Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- When the Florida Gators reported for practice Sunday, each player found a sheet of paper in their locker, courtesy of Coach Billy Donovan.
Actually, courtesy of leadership guru John C. Maxwell.
Maxwell penned the famed creed, “The Law of the Price Tag,” and the UF coach thought the words of wisdom appropriate as the Gators looked to put the pieces together following back-to-back losses at No. 1-ranked Kentucky (understandable) and at home against previously winless-on-the-road Tennessee (confounding).
The message: “Basically, there is a price you have to pay every single day, in terms of being a good player and a good team,” Donovan said. “And there are no shortcuts.”
Each player looked over the laws.
“If guys really do read them, they’ll cause you to soul-search and look at yourself about being really all-in for the team,” sophomore center Patric Young said. “Definitely, guys can buy into that. Guys need to buy in.”
Some of the laws:
- Our team will get exactly what we pay for.
- Seldom do you get more than you pay for.
- Success will not come easy or cheaper than the price you pay.
So after a pre-practice meeting, the Gators (19-6, 7-3) were on the practice court and their coach was looking for a new-found commitment to both focus and preparation as they eyed Tuesday’s bounce-back opportunity against Alabama (16-8, 5-5) at Coleman Coliseum, the first leg of back-to-back Southeastern Conference road games and a league run of four away dates over the next five.
The upcoming weeks -- and where the season is headed -- will be about how these players respond to this run of adversity. Consecutive defeats. The loss of valuable frontcourt backup Will Yeguete to a second concussion. Mike Rosario’s hip pointer that will keep him out of a second straight game. The pressure to perform. An opponent with its back to the wall, also. On the road.
Assistant coach John Pelphrey laid it out rather cleverly (and loudly) to tip off practice Sunday.
“JOAKIM NOAH AIN’T COMIN’ THROUGH THAT DOOR, GUYS!”
For sure, all they have are themselves; and not even the full compliment of themselves.
“We have to act appropriately and come together as a team,” reserve guard Scottie Wilbekin said.
- Each team member must decide in his heart whether the goal is worth the price he will have to pay.
- Sacrifice. Be sure no matter what you expect to give for the team, at some point more will be asked.
- The strength of the team is impacted by its weakest link. Is that you?
There is a trait Donovan hasn’t seen consistently from this group of players this season, and his message and method is about locating it now.
A little fight.
“Just handling adversity inside of practice. Sometimes you can see that kind of stuff flower,” Donovan said. “It’s not an adversity where they’re yelling and screaming at each other or yelling and pointing fingers or, ‘It’s your fault,’ or there’s like this dissension. It’s none of that. It’s almost to the point where they can get dejected, frustrated and down and they need to fight more. They need to battle through those kind of situations better, and we have shown signs of doing that.”
Sunday’s practice, for what it’s worth, was very good. The staff thought it was one of the more productive and enthusiastic of the season. That’s saying something given the lackluster effort of the previous week, when Donovan had to throw the team out of the gym Thursday -- the first practice after the Kentucky blowout -- and scheduled another for 10 o’clock that night.
“Not everybody was there mentally,” junior guard Kenny Boynton said. “Some people practiced hard, others didn’t.”
And it showed two days later.
- The price must be paid by everyone. You have to give up something to be a member of the team.
- The price must be paid all the time. There are no victories at bargain prices.
- The price never decreases. Most teams don’t quit at the bottom of the mountain; they quit half-way up.
The Gators will face a Crimson Tide squad smothered in controversy.
Coach Anthony Grant, the former UF assistant and one of Donovan’s best friends, suspended four of his top players last week for disciplinary reasons, including his three leading scorers. Alabama played shorthanded Saturday night at LSU and clawed from 16 back to make it a six-point game late, but did not have enough (bodies or points) to finish.
Two of those missing members of the Tide, point guard Trevor Releford and backup Andrew Steele, were reinstated Monday afternoon. Bama’s two best players, forwards JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell, are expected to remain suspended for the UF game.
“I was really proud of Anthony when I watched the LSU game because I really felt like his kids, in the face of all that adversity, really battled and fought as best they could in that game on the road,” Donovan said. “Some guys stepped up and gave good performances.”
Now, it’s his team’s turn.
Or as freshman swingman Bradley Beal, “We need to find out whether we’re men or boys.”
* A team fails to reach its potential when its players violate one or both of these laws:
1. They doesn’t understand the price of success.
2. They do understand, but are not willing to pay for it.
If we want it, we ALL must be willing to pay the price ALL the time, not just when it’s convenient.
“I think every one of us understand those things,” Young said. “And I think we understand that it’s really hard to do the things that can take your team to the next level, when it comes to sacrifice and working hard.”
They also understand those things need to be done.
No. 14 Florida at Alabama
Tip-off: 7 p.m. (Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Records: Florida 19-6, 7-3; Alabama 16-8, 5-5
TV: ESPN (w/Brad Nessler, Jimmy Dykes and Shannon Spake)
Radio: Gator IMG Sports Network (w/Mick Hubert and Mark Wise) -- Click here for affiliates) / Sirius 220/XM 199
Game notes: Florida notes; Alabama notes
Need to know: This will mark the 132nd meeting between the two programs, with Alabama holding a 73-58 edge in the all-time series. UF is 15-5 against the Crimson Tide under Coach Billy Donovan, including a 4-3 mark in Tuscaloosa. ... Donovan will be facing former UF assistant and close friend Anthony Grant for the third time since Grant left VCU for Alabama in 2009. ... The Gators have lost two straight for the first time since the end of the 2009-10 season, following a 20-point drubbing at No. 1 Kentucky and Saturday’s 75-70 setback against Tennessee that marked UF’s first home defeat in 20 games. ... Florida has taken a tumble in some key statistical categories, especially in Southeastern Conference play, where the Gators are averaging just 68.9 points on 43.8-percent shooting, including only 36 percent from the 3-point line. UF is now eighth in the league in field-goal percentage defense (44.6 percent) and 11th in 3-point defense (41 percent). ... Despite the decrease in offensive production, all five Florida starters still average in double-figures, led by junior G Kenny Boynton (17.5 ppg), freshman G Bradley Beal (14.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and senior PG Erving Walker (12 ppg, 4.8 apg). ... The Gators, for certain, will be without backup two key backups, F/C Will Yeguete (concussion) and G Mike Rosario (hip pointer) and will look for increased playing time from sophomore F/G Casey Prather (1 ppg, .5 rpg in 17 games) and redshirt freshman C Cody Larson (less than 1 point and 1 rebound in 16 games). ... Alabama’s lineup is a huge question mark after Grant suspended four of his five starters for Saturday’s loss at LSU, citing disciplinary reasons. As of Monday night, PG Trevor Releford (12.4 ppg, 3.1 apg) and backup F Andrew Steele (5.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg) had been reinstated, while the Bama’s two leading scorers, 6-8 F JaMychal Green (14.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and 6-6 Tony Mitchell (13.1 ppg, 7 rpg) remained suspended indefinitely. ... The full compliment of the Tide ranks fourth in the SEC in field-goal defense (40.6) and second defending the 3-point line (30 percent), but gave up 49 percent overall in Saturday’s 67-58 at LSU. Worth noting: G Rodney Cooper (5.6 ppg) came off the Bama bench against the Tigers and scored a career-high 28 points (to go with five steals) on 10-for-19 shooting from the floor.