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Monday January 27, 2014Billy Donovan Press Conference Quotes

Gainesville, Fla.

Florida Men’s Basketball Head Coach Billy Donovan

Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, Press Conference Transcript

 

On Monday, Billy Donovan talks about the Gators’ SEC success to date and the upcoming game at Mississippi State. Below is a transcript of Donovan’s press conference and selected quotes from player interviews.

 

On the team being mentally equipped to handle an 11-0 run and a high ranking:

“I think it’s a hard thing to answer. Obviously, as a coach, you always want to go into every game on edge and understanding that in any competitive situation, anything can happen. Hopefully, our guys will respond to that. I’ve said this before when people were talking about the winning streak at home, to me, if it’s 11 in a row, five in a row or two in a row, to me its 0-0 right now. This is our next game and it really doesn’t make a difference anything that’s happened in the past. It’s all about what we do to get prepared for Mississippi State on Thursday. That’s all it comes down to for me. We’ve got some time here today, Tuesday and Wednesday to get prepared for them. I think our guys understand the length of this league, in terms of the grind for nine weeks. I think they also understand that one game to the next is very, very important. I think the situation you’re talking about, you’re always dealing with. If you lose a game, you can sit there and have a hangover after a loss. If you win a game, it could be, ‘Are you going to embrace prosperity?’ Those things are always going to come up, through every level of competition. Every time you play a game, after the game, there’s always some kind of residual effect after the game, whether a guy played really, really well and thinks he’s got it all figured out or a guy doesn’t play well and he’s down and loses confidence. I think any time after a game, whatever the game has, there’s going to be a certain effect it’s going to have on your team and on your players. I think right now, our guys appear to be in a good place. But for me, it’s all about our guys trying to get better and improve.”

 

On Mississippi State’s team dynamic regarding the sophomores:

“I made a comment last year that I think they’ve got a really talented group of young guys. A lot of those guys were freshmen and absorbed a lot of minutes and didn’t have a lot of experience in front of them; I think (Jalen) Steele might have been the only guy who was there from the previous regime and he’s gone now. Those guys, they’ve learned a lot, sure.  (Gavin) Ware, their center, is much, much better, (Craig) Sword is better, (Fred) Thomas is better, (Trivante) Bloodman is better. All those guys are better, and there’s probably no other way to get better than to get the level of experience those guys had a year ago. They’ve certainly played extremely well at home this year. I think Rick (Ray)’s got a really, really good nucleus of four or five guys – Roquez Johnson and younger guys that are going to really grow and continue to improve, and they have from last year to this year.”

 

On having a strong Thursday-Saturday record:

“I don’t know. I think the one thing that you’ve got to be able to do, when you play Thursday and you’ve got that quick turnaround, from a scouting perspective and a coaching perspective, you’ve got to get the meat and potatoes of what’s really important and what we have to do in the game and maybe you’re not in as much detail as you are in the front end. For the Thursday game against Alabama, we had three days leading up to them to go through things and really cover a lot more, but going into the Tennessee game, the things that stood out to me right away were (Jeronne) Maymon and (Jarnell) Stokes on the glass and a +11 rebounding margin. So that becomes a huge emphasis in terms of being able to talk to our guys about that; and (Jordan) McRae coming off 34 points in the previous game and had 27 in Knoxville last year against us, how we’re going to try and defend him in certain actions. So you kind of get into some of those things, you’ve got to talk about those things, but you’ve got to have a group of guys that if you can’t drill it as hard as you want to because time or fatigue doesn’t allow it, then I think you’ve got to have a group of guys that can get through those things with an understanding of what they’re going to do and handling that situation.”

 

On the coaching staff preparing for more than just the next game:

“We’re always way ahead. For example, our next two games after Mississippi State, the Texas A&M game and the Missouri game, there’s already guys watching film on those guys. I don’t do that; I have a hard time moving like that. I just focus on what’s in front of me. Those guys will be good and the staff’s done a good job in terms of getting the right information to those guys on what we need to do.”

 

On Scottie Wilbekin’s progress as a point guard this season:

“I think one of the things that happened when he first came back, he was getting a lot of assists and then I thought after a few games it went the other way – he was scoring more points and wasn’t getting as many assists. I thought he got a little too offensive minded, trying to create and do a little bit too much. Now, I think he’s back to playing a little more balanced. Do we need him to score when he has the opportunity and option to? Absolutely; but we also need him to find other guys and make the game easier for other guys on the court for us, and I think he’s done better. At the beginning of the year, I thought he was really, really good in regards to his assists, and then I think he had a really big offensive game against Florida State, where he had a lot of scoring in that game. After that, he got into maybe trying to do too much and not utilizing some of the other personnel on the floor and I think he’s back to doing that a little more.”

 

On Damontre Harris’ role on the team:

“He’s in practice every day and he’s on the scout team, so whoever we’re playing against, he’s going to be one of their front point players. He’s lifting weights; he’s going through individual instruction; he’s not going to play this year. He’s doing everything else that everybody else is doing except he’s not on the bench during games and he’s not going to play in any games. But everything else, he’s doing right now. He’s got an opportunity to kind of salvage - it’s disappointing to me, a guy that sat out an entire year, would jeopardize himself like that in terms of his behavior. Over the holidays, it was laid out pretty clearly to him if he wanted to come back, this is what he was going to need to do, and in doing so, he was going to lose a whole year, basically; and he still wanted to do it. I gave him the opportunity to be released to anywhere he wanted to go, and go play where he wanted to play. I said, ‘If you’re going to come back, you’re not playing, so you’ve got to think hard about if you want to transfer and have a year and a half, go NAIA and play right away; those are the decisions you’ve got to make.’ How he got to the point where he wanted to come back, I don’t know, but he’s at that point right now and I think he’s pretty eager and what he’s been doing at least up to this point since he’s been back has been positive.”

 

On Dorian Finney-Smith’s current performance:

“I think the biggest thing with Doe Doe is he’s a guy that’s got to move from one play to the next. The thing I like about coaching him is he’s very, very accountable and very, very responsible, but I think at times he’s almost too hard on himself. He screws up or makes a mistake and does something wrong and sometimes it has a tendency to stay with him and linger for plays after it’s happened and it’s hurt our team and it’s hurt him. One of the things we’ve really tried to work with him on is being able to move from one thing to the next and let what just happened go and he’s had a hard time doing that. I much more appreciate that than a guy who every time he makes a mistake is pointing fingers at someone else’s fault. He probably assumes more responsibility than most. But he does rebound the ball very well; he gives us a guy skill-wise that we can put on the floor and can shoot it from behind the line; defensively, you can do some different things with him because he can guard multiple positions. But the best thing he’s done so far for us is rebounding.

 

On this being a different team in its makeup than previous years:

“I do think every team, even though you have different parts and sometimes the parts aren’t the same, but these four seniors were on last year’s team and now with Kasey Hill coming in and Doe Doe being a transfer you kind of inject some different pieces into the team. But I would agree with Scottie, it’s different, it’s really different. I think one of the things with Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy and those guys is that they had really unbelievable careers and were really good players but I think that for those guys they did a great job of getting themselves emotionally, individually ready to play.  I was never ever worried about Kenny Boynton on any game and coming to play. He got himself ready. He maybe had some bad games, but it was never one of those things where you looked at it and said, ‘he just wasn’t ready to play.’ Same thing with Erik Murphy. He maybe didn’t play well but you never said, ‘is this guy going to be ready to play tonight?’ I think one of the things, and I made this comment, I did a poor job with Erving Walker because I was trying to get Erving to be more of a leader as a senior. He and Kenny had developed a very, very close relationship and I think it overwhelmed Erving. He didn’t play well with that kind of responsibility. He felt like it was too much for him. Kenny Boynton was kind of a shy guy; he wasn’t very outspoken on the court, he just kind of was focused on what he needed to do. And I think in a lot of ways Scottie, and Patric (Young), Casey Prather, and Will Yeguete when they were a little bit younger they probably needed a little bit more direction and it wasn’t because those guys (Walker, Boynton) didn’t want to do it. It was just like Kenny Boynton from his freshman year when he came in here and he was injected into the starting lineup and he was around some older guys as a freshman. He didn’t need that, he just got himself locked in to play. Same thing with Erving when he came. As a freshman, we just put him out there and he played. Frazier had that luxury last year where he could just kind of come in and play and not have to worry about other people. And I think that Scottie and Patric were able to see that maybe with a guy like Vernon Macklin or Parsons or some of these older guys that they needed help. And it’s so easy I think when you get to be a senior to sit there and say, ‘what’s wrong with this freshman? He doesn’t know what he’s doing.’ They quickly forget that they were once freshman too and Vernon Macklin and those guys were saying the same thing about you. I think that have a really, really good awareness of that and I think because of the time investment they’ve made, those guys, the younger guys, Kasey Hill is so receptive. Brad Beal was the same way, he was very, very receptive to coaching from Boynton and help from Boynton when they needed that. I think that with the dynamics of our team over the last couple of years those guys could see the value in some of that leadership stuff in terms of communication and helping. I think Scottie has done a really good job away from the court of getting with guys individually and talked to them through the struggles they’re dealing with. That’s why I think it’s been a little bit different for those guys.”

 

On evaluating Kasey Hill’s play:

“You know, Kasey has played very, very well. I’m really pleased with him, he’s gotten better. He hasn’t shot the ball great, which is ok. Most freshmen are going to be up and down. But his assist-to-turnover ratio is good, he’s getting in the lane. I think he’s getting more aggressive and playing with a little more intensity. He’s a little bit like Doe Doe sometimes; if things don’t go well he has a tendency to carry it to the next play. But, I think he’s moving out of that maturity-wise. But the last couple games, the Alabama game and the Tennessee game, I thought he’s played well for us.”

 

On the officiating rule emphasis this season and how it is holding up:

“I think it’s a work in progress. I’ve said this before, I think when you have officials that have been officiating 20+ years a certain way and now you’re changing there’s always going to be some adjustments. Adjustments for players, coaches and the officials as well. Other changes maybe you can see that have taken place, yes. Are they consistent all the time? No. It’s hard sometimes. You take our game against Tennessee. You have two very physical teams and physical front courts and stuff and you want guys to be able to play, but you don’t want them to be in a situation where someone is gaining an advantage physically. So there’s a balance there. I think they’re trying to work through that. It’s going to be interesting to see how supervisors feel it’s going. Maybe there’s been some calls that have been missed, maybe there’s been too much contact that has been let go. But I think it’s been consistent for both teams, which I think as a coach and as a player you have to make adjustments to how the game is being officiated.”

 

On whether the Damontre Harris situation is absolute, or if he may see action at the NCAA Tournament:

“To me, as a coach I think it would completely devalue what our team values are here in terms of what we’re trying to do each and every day. He had every opportunity back in November to do those things and he elected not to. You know I said, ‘we’re parting ways, he’s going to move on.’ Then obviously he reached out. But you have too many guys like Patric Young and Yeguete and Prather and those guys that have been committed for years and really working to do the right things. For him to all of sudden just get injected back in there because he may help our team, I mean I think we’ve done fine without him. He’ll have to work to get better and improve but we’re not going to play him this year.”

 

On where has Chris Walker has improved the most in the last six weeks in practice:

“He’s more prepared than he was a couple weeks ago. I think the biggest adjustment he’s made is just having a better feel and understanding of what we’re doing offensively and defensively. When you walk into a situation, and we have 60 different offensive sets and he doesn’t know one of them, I mean that’s a long way to have to come. So, there’s certain concepts and things he’s got to get under belt which he has done a better job of figuring out and he’s improving on. But, we’re spending a lot of extra time with him. He was here this morning and he’ll be here this afternoon and we’re doing as much as we can. But having a better feel and understanding of what we’re doing has been the biggest jump that he’s made and I think he’s getting stronger too just being on a consistent weight-training program. It’s been good. I think the education part for him on nutrition and what he’s eating has been good. So, I think he came in here at like 203 pounds, and right now he’s at about 210 or 213. He’s moving in the right direction there. He’s made some growth and some strides. How ready is he? I’m sure he’ll be very anxious, nervous and excited. How many minutes can we actually get out of him? I’m not really sure. But he’s a really, really good kid who’s worked hard and has been eager to learn and get better and I appreciate the way he is handling himself in a very difficult situation.”

 

On if he would redshirt Chris Walker:

“No, I wouldn’t. And we’re going to have a situation somewhat similar to that next year with Alex Murphy who is probably going to miss the first 10 games because he transferred mid-semester and he’ll have to sit out. That could potentially happen for him. You don’t typically do it. I don’t look at Chris (Walker) missing 19 games because he wasn’t even here. He’s missed, I think from Memphis on. That’s probably a better number of games. But as long as he’s in practice every day, that’s OK. As long as we can get him enough, so-to-speak, game repetition in terms of what we’re doing out there and he’s been there and he would give us some depth in our front court. But I’m not overly worried about it. I think he’s playing well and doing well so we’ll keep him out there. My biggest fear for Chris is you have a highly exposed player and sometimes when a guy isn’t playing the ‘legend of Chris Walker’ grows greater than who he really is. You know, it was the same thing with Doe Doe last year. He’s sitting out and everyone is talking about this guy like he’s Magic Johnson. And Chris Walker now is, ‘Oh my, this guy is going to end up being Kevin Garnett,’ and he’s not that. And I think whenever he gets able to play if that’s their expectation of Chris Walker they’re going to be very, very disappointed because he’s not that. And my biggest fear for him is there is a level of anticipation and excitement of whenever he gets cleared to play, but I hope there is at least a level of understanding in terms of how much he’s missed in terms of coming in to where he’s coming in, and if anybody is expecting him to be savior it would really be unfair. He’s got a lot of growing to do. He’s got a lot of physical growing, mental growing, he’s got to understand the college game a lot more. There’s so much that’s in front of him to get better at and I just hope people will not look at it and say, ‘wow. I was expecting something different.’ Hopefully for him, I don’t want to have to see him go through that.”

 

On the matchup against Mississippi State this Thursday in regards to style of play:

“Very, very aggressive; we’re going to see some changing defenses – 1-3-1 zone, 2-3, switching man-to-man. They get out – (Craig) Sword, (Fred) Thomas, (Trivante) Bloodman, good steal guys – get out in passing lanes, can deny good speed and quickness. Getting to the free throw line at home an enormous amount, I think the last three SEC games it’s like 117-74; they’re getting about 39 free throws a game at home in SEC paly. They’ve done a good job of getting into the lane and getting fouled. Defensively, they’re going to try to turn you over with some pressure. They’re a really, really good help defensive team, they rotate very, very well. They’ve got good speed and quickness out in the perimeter.”

 

Sophomore G Michael Frazier II

On being named SEC player of the week:

“It’s a great honor. It just shows that hard work pays off. I’m going to continue to strive to get better each and every day and continue to focus on the team.”

 

On not scoring against Auburn:

“Honestly, I have to do a better job of staying focused on things that I can control in the game. I think that I did a poor job of focusing on the game and things I could affect. I took that as a learning lesson. Just to stay focused on the things I can control. I can’t control if the ball goes in or not. We won, and I was happy even though I didn’t play well. I was happy that we got the win, which is the most important thing. My mindset is to just to continue to keep getting better. Every day at practice I’m just trying to move forward.”

 

On dealing with the mental aspect of a miss:

“Now I’m more focused on putting it out of my mind. Before I was focused on the miss. I think that was all a habit that I developed over the years. I can’t let a miss affect me. My coaches and teammates have done a great job of drilling into my head to have a short memory. I know as a shooter it is supposed to be important, but for some odd reason I can’t seem to get that into my head. I think I am getting better at it. My teammates and coaches stay on me about it. Just shoot when I am open, and that is what I am trying to do.”

 

On fighting complacency:

“Our coaches and our seniors are doing a great job of keeping us grounded as a team and showing us areas we can get better so that we don’t get complacent. Last year I think our team, not to speak about last year too much, but our team got complacent at times. Even this year we have gotten complacent. So moving forward I think our team has a habit now of playing desperate. We have taken on that identity and that has helped us a lot.”

 

On the team’s success on Thursday-Saturday games:

“I can just say that I think everyone on the team is focused on taking care of their bodies, which is the main thing at this point of the year – eating right, getting proper rest. I think we’re doing a great job of that, so that’s why we’ve been able to be successful on these quick turnarounds.”

 

On focusing on the “meat and potatoes” of an opponent on a short turnaround:

We had no choice. We only had one day to prepare for Tennessee. I think our guys did a great job of coming in and being focused and being focused on just that day so that we can get in what we need to get in and then get out because we need that rest. Like I said, we’re doing a good job of taking care of our bodies right now.”

 

On defensive changes from last year to this year:

“I think having multiple weapons on offense and defense keeps teams on their toes. Anytime we can go into a game and throw zone at them or the press at them I think it is always good to change up our defenses so that they can’t focus on one thing. This year we have been effective in the press, the 1-3-1, man and in zone, so it’s been a weapon. I like all of them, as long as we get stops.”

 

Senior F Will Yeguete

On Mississippi State:

“I think that they are definitely going to be a better team than they were last year … I think that they had a really good defensive team, but we haven’t started watching anything on them yet. We’re going to start tomorrow. We’ll see tomorrow.”

 

On sustaining the intensity from the Tennessee game:

“I think just being focused on the game and knowing who we are playing against. Just taking it one game at a time and us making sure our seniors are ready to and that the rest of the team is ready to go regardless of who we are playing against.”

 

On keeping the young guys focused…

“Coach D (Billy Donovan) is doing a really good job of making sure we are ready and that we take one game at a time. We have a process. We just stick to the process pretty much. They (younger guys on the team) don’t really know how to simplify and make sure that you go hard at practice every day. That is up to us seniors to let them know that, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get ready and prepare for every single game.’”

 

On Michael Frazier:

“Michael Frazier gets down when he misses a few shots. We are doing a better job of telling him to keep shooting, keep shooting because we know it is going to go in. He works a lot on his shots. We understand that he is going to miss some and we also understand that the next one when he is open that he is going to take it.”

 

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