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Monday March 2, 2009Donovan Addresses Media As Gators Prepare For Mississippi State

Gainesville, Fla.

On upcoming gave against Mississippi State

“We are playing a team on the road that, I think, is very unique in the fact that they’ve got maybe the best shot-blocker in the country and a great low post player in (Jarvis) Vernado. Then in a lot of ways, playing four guards around him that really shoot the ball extremely well. I know as of late, they have had their ups and downs shooting the ball but there is no question they are an extremely capable three-point shooting team and a team that can make 10 or 15 threes in a game. They have great speed and quickness and have always played well at home and there is a lot for us and a quick turnaround having played yesterday and we have to leave tomorrow and get ready here having had a Sunday game. We will practice here at 2:45 and try to get as prepared as we can before we leave tomorrow.”


On recruiting more athletic players

“I think there is always a balance there. You have to have a balance and I think that some of our deficiencies are probably due to a lack of recruitment on my part and I say that probably going through some time in the past where sometimes it’s hard to sign guys because you can’t forecast the future. Some guys are concerned with and need to be told how much of a role they will have and how much they are going to play so it is a risk for them because some kids coming out of high school want the opportunity to play right away. We really got caught with a team, that last year with four returning players being Walter Hodge, Dan Werner, Marreese Speights, and Jonathan Mitchell and then Mitchell and Speights were gone so it is in a lot of ways a rebuilding process to get the right pieces. There is no question that through recruiting maybe some of the areas that we are lacking is on athleticism. I also think that you can go to an extreme and have really quick, athletic guys but then you don’t have shooting and you don’t have passing so I always think there is a balance in trying to piece those things together where you can have good shooting, you can have athletic recruits, and you can have post presence. I think good teams have all of those parts together and certainly athleticism stands out for us but we think our guys within their own physical capabilities are trying. The next part for them is going from establishing a work ethic that I didn’t think they had last year to having one this year is to go into a situation of understanding the commitment that is necessary to really win provided some of the deficiencies we are talking about.”


On Ray Shipman’s playing time

“There is always a transition period for a high school guy coming in. I think the consistency for Kenny Kadji, Chaney has obviously dealt with a foot injury and so has Vargas, their impact and contributions this year, have been limited because of those things. The one thing for Shipman is getting him, and I think at times he is starting to see this, I think a lot of times it is a unique situation. When a guy comes out of high school and he is scoring 25 and 30 points a game and shows that he has the skill level to play at this level and that he has always relied on that, there is a shift in focus in what they really have to do. I think for Ray, understating the impact he could make defensively and then also understanding on the offensive end of the floor that there will be times where he may not be a priority or option on offense but he could go to the offensive back door or we could put him on somebody. I think for those things that has been about as big of a learning curve for Ray as anything else he has had in front of him this year. The first thing he has to do is show he can take that kind of a role as this defensive guy we are talking about when in a lot of respects he probably didn’t have to do that a lot. He played defense and came from a great high school program but it is a change and shift from a guy who was a leading scorer to now having this kind of a role. One thing for a guy like Erving Walker coming out of high school that he didn’t do a lot was he didn’t defend like he needed to and I think a lot of high school guys are like that when they get here. But with Erving, he has been able to see a little quicker and faster his window of having to close that gap of understanding what it is about. Erving has been able to impact games with his defense and has understood how to incorporate that and I think Ray is still trying to figure that out.  Ray has definitely gotten better but the biggest thing that he has to realize is for him to be a great defender he needs to deal with stamina. I think stamina is always an issue for younger kids when they get fatigued and tire a lot quicker than other guys because the length of a possession, the amount of screens you have to get over, what you have to do defensively and what goes in to defense. Not only doing all of that stuff, but also understanding what is coming, how complicated a lot of offenses can be and what is getting ready to develop. That is an area that Dan Werner is really strong in. Dan can stand there defensively and as a play starts to develop, he knows exactly what is getting ready to happen so he can get himself exactly in the right spot. Sometimes Ray and these younger guys don’t see that and they are in the wrong spot. Then all of the sudden, even a guy like Ray who has got pretty good athleticism, it gets taken away because he really is not in the rot spot and gets in a situation where he has to react and recover that weakness instead of it being a strength. Those are things I think he has to get better in terms of the basketball piece of understanding shot selection, understanding defensive principles when five guys are on the court. He has gotten better but it’s probably not totally fair for Ray in a lot of respects. What I mean by that is because we have some size deficiencies and some strength deficiencies, we have had to play a little bit different on defense in terms of playing zone and matching up and trying to protect the inside. So for Ray, mentally trying to figure out the zone, slide, how we are moving, how the zone changes based on scouting and personnel and who we are guarding, I think that is a lot for him that gets thrown on his plate. Ray would probably be a lot better if we were just straight man-to-man and he could just play somebody man-to-man. That would probably be easier for him but sometimes, that being good for Ray it may not be the best thing for the other four guys out there. You try to figure out how you can balance and work with all of those guys together.


On if any adjustments need to be made on the perimeter on defense

“We switched yesterday in the middle of possessions coming down in the last five minutes. We played man for about 20 seconds then we switched to zone in the middle of the possession. I thought that helped us. When we are in man-to-man and they are getting ready to run a man play and then all of the sudden we shift into a zone which maybe helped out and we weren’t getting exposed on one-on -one matchups. When Walter and Erving are in the game together it makes us a smaller perimeter team where other teams are shooting over us. When those guys are in together sometimes they can get into spots on the floor where Erving gets matched-up on a guy like Prince and it makes it hard. You have two dilemmas, we can definitely play better on the perimeter defense but you also have to understand that comes at the expense that you are leaving Werner and Tyus on the backend and are really putting them in a situation where they can get in foul trouble. The balance of trying to do both things is a challenge.”


On Freshman Eloy Vargas’ physical development

“The biggest thing with Eoy right now, his biggest challenge, is the same thing that Chaney and Kenny are challenged with. It is the stamina issue for him and them. When you are a guy in high school that is 6’10 or 6’11, you can just stand in the lane, block shots, and stay there. It’s a little bit easier. But when you talk about just a minute in the game, running back in transition, having to play post defense, having to show on the pick and role, having to come over and help, having to block out, having to run the floor, and having to set screens. That stuff really fatigues those guys to the point where it makes it really hard for them to be efficient in the game. A lot of times freshmen can break down the game because of the fatigue issues and that really becomes the factor for them. I would think for a young guy like Erving, he gets fatigued a lot, more than Walter and Nick does, just stamina wise. I think that has been Eloy’s biggest challenge, stamina and conditioning, not that he is not working at it but understanding that when he does get tired and learning how to fight through when he does get fatigued.”


On if intensity is being raised in practice with only two games left

“I think the intensity has always been raised and has always been good. I felt like with our three days of practice going into yesterday, you really try to keep the intensity up and also try to balance the fact that those guys played a lot of minutes yesterday and coming back and having a practice today. We need to get guys that played between 15 and 10, 15 and 5 minutes, you need to get them some extra work conditioning wise because we need to keep them moving. How much we can learn and get better from some of the things from our last game that I think is important. I think you always want to keep a high level of intensity.”


On the team’s motivation

“Just our guys understanding that we have been through this before, playing a whole possession together on offense and defense. Being able to overcome adversity I think for our younger guys it is very easy for when things are going well to feel good but I also think that sometimes you hold together as a team when you go through those difficult stretches in the game. Motivation for those guys, what it comes down to for me is their commitment. If they are trying, I tell them you are supposed to try. It’s the commitment of the five guys on the floor that I am not going to break down, they have to be reliable and do it. I think they are trying to come together as a team, I think they are trying to do that but we still need to get better at it.”


On coming short in close games

“I have a little bit of a different feeling on some of those things. To me a lot of times, I see the same thing going on in the first half as the second half. For instance, when we played LSU, in the first half we got down by eight points. The same thing happened in the second half. We got down by eight points. So in both halves, there is that microcosm of both things going on. We do a pretty good job of trying to fight back but sometimes the inconsistency when we get down, like we did yesterday by 12, there is enough time to make it up. Sometimes we pull close enough but we still do the same things that got us down by eight but what happens is we were playing well, doing the right thing for a little bit of time, and making a little bit of a run. We are down by 16 and then we have 2 ½ minutes of really good basketball and cut the lead down to eight and then all of the sudden there is that play, or someone breaks down, or we foul, or there is bad shot. Then what happens is it gets kind of magnified. What people aren’t seeing is that is also going on in the first half. It’s not like it is anything different. There are things going on like that during the course of the game. Whether it be against LSU on the road, or Tennessee yesterday, or even Kentucky we are trying to get them to see just how small their margin of error is. It is so small, that when one guy breaks down or you have some plays when something breaks down on defense, someone takes a quick ill advised shot, someone fouls, all of this stuff magnifies these things. That is all part of these guys understanding. One of the things that really go into winning is that you really have to play correct. I think that is our challenge as a team and as coaches to correct those things.”

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