Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- In his session with the media Friday afternoon, Florida coach Billy Donovan didn’t get a single question about Saturday’s opponent, Arkansas-Little Rock. There were only a couple questions about his own players.
The focus was on the three Gators who aren’t playing.
Donovan announced that one of the three players suspended for the season’s first two games for violating team rules -- 6-foot-8 forward and Virginia Tech transfer Dorian Finney-Smith -- had been reinstated to the team, but would be held out of the game due to a virus.
The status of senior guard Scottie Wilbekin and junior center Damontre Harris, who sat out last season after transferring from South Carolina, remained status quo, with Harris now working out with staff members separately from his teammates.
Finney-Smith paid his dues and was on tap finally to take the court, only to be struck down with some bad luck.
For Wilbekin and Harris, there is still work to do and Donovan made it clear.
“I’m not going to just take these guys and just use them to win games,” he said. “There are no shortcuts.”
So 11th-ranked Florida (1-1) will roll out its undermanned rotation of eight players to take on the Trojans (0-1) in an afternoon game at the O’Connell Center. Whether Finney-Smith is back on the bench with his teammates likely will be left to the trainer, but the two remaining suspendees do not have that option; not while working back into the program’s good graces.
For Donovan, this is about more than basketball.
“Sometimes, as a coach, you have to hold guys accountable for things that may hit them later in life and come back to bite them. Maybe get them fired, lose a job or lose an opportunity,” he said. “It becomes learned behavior where they just live their lives with no level of accountability. ... I hope some day, whenever their time is done here, they’ll say their time at Florida was challenging and difficult but prepared them for the real world.”
He turned his attention to Harris, who is now conditioning daily by himself (under the very watchful direction of strength coach Preston Greene) and doing two individual instructions sessions per day with assistants in lieu of taking part in team practice.
Harris was on time for all his assignments Friday. Early, in fact.
“Damontre is not a bad kid, but he is not responsible at all,” Donovan said. “If I can’t expect someone to be accountable off the floor and do what their supposed to do in all phases of their life, how can I expect them to guard a pick and roll? Remember a play? Or go get a rebound?”
The formula is not ideal for the product the Gators are sending on the court right now, but it’s a non-negotiable one for the program under the coach who’s done it the same way for 18 seasons now.
“He’s been consistent with that, and he’s never put any of the players in a situation where we have to make a decision on someone’s discipline,” senior center Patric Young said. “He’s created an environment where he lets us know what’s going on as best we can and let’s us know guys have to be held accountable and responsible. Players and coaches are going to help people get to where they need to be survive in life.”
GATORS HOOP SCOOP
No. 8 Florida vs Arkansas-Little Rock
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: O’Connell Center, Gainesville, Fla.
TV: Fox Sports Florida (w/Larry Vettel and Bill Koss)
Radio: Gator IMG Sports Network (w/Jeff Cardozo and Mark Wise) -- Click here for affiliates) / Sirius 134/XM 199
Game notes: Florida notes; Arkansas-Little Rock notes
History: The game marks the first time UF has faced UALR, a program out of the Sun Belt Conference. The Gators are 5-4 all-time against current teams from that league, including 5-1 under Coach Billy Donovan.
Pre-game storyline: Well, it was supposed to be the UF debut of F Dorian Finney-Smith, but a viral infection took care of that the same week the 6-8 transfer from Virginia Tech came off the suspended list. Instead -- and Donovan won’t mind this a bit -- the Gators will focus on honing the 8-player rotation he’s working with now. It starts with defense. Florida was better on the perimeter in Tuesday night’s loss at Wisconsin, but the Gators still gave up nine 3-pointers. That’s the same number as the season-opening win against North Florida. They were also out-rebounded for the second straight game (yes, UNF grabbed more boards than UF).
The players: Freshman PG Kasey Hill had a tough night in Madison, missing nine of his 11 field-goal tries (including a couple drives he normally makes in practice) then fouling out. The Badgers were also playing off Hill, daring him to shoot. He needs to make some shots and (this is important) not pout on the defensive end when the ball doesn’t go in the basket. ... Patric Young won’t be averaging 5 points and 4 rebounds in a month, so calm down people. Those numbers will swell, though probably not to the satisfaction of external expectations. The coaching staff likes a lot of things its seeing from the senior center right now, especially Young’s attitude at practice and the defensive awareness and constant communication he brings to the floor. ... Sophomore G Michael Frazier is shooting 61.9 percent overall and 60 percent from the arc. Everyone knows the guy is a marksman, but right now Frazier is not playing well on defense.
The opponent: Arkansas-Little Rock finished 17-15 last season, including 11-9 in the Sun Belt Conference. Four starters are back from that squad, led by 6-10, 225-pound senior F Will Neighbour (14 ppg, 4 rpg) and 6-1 PG Josh Hagins (14 ppg, 4 apg). The Trojans defeated North Florida 72-70 in their opener, with five players finishing in double-figures and UALR out-rebounding the Ospreys (who out-rebounded the Gators) 41-29. ... One of UALR’s assistant coaches is Joe Kleine, the former 15-year NBA player from Arkansas who played on the USA’s 1984 Olympic gold-medal team alongside Michael Jordan.
* 6 - Rebounds by walk-on Jake Kurtz in 21 minutes against the Badgers.
* 7 - Total 3-pointers UF has made in two games.
* 18 - Total 3-pointers UF’s opponents have made in two games.
* 39.5 - Combined points per game for Frazier and senior F Casey Prather. That’s 60.8 percent of the team’s scoring.
* 57.1 - Free-throw percentage by the Gators at Wisconsin. UF hit just eight of 14 from the line Tuesday after going 27-for-32 (84.4 percent) four days earlier against UNF.
Watch for it: Even with the reduced numbers, the Gators likely will roll out the full-court pressure more than it did at Wisconsin. The press worked pretty well against the Badgers, but Hill was in foul trouble and that scaled back some of Donovan’s strategic options.