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Monday January 13, 2014Billy Donovan Press Conference Quotes

Gainesville, Fla.

Florida Men’s Basketball Head Coach Billy Donovan

Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, Press Conference Transcript


On Monday, Billy Donovan reviewed the Gators’ overtime win at Arkansas on Saturday and looked ahead at this Tuesday’s game vs. Georgia. Below is a transcript of Donovan’s press conference and selected quotes from player interviews.


On what has gone into the current 24-game home win streak:

“I never really look at a streak that way. Every game is different. You have a new set of challenges every game. To me, I never really look at it that way. It’s just another game. We’re playing at home. Everything that has happened in the past has nothing to do with tomorrow night. Tomorrow night is its own separate and competitive game. We will need to come out and play well against a Georgia team that is playing very well.”


On the play of Georgia this season:

“I think more importantly, Mark [Fox] has done a great job of utilizing his players and personnel. When you have a lottery pick like [Kentavious] Caldwell-Pope was, the thing I respected and admired about him so much from watching him on film and competing against their teams was he was asked to do a lot. I always felt that when I watched him play that he was a great teammate. He was great at trying to lead and great at trying to get guys up. Obviously, he was a special player that could do a lot of different things and a lot of different things that they did do was trying to put him in position to shoot threes or drive it in off the floor to get him in transition and to get him in space. Mark did a great job. Now this year you’ve got two backcourt players that are a little bit older and have played more games. [Nemanja] Djurisic had a good year and has gotten better. He is now a year older and is shooting well from the 3-point line. [Marcus] Thornton for them last year was really hurt most of the year and was a non-factor for them. He’s blocking shots, playing well and giving them a presence there. [Donte’] Williams in the front court is a year older and a shot blocker. There are more options for them this year in terms of where they were last year. [Charles] Mann and [Kenny] Gaines were not in the position to maybe step up into that role that Caldwell-Pope was in. Now that those guys are a year older, they are stepping up into bigger roles for themselves. They’ve performed very well in their roles.”


On an update on Casey Prather:

“He is out. He is not playing tomorrow. He still has issues. He is getting better and progressing. When he will be available, I don’t know. He is out for tomorrow.”


On the health of Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young:

“He [Wilbekin] is not 100 percent. He’s still sore and still dealing with some issues. Pat practiced yesterday. Those guys are a full go today in practice. They should be out there. I’m sure Scottie is dealing with some soreness and some stiffness in his ankle, but he should be able to play tomorrow.”


On whether roles change when Casey Prather returns from injury:

“No, obviously, you get a little bit more depth with Casey coming back. I thought that depth hurt us a little bit in the game against Arkansas, with Pat picking up two fouls and [Michael] Frazier picking up two fouls. I think the guys still had a role and job to do on the court. When they’re out there, it is, more than anything else, about what you do with the amount of minutes that you are getting and receiving as it relates to doing your job. No one’s role is going to be changed. Minutes may get distributed. There may be more minutes spread out amongst more players. If guys’ minutes drop, they’re still on the court and they still have a job to do and a role to perform inside their job. I don’t see that being necessarily a problem for us because we’ve had to deal with this before early in the year with guys being out and guys rejoining our team. I think our guys can handle that.”


On Jacob Kurtz’s contributions this season:

“Jake has done a great job and I have a lot of confidence in him. One thing about him that you probably don’t get a chance to even see as much is he has a very high basketball IQ. A lot of times when we are preparing for our next opponent, I can put him on the scout team, so to speak, and have him play against our guys and he can retain two things: he can understand what the opposing team is doing and he can understand what we’re doing. It has really helped us in practice because of his basketball IQ. He is as smart of a player as I’ve coached. He really understands the game, what we’re doing bad, where he is supposed to be, and he plays to his strengths. He does a lot of different things inside the post and in the game that help us a great deal.”


On the improvement in close games this season:

“I think the biggest thing I try to look at in those situations is what we’re doing from an execution standpoint and understanding that from an execution standpoint that different things can happen. I would have been disappointed in the game if Scottie, we had created a driving play for him for the last play, if he would have stopped and bombed a three. That, to me, would not have been a good decision. But he did do what he was supposed to do. He got to the teeth of the defense, he pulled up and, at least on his man, got a clear shot. Obviously, [Arkansas’ Bobby] Portis tried to block it, but couldn’t get there soon enough. If that shot misses, we’re probably dead in the water, so to speak. The game is probably over. If their player doesn’t miss the front end of a one-and-one, we’re probably in a tough situation. I think that our guys have been in those situations and have a better understanding of what we are trying to do. When you are in those situations, it doesn’t necessarily mean because you went through it last year that you’re just going to end up on the winning side of it. I think that any time that you are in those situations, anything can happen. I’ve said it before, the Florida State bomb from half court had a chance to go in. Chandler Parsons threw one in from 75 feet. There are some things inside the game that are out of your control. I’m looking more at the stuff we can control. Have we executed correctly? Are we rebounding the basketball? In overtime, we had three opportunities to rebound the ball up eight, then six and then five. We had three opportunities and we didn’t come down with one of them. That stuff kind of gets lost because we won the game. What I try to do is look at the game and ask, ‘What are we trying to do? Did we execute? Are we doing our job? Shots go up and are blocking out and chasing balls …What are we doing?’ Those kind of things. We’ve missed some free throws in the past. Scottie goes 8-for-10 coming down the stretch. Those things help. Just because he went 8-for-10 and in some previous games he has missed them, when you get back in that situation, it doesn’t make a difference what happened in the past. He’s got to step up there with confidence. It’s interesting, Ken Pomeroy does a lot of this statistical stuff and he actually has this stat of who are some of the unluckiest teams in the country. Sometimes it does come down to that. If a guy throws in a 75-foot shot and we were on the winning side of it and Florida State, they missed it, but it was right there. Joe Jackson drives down one against Memphis and gets it in late, but even before that play we missed some free throws, so I’m looking more at, instead of necessarily the result, are we doing the right things inside of those situations? I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that and hopefully that will continue.”


On whether he knows where Florida ranks in Pomeroy’s luck statistic:

 “I don’t know where we’re ranked. Last year, we were probably down at the bottom. I don’t know necessarily what that means, but there are some situations where there are things out of your control. I think that Connecticut bounce was just kind of an unlucky bounce and the kid made a great play and popped it up. Now, he did make that play, but we didn’t necessarily do what we needed to do in terms of having three guys take off to the rim instead of finding someone to matchup and block out and we kind of ran and chased it. So, you try to take luck out of the game and you do that by trying to make sure you do your job. If you’re doing your job, then sometimes results will be a little bit better.”


On the potential of Dorian Finney-Smith earning a starting role:

“I don’t know. To me, that stuff probably matters more to the guys than it does necessarily to me. His minutes are not going to be impacted by that. We do have two seniors in our frontcourt in Patric Young and Will Yeguete that have worked hard like Dorian [Finney-Smith] has worked hard. So, I’m not sitting here saying that because of his performance that he now needs to start. He started against Fresno State and he didn’t have a very good game against Fresno. This game, he played well. He’s going to be out there regardless. So, regardless of whether he starts or does not start, he has to be prepared and ready to play.”


On Finney-Smith’s versatility off the bench:

“He does do those things, but a lot of it has to do with … When you’ve got guys out there every, single day equally working hard and putting forth an effort and Dorian has done that, but so has Pat, so has Will, so has Scottie and so have the other guys. Sometimes it has to do with people being a senior maybe a little bit. Those guys have paid their price. Now, if I’ve got a younger guy that clearly is out-performing, out-playing, out-working an older guy, then he earns the right. But, I think we look at our front court as a collective group of guys, so I’m not really that wrapped up in the starting pieces maybe as much as the guys are.”


On how Kasey Hill responded to the game at Arkansas:

“I thought offensively he did some good things. He had some turnovers there where he traveled, dribbled one off of his foot, he traveled late in the game, he actually made the right read in terms of driving the ball toward the end of the game there, he just probably picked up his foot. He still has to get better defensively – that has to be an area of focus for him. I think he’s trying. I think he has made some strides in a positive direction, but he has to continually get better there. He has a tendency that. A lot of times when you’re young and you’re not playing against the level of talent that he’s playing against on a regular basis, you fall asleep, you’re late, you don’t guard in action the correct way, you get exposed and he’s gotten exposed several times. Exposed in terms of, not a guy taking him one-on-one, but not being ready on screening action and getting screened or being late where he’s supposed to be and those things because he’s resting or falling asleep or not paying attention or it’s new to him. Those things happen quickly. So much of being a good defender is the idea of having a really good understanding of what’s happening. When you can read the way the floor is moving, you can anticipate different things that are coming.”


On the foul trouble:

“I thought that [Michael] Frazier’s second foul was a bad foul just because he had an opportunity to run back harder in transition than he did and he reached in, and that was a bad foul. I thought a couple of times with Arkansas’ motion they were moving, passing the basketball around and we got driven to the baseline and we were too far on the weak side and didn’t get over there and put Pat in a bad situation. Some of that stuff can be corrected by us being in better defensive positioning. I don’t think it has anything to do with us being too aggressive, but that it has much, much more to do with us not being in the right spots.”


On the adjustment to players playing with more fouls:

“I think you have to make adjustments and do some different things. I thought one of the things that happened there in the first half ... I was thinking about doing it a little bit early. Based on the game, the way it’s going, and obviously Arkansas has had incredible success in that building, and they can go on runs. It was a seven-point lead for them with about 3:40 to go, we had just come out of the four-minute timeout, and I thought about putting those guys back in and I think we had a defensive stop, the ball went out of bounds, stoppage of play, and I put those guys back in there because what I didn’t want to have happen was have two of our better players, Patric and Frazier, on the bench with fouls and a seven-point lead to close out the half goes to 13 or 14. Now, you’re really having to play uphill. There’s a fine line there. If we would have stayed close the entire part of the first half, I probably wouldn’t have put those guys back in and would have waited for them. But we stole a couple of baskets quickly and we got back within one, went in down one, and now you’re in a manageable situation with both guys coming into the locker room with two fouls. Those two guys pick up a foul here or there and they’ve got three, now you’re in a real difficult situation. A lot of it’s going to be based on the situation, our depth, what the game’s looking like, how’s it going for us and those kind of things. I feel like the game, I don’t want to say slipping away, but I feel like because we’ve got some good players on the bench that all of a sudden that lead is going to maybe start to continue moving in their favor, sometimes I think you’ve got to be willing to do that. Maybe in the past I haven’t done it because I’ve felt like, ‘We’re OK now.’ What that cut-off number is, I don’t know. It’s probably more of a feeling I go with, with how I’m looking at the game or what I’m seeing happening.”


On Georgia being a successful rebounding team:

“They do a terrific job. If you look at the stat sheet for their first two SEC games, one area they’ve done a great job in is they’ve gotten to the free throw line an enormous amount of times. In particular, Mann has gotten them there a lot. And then the other thing is they are getting almost 15 offensive rebounds per game in their first two SEC games. They’re doing it with Thornton, they’re doing it with Djurisic and with Williams and even Brandon Morris has gotten to the backboard. He was in some foul trouble against Alabama, but they’ve got some long players. Morris is long enough that he can get in there. With the way they run their offense, they’re always going to have their three, four and five relatively close to the basket, and they really do a great job of getting to the backboard and creating offensive rebounds. Then also with their backcourt with Gaines and with Mann there doing a good job of getting fouled.”


On the status of Chris Walker and whether he is frustrated with Walker not playing yet:

“It’s a loaded question for me. Right now, I have hope and optimism that a kid that has been totally forthright and honest and truthful and has given everything he possibly could, that the NCAA will do the right thing, so to speak. I’m not involved with it. Like I said earlier, our administration is. I totally trust them to handle it. I think it’s probably one of those situations where you have a very high-profile player that’s having to sit out and miss games. I’m not at liberty to talk about all of those things that are going on with him, one, because I don’t know all of those things and, two, it’s more of a school issue. It doesn’t really concern us, in terms of our coaching staff or our team. It’s stuff that our institution is handling. You just have hope and optimism that the NCAA is going to sit there and say, ‘You know what, this kid has sat out some games. He’s been forthright, he’s been truthful and we’re going to get to a speedy decision on this thing.’”


On the NCAA’s handling of the situation:

“I think what happens a lot of times is, from an NCAA perspective, and I respect what they’re trying to do in terms of trying to clean up college basketball, but in a lot of ways… I look at it this way. Sometimes a player that is already in college, the administration sits down with and go through rules, compliance issues and have to sign forms and they are being educated on what the rules are. I can see less tolerance sometimes because of that. But then you have situations where you have a high school kid that’s not privy to the rules. No one has come in and sat down with him. There are different things that happen and go on inside those situations. In defense to the NCAA, they can’t educate everybody, but they do try to do the best they can in certain camps and different things that they may go to. I’m just hopeful and optimistic and the fact that they have asked him to basically answer all of their questions in an open and honest way, and I think he has done that to the very best of his ability. When it will get decided, when it will happen, I don’t know. I know a lot of people are wanting to find out. But the hard part of this is, as we all mention, is I think people look at different situation or cases in the NCAA and a lot of times there are different rulings on situations where, ‘How come this guy got penalized more than this guy got penalized, and this guy got nothing?’ And I think a lot of times those are the things where there’s not just one standard thing. And the one theme has been, in my opinion: be truthful, be honest. I can say that at least from our school’s perspective they feel like Chris has done that, and that’s all we can ask for right now.”


On how Walker is handling things and what he’s showing on the floor:

“I think the one thing is when he did start practicing, immediately there was this hope that after the Memphis game or the Fresno game, right around the holidays, that he thought, ‘I’m going to be back playing.’ I think as practice has kind of unfolded, he’s realized, ‘I’m not really ready to play.’ I think it’s been a humbling experience for him and when I say humbling, humbling in a positive way of playing against a senior like Patric Young or playing against a guy like Will Yeguete or playing against older guys and realizing, ‘Wow, I may have talent, I may have an ability, but I have no idea what I’m doing out there right now. I have no idea what’s going on. I don’t know how to guard a pick-and-roll, there’s actions, there’s screening, there’s pressing. This is foreign to me right now.’ And I think it’s been good that he’s had some time to play catch-up a little bit right now. I think because of that, maybe disappointed that he, I mean, he obviously wants to play there’s no question about that. But I also think he’s looking at it like, ‘Wow, I can get better through this, and maybe I’m not quite ready to play yet and this can be some good time for me to improve.’”


On the home winning streak:

“In all of these situations inside of our league, Arkansas had a great home-winning streak, and we were fortunate and had some good things happen to us. We made a few good plays and we walked out of there with a win. I think a lot of times when people look at streaks, they look at stuff in the past. To me, anytime I hear the word ‘streak’ or anything else, that’s just stuff that’s got to do with what’s already behind you. So, our guys have an understanding that in this league if you don’t play well or you have this mentality that, ‘We’re at home,’ I think that’s inevitably the wrong way to look at it. There’s already been enough wins on the road. LSU went on the road and won, we went on the road and won, Georgia went on the road and won, Kentucky has gone on the road and won. There have been teams that have won on the road already in this league. And I think if you ask any coach, would you rather have nine games at home and nine games away or 18 games at home, they’re going to say 18 games at home. But, with that being said, you just can’t have this feeling that, ‘We’re at home.’ That doesn’t mean anything. Especially against a team, Georgia, who got confidence from the fact they went to probably one of the more difficult places to play in this league at Missouri, and got the job done and won in overtime. So, I think our guys understand how good Georgia is, how well they’re playing and what a challenge it will be tomorrow night for us.”


On having more of a man-to-man philosophy, but incorporating more zone defense this year:

“I’m OK with zone. We’ve played zone at different periods of time. Sometimes you get forced to do that, with depth or foul trouble, or sometimes with scouting or preparation, you feel like you can do that a little bit more or if you have some length. I’ve never really been opposed to the zone, I would just say that I thought last year, looking at our man-to-man defense, I think we ranked third in the country nationally and it was the best defensive team, statistically, that I’ve had since I’ve been here. So you’re generally going to go with a defense that’s your best, and that was really our best. I think because of our length, athleticism, size and some different things, we can do some things and play some zone and still be effective.”


Senior Guard Scottie Wilbekin

On how we feels regarding his injury:

“I’m getting close to being 100 percent; I’m just staying in the training room, icing it and doing treatment every day, trying to get better.”


On what it would mean to break the school record of the home streak wins:

“It would be cool, but I didn’t even know we were close to that, and I don’t think anybody else on the team did. We’re not really focused on that. We’re focused on Georgia, that’s our next game. We’re trying to take it one game at a time because you can lose any game in the SEC season, so we’re just trying to focus on what we can control.”


On Georgia’s Charles Mann and what challenges he presents:

“Just getting down lane - we’ve got to make sure we build walls and make sure our help defense is where it needs to be so that we can make it difficult for him to get his game off, which is trying to get down lane and make plays for himself and his teammates.”


On the increased success in close games this year compared to last year:

“I would just say that we have internal confidence, as a team. When it gets in those types of situations, we just have the confidence that we can pull it out. Especially after winning a number of close games, it just builds that confidence.”


Sophomore Guard DeVon Walker

On the motivation to step up with Casey Prather being out:

“It motivated me a lot. He’s somebody that I look up to and he’s always encouraging me, telling me that I can do anything I want to if I put my mind to it. I would say he’s motivated me a lot.”


On being more confident this season compared to last season:

“It’s two different worlds. It’s night and day. After a year of being here, going through some ups and downs and getting some game time and experience, I feel a lot more comfortable. I still have a lot more to learn, but right now I feel pretty good about what I can do.”


On what it would mean to break the school record of the home streak wins:

“I don’t even know. I wouldn’t even put focus into that. We’re just taking it one game at a time. To think about stuff like that, that’s more of you guys, I wouldn’t really get into it.”

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