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Monday March 15, 2010Donovan Addresses The Media As Gators Prepare For BYU

Gainesville, Fla.

Florida Head Coach Billy Donovan

NCAA Preview Press Conference

March 15, 2010

 

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Opening statement on playing BYU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament:

“We’ve got a lot to get prepared for. One, we’re playing a team from out West. Last night and this morning, we’ve had a chance to watch them play. They’ve got a great player in the point guard spot, (Jimmer) Fredette. We’ve seen two great guards in our league in (Devan) Downey and (John) Wall and I’m not sure those two guys can have an impact in a game like Fredette can. He went on the road to Arizona and picked up 49 points. In the first round of their conference finals, he scored 45. He’s an unbelievable player. They obviously have a lot of great pieces around him as well. They’re a team that’s been ranked very high all year long. There is a lot for our team to get ready for playing early Thursday. We’ll have today, Tuesday and Wednesday to get ready for a really great team and a big challenge for us.”

 

On viewing this season as a step in the right direction for the Florida program:

“To me, as a coach, it’s one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences I’ve ever gone through. I say that in the fact that I think there were some really great stories that were missed this year. What I mean by that is that going back to 2007, when you lose (Joakim) Noah, (Al) Horford, (Corey) Brewer, Chris Richards, Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey, that is a set-up for disaster in a program. Our guys, after that year, were a team that had the chance to get to the Tournament and we came up a little bit short. Then we lost Marreese Speights. Last year, we went to the SEC Tournament with a chance, again, to play in the NCAA Tournament, and we came up short. Then we lost (Nick) Calathes. When I think of (Dan) Werner and (Chandler) Parsons, (Alex) Tyus, and Vernon Macklin – what these kids have done, and the changes and growth I have seen, will go down as one of the most special group of guys I have ever coached. These kids, every year, got better and better and better. Maybe we weren’t a top five team in the country, but for me as a coach, that is the thing that is so rewarding; to see those kids get to that point, getting to where they wanted to go. Really, it probably should have taken a lot longer with what we’ve lost the past couple of years. These kids deserve a lot of credit. I’m happy for them. To see their growth, I’m just very proud and happy.”

 

On what Selection Sunday was like waiting to hear about a tournament berth:

“It’s a great lesson, and I hope our guys really understand this: there’s so much talk and speculation out there. No one knows. Nobody knows. My message to those guys was to focus on what you can control. Focus on what we have to do. It was out of our control. We knew either way we would have a great opportunity. Clearly, coming out of the SEC, I think we were in the NCAA tournament. But obviously there were some things that happened in the last 24-48 hours with a lot of conference tournaments that took the control out of our hands. We have the opportunity on Thursday to now focus on what we can control, now knowing that we’re in the NCAA Tournament. We have an even greater opportunity for growth right now in a short period of time, I’m hopeful that now they can understand what this is all about. Starting with these guys two years ago, we couldn’t even practice, it was so bad. Last year their work ethic improved, but they still didn’t understand what they needed to do to win. This year, they have a better understanding of what it takes to beat some of the quality teams we did beat this year, but it was a process for those guys.”

 

On weight being taken off his shoulders after earning a tournament bid following two NIT years:

“No, not one bit. For me as a coach, the only thing that I want to do is try and help our guys experience it. I would say this: if it all ended for me without getting to the tournament this year and I never coached again, I had the chance to play in the Final Four, I had the chance to get drafted and play in the NBA, I was a part of five Final Fours, had the chance to compete as a coach in three National Championship games, have coached and won conference championships, and I’ve had the chance to win two National Championships. It’s not about me. I’ve experienced all that stuff. There’s nothing more in college basketball that I can experience as it relates to winning. But it is so rewarding to take a group of guys, that have no clue what goes in to any of this stuff, and see them grow and get to the NCAA Tournament. The pressure I felt was not for me, it was to help those guys understand and see what goes into this, to take advantage of their talent, to be unselfish. I felt the pressure on myself to help them.  I didn’t feel pressure to get back into the Tournament. I’m happy that I can be a part of helping those guys.”

 

On the challenge of helping a young group of guys learn through practice:

“There were different things that these guys had to go through. There are two ways to learn, through your own experiences, and sometimes that can be a lot more painful and take a lot longer, and you can learn through other situations. This is a group that went through a lot of difficulties. They had to experience things to have a better understanding. You’re always trying to draw up and bring out points to your team that can help them grow and develop. It wasn’t their fault two years ago; there was no leadership within our program. We had three or four guys returning that had never played before. Losing seven guys off a team, five of which got drafted, there was no reason for them to do it. I made them all come back for Summer A after last season to put the work in. It’s the whole perception and perspective of what the reality is and keeping your mind and focus on the reality. Our team is better than it was a year ago with our best player being gone in Nick (Calathes) and I think our team is better than when Marreese Speights was here after his freshman year. We would have been a whole lot better if both those guys stayed, but the whole core of guys got better and that’s what is so rewarding to me. When you see the growth and steps, you have to have some level of fulfillment. That’s what it’s all about for me.”

 

On defending the three against BYU:

“The one thing is they don’t take a lot of threes. It’s not like Auburn, who was taking around 27 a game, and Mississippi State who was taking over 25 a game. This is not a high volume three-point shooting team. What it is is a high-volume making team. It’s pretty impressive when you’re looking at the stats and they’re making a little bit more than eight threes a game on the number of attempts they’re taking. Forty-one percent is an incredible number. That is a great challenge and a huge key in the game, but it’s not like that’s all they do. They get fouled a lot and shoot around 78 percent from the free-throw line. (Jimmer) Fredette had 45 points and got to the free-throw line himself 23 times. That’s incredible. They’re a team that shoots a high percentage in threes and they’re a team that gets to the free-throw line and gets fouled a lot. Guarding the three-pointers are going to be a critical piece against them.”

 

On Ray Shipman’s development and play the last couple of games:

“Ray has an unbelievable opportunity coming up. I think in a lot of ways, everything that’s been inside of him the last couple games has always been there. Ray’s a great kid and when he was awarded the Scholar Athlete of the Year award in the SEC, that was a big jolt of confidence for him. The fact that he’s a good basketball player and a good student and that he was recognized for that made him feel really good, and in some way, instilled some confidence in him. He needs to not worry about awards and realize that how he came out last week has always been in him. If he keeps doing what he did in the SEC Tournament and we can get the same energy out of him, that would really help our team and make us a little bit deeper.”

 

On freshman Kenny Boynton:

“His shooting has been really up and down all year long, but he really showed me a lot in the Mississippi State game. As high profile of a high school player as he was coming to college, he’s a humble guy. He’s a great, great chemistry guy. Of all our great players, he reminds me attitude-wise of Mike Miller. Mike was a highly decorated guy coming in here. Boynton understands his team, he plays the right way, he wants to win. There’s so much more he can get better at. There are two things you can’t argue about Kenny. He plays really, really hard and really defends and he comes in with a certain amount of respect level for the guys that are older than him. He came in with the attitude of wanting to earn the respect. A lot of high profile guys come in and expect the team to respect them because of their status. He had the reverse attitude and has been an incredible chemistry creator for our team. Kenny and Erving (Walker) have done an unbelievable job as our only two backcourt guys, a freshman and a sophomore. They also stayed healthy this year and that was big for us. Boynton has had an incredible freshman year.”

 

On what the Gators will do to defend the threes that BYU does shoot after having a tough time defending the three this season in general:

“I think part of the reason our three-point defense percentage hasn’t been great has been is one, going into the Vanderbilt game, our first conference game, (A.J.) Ogilvy really created a lot of problems for us. He really hurt us a lot in that game in Nashville. He had our entire front court in foul trouble. What we did on Ogilvy was try to shrink the floor to keep the ball out of his hands. Where you are then vulnerable is behind that three-point line and that hurts. In the Kentucky game, with (DeMarcus) Cousins and (Patrick) Patterson, all of our front court players had two fouls in the first half. We didn’t want to have anyone in foul trouble. This game with BYU is going to be a game where our front court is really going to have to do a good job because (Jonathan) Tavernari and some of their other big guys up front are really good players. They’re skilled, they can shoot, they can put it on the floor and post up. We’re going to have to really do both in this game. Vernon (Macklin) and Erik (Murphy) and Dan (Werner) and Alex (Tyus) are going to get caught playing a little one-on-one probably, because I don’t think with (Jimmer) Fredette, you want to drop off him. He’s too good.”

 

On how you create hunger and not get complacent after making the NCAA Tournament once a team has realized they’ve arrived:

“That’s exactly what this whole growth process is about right now. Are we happy? Are we complacent? Do we feel like we’ve reached our goal? Or do we have more to do? I’ll never forget when (Joakim) Noah was a sophomore and we went through a stretch where we hadn’t made it out of the first or second round for five years, or whatever it was, and we played in Jacksonville and made it out of there. I overheard a comment by Noah, ‘It’s not about us getting out of the first or second round, it’s about us doing something special right now.’ That was a mentality that he had that was instilled in him at a young age. It wasn’t about getting out of the first and second round and being smooth sailing from then on. There has been so much talk about our team not being in the tournament the last couple years and now we’re there, how will we handle that? We have the greatest opportunity of growth in front of us. Do we take this opportunity, go out there and try to play the best game of our lives on Thursday, let the chips fall where they may and focus on what’s in our control? That’s what I’m talking about in taking responsibility and being self-reflective on what we can control in this game on Thursday. It’s going to be a key growth period for us on how we respond.”

 

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