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Monday February 25, 2013Quotes and Video from Head Coach Billy Donovan's Monday Press Conference

Gainesville, Fla.

Men’s basketball head coach Billy Donovan held his weekly press conference on Monday and talked about tomorrow’s game at Tennessee, updated Will Yeguete and Michael Frazier’s status and talked about the increased role Florida’s other freshmen will be expected to fill.

 

Florida Men’s Basketball Head Coach Billy Donovan

February 25, 2013

 

On Jarnell Stokes and coaching him with USA Basketball at the U18 FIBA Americas last summer

“He’s a great kid. I enjoyed being around him. I think he was a real good team guy and committed to winning. His size and strength was a major factor in Brazil when we played. He did a lot of good things for our team, rebounding and scoring. I can even see, when watching film this year, he gotten and continues to get better. Last year, he probably walked into a difficult situation, walking in mid-year. I think bypassing his senior year of high school and then having to step into the role that they wanted him to play was probably somewhat challenging for him. After a year under his belt, I think he’s obviously been able to figure out what this league and what college basketball is all about, and he’s played very well.”

 

On the physical challenge that Stokes will present to Florida on Tuesday

“I think he provides a physical challenge for everybody. He’s a big strong kid. He does a lot of good things around the basket. He’s a good rebounder. The best thing about him as a coach, in my opinion, he’s got great hands. Besides a great body, he’s got tremendous hands. That’s certainly something, in traffic, posting up, rebounding, playing through contact, that’s probably one of his greatest strengths.”

 

On updating Michael Frazier’s status

“Out. He’s probably going to get back to at least doing some exercise, if not today, tomorrow. Him being back for Saturday’s game is still up in the air. I think they have to see how he responds. I think he’s probably right at point where, he did not pass some of his baseline tests. I don’t know if they’ll do it again today, but it wasn’t something where it was significantly low and they wouldn’t let him do any activity. I think it was probably not as severe as first thought. I know there’s still some protocol that they all have to go through, the doctors and trainers. There’s some steps they have to go through for him to be cleared. I imagine, if not today, tomorrow he’ll start to get into some light exercise and see how he responds.”

 

On if he thinks his team will ever get fully healthy

“I hope so. Certainly, Frazier is going to come back at some point. So is Will Yeguete. No one knows exactly when that is yet. I think there will be a point that we’ll be able to get our team fully back and we’ll have a full complement of players. When that will be, I’m not really sure.”

 

On knowing which guys can step up after the injuries the team has suffered

“I think the one thing that is really hard to evaluate is our freshmen. The only thing we have a chance to go on is what they do in practice. They’ve gotten better. They’ve improved. The thing I’ve been most impressed with in our young guys is just their attitude every day.  It can be a long year, especially when you’re not getting a chance to play a lot and not in rotations; to keep that enthusiasm and that excitement and try to get better. Those guys have done that. I’m really proud of them for that. Clearly, with our team right now being down to six players that really absorb most of the minutes, we’re going to need, through foul trouble, substitutions and fatigue, we’re going to have to utilize those guys. The uncertainty and the unknown is these guys have not really been in situations in the heart and heat of the game to see how they will respond. They’re going to get kind of thrust into that tomorrow in Knoxville.”

 

On who would be the first of the freshmen off the bench

“I don’t know. A lot of times it depends on if Patric (Young) gets in foul trouble or Scottie (Wilbekin), his first time against Arkansas, he got into foul trouble, fatigue, long minutes on the floor. It could be a number of guys, those three guys, coming off the bench.”

 

On the team’s rebounding performance the last few games heading into Tennessee

“I think we’ve got to rebound the ball. I think that’s always a thing, but to say I’m overly concerned, I wouldn’t use that. Could we do a better job? I think you can pinpoint, bring out and expose whatever you want to expose. In terms of what we’ve lacked from game to game, as a coach, we’re dealing with that stuff all the time. We need to do a good job rebounding. When we do a good job of rebounding, I don’t think we have it completely figured out. If we don’t do a good job with assists, we didn’t have a lot against Missouri, I think we had 10 and we lead the league in assists. I’m not worried about it, we need to do a better job at getting better at those things. There’s always things that we’re looking at to try to get better at.”

 

On what he’s seen over the last few games that the team needs to get better at

“Certainly, sometimes when we’re small, it’s really hard to rebound with Patric Young off the floor in foul trouble and having to play four guards. That’s a problem. There were some times in the game when we had (Erik) Murphy in the game, (Casey) Prather, (Kenny) Boynton, Scottie and (Mike) Rosario. We’re just small. There’s going to be some challenges there. We’ve got to collectively do a good job there.”

 

On how practice is different when facing new teams rather than a team they’ve faced already

“That is the challenging part, at least a little bit, when you play Missouri last week there is a familiarity in terms of size, strength, speed, athleticism those kind of things. There is at least a common thread there for both teams playing against each other. When you have a quick turnaround like this coming out of Saturday’s game and having yesterday and today to prepare for a game tomorrow, you really have to get your guys the stuff that is going to be important and valuable in the game. You are not going to be able to get it all to them but you have to give them the stuff that’s really important. There is enough there playing Tennessee that we will have to do in the game to put ourselves in position to win.”

 

On progress of freshmen Braxton Ogbueze, DeVon Walker and Dillon Graham

“Well I think the first thing that ends up happening for back court players is, when they step on the floor in college, and there are rarities, Brad Beal was a rarity and Mike Miller was, but as a perimeter player the first thing you are dealing with on a regular basis that they haven’t seen a whole lot before is incredible size across the front line. Even with a Damontre Harris being back at practice and a Patric Young and Erik Murphy and whenever Will Yeguete gets back, that is a different element for those guys. Most of the time in high school games those guys are able to get into the lane and use their athleticism. There is not shot-blocking and length and size there. So that is one adjustment that is huge for a perimeter player. From a backcourt stand point, for someone like Braxton who is a point guard and combination guard, one of the biggest challenges for him is the speed and pace of the game at which holes close. Something that appears open one second gets closed down a lot quicker than it would in high school. So the decision-making, how quick they have to make decisions, they have to understand how the floor is moving all becomes very important. I also think from a defensive standpoint, them understanding that if Braxton is guarding a Scottie Wilbekin or DeVon Walker is guarding a Casey Prather or Mike Rosario, when those guys get into situations where they lose focus, rest and relax for a second normally they have to pay a price for that. They cannot just rely on their individual talent at this level. So those would be some things that would be in front of them that they need to get better at as players. Now, I have seen them get better at those things. I think practice has been very, very effective and helpful for them to improve in some of those areas. The hardest part for any young kid like that, you come out of high school, you’re recruited, you have this expectation you want to play and all of a sudden you don’t play and all of a sudden hope starts to fade away. Every guy in October starts out with this great level of enthusiasm and excitement you are going to play, but as all of a sudden roles and minutes start to get distributed and you are not playing a lot. Guys generally never improve at the rate that they need to when they come in feeling sorry for themselves or they get the freshmen blues or this is so difficult and they lose focus on getting better. One of the things I’ve talked to our guys about, even back early in the year when we lost Prather and Wilbekin was out some games and Murphy was injured, you never know what is going to happen and if something happens inside of our team you need to prepare yourself to be ready. I think there are great examples in sports. You look at a guy like Tom Brady getting a chance when (Drew) Bledsoe goes down and being ready for that. These guys, I think they have worked hard. They haven’t been thrust into these situations, but they have worked hard and gotten better.

 

On putting the freshmen in early in the game

“Yes they have to get in early. Right now we have three guards that have basically absorbed all of our minutes. You’ve got Rosario, Boynton and Scottie so at some point within that first 10 minutes we have got to sub. We are not going to be able to go through this game with just six guys. It’s going to be totally impossible especially if you have some foul trouble. If you have a couple of guys with some fouls or fatigue you are going to have to sub those guys, so my feeling is that they would get into the game as a normal rotation-type of guy based on fatigue and foul trouble. It’s not going to be one of those things where, OK, go in for 30 seconds and just give this guy a quick rest and then you’re coming back out. Now there could be some situations that does happen, but we need to be prepared that when they go in there they are going to have to play a few minutes and they are going to have to try to do what they can to help. I think they are excited about the opportunity, those guys. It will be a great challenge for them. I think they feel like they have worked hard for this. I think they have tried to prepare themselves as best as they can, but they have to be in the normal rotation. I don’t know of any teams I can think of that have ever gone into games just playing six guys and getting through a whole game. We have to change. There is no question we have to change and do a lot of different things and it is a lot to get prepared for in such a short period of time because there are things that we need to do differently and things that we have to get prepared for playing against a team we haven’t seen yet.”

 

On prep work for the coaching staff leading into tomorrow’s game

“We’re having to do a lot of that right now. But one thing about that is Casey will probably come off the bench tomorrow, but he’s a versatile guy. He’s played the power forward spot and he’s played the small forward spot, this could be the game where he’s at the center-forward spot some. We are going to have to do some different things out there. We may have some four-guard lineups out there and if you view Casey as a wing player you could be really, really small. We also could end up being a little bit bigger where we could, you know, play Patric Young and Murphy and Casey in the small forward spot. So we’re going to have to mix and match some different lineups based on fatigue factors, foul trouble, how the game is going and those kinds of things. You sit there and you try to go into a game and you try to prepare and lay out all these things and what is going to happen but inevitably your game plan gets totally blown up because stuff always happens that you can never predict. You always want to at least be prepared and help get your guys prepared in what is ultimately going to happen in a game and what’s going to be important.”

On how he views all the injuries that have happened this season

“It’s been kind of some strange stuff that has happened.  The one thing that has been good is that our guys have responded. I think that’s been the one positive thing. We’ve had to deal with this even going into last year with Yeguete being out. But it was totally different last year because our depth was different with the amount of backcourt players we had and then Prather kind of came into his own. Michael Frazier is making a hustle play and he got hurt. You know, anytime you step across the lines and play you’re in a position that something could potentially happen to you. We’ve just gotten obviously this year a large rash of them. Now thank God it’s been a blessing that it hasn’t been situations where guy’s seasons are over and they can’t come back. It’s been these things that have happened that have kept guys out for a few games here or there or guys who have had to play through certain situations. But I think to a certain extent, but not to the extent that we’ve had to deal with it, but guys are always dealing with different issues, challenges or differences. (Laurence) Bowers was out for a little bit with Missouri and there have been different guys in our league who have been out, you just have to deal with it and keep moving forward.”

 

On Will Yeguete’s status

“(Thursday), he ran sprints and he probably did five or six of them at a pretty good clip, running hard. And what they try to do is wait 24 hours to see how he responds and a negative response would be swelling, significant swelling, and that didn’t happen. So on Friday they made him do the same thing, made him do a few mores sprints and made him do a little bit of shooting and cutting and moving. They gave him another 24 hours, see how he responds to that and he didn’t have any swelling. He did little bit and went through the whole shoot around and warm up before the Arkansas game and wait 24 hours to see how he responds. Up to this point in time it’s been good. He will do a little more here today. He’ll get to a point where maybe he’ll be in practice where maybe there is no contact, just running, cutting, moving down in his stance, shooting and those kinds of things and waiting how he responds. To answer your question, there is a process he has to go through before the doctors feel comfortable. The thing that would set him back would be the swelling part of it so they’re not going to thrust him so fast into something and just have him set back. They are going pretty slow with him right now just to see how he responds but he will start to do more and more. My feeling would be that after this game on Tuesday, we have to take off on Wednesday, I would think that he would be injected into practice into some shape or form.  Whether or not that means he can play on Saturday, I don’t know. It just depends on how he responds but he’s going to start getting into practice but I don’t know when he’ll be allowed to absorb contact and those kinds of things. I know the thing that’s been most challenging for him is they’ve got a special knee brace for him that he does not like. It’s just kind of restrictive and supportive, I just think it’s something he needs to get used to and most players don’t like playing with stuff on them like that. But he’s got to get used to that. So we will do more with him today and see how he responds again tomorrow.”

 

On meaning of winning the SEC outright when UF has been to more Final Fours than outright SEC titles

“I think every team right now that is in a league is competing and vying for that because that’s what’s in front of you. I think the one thing that has happened which has been a little bit unfortunate is when I was first in this league at Kentucky we played everyone twice and tic was before the expansion of South Carolina and Arkansas and obviously (Texas) A&M and Missouri, so we played everyone twice. There was home and away and there was a legitimate, true champion. I think the thing now that is a little bit different is when you’re looking at the leagues around the country, and not only in our league, but there is this unbalanced schedule. Everybody is not playing the same teams home and away so it kind of I don’t want to say it’s diminished it but it’s kind of taken away the focus of it with this expansion. Some of that stuff is not publicly perception-wise, away from maybe people competing in the league, maybe it doesn’t have the same value. I think for players and coaches it’s something that they’re really striving to compete for and play for and I think it’s important with four games remaining. Our players have done a really good job up to this point in time and we have a difficult game here on Tuesday on the road. Then coming home and playing an Alabama team that’s played very, very well and had a tough loss this last weekend, but it’s a very good team and Anthony has done a great job with those guys. So it’s going to be a challenge with these next four games and certainly this week it will be a challenge for us.”

 

On the strength of Florida’s in-conference schedule and what it would mean to win the SEC title

“I think as a coach and as players, when you are working and striving every single day what ends up happening is once the last season is played everybody is going to move forward to the SEC Tournament and wait your four days until Selection Sunday. Everything that happens from January, February, and March is kind of forgotten about. For the people that are going through that duration of nine-week grind, it’s a great accomplishment for any team. Forget our league; I would say the Pac-12, Big 12, all these other leagues, the Big East. I think that is a significant thing for any team.”

 

On what is different playing on the road

“The first thing you are having to deal with, there are times that emotionally you are not going to be able to get to the same level as the home team because of the crowd, familiarity, enthusiasm, excitement, adrenaline, and buzz around campus. There are times you cannot emotionally get to that level. At some point in time in the game, some of that emotion drops off and the game settles in. Then you have got to play. I think that when you go on the road, you may not be able to match the emotional level, but you have to have a keen awareness and keen focus on doing your job. It’s like, going back to the Arkansas game, there’s an enormous amount of emotion and we really don’t do our job, defend the three-point line like we need to, we don’t do our job in terms of screening and executing like we needed to to start the game. Before you know it, after eight minutes we’re down 20. Now after that point, you can say maybe Arkansas got a little complacent or maybe they, whatever the reason was, after that point the game was played pretty evenly. You get into the Missouri game and after that first eight minutes, the game is going back-and-forth, back-and-forth we get a little bit of a lead. You also have to understand the home team, with all that emotion, all that adrenaline, is going to make a run again. There is going to be. When you have 11 or 12 minutes to go in the game there is going to be another surge of energy that is going to come at you that you still have to absorb. I think in a lot of ways, it’s the emotional level of a crowd behind them that generates an incredible amount of enthusiasm that gets those teams going. Being able to handle those circumstances by doing your job because you are not going to have this incredible emotion behind you. It’s not like you have got to generate it yourself. You got to be really focused on doing your job when you are on the road.”

 

On if he wishes he would have brought in another frontcourt player this year

“I don’t know how you project… We had no scholarships. We were out of scholarships. I think, for us, we did a pretty good job getting Doe-Doe (Dorian Finney-Smith) and Damontre Harris, two frontcourt players. You can never forecast that. It’s like Kentucky with Nerlens Noel, I’m sure they wish they had another frontcourt player to go in there. Sometimes, with your scholarship situation, you can’t dictate that. We elected from a recruiting standpoint to take Doe-Doe because I recruited him and Damontre Harris because I recruited him too. It would give us more depth in our frontcourt. With Casey Prather, Will Yeguete, Patric Young, Erik Murphy, and Cody Larson, that’s five people. That is more than enough people. I could see your question if we had three or two, but we had five guys that had played there. You can’t forecast a guy deciding not to play, can’t forecast Will Yeguete going down with a knee injury. So that number goes from five down to three. It makes it challenging, but just something we’ve got to deal with… For us to go get another frontcourt player for that year when you have five people there to start the year, I’m not so sure that we were going to do that. For us, I’m not going to just go sign a frontcourt player unless it’s someone we really know and have recruited and feel like would be a great fit.”

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