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Monday January 28, 2013Quotes and Video from Head Coach Billy Donovan's Monday Press Conference

Gainesville, Fla.

Florida head coach Billy Donovan met with the media for his weekly press conference on Monday and talked about the upcoming game at South Carolina, handling success as the team climbs the rankings and how this year’s team developed into such a strong defensive unit. Below are the full quotes from the press conference.

 

Florida Men’s Basketball Head Coach Billy Donovan

January 28, 2013

 

On the upcoming opponent, South Carolina, and what the team is paying attention to

“I think every game gets your attention. You realize as competitive as this league is, it doesn’t make a difference. Frank (Martin) has done a great job with his team and getting (Bruce) Ellington back, he probably wasn’t with them because he was with football, but he is playing very well. They are rebounding the ball very well. They’re getting three-point shooting from (Brian) Richardson and (Brenton) Williams. They’ve added some new pieces to the team from a year ago. I’m not surprised at all when you watch them on film. Every game they’ve had, whether it’s been on the road at Missouri or Mississippi State, or at home against Arkansas, they put themselves in a position to win every game. I think that’s a credit to Frank and to his staff and the guys in their program.”

 

On Florida’s ball movement in recent games

“I think our guys are recognizing what’s open. I think our guys have gotten better and we’ve improved in that area. I think when you go back to before the holidays, we had a lot of games where we had 10, 11, 12 or 13 assists and you’d like to be up to 17 or 22. That’s an ideal number. But the guy with the ball in his hands has to make good reads and good decisions and find the open man. When we do that, we become difficult to guard because we have a lot of different pieces with the floor being spaced that finds an open shooter or it finds inside to Patric (Young) or finds different spots on the floor. Guys are getting more open and better looks. The way Mississippi State played in the game, they made it very difficult for Patric earlier in the game and probably gave us some stuff on the perimeter. Every game is different based on what’s open or available. I think our guys have gotten better in that area.”

 

On if his perception of the strength of the SEC has changed over the course of the last few weeks

“The one thing that’s hard for me is when you are in November or December and looking at another team and who they are playing against, sometimes I don’t even know, necessarily, the teams they are playing against unless it’s a common opponent. I don’t think Air Force was on South Carolina’s schedule. So, it’s probably hard to evaluate Florida back in November against Air Force. I do think teams have gotten better and will get better. Those games that were played in November, if they were to be played in January or February, I do think there would be a different outcome. I haven’t changed my opinion on the fact that everyone in our league, team-wise, is going to get better and is going to improve. On any given night, I think anybody in this league can beat anybody. That’s just kind of the way it is in league play, not only in the SEC, but any league, for that matter. It’s hard for me to evaluate teams in November to now. I thought playing Georgia, because we played them twice and we had to go to Athens, they (Georgia) got better. They improved. They went on the road and won at Texas A&M, which is a tough place to play. I’ve got a lot of confidence watching tape and film with the team and coaches in this league that because these guys are very good, their teams are going to get better.”

 

Continuing on the previous question if that more pertains to his team than the rest of the SEC

“Again, I think from a scheduling standpoint, right now, and you looked at the teams we’ve played against, in terms of league records, we’ve been able to get off to a somewhat decent start. Outside of the Georgia game in Athens, the rest of the games that we’ve played on the road and at home, we’ve gotten off to a decent start. That always helps. I think we’ve gotten off to a good start in the second half and that always helps. I never look to evaluate the scoreboard as much as the process of what’s going on and our guys being consistent to what’s their responsibilities and what their job, regardless of what the scoreboard says. If you’re up by 15 or 18 or 20 points, that doesn’t give you the right to not run back in transition on defense and say ‘Well, we’re up.’ Or, ‘We’re up by 25, so I’m going to take a bad shot because I feel like letting one go.’ You still have responsibility inside of that. We’ve been able to play and maybe build on some leads and get some stops and maybe build some large margins of victory. I don’t know, necessarily, what it says. I don’t think as a coach going into the South Carolina game or the Ole Miss game that we’re just going to show up and win by 20. I didn’t feel that way at Mississippi State. I didn’t feel that way at Georgia and I didn’t feel that way at home against Missouri. Those things just kind of happen. We played well and we defended and got stops and teams didn’t shoot a great percentage against us. When a team shoots 35 or 36 percent against you and you shoot over 50 percent. There’s a chance there’s going to be a wide margin of victory.”

 

On the national attention the team is getting and if he has to do anything different with the team to keep them grounded

“Well, it’s almost like driving a car. When you’re out driving in a country field and there’s nothing to look at and you’re looking at the road and all the sudden, you get into a city and there’s a bunch of sights and sounds and things you start looking at. If you’re not paying attention to what’s in front of you, you’re going to run that car right off the road and into a pole. Our guys have to understand that the chatter and stuff around them is on the peripheral. It’s got nothing to do with us preparing and getting ready for the next game. I think that any good team or any team moves up in the rankings, you have to deal with that. That’s part of it. It still has nothing to do with our preparation or, like I said earlier, our responsibility to do what we need to do game in and game out. I think it’s very easy when there are distractions around you or things around you and you take your eyes off the road, we can’t do that. Our guys have to understand that. We have to drive our car, with two hands on the wheel, inside the lane and looking at what’s in front of us. What’s in front of us right now is South Carolina. That’s the challenge that they need to understand.”

 

On Scottie Wilbekin being named SEC Player of the Week

“I think he has gotten better. He has improved. His turnover ratio is really good, as is Kenny Boynton’s. Those guys have done a good job back there taking care of the basketball. We had a little lapse mid-way through the second half where we had some careless turnovers from Scottie and Kenny and Mike Rosario, but Scottie has done a really, really good job of finding people when they have been open. He has made really good decisions and I think he has made the game easier for other people around him. On the other side of that, we have also gotten some really good defensive performances out of him against some really talented, good players inside this league.”

 

On if he is still finding flaws on this team

“I still think we can get better. We had three pick-and-roll coverages in the game against Mississippi State, where (Craig) Sword went right down the lane through our defense and took a layup. We had some possessions on the on the offensive floor in the second half, although we had a large margin of victory, we turned the ball over. Scottie got stripped, threw a bad pass, Boynton got stripped from behind, Rosario got stripped from behind. (Erik) Murphy picked up two fouls, he dove by a post one time and gave (Gavin) Ware a wide open layup. I still think that we can get better and that is the goal, to try and get better and to get them to see the fact that we can still get better. I always think no team is perfect. Everyone has flaws and things that they have to work at. I think the biggest mistake you can make as a player or as a coach, inside your team is to say we are playing really, really good basketball and everything is going to be fine. Really all the stuff you are talking about is in the past. What about today? We don’t want to slip and go backwards. They have worked hard to be where we are. Now can you keep working hard and continue to grow and develop.”

 

On rankings

“If you want to look at the truth of the matter with the rankings right now, is that if every team that is in front of us right now did not lose then we wouldn’t move. It’s not like all of a sudden we play a game and based on the naked eye someone says okay, Florida is ranked tenth in the country but in this game they look like the second best team in the country so this week they are going to be two. No one jumps from ten to two. Right now, this time of year, anybody that makes a move in the polls has everything to do with teams in front of them losing. Now we have to take care of our business winning basketball games, which allows you to move up. But as quickly as you move up, you can just as quickly move back the other way and I would hope that our guys, being in this program and a lot of our guys are older, understand that is a product of what is happening in front of us. You are going to move up and down in polls. We go to Arizona and lose a hard-fought game, then we have a mid-week game in between against Southeastern Louisiana and we go and lose to Kansas State. We go from eight or nine in the country down to fourteen or fifteen, then we win eight in a row and move back up. So you are always going to be in flux. As it relates to the NCAA Tournament and seeding, the seeding happens on Selection Sunday, so right now all the stuff really doesn’t make a difference. Yesterday wasn’t this evening. We are still not even halfway through our conference schedule yet. We still have so much more basketball to play and so much better we need to get and we also need to get healthier too.”

 

On Syracuse losing and falling back in the rankings

“It is hard in league play. Syracuse is a really good team. They win at Louisville and then Louisville has to go on the road against Villanova and Georgetown who are good programs with a lot of pride and a lot of tradition. Those are hard games. You go on the road and play in this league against Texas A&M, LSU and Mississippi State, they are hard games to win. It is hard to win in this league. So you are going to have some times when you don’t play your very, very best and you are going to have times where you may get caught, but there is always something I think they can learn during the process. What we can learn and where we can get better and I think we have a great opportunity to learn a valuable lesson right now. As you mentioned, some of this tension so to speak that may be coming, wasn’t there 36 hours ago. Now it is here but it still has nothing to do with what we have to do that we know is coming. We are all of a sudden going to get a lot of attention because a bunch of teams in front of us lost, but if those teams didn’t we wouldn’t get any attention. The reality is we are going to play South Carolina on Wednesday. Regardless of what happens in the polls we still play South Carolina on Wednesday, so we need to get ready for that.”

 

On South Carolina

“I have a lot of respect for Frank. Frank and I have known each other for a long, long time and really in the early days here he was at Miami High and we recruited his program quite a bit. He was always very supportive of his players coming here and playing here at Florida, (Udonis) Haslem and Brent Wright. I have always appreciated that he felt that way about our program to actually endorse and be positive about one of his players coming here. I think as Frank has moved on he kind of has his own system and style of how he wants to play. It is a lot like the way he had his high school teams play at Miami Senior. They are going to really guard you. They are a terrific rebounding team. They work really hard on that. Ellington as I have mentioned is an explosive, athletic guard. They are getting really good scoring from Richardson. (Michael) Carrera is a tough, hard-nosed kid up front. Their team is going through a transition with a new coach, with Frank coming in there. As you watch them on film it is clear that those kids have bought into playing how Frank wants them to play.”

 

On scoring totals being down in the country

“I think that all depends on how the game is being played. You know, if you have a game that is going up and down the floor and there’s a lot more possessions, there’s going to be a lot more scoring. If you get into a situation where it turns out to be a grind-out kind of game and the shot clock is going to get deep every single possession, then you’re going to have low-scoring games. But I think certain teams are going to want to play a certain way and so to speak. There are some teams that are more comfortable playing where they make you guard for long periods of time and get their defense set and make you have to move the ball for more periods of time and a 40 minute game, you know, gets cut short.”

 

On the role that scouting plays in that

“Yeah, I think there’s always from scouting and preparation and doing those things and the more film that goes out on a team and the more you devise a game plan and how you want to play, what you want to do. For example, Georgia was as good of a team in executing in what they do as anybody we’ve played this year. I also think, too, that when you’re playing defense and you can force a team to really late into the clock, that means you’ve done a pretty good job with your half-court defense. I think the same thing is there with Georgia. They made us go deep into some possessions in the first half, and that’s why it was a low scoring game. I think film definitely helps and also familiarity. A lot of these guys have played against each other and know what they see, and they watch TV because some of the games are on TV, so the guys know what’s going on.”

 

On Casey Prather’s status

“Prather is out for this game (South Carolina) and I think we’ll probably try to see if he can come back for Mississippi, but I don’t know if he will. He still has pain and he’s been able to do light running but he’s not pain-free right now. He did a little bit at shoot around in Starkville, and he will do a little bit today but there will be no contact with him. There will be nothing for him in terms of him going back to full practice yet, but before we play him I’d like to see him get some practices under his belt. Even if he was cleared to play on Wednesday, I’m not so sure it would be helpful to him because he’s been out so long and he’s been away from contact, playing and timing. I think he’s going to need to get some of that stuff back before we can start putting him in a game.”

 

On other injuries

“(Will) Yeguete is still dealing with his knee and we’re going to deal with that. Murphy is dealing with the cracked rib, and (Braxton) Ogbueze is dealing with his knee. We’ve got some guys who are ailing, so to speak, and we don’t think it’s anything major that’s going to keep them from playing but certainly we’ve had to limit some practice time with some of those guys.”

 

On what they’re doing well defensively right now

“I think for the scouting and preparation, scheme-wise, if what we’re trying to do is not going great, we have the ability to adjust and we have older guys and we have the ability can make adjustments and you can change different coverages. There are things we’re doing defensively that I’m giving those guys and enormous responsibility to call out coverages on the defensive end of the floor. When you allow a team to do that, the coverages are going to be mixed which is a positive thing so you may see one coverage on a certain action and the very next possession down the floor it could be a different coverage. It’s just based on how the floor is moving or how it’s balanced or where our players are defensively. So I’ve tried to give them the responsibility to put the onus on them to be accountable for them communicating, talking and doing those things. Then having an understanding of personnel, I think personnel is just as important as the action. If you’ve got a player that likes to score in certain ways or there are certain plays they’re running with this play for this guy in how we’re guarding or what we’re doing being able to sniff those plays out early before they happen, those things become very, very important.”

 

On how this team has come together

“From a recruiting standpoint, I’ve never really looked at how to go about building a team. I’ve been much, much more about what kind of an individual am I coaching: what’s his makeup, what he’s about, is he about winning, is winning important, is he competitive, does he have a great work ethic, does he want to get better, is the game important to him, and trying to find those things out. You can go into a high school gym or an AAU tournament, watch a guy play, and it doesn’t take you too long to figure out this guy is really, really good. But there is another element to that that really enables that guy to fit into a team because at every point in time with a player you bring in here there has to be a level of sacrifice that goes on. Every player is not going to play as many minutes as they want, get as many shots as they want. With that being said, sometimes you have to a little bit less for the team to be better. I’m more building a team where if we are going after a point guard, power forward, or center, I’m trying to find out what are these guys made of, what is it about them, what do they want, what is our program about, is this a good match, is this a good fit. Those are things I think you have to go through. Sometimes, you make a lot mistakes. Those are the hardest things to evaluate. The physical talent of running, jumping, shooting, passing, catching, low-post skills, you can see that with the visual eye. But you never know what you are coaching until you actually start coaching a guy the first day at practice, find out what they are about.”

 

On what he is getting from his guys who are not the heralded great defenders

“That is a perfect example. For Kenny Boynton, I will give you a perfect example. I wasn’t sure, early on in the process, because Kenny was such a highly exposed guy in high school that I really wanted to make sure that I felt as a coach that this would be a great fit for Kenny. Kenny came in and it built his reputation based on being an explosive scorer. Guys on your team don’t mind having a guy like that. The one thing I admired about Kenny Boynton is the other end of the floor, him trying to guard defensively, was just as valuable. I’ve seen a lot of guys who can really score in great bunches, but they rest at the other end of the floor and they have no interest on the other end of the floor. I think Kenny was committed to that. I think you always want to have a player on the floor offensively because the defensive part, you can make a decision in. Now there are certain guys that are gifted. Kenny is very, very gifted with his feet, moving, and covering ground. Scottie is very gifted with his feet, moving, and covering ground. Patric, Casey Prather, Will Yeguete, they are gifted in those areas. But half of the game is going to be played on the offensive end of the floor, too, so you want them to be somewhat skilled enough to pass, handle, score, and catch, those kinds of things, as well. I don’t really go in and say I want to build our team with defense. I think when you get a guy that is competitive and a guy that wants to win, he understands that both ends of the floor are important.”

 

On Murphy and Rosario on the defensive end

“Like I said, at the end of last year trying to go into this season and looking at the areas where we needed to improve and get better at and show them visually, statistically, individually, and collectively as a group where they needed to get better. We needed to be committed to that. I think what has happened is because we have improved defensively, because we have gotten better from a year ago defensively, they are more eager to do it. They are personally taking pride in it. They can see that we are holding teams down to a low field-goal percentage. We have had several teams not score 50 points. Those things are things they are starting to take pride in.”

 

On being back home after the stretch of being on the road

“It wasn’t even necessarily the league that had to do with it. You can go all the way back to before the league started. We had to play quite a bit of games on the road going back to Arizona, then Kansas State, even going down to Miami to play Air Force, and then having to go to play at Yale, then four of the next five on the road. It’s been a long stretch, but just because we are home doesn’t mean that we can relax right now. But we have done a lot of traveling, and I think for every team, everybody loves being at home. I don’t think it is any different for anybody. We still have the same level of preparation we have to go through regardless of we are playing at home or on the road.”

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