team that cares, they know there's always room to get better, and there's always room for improvement and it's very difficult to make a team better when you have guys that really don't care. These guys care and I think that's one of the greatest things you can have on a team. When everyone cares, there's a lot more you can do and accomplish together."

 

On predicting the tournament:

"I think sometimes we look at a No. 1 seed, a 16-seed, different things like that and people will break things down, but I think that's just all conversation pieces. When the ball gets up in the air and you're playing, all you can do is play your best of your ability, because Jackson State is going to do everything to the best of their ability to beat us. I really don't take comfort in anything. I am proud of our team and proud of what they've been able to accomplish, but right now, I'm putting that behind us and I'm looking at our first game of the tournament. I'm not looking at it and sitting watching it and saying, "Well, a one-seed always beats 16-seed, so we're going to be fine. I don't like that. I look at it in a way that we're going to go out and compete and you've got to play well. If you don't play well, you're not going to win, it's simple."

 

On focusing on the present:

"One of the things I've talked to those guys about all year long is that last year is over with. The banner up in the O'Dome is always going to be there. We can go 0-100, and that banner will still be there. This, right now, has nothing to do with last year. It has nothing to do with experience. If it had to do with experience, we wouldn't have won last year because we had no experience last year. That's for people that want to talk about that kind of stuff. To me, it's not about that. It's about Jackson State and getting ready to play Friday. Those conversations, they either take you into the past and get you hung up on statistics, or they take you into the future. Right now, the most important thing is that our guys are focused on the present. If we don't play well and we lose, we won't be talking about repeating. Right now, to me, it's a one-game tournament for us on Friday night."

 

On expectations:

"It's going to be there. I'd be naïve as a coach to think it's not going to be. I think when you're a No. 1 seed, there's a level of expectation and people are going to be saying that Florida has a chance to get the national championship again. That's the goal, of course, but that's also the goal for the 16-seed as well. In the tournament, it's time to move on and advance, and that is definitely a goal for us, but there's a process you have to go through to get to that point. People are going to be talking about repeating and every time we move on, there will be talk, but how that all factors into my mind is nothing compared to how we play on Friday night. It's great for conversation, it's great to pull out the numbers and talk about how no team has done this or that in the last fifteen years or how this seed has done this or that. I have no idea what that has to do with today. That doesn't mean anything at this point in time. I don't necessarily think the past equals the future."

 

On learning experiences this season:

"We start off No. 1 in the country, and if you are with them everyday like I am, you can see the ups and downs of a season. There's turbulence when you're flying a plane. Start as No. 1 in the country, Corey Brewer gets mono(nucleosis), Al Horford gets his ankle injury, Joakim Noah gets bronchitis. We go through a stretch at the end of November where we lose some games. Then, we win 17 in a row, we're back to No. 1 in the country and it's ‘We're completely indestructible, we're the best, we are awesome, this, this, this and this.’ Then, we lose three games of four and it's ‘The wings have fallen off, we're flying dead into the mountain and we are dead. They're crashing, it's over.’ We win our last home game against Kentucky, we win three games in the SEC Tournament and we're ‘back flying high again.’ Our guys see this, and they understand through those experiences that this is the frame that gets built up and you learn. Joakim Noah never had the expectation on him last year, our team never had it. Hopefully, we have learned from it. We've learned that we're not good enough to just show up and play. Regardless of anyone's opinion of our team, we have to go out and play, and we have to play to the best of our ability. Whether people's expectations are that we're going to win it all, or whether they're that we're playing terrible, it doesn't matter. Someone asked me at the SEC Tournament if we were playing our best basketball. I say, ‘We've played good basketball for the past three days, but three days doesn’t mean we're going to play good basketball on Friday.’ We still have to come out and compete and bring what we can. Jo made a good comment when he said ‘When there's a level of nervousness, a level of concern, a level of being on edge, that's when any team is at their best.’

 

On wearing a jacket and tie to every game:

"I feel extremely restricted and hot. I would sweat profusely (if I kept the jacket on). The AD told me that when I first got hired, that I was required to wear a jacket and tie to every game. I asked him if there was a problem with me taking the jacket off, and he said no. So, I'm just following instructions from the boss. Taking it off makes me feel more comfortable, but I am required to wear a jacket and tie to every game."

 

On the three losses late in the season:

"I'm hopeful that it's been a great learning process for our team. I'm hoping they can take the Vanderbilt game, the LSU game and the game at Tennessee and look at it and say, ‘Wow, I see why we were down double-digit points because we just didn't play that defense that was required to win on the road.’ I think sometimes you have to go backwards to go forward, and our offense wasn't that great during those games. Our shooting percentage wasn't that great. Our total field goal percentage wasn't that bad. Our turnovers were a little more than we'd like. We didn't even give ourselves a chance in those games against Vanderbilt, LSU and Tennessee because we're giving up 50 percent shooting to each team. I'm hopeful that we were able to learn that our defense has to be constant the entire time. That way, if it is constant, and one night you're shooting is a little off, you can at least have a little cushion for yourself and put yourself in a position to win."

 

 

Florida Player Quotes (March 12, 2007)

 

Sophomore guard Walter Hodge

On his improved play recently:

“I think you have to take what is open. When the three is open, you have to take it. When the drive it open, you have to take it. We are just taking whatever is given to us and taking advantage of that. You’re not a freshman anymore. You have to help your team and play hard every time. You’re a sophomore now – you’re a veteran. You have to do whatever you can to help your team.”

 

On liking the phrase ‘Defending National Champions’:

“We don’t like that. That’s over. We are in a new season. Nobody is going to take that championship. We are playing for another one – it’s a new season.”

 

On the play of the guards in recent games:

“I think we’re good. We understand what the team was doing wrong when we lost the three games. Taurean is playing great. He’s passing and shooting the ball well. He’s so smart. He runs the team.”

 

On playing a 16th-seeded team:

“We don’t even think about that. We just come and play hard with whoever we’ve got to play.”

 

On the team’s play in the SEC tournament:

We came out with a lot of intensity and were able to get out to early leads in the first three or four minutes of the game – that helped us. In the three recent losses, we were down, so we came out strong early in the SEC tournament games. We came and played aggressive basketball, and were focused on winning games.

 

 

Senior guard Lee Humphrey:

On closing out his SEC career with three-consecutive championships:

“I think it’s a very good way to go. That’s one of the reasons I came to Florida – to have a chance to win championships – and to end out my senior year as the regular-season and tournament champion is pretty exciting.”

 

On how special the SEC Championship is in the shadow of a national championship:

“It’s special. The national championship is kind of a finale, but I think that a regular-season championship shows that you have been consistent throughout the season and that you played well in your conference. You’re the best team in your conference, so it’s a pretty special championship to win.”

 

On the importance of Taurean Green:

“I think he’s really important. He’s a point guard, and he’s our leader on the floor. He directs the offense and runs the team, so when he’s playing well it makes us tough to beat.”

 

On his current awareness of the team’s legacy:

“We’ve talked about it a little bit. We are aware that we’ve won a lot of games here at Florida and done a lot of stuff that had never happened in school history. We have a chance to do something that has never happened in a while, and we’ve love to do that, but we are not going to focus on that.”

 

On when it hit him that it was a reality the team was playing with a target on its back in every game this year:

“I don’t know when it us - probably from the beginning. We knew we were going to get teams’ best shots every time we played them, and I think for the most part we have. You just have to be ready to go each night.”

 

On if the target on the team gets any bigger in the NCAA tournament:

“I don’t know if it gets any bigger because teams have played their best against us all year, and once you get in the NCAA tournament everybody is going to play their best. If you lose, you’re done, so everybody will have that target on their back.”

 

On how he thinks Joakim Noah has handled the attention he’s received this year:

“I think he’s handled it really well. It’s amazing how much attention he gets in road games. He’s the focus of other team’s fans and media. He’s handled it well. He’s a great team player, and he’s pretty much played the exact same way he did last year.”

 

On going into the season as the No. 1 seed:

“I think it just shows that we’ve had a really good season throughout the whole year, and that we played well. The NCAA tournament committee awarding us a number-one seed is a sign of respect for what we’ve done, but once the tournament starts, seeding really doesn’t matter. We learned last year that you can win the championships as a No. 3 seed, so you have to be ready to play every night.”

 

 

Junior forward Corey Brewer:

On the difference going into the tournament this year as a No. 1 seed:

“I feel like we are going to be more prepared and that we are focused this year. Last year, we really didn’t know what it was all about at the tournament. We had been there as freshmen, but we didn’t play that much. Now I think we will be focused and ready to go.”

 

On if he feels like the team is unbeatable:

“I wouldn’t say unbeatable, but I feel like when we are on top of our game, we are going to be hard to beat. As long as we play together like we are now, we are going to be a tough out.”

 

On the fans chanting “one more year” after the SEC tournament championship game:

“You really don’t think about it right now. We are just trying to finish out this year strong, and then we’ll let the fans and everybody else know what the deal is. If we go out, we hope we go out with a national title – let’s put it that way.”

 

On whether or not the No. 16 seed concerns him:

“Every team concerns me. We have to be prepared for no matter who it is because 15-seed have beaten two-seeds. A 16-seed could beat a number one if they play their best game, so we have to ready and go out there and play our game.”

 

 

Junior guard Taurean Green:

On his current awareness of the team’s legacy:

“I think a few years from now we’ll look back and be like, ‘Wow,’ we really won a national championship,’ and hopefully we can say the same thing about this year.”

 

On what will be the team’s motivation this year as the No. 1 seed:

“A chance to win another national championship. I think once you have the opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament, there’s going to be critics out there saying ‘Florida is going to lose in the Sweet 16, Florida’s going to lose in the Elite Eight, Florida might lose in the first round.’ Everyone is going to have their opinions, so we’ll find something else to motivate us.”

 

On the hype that has been surrounding the team all year:

“We can’t really pay attention to all that stuff. We just have to worry about ourselves, worry about the team and do what is best for the team in order for us to get a win.”

 

 

Junior forward Joakim Noah:

On how much tougher it is going into this NCAA tournament No. 1 overall seed:

“I think that everybody wants to win, so I don’t think you sneak up on anybody because nobody wants to go home. If you are not prepared for a team – that’s your fault. We’re the No. 1 seed, but that doesn’t really mean much to us. If we were the No. 2 seed, I really think we’d have the same mentality of ‘We don’t want to go home. We want to keep playing.’

 

On finishing his third year of college basketball:

“I think that some people just don’t realize how special this is, and there’s nothing like the NCAA tournament. To me, it’s the purest form of sports. If you look at the NBA, you can have a bad game in the playoffs and it’s ok because you can come back the next game. In the tournament, there’s so much emotion and it’s pure – it’s win or go home. If you lose, you go home. That’s just how it is in the NCAA tournament. The best team doesn’t always win. If you don’t come ready to play and come focused, all it takes is one night and it’s over.”

 

On the biggest upset he’s been a part of, either as the favorite or as the underdog:

“I haven’t been a part of it, but when I think about it I always think about the Florida-Ohio State game in football. That’s what I think of. For us, I think we are in a little bit of a different situation. I think the football team was kind of how we were last year, in a sense that nobody really believed in us to go all the way. Everybody picked Ohio State and there was no chance that Florida was going to win. It’s crazy because I think the media can be a good thing, and it was a good thing in the sense that it really fueled those Florida football players to do what they had to do, and to focus on what they had to do. I think it made them angry, and they played like that. They played possessed out there. If you look at Earl Everett’s play, I’ll remember that for the rest of my life. He was going after guys without his helmet. That just shows how hungry those guys were.”

 

 

Senior forward Chris Richard:

On the difference going into the tournament this year compared to last year:

“It’s not that big of a difference, because when the tournament starts, everybody is ready to win and everyone is vulnerable on any given night. I think it’s pretty much the same, because everybody comes ready to play in the tournament.”

 

 

Junior center Al Horford:

On if he’s excited about the first round game:

“You have to be. It’s your first game. You can’t move on if you don’t take care of business.”

 

On playing with such high expectations this season:

“We set our own standards, and we can’t live up to what everybody wants us to be, so we are just trying to enjoy the positives. Yesterday, we celebrated really hard because that’s something you don’t get to do everyday. We were really excited about it.”

 

On what he does with his pieces of net:

“I gave the one to my dad yesterday, and my mom has some other ones. I don’t keep them.”

 

On how the enjoyment has been this year compared to last year with the expectation for this season:

“I think the enjoyment is different, because this year we knew that we were going to be under the microscope, and I feel that our team has been able to stay together through the ups and downs. We’ve overcame adversity quite a few times, and I feel that makes a team stronger. You enjoy and appreciate the ride more when you are going through it a second time.”

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