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Monday February 3, 2014Billy Donovan Press Conference Quotes

Gainesville, Fla.

Florida Men’s Basketball Head Coach Billy Donovan

Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, Press Conference Transcript

 

On Monday, Billy Donovan talked about the working Chris Walker into the rotation, the challenges Missouri presents and other topics. Below is a transcript of Donovan’s press conference, followed by quotes from player interviews.

 

On working on Chris Walker into the rotation:

“A couple of things concerning that: I think that there was a lot of attention on Chris [Walker] because he was not a part of our team. He was separated from our team and there was a lot of attention given to the fact of when he was going to be cleared to play. Right now, there should be no attention to Chris because it‘s about our team. He is now a part of our team. He needs to be in a role with our team that, however he can contribute and help our team, that is the most important thing. He is a humble kid. He understands that coming in he needs to do whatever he can do to help – whether it’s two minutes, three minutes or 20 minutes. It’s all going to be predicated on how he is doing and what he is doing to help our team – foul trouble, fatigue and those types of things. For me, Chris is no different than any member of our team right now. He’s been here for over a month. He is caught up somewhat, but is not fully caught up. I’m happy for him that he can now put on a uniform and go out there and play and that all of this stuff is behind him. As it relates to anything else, he is now part of our team. There is not our team and Chris Walker’s suspension. He is now a part of the team.”

 

On what Chris Walker does well and what Donovan has seen from him in practice:

“I think that the thing with Chris is that he plays with good energy. He plays with a good motor and he is athletic. He can run. He’s a good rebounder. All those things that he does in getting into the game is going to be predicated on him knowing what he is doing and what he can do in terms of coverage on the defensive end of the floor, what we’re running on offense, post defense and those types of things. He can be the best runner in the world, the best jumper in the world or the best rebounder in the world, but if he can’t do the things inside a game plan of what we need to get done, then it becomes very difficult to play him.”

 

On Chris Walker’s expectation for the game:

“I think what Chris Walker wants is … he just wanted to be a part of our team from the beginning. I think he is happy he’s here and happy he’s playing. I certainly, totally understand the attention he has gotten. He is a high-profile guy and a good kid that has been ruled ineligible, and everyone is trying to anticipate when this guy is going to come back. Now that this is behind us right now, now it’s what can he do to help our team. I know that he is anxious and excited. But I don’t think Chris Walker’s expectations are to walk out there, play 30 minutes and start. To his credit, he has taken the approach of, ‘Whatever I can do to help our team.’ Hopefully, he’ll be able to do that in one way or another. How many minutes or in what role, I really don’t know that right now because with guys like Will Yeguete, Patric Young, Dorian Finney-Smith and Casey Prather, we have some veteran guys that have been through it a little bit. But you don’t know about fatigue, injury or foul trouble, how he [Walker] could be used in the game. I’m not trying to downplay Chris Walker. I’m excited for him. But this is not about him right now. This is about our team playing Missouri tomorrow. That is where our focus needs to be. I get that a lot of people are enthusiastic and excited about him having the opportunity to play, but like I said earlier, the expectations of him as a player are way up here and he can’t reach that level. He can’t. I just want people to know that this isn’t going to be a guy that tomorrow you are going to say, ‘Billy, you really downplayed this guy. This guy came out and played like Wilt Chamberlain.’ That’s not going to happen. He’s a good player with a lot in front of him and a lot of growing and maturity that has to go into that. I really don’t know how much he can. He can come in there and do some really good things and really help our team, or he can come into the game and get lost going too fast or the emotion of the game will overwhelm him because he’s so excited. A lot of things can happen. I’m not going into the game with any expectation of Chris at all. But I’m going into the game as having Chris part of our team and having an understanding of what we are doing. Going forward, it is about our team. Like I said earlier, for the longest time you had a group of players and then Chris Walker out here. I’ve [understood] the attention. Now Chris Walker is in here. So he is no different than anyone on our team right now.”

 

On an update on Casey Prather’s injured ankle:

“He did not practice yesterday, but we’re hopeful he practices today. We wanted to get him some extra rest. I think he was sore in the game against Texas A&M. How much we get out of him today, I’ll probably have a better idea once we get closer to practice. He’ll go in for some rehab. I’m sure he’ll do some. I don’t think it’s a high ankle sprain or a major ankle sprain, but he does have some swelling and some soreness in it.”

 

On the challenges Missouri’s guards present:

“Their three guys on the perimeter are difficult covers because you can play really good defense [and still give up points]. There were some points in time in the game against A&M and even against Mississippi State, where I thought our defense broke down and those guys had good looks, but the ball didn’t go into the basket – this is a game where the other could be true. We could play unbelievable defense and these guys have the ability to really make shots against really good defense. [Jordan] Clarkson, Jabari Brown and [Earnest] Ross, and I think when you look at SEC play, a guy like Jabari Brown shooting 57 percent, that is hard to do in a gym with no one guarding you. He’s getting everyone’s attention and everyone understands what he is doing. He’s getting around 23 [points] a game. He’s done it against great defenses and people have put an emphasis and a focus on him. I think that is a tribute to how he is playing offensively and how good and talented he is.”

 

On the impact that Missouri’s size has on the game plan:

“They have very, very big guards. I think that’s one of the reasons I was saying that you can play really good defense, but a guy like Jabari Brown with his size, or [Earnest] Ross at his size, or even [Jordan] Clarkson at the point guard spot at 6-4, 6-5, they have the ability to shoot over top of people, even when you’re on them. I think that’s what makes them such a tough cover. On the perimeter, they’ve got very, big, strong, physical guards and I would say, from an offensive perspective, there’s not a trio in the country, in my opinion, that’s more talented and gifted than them. And then, you look at [Ryan] Rosburg up front and you look at [Johnathan] Williams, who’s a freshman that they’ve gotten great minutes out of, and [Tony] Criswell is a veteran guy. You may look at their numbers and say, ‘Those guys aren’t scoring a lot of points,’ but part of it is that it’s not that those guys are not good offensive players, it’s that those other three guys are so elite that it’s hard not to run stuff and give those three guys a look every time down the floor. But, Williams, Criswell and Rosburg are capable scorers, so we’ve got to be mindful of them as well.”

 

On DeVon Walker’s status:

“Going into the game, the trainer said, ‘Listen, he’s available, but it would be better if we could get through the game without playing him.’ With the way the game was going, I didn’t see the need to put him in harm’s way. We only played seven guys in the game and I think at about the 10-minute mark I sat [Casey] Prather and he didn’t play the rest of the game, as well. DeVon is further along than probably Prather is right now. But he should be a full-go and should be fine for tomorrow.”

 

On the reason for struggles in the month of February in previous years:

“I think if you look at our league right now, and I think this happens every year to us, with the way the league is shaking out, right now after eight games, we’ve played six games against the lower half of our league. We’ve only played two games against the upper half.  And I think our league has always done this, where for us, our league is really, really back-loaded a lot of times and we end up playing at the end of our schedule a lot more difficult and challenging schedule in the month of February than maybe we play in January. It all is going to even out in the end, but right now, for us, still having to go to Tennessee, having to play Missouri tomorrow, having to go to Vanderbilt, having to go to Ole Miss, having to go back to Tennessee, we’re going to get into those last 10 games here and it’s going to be really, really back-ended when most of our games are going to be against the upper echelon of where our league standings are right now. That’s not to say that they couldn’t change based on games and what happens. But as of right now, our eight games, six have been against the bottom half of the league. I think the bottom half of our league is pretty good. I think those guys can beat anybody. I mean, we struggled to beat Auburn at their place. We struggled to beat Mississippi State and struggled to beat Alabama on the road. So, those teams may be at the bottom part, but I think those teams are capable.”

 

On areas for improvement in the next month:

“I just think continually to get better in every facet. I thought we’ve made some really good strides defensively. I think we’ve progressed and gotten better. I do think we can continually get better on offense, in terms of utilizing and taking advantage of our personnel. I think, for the most part, I’ve been pleased with our guys’ effort and their energy – I think we’ve played pretty hard most of the year. We’ve had a couple games where I was a little disappointed in maybe our intensity or our focus, but when you go through a long season you’re going to have games like that. But I think overall, we still can get better. We can get better on defense, we can get better on offense and certainly, I think we can get better from the free-throw line – that has to be an area that we make an improvement on. We have our front court players right now – all of those guys are shooting 55, 56, 57 percent. That’s got to be a focus for us to try and continually work on that and try to get better in that area.”

 

On the approach to improving free throw shooting:

“I think you try to do that as much as you can. You have to rehearse and you have to take them. There are certain guys that are really, really good at shooting free throws. They just make free throws. Then there’s other guys, you’ve got a guy like Scottie Wilbekin. Scottie has jumped up his shooting percentage. He’s put the time in and he’s worked at it. I think Patric [Young] goes 5-for-8. That’s not bad, that’s not great, but he’s worked at it. I do think Dorian Finney-Smith could be better. Casey Prather was shooting such a high percentage earlier in the year and he’s kind of tailed off here a little bit. So, we’ve got to continue to work on that and I do think that the free throw thing is the one time in the game where – you’ve got to have a pretty broad focus when you’re playing the game, in terms of having an awareness of what’s going on on offense and on defense, you’ve got to be aware – but it’s the one play in basketball where you really should just narrow your focus on what you need to do at the free throw line.”

 

On how the team has improved defensively this season:

“The last few games, our numbers have been much, much better. We went from a team that I thought was really struggling defending the three-point line, now we’re going to be really tested tomorrow at the three-point line, but the last three or four games – Tennessee, Mississippi State and even Texas A&M – I think if you look at the three-point line numbers, that’s an area we got better in. I think our field goal percentage defense, we’ve gotten better in. We’re going to be a little bit of a different team than we were a year ago. We lost three seniors who were experienced and knew what they were doing. I think our younger guys – DeVon Walker, Michael Frazier, Kasey Hill – I think they’ve gotten better, they’ve improved, but I still think it’s a work in progress. I do see signs of us getting better there.”

 

On if the team is playing with the mindset that they are national championship contenders:

“That’s all fleeting, to me. I think rankings, all that stuff…I feel bad for Arizona, they had a very, very difficult loss and lose a player to a broken foot, supposedly. It changes so quickly. The only thing we need to be focused on right now is today and getting better and getting prepared to play Missouri. I know a lot of people will speculate about the NCAA Tournament, brackets, seeding and all that stuff, and I get that, but for us right now, it’s not about that. We’re in the middle of our league right now, tomorrow’s the halfway point of our league, and our focus and everything about us and what we’re doing right now has got to be geared towards Missouri. We’re not talking about anything else down the road as a team. Everything is about here and now.”

 

On if he’s happy with the offensive efficiency rating:

“We’re getting the shots we want. I just thought the Texas A&M game, because that was our most recent game, I thought we had a lot of wasted possessions in the game. We had some plays in transition we didn’t make, we had some shots blocked around the basket that we didn’t make, we were 18-for-29 from the free throw line. All those things, if you can take five, six, seven, eight possessions and not have a wasted possession, I think your numbers can change drastically. Certainly, from the free throw line I think our efficiency numbers would change drastically. For the most part, I think when we’re shooting the basketball we’re getting the looks that we want. I really thought in the first half – we were 1-for-12 from the three-point line – going back and looking at that game, I think we got good looks. Frazier got good looks that didn’t go down, Scottie Wilbekin had some good looks that did not go down. Some of them went down in the second half at a better rate. I think we’ve got to eliminate those wasted possessions, whether it’s with a poor shot, turnover, missed free throws, not really getting what we want. We don’t have a lot of them, but we’ve got enough that we need to clean up some of those plays.”

 

On adjusting to playing a team with good outside shooters:

“I think because of those guys’ ability offensively, we’re going to be who we are defensively. Now your pickup point, because of Jabari Brown, [Earnest] Ross and [Jordan] Clarkson and their range, ability and where they can shoot the ball from, you’re going to have to probably move out further to be on them. Nothing really changes in terms of what we’re trying to do. They put you in some binds and some situations where they put those guys on the run or in situations where they’re able to make some plays and shoot the basketball. I think the biggest thing you have to first get to the point with Missouri is 60 percent of their points come in transition. So first and foremost, the most important thing is being able to come back and get the floor balanced and get matched up because if you come back and you’re discombobulated and you’re not communicating and getting matched up when you’ve got Ross and Parker on the wings and you’ve got [Ryan] Rosburg or [Johnathan] Williams running to the rim and Clarkson’s got the ball in his hands, that’s a problem. That’s a major problem. They are as efficient as any team in the country on the break and they push it really, really hard. They take threes on the break and if they don’t have threes, they’ve got physical, strong perimeter guys that can really get to the basket and get fouls. So not only is playing post defense going to be critical and important against them, but also the mindset of being able to get back and get matched up  and get loaded to the ball because if the floor gets really spaced out, you’re leaving these guys in really wide open isolated situations where they’re spectacular.”

 

Senior C Patric Young

On Chris Walker’s emotions for his Gator debut:

“I think he’s extremely excited. I haven’t gotten to speak with him today, but just thinking about everything he’s gone through to get to this, as far as the school, the things he had to do over the summer, missing the first semester, finally being here, going through practice and still not hearing from the NCAA – it’s probably a 15 on a scale of 1-10 on how excited he is right now.”

 

On what Walker brings to the team:

“Energy is the number one thing. He is definitely a guy that brings a lot of energy. [He’s] very similar to myself as a freshman as far as running, jumping around, just being active, grabbing a bunch of boards. So, as far as that, you shouldn’t have too high of expectations – it’s the guy’s first college game that he’s going to get to play in. We’ll see how he does from there.”

 

On the team’s feeling about Walker:

“The one thing that’s really excited me about Chris is just how humble and how likeable of a guy he is. A guy that can come in as a McDonald’s All-American with all of the accolades that he has, he could come in here and have a little bit of an ego, but it hasn’t been like that with him at all. You just feel for a guy that’s a good guy, as well – a good person – that finally gets to do something that he’s been dreaming to do. He’ll finally play his first college game and we’re all just excited for him and to enjoy that moment with him.”

 

On the test that Missouri’s high-power offense brings to Florida’s defense:

“Their backcourt is very talented. We’re all going to have to be on our P’s and Q’s tomorrow night for sure. All of their guards are very talented. I watched a little bit of the Missouri game and their coach does a great job, Coach [Frank] Haith, of getting those guys the ball and we just have to limit them and do what we do best.”

 

On what the Florida team “does best” on defense:

“We’re disruptive. We’re balanced. We’re a selfless team. We have great chemistry. We’re a very coachable, likeable team, I can say, and we just have fun out there together. That’s the number one thing.”

 

R-Sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith

On the biggest adjustments transferring from Virginia Tech to Florida:

“I love Florida weather. Basketball-wise, we play so fast here. At Virginia Tech, we were more of a half-court team. Here, we get up and down and press the whole game.”

 

On Chris Walker’s ability:

“He’s a great player. He has a lot of energy. He’s athletic – he could jump out of the gym. I’m happy for him that he gets to play, but we have a game to win…He has a lot of raw talent and he’s going to help the team a lot with his athleticism.”

 

On the excitement level of finally getting to play in a game:

“The first game I played, I was so excited, but you also have to humble yourself. You don’t want to come out there and do too much because you’re so anxious to play. He has to listen to the older guys – Patric [Young], Will [Yeguete] – they know a lot. Keep talking to them and they’ll help him throughout the game.”

 

On settling into his role as the sixth man:

“I try to come off the bench with a lot of energy. I try to change the game, affect the game in any way I can – even if I’m not hitting shots, being on the glass, playing defense, being excited.”

 

On his expectations from Missouri:

“I expect them to attack the whole game. We have to get back on transition defense. I know they have three talented guards that we have to contain. We just have to come out with a lot of energy. It’s a team effort. It’s not just three guards – it’s our five versus their five.”

 

 

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