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Monday January 6, 2014Billy Donovan Press Conference Quotes

Gainesville, Fla.

Florida Men’s Basketball Head Coach Billy Donovan

Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, Press Conference Transcript

 

Billy Donovan held his first weekly press conference of the Spring, previewing the Southeastern Conference opener against South Carolina and addressing the Gators’ play during the nonconference season. Below is a full transcript of Donovan’s comments, followed by selected quotes from player interviews.

 

On the value going into league play with four seniors:

“I think the older guys have been through it, certainly Will [Yeguete], Scottie [Wilbekin], Patric [Young] and Casey [Prather]. Having those four guys, they’ve been through it. I think that is what league play is all about. Like I said earlier in the season, I think that our schedule allowed us to play at some difficult places on the road. We’ve played some very challenging games at home. We’ve had some challenging neutral site games as well. It’s not just about those four guys though. We still have some younger guys playing roles, like Michael Frazier and Kasey Hill, a freshman. DeVon Walker is getting to play more of a role and is a year older. We still have some guys that are going to need to step up and contribute. Those guys, and then the leadership from the four seniors, are going to need to set the stage for our team going forward.”

 

On South Carolina’s changes in year two under Frank Martin:

“I think the first thing is that Frank has a good system. They’ve got to play a certain way. They need to play to an identity that he wants his team to play to. They’ve got to rebound the ball and defend very well. The biggest difference from last year to this year for them is their schedule, and number two, their personnel is totally different. The guys that got the majority of the minutes for them last year are not really there anymore. [Michael] Carrera is a guy, as a freshman, that played a lot last year. He is coming off the bench for them now. They have a lot of new faces. They have a lot of new personnel. I think they have some very young players. Like anything else, when you play a lot of freshman and young guys, there is going to be some growing pains and some ups and downs. That is going to be part of the development and growth. I think the South Carolina team that people remember in the league a year ago is totally different than this year’s team. The number one difference isn’t necessarily style of play, it’s their personnel.”

 

On if the team is where he envisioned it would be at the start of SEC play:

“I don’t really know how to answer that. I take every day as a new day. There are games that we are going to play well and there are games that we are going to play poorly. I think the thing that needs to be looked at is our ability to continue to improve and get better, and our ability to embrace the process that goes into a very long season. Coming out of the Richmond game, what did we learn from that game? Where can we get better? Where can we improve? There are guys that are committed to try and get those things corrected and play better. I think people may look at the result and our record right now. More than anything else, our record could be different. We could have had an opportunity to win at UConn, and we didn’t. With the Kansas game close and the Florida State game close, even the Memphis game close, those games could have been losses for us. Our record may look a little bit different. We’ve done a good job up to this point in time. I’m pleased with our team, but I still think that we need to get better and continue to improve. It is a long season. Certainly, when you start this part of the conference, there is going to be familiarity between some of these teams. It is a nine-week grind. Every single week you are playing two and sometimes three games. Right now, the biggest thing for us is that we have a full complement of players. That wasn’t the case in November and the beginning of December. I think that group of guys, although we’ve had some points during the season where they have not played together, we’ve gotten back to injecting and getting better as a basketball team and more consistent with our rotation.”

 

On starting SEC play at home:

“I don’t think it makes a difference. You’ve got to play nine at home and nine on the road. Obviously, everyone loves to start 1-0. When you are midway through, at game 12 or 14, you don’t remember the first game. This is what our schedule is. Our schedule is what it is. Our first one happens to be at home. We’re playing against a team that was a lot different a year ago. There is a lot for us to get familiar with as it relates to personnel. A lot of these guys at South Carolina, our guys haven’t seen before. Whether it is home or away, it is not going to make a difference. At the end of the day it is going to even itself out. We’ll play nine home and nine away.”

 

On whether he thinks the team deserves to be ranked in the top 10 after earlier in the year not thinking they were:

“I think clearly today, from when I made those comments, we are a better team. I don’t know where we should be ranked at this time. I have not seen everyone in the country play. I think we’ve played some very good teams in relationship to Kansas and Memphis. But those two teams – Memphis loses at home to Cincinnati and Kanas gets beat at home by San Diego State – I think it shows the parity in college basketball. If you don’t play well on a particular night, home or on the road, it is going to be difficult to win. I think we are a better team than we were in November and December. We’ve gotten better as a team. I still think we can improve from that point. Where we should be ranked, it’s hard for me to say. In a lot of ways, you can move up in the rankings based on what teams do in front of you. If a team loses some games, you can move up. I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to that up to this point just because we’ve lost some games. We lost to Wisconsin and UConn, and I don’t know where we fell to. We won some games, and the rankings are going to be what they’re going to be. Sometimes you don’t have a lot of control where you will be ranked. You can keep winning, and you’re probably going to improve in that area.”

 

On difference in mentality heading into conference play:

“I think the non-conference schedule you’re going game-by-game, and you do that for the entire year, but now you’re obviously playing for something. I’ve said the one thing that’s kind of getting hurt in college basketball and football in a way is 15-20 years ago, without the realignment of conferences, you always had kind of a true champion right now. But everybody’s schedules are offset, not everybody is playing the same exact schedule. Years ago, everybody was always playing the same opponent and you got a true champion, so to speak, and that’s a little bit different this year based on the mergers, the additions of teams and how large conferences have gotten. So for us going into this, now you’re actually playing for something, whereas before, I felt in November with our basketball team, this game is in front of us right now, we’ve got seven guys, how do we maximize and utilize our personnel and play as effective as we can in the next game, knowing that once we got into January that the team in November was going to look different than the team in January. Our team has evolved with the addition of some different players, but between suspensions and injuries, the first eight games, we were never really playing with a full roster. Kasey Hill and Scottie Wilbekin were out games and then you had Frazier out with a concussion, we lost DeVon Walker to a mid-foot sprain, Dorian Finney-Smith wasn’t eligible to start the season. So there’s been a lot of flux within our roster right now, and I knew at some point we were going to get our four competent players back, but you still have to deal with injuries, fatigue, foul trouble, there’s a lot of things that can eliminate guys from a game. But I think our guys understand, as everybody does, that it’s almost like, OK, now the season is starting. It’s two things, the season is starting somewhat new and fresh, but you do have a resume from your first 12, 13, 14 games.”

 

On the improvement from the beginning of the season to now:

“I think we have a group of guys that have some experience and we have a group of guys that is very, very comfortable; they’ve accepted their roles, they want to play their roles to the best of their ability. I think we’re an unselfish team, I think we care about one another, I think we have chemistry inside of our team. I think those things are healthy, they’re good. Right now, I still think we can make some strides and get better; I think Kasey Hill can play better, I think Scottie Wilbekin, of late, can play better. I think we can complement each other better than we’ve been doing over the last several weeks. There’s still improvement to be made in those areas, but I think the things that make up a good team in terms of the unselfishness, the chemistry, guys getting along, guys playing for each other and wanting to win – a lot of the intangibles that you have a hard time measuring – I feel like our team has those things. I think the season and the team playing and competing is important to our guys.”

 

On what was caused the current home winning streak:

“I don’t know really what it is. I think any time you play at home, there’s always a level of excitement and familiarity. The guys know the environment, so to speak. When you go on the road, it’s a little bit different. We play, I think, pretty well at home. But, I think, like anything else, when you’re competing at home, you can’t lower the complacency because you are at home. You’ve got to understand when you run up and play, especially in league play, you’re going to have to play well at home. I know we’ve won a few here at home, but to me right now, I look at it like, ‘This is a new game,’ and what’s happened behind this is really over and done with. Forget the fact that it’s been so many in a row; that has no bearing on the fact of getting ready to play South Carolina on Wednesday.”

 

On the increase in transfers throughout college basketball:

“I think that’s become another element of recruiting that maybe wasn’t there in the past, for whatever reason. I think a lot of times, and I’m speaking about our place, when you’ve got a great academic school, you’ve got great facilities, you’ve got great weather, you’ve got great fans … A lot of times kids are not transferring or leaving because of the environment they’re in. It generally comes down to one thing, and a lot of times it’s playing time. Kids now really want that instantaneous success. A lot of high school kids have had so much success in high school and they’ve been recruited so heavily that it’s very, very difficult for the first time in their lives they go through any level of adversity – they don’t know how to handle it, they don’t know how to deal with it. So, what happens a lot of the time is that the easy answer is, ‘Well, let me go somewhere else. The grass is greener elsewhere.’ I do think there is a lot to be said for guys who hang in here and battle and fight and deal with the adversity. I was one of those guys 25-30 years ago. I wanted to leave and the reality was a problem with myself. It wasn’t with Providence, it was me. I wasn’t good enough. I needed to get better. I think my experiences my first two years going through that made me look at the adversity challenge in a different light. I think kids today are playing in a totally different set of circumstances than 25 years ago. Every single game is on TV, there’s Twitter, there’s email, there’s Facebook, there’s so much stuff that these guys are so accessible and in a lot of ways that’s an enormous amount of pressure. Not the pressure of going out there and playing in a game, but the pressure of when the game is over with everybody having an opinion of what they should or shouldn’t be doing and really being able to handle all of that stuff. A lot of times when it’s not going well, the easy thing to do is to say, ‘I’m going to go somewhere else where I think it’s going to be better.’”

 

On having to “go after” transfers because there are so many:

“What happens, I think, sometimes with transfers is when you’ve got a player that’s going through the recruiting process in high school, inevitably, when they get to college, it’s totally different than what they’ve experienced before. It’s just different. Now, there are certain guys that are just so talented and so gifted, like a Brad Beal, that they come in and have a huge impact right away, but a lot of guys don’t get a chance to do that in a lot of ways. When they go through the adversity it’s the first time they’ve gone through it and I think then, if a kid does decide to transfer, I think if he was to look at his recruitment as a transfer and to look at his recruitment as a senior in high school, he’s going to look at it totally differently after going through a year of college and understanding what it’s all about. At the end of the day when a kid signs to go somewhere, the recruiting kind of ends and now that guy is going to play.”

 

On Chris Walker’s status:

“I have not heard anything yet. As I’ve said earlier, it’s totally out of my hands. Our school, our administration, is dealing with the situation with the NCAA. The NCAA has allowed him to practice. He has been admitted to school, he started class today. We believe all that stuff is fine. But really, it’s more than anything else, for me personally, I’m totally out of the situation and I’d like to try to get an answer as much as anybody would.”

 

On the priority of improving the assist-turnover ratio:

“Yeah, I think so. Outside of Kasey Hill and Scottie Wilbekin, everyone on our team has a negative assist-to-turnover ratio. That to me is very disappointing, especially when you talk about having some older guys. Kasey Hill is a freshman, that’s kind of helped us that he’s been able to do some of that. Scottie’s assists the last several games have been down but the one thing that has been good for us is although we haven’t had an enormous amount of assists, we really haven’t, outside of several games here, had an enormous amount of differential, turnover-wise. The same thing against Richmond, we had 10 assists and 14 turnovers so you have a negative assist-turnover ratio but it wasn’t like we had 10 assists and 20 turnovers, that’s where you really have a problem. I like to see our turnovers anywhere from 12 to 14 with the way we are trying to play fast and up-tempo that’s going to happen sometimes. I would also like to see our scoring average improve a little more than it is right now and we can do that by getting a few more assists. I think we left a lot of points out there by one, free throw shooting at times by our team, two, I think we missed a lot of shots in and around the basket and then the assist part of it where you get some of the easier shots since people are playing off of each other. We have some improvement to make.”

 

On Patric Young’s change this season:

“I think he’s totally different. I think he’s having his best year and he’s playing very well. Earlier on in his career and having to do so much last year, he really couldn’t absorb really more than 25 minutes and because of some injuries to Will Yeguete and (Erik) Murphy was in and out, we probably played him last year too many minutes and it probably wasn’t fair to him and he had a hard time handling it. I think one thing that has helped him is going from 250 pounds to 240 pounds. I think he’s in better condition, he’s running the floor better, and he’s chasing balls better. I think he’s doing a lot more things that we would like to see him do that maybe we were missing the last couple of years. Patric is an opportunity scorer. In the last game he was 6-for-8, that’s good. He’s going to get fouled some, he gives us a presence at the basket, he’s a big, strong kid. I think his motor and his energy has been much, much better up to this point in time then it has in any previous years.”

 

On if anything foreshadowed the season Casey Prather is having so far:

“I think going back to after his sophomore year, in the SEC Tournament and in the NCAA Tournament he was playing well. It was good to see him close out his sophomore year on such a high note going into the offseason. Last year, he had to deal with two concussions, he got through that. Then he had a mid-foot sprain, we thought he had broken his foot, he was out for a while with that. I think some of the injuries and the concussions played a factor on him. If you go back right before that, at the start of SEC play he was playing really, really well and then he actually had the foot sprain at LSU which kept him sidelined for quite a while. I think this year he’s much freer mentally; his experiences here have served him well. He’s playing more to his own identity as a player. He’s not doing things offensively that are weaknesses for him, he’ splaying to his strengths. That’s been a really good thing for us. I think the game has slowed down for him and he’s a lot more confident in knowing what he’s doing and how he can inject himself throughout the course of the game and how he needs to play and what he needs to get done.”

 

On clarification of Chris Walker’s eligibility:

“He has been admitted by our school academically. So, he started school today. As far as we’re concerned, he’s a qualifier. He has been admitted by the University of Florida, but now the NCAA, in terms of academics and his eligibility, it’s in their hands right now. So, based on our admissions and in terms of what they’ve looked at in his transcript and what he’s done in August, September, October, November academically to make himself a qualifier, we believe he’s a qualifier right now. But in order for him to be eligible to play, the NCAA has to clear him all the way through on those things. I feel pretty good about his academic piece of it because he has been admitted to school.”

 

On Will Yeguete’s role going forward and “ill-advised” shot selection vs. Richmond:

“I think he only took two shots in the game, so he didn’t take many ill-advised. He made a great post move, and then he had one shot there which was probably a tough one. I think Will is getting stronger, getting more confident. He’s a really good defender and I think part of his limit in minutes in the Richmond game had less to do with Will and much more to do with Richmond’s personnel. They were really playing with a stretch-four man in a lot of ways and a guy on the perimeter. So we utilized him and Patric together some at the five spot and allowed Casey to slide to the four and Doe-Doe to slide to the four. So, really for us it was more matchup, more lineup, more how we played and matched up against Richmond, than anything that Will did or didn’t do.”

 

Sophomore Guard Michael Frazier II

On value of having experienced players for SEC play:

“We have a few older guys, our seniors, that have been through it. They know the rigors of SEC play and I think that’s definitely in our favor.”

 

On the seniors giving advice for SEC play:

“They do a good job of keeping us focused during our games and practice, telling us to stay in the moment and focus on the task at hand. I think that’s very valuable to a team like this. We have a lot of talent, but we need guys to keep us zoned in on what we need to do.”

 

On having the chance to set the school record for most consecutive home wins:

“We’re just taking it game by game. We don’t really look at things like that. We’re just trying to focus on playing the next team. We’re not trying to get too far ahead of ourselves, but obviously, that’s a great accomplishment.”

 

Senior Forward Will Yeguete

On if having won two SEC titles will help this season:

“Definitely. I think we’ve learned a lot from playing these (other SEC) teams and I think that’s really going to help us this year. Especially when you have ups and downs and we’re just finding ourselves, so I think it’s going to help moving into SEC season.”

 

On if Chris Walker is frustrated:

“He really wants to play. You can see it in his eyes that all his wants to do is to get on the court and just be out there. But he understands this is a process; we keep telling him every day to just keep working and just pray for the best. Hopefully he’ll be able to be out there with us soon.”

 

On the increased importance of SEC play:

“It means a lot because it’s the last chance to get an SEC championship in the regular season. We’ve just got to make sure we’re ready to go on Wednesday and get ourselves prepared because we’re playing for something. Like I said, we’re not playing for anything else anymore.”

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