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Tuesday October 9, 2012Billy D's son joins Gators after transferring from Catholic U

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- This season’s Florida basketball roster will feature a double-dose of Billy Ds.

Billy Donovan, the son and walk-on shooting guard, will join Billy Donovan, the father and two-time national championship-winning coach of the University of Florida, on the 2012-13 Gators hoops squad after transferring from Catholic University.

The younger Donovan made the move following two seasons at the Division III school in Washington, D.C., with an eye toward a future in coaching or basketball administration.

“Obviously, I’ve been around my dad and Florida [basketball] a long time, but now I’ll be a part of it all as a member of the team. It’s exciting,” the younger Donovan told “I’m really still processing it all.”

Donovan was a four-year starter and standout at Gainesville St. Francis Catholic, where he scored more than 1,000 points over his career. He chose to attend college in the nation’s capital with thoughts of pursuing a career in politics and even held intern positions at the Department of Homeland Security and for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) on Capitol Hill.

 A change of heart, though, led Donovan to follow his heart back home.

The Gators open practice Friday, but will hold the team’s annual media day session Wednesday. As a transfer, Donovan must sit out the ’12-13 season under NCAA rules, but can participate in practice and team functions, along with fellow transfers Dorian Finney-Smith (from Virginia Tech) and Damontre Harris (South Carolina).

“Obviously, it’s great to have him back,” said Billy Donovan, the coach, who is set to enter his 17th season at UF. “Growing up here, he loved Florida and loved Gainesville, but being my son I think he felt he needed to go off on his own and experience his own thing -- and I was fine with that. I actually tried to talk him into staying there.

“But I never wanted it to be like I was telling him what to do career-wise. I think he needs to figure that out on his own. My job, my wife’s job, is to be supportive and help put him in the best situation for him to pursue what he wants to pursue.”

So for now, he's traded in a business suit for an orange and blue uniform and the No. 42.

At Catholic, Donovan played in 46 games and started 19. As a sophomore, the 6-foot-2, 203-pounder averaged 5.9 points and 2.5 rebounds per game and shot 34 percent from 3-point range.

Last Nov. 3, the Donovans faced each other in an exhibition game at the O’Connell Center, with dad beating son’s squad 114-57, but son scoring a team-high 13 points. 

Billy and son

Now a Gator, his expectations for a playing career in the Southeastern Conference are realistic. The lure home had more to do with the overall experience.  

“I wanted to be around coaches and players at the highest level,” young Billy said. “I know I can contribute to the team in some way, some fashion, even if that means just helping guys out on the sideline. Being part of the scout team as a walk-on, you’re going to know [scouting reports] even in advance of these guys. That’ll give me an advantage and hopefully a role with the team.”

His role with the head coach is built in.

“Selfishly, for my wife and I, we love it that he’s here. And one thing that makes it somewhat easier is because he’s walking on -- and not a guy who’s going to be playing a lot of minutes -- there’s not that added [issue],” Donovan, the dad, said. “I always felt for Tubby Smith [former coach at Kentucky] and Eddie Sutton [Oklahoma State] because their sons played so many minutes; there’s a danger those situations can become very difficult for a family.  

“I don’t look at this situation like that. I look at it as a healthy, great experience and a chance to have him around for two more years and be close to him until he decides what it is he wants to do.”


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