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Monday February 10, 2014Billy Donovan Press Conference Quotes

Gainesville, Fla.

Florida Men’s Basketball Head Coach Billy Donovan

Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, Press Conference Transcript

 

Billy Donovan held his weekly press conference on Monday, addressing the upcoming game at Tennessee, the leadership of the senior class and other topics. Below is a transcript of Donovan’s press conference, followed by quotes from player interviews.

 

On four of the next five games being on the road:

“I’ve made this comment about the league before. I thought our non-conference schedule got us prepared for later on in the league. Going to Wisconsin was a tough environment, having to go to Connecticut in a tough environment and then obviously, we’ve played four road games in a short period of time to start the league. Then we’ve had three in a row at home, so I would liken it to what I mentioned about our defense. Just because you’ve played well on the road up to this point in time, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll just continue it. You have to play well. It takes your entire team being focused on what it needs to do on the road. Normally, and I would throw ourselves into this, teams are more comfortable when they play at home. It’s where you practice and it’s familiarity; it’s a little bit different when you go on the road. For us, although we’ve done pretty well as far, I think tomorrow night poses a different test. Just because it has been the case in the past doesn’t mean it is going to be the case tomorrow. We’re going to have to perform and play really well. I’ve got confidence in our guys going on the road and playing. We’ve got some older guys that have been through it. They understand it and know what it takes. We’re going against a team that is playing very good basketball and it wasn’t so long ago that we played them. It’s a similar situation to what he had with Alabama. There is some familiarity because we’ve played each other once. The only difference is that instead of Alabama coming here is that we’re going to Tennessee (with a) quick turnaround playing Saturday and Tuesday. The one positive is that you have enough time where there’s familiarity because our guys have played against each other. I’m sure there is familiarity on their part, too. We’re going to have to be ready to go out there and play.”

 

On the addition of Chris Walker to the lineup helping depth:

“I think that always helps (having an extra body in the lineup). I think that Chris is getting more and more comfortable. He adds depth to our frontcourt. With him, we are a deeper team across the frontcourt. I think the one thing about Tennessee is how they rebound the basketball. They have the largest rebounding margins in the league. They’re also getting back their misses better than anyone in our league. Inside will be a battle for both teams. I think for us, having Chris gives us more depth in the frontcourt than the first time we played them.”

 

On how Marcus Smart’s situation affects the team’s mental preparation going into road games:

“I tell our guys all the time, when you’re going on the road, there is always going to be situations and things that can distract you from doing your job. There is enough to deal with in between the lines, with who you are playing against. Never mind trying to deal with what’s going on outside of the lines. For us, it is just the same thing and same message at all times. We’ve got to do our jobs. We’ve got to be connected and focused on doing our jobs. Anything that takes us out from us doing our jobs is just distraction. That is going to put us in a position where we are not going to play as well as we need to play. I think some of our guys have been in some tough venues and played in some rough road games. Tuesday will be no different for us. We’ve got to stay focused on what we need to do between the lines.”

 

On the current state of fan etiquette:

“I think every school, at least before games, tries to endorse, promote and do the best they can with ads and messages about having a level of sportsmanship out there. Does it always happen? No, it doesn’t. The one thing you have to do is be responsible for yourself. I think the minute you start to become responsible or think you become responsible for someone else is the moment you get distracted. You get out what you need to do. In every venue there are going to be things said that could be hurtful, disappointing or upsetting. At the same point, that stuff has to be blocked out. You have to be able to go out there and do you job to the best of your ability. There are times where things do cross the line in my opinion. It’s not like I am passing judgment on anyone else out there. I’m sure there have been times where our fans have done that, too. You don’t want to see that. You want to see your fans root for their team and encourage them as best they can. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. That sometimes is unfortunate. You can’t be responsible for what someone else is saying or doing because you’ve got to be responsible for what you are doing. And that is the message for us.”

 

On what the four seniors are doing as leaders:

“I think the leadership part always comes from, and I think one of the things young people struggle with and our guys are pretty good at this, before you can lead, you have to responsible for yourself and accountable for yourself. I think if you have guys that are making excuses and not doing their jobs, it becomes difficult to lead because you start to lose respect inside the locker room. That is not saying that anyone is perfect and not going to make mistakes, but I do think each and every day you have the opportunity as a player to show a level of unselfishness in terms of where your focus is. With the understanding that you are going to make mistakes and you’re not going to be perfect, but your heart is that of trying to do on a continuous basis what is best for your team. I think when you do that, you build trust, you build confidence and you build connectivity inside of your team. I think these four guys – (Casey) Prather, (Will) Yeguete, (Scottie) Wilbekin and Pat (Young) – have displayed that. None of them are perfect. They all make mistakes. But I don’t think you can question them in terms of their heart and where it is. Their heart is in the team and trying to do whatever they can to help the team. So much gets talked about leadership, leadership, leadership. There is no leadership unless you have good followers. Part of having a good leader is you’ve got to have guys that are going to follow to. The problem comes in when you have guys that are following bad leadership and your team gets taken off of a cliff. That’s not good, either. If you have guys that are about the right things and talking to young people about helping them, those guys have to be responsible for wanting to be led. A perfect example for me this year and the past few weeks is Chris Walker. Chris Walker has been very open to listening to Patric, to Yeguete, to Prather and Wilbekin, to have those guys help him. He has been very good listener. He doesn’t come across as having all the answers or knowing everything. Chris has been patient listening to those guys, and they have been patient listening to Chris. It’s the whole thing. There are times were Patric needs to be led or Wilbekin needs to be led. When you are in a role like that, you have to have guys that are good followers and followers to the right message.”

 

On how much Chris Walker can grow this season:

“I think he can get better when things start to become a little bit more less thinking and more reacting for him – where do I go, what am I supposed to do. I think that probably takes away some of his athleticism, some of his abilities. I think when he’s comfortable, he can impact the game more athletically with his running, shot blocking and rebounding. I think he is getting more comfortable, he is getting a little bit more confident. It was hard to play him a lot of minutes against Alabama just because Alabama was shifting in and out of a lot of different defenses and you like to get a little bit more creative, offensively, in terms of what you’re running and what you’re doing, and things we were running a lot in the first half and even in the second half was stuff that he’s probably not as familiar with. And some of the things we were running were effective against their zone and now you’re taking a guy and putting him out there and once they start to play more man-to-man, we can put Chris in there a little more. He has caught up; we used yesterday to kind of get him caught up on some different things on offense and defense that maybe he hasn’t been exposed to yet because there are things that are going on right now – and I’ve told him do not worry about this, you don’t need to know it, don’t worry about it, we’ll eventually get to this, but then there’s things where you need to know this and you need to be able to do this – and now we’re slowly starting to add more things to him and he’s getting a better background. I do think he’s going to be able to help our team and continue to play more and more minutes.”

 

On SEC teams scheduling tougher non-conference schedules:

“This is going to be probably a never-ending debate, as it relates to non-conference scheduling. I think Alabama right now, RPI-wise, has the second rated schedule in the country. And they are a really, really, really good team and they’ve made growth throughout the course of the year. When you’re playing the kind of schedule they’re playing, there is that opportunity where you can have a record like they have. I’m not inside of Anthony’s (Grant) team, so I don’t know all the inner-workings, but I know Tom Izzo one year talking about it, scheduled six really, really hard games and he lost all of them. And it puts your team in a really, really bad psyche, so to speak. A lot of times, your team is not reflective of your record and sometimes the scheduling really can cause a problem. There’s a fine line there between scheduling up and more difficult games and also a balance, too, where your team doesn’t get run into the ground. And you look at Alabama and they fact that they’re going to UCLA, they played Xavier, they played Wichita State they played Oklahoma, they’ve played a lot of really, really hard games, they’ve battled some injuries, and I’m not sure their record is indicative of the way those guys played. I thought they played one of their better games, up to this point in time, against us, and I think probably some of it had to do with they’ve played a lot of good teams. They weren’t at all, ‘Played a really soft schedule and lost in a fog of how good they are.’ I give Anthony credit for how hard their guys continue to battle and continue to grow. Everybody talks about non-conference scheduling, and it all looks good, but for any league, you have to win some of those games. You can schedule up, but you have to be able to win some of those games and that’s the hard part when you’re playing against a lot of really good teams. I think our league has done that. There are teams that I think will continue to get better and improve. I think a lot of teams in our league – I say this all the time – are not the same in November as they are in February. Teams get better. There are good coaches here. But what happens is in your non-conference schedule, once you get through it and you start crossing all the other BCS conferences, and now people immediately label ‘the league.’ But in some ways, if it got flip-flopped and you played outside your league this time of year, it could look a little different, but it doesn’t work that way. It’s kind of like you play non-conference, you get into your league – once you get into the league in January, the league’s got an identity and it’s really, really hard to change that identity. It really, really is. There are ebbs and flows during the course of the year and I think we’ve got some teams right now in our league that continue to get better and improve.”

 

On the last game against Tennessee and what their offensive struggles from that game can be attributed to:

“Going back, I think when you get yourself removed from the game, after the game’s over, you look down the stat sheet and you see the numbers, and obviously they were really good in terms of what it looked like for us defensively. I think it was a combination of there were some areas where we did a really, really good job and there were also some areas where those guys missed some shots, they had some pretty decent looks. I don’t think that in the course of the game that you’re just going to shut a team out from never getting up a good shot. There’s going to be times where they’ve gotten good shots. There’s times in a game where we were really in a bad spot and we rotated really well, created some help and we made a play. There’s time in a game where you broke down, didn’t get where you were supposed to get, you have an open shot and they missed it. It was probably a combination of both. What they shot against us from the field in the first half, I don’t think was 100 percent indicative of us defensively. Do I think we did a good job defensively? Yes. Do the numbers reflect that that’s exactly what it was? Probably not, but it was probably somewhere in the middle.”

 

On if he will have to stress that defending the perimeter won’t be as easy in the rematch in Knoxville:

“I don’t think so. I think our guys understand. I think if you look at the last several games, what (Jordan) McRae has done from behind the line, it reminds me very much of what Jabari Brown is doing in this league. If you look at their numbers at home from the three-point line, they’re pretty incredible. Like you said, they’re not going to shoot that kind of percentage like they did (here) – they’re at home, they’re more comfortable. I think they are a very, very dangerous three-point shooting team and if you look at their home stats, when they’re at home, they are shooting a very high percentage from the three.”

 

On his impressions of Marcus Smart, having coached him at USA Basketball:

“You know it’s really an unfortunate situation with everything that happened. Obviously, you sit there and see the replay and you don’t know what’s said or what happened and I think, as Travis (Ford) mentioned, he crossed the line with something he shouldn’t have done. But I think, to go along with what Travis said, that he is a great kid. I never had one bit of a problem with him, coaching him for the two years with USA. I was really appreciative that he came back for a second year and played. I remember the first year we had there were a couple games that we were up 30, 40 points at halftime and I told him, because we had to play five games in a row, I said, ‘Marcus, I’m not playing you in the second half,’ and he said, ‘No problem, Coach. Whatever I can do to help.’ He’s always been that type of kid. What people saw from him in that situation against Texas Tech, to me, is totally uncharacteristic. I never saw anything like that coaching him. But I will say this, you know I saw this happen with Joakim Noah. You go from a guy who makes the decision to come back and he gets an enormous amount of publicity and an enormous amount of exposure and all of a sudden everything gets into the fact that this is good for college basketball – Marcus Smart is coming back, here’s a kid who had a chance to leave. I don’t know why he came back or didn’t go or what the decision making process was, but I had him during the draft. And I think for Marcus, now I don’t know this, this is just my opinion, my feeling, but because he was a top-five pick a year ago, you feel like you have to play like a top-five pick. Whatever that looks like in his mind, what happens is you can never reach that level. Whether he thinks he needs to score 30 points and get 10 assists and five steals, that’s not going to happen. But you feel this unbelievable pressure. I saw it with Noah. When Noah came back after his sophomore year, the pressure he felt to perform every game was totally out of control. Him, he made it out of control. And I told Joakim this, ‘You cannot allow people to rob you of your happiness playing the game.’ I think in some ways that Marcus has allowed some happiness to get robbed of him in this whole process of coming back, not playing like they want to. Obviously they’ve had some tough losses, they’ve played a tough schedule, he’s the guy and now all of a sudden he goes from four months ago as this unbelievable kid coming back to college basketball to now he is in a situation where he is looked upon in a very negative light. And I saw it with Joakim. Joakim was at the NCAA Tournament as a sophomore was like a lightning rod. We were unranked, everybody loved the kid and then once the next year started he was a complete villain. You know, chest-thumping and all that stuff. But he had done that since he was a freshman. And what happens is, that gets very confusing for young guys. Marcus is a young kid and he’s a competitor and wants to win and I think he’s one of those guys that will just keep on fighting and there’s no question his emotions got the best of him. But I’m not so sure this has something has to do with the pressure he personally has placed on himself at the level he wants to perform at. And the quicker he gets to the place where he realizes that he cannot live up to those expectations, he’s got to do what he’s got to do to help the team, I think the better off he his. I think you saw total frustration from him the last couple of weeks. To me, that’s just the frustration of a young kid; that’s a competitor and he really wants to play better and wants his team to do better and he probably didn’t channel it the right way and crossed a line into a really poor situation that I’m sure he really regrets to this day.”

 

On improvements on the offensive end against Alabama:

“I think the 22 assists were very, very encouraging. I thought we had really good ball movement. I thought to close the half out we really attacked their zone very well. Both teams were pressing and I thought we made some really poor decisions in open floor situations against their press. We tried the interior pass and we turned the ball over too much. We used way too much perimeter, I thought we balanced it up to close the half out where I think we made nine of our last 10 field goals. Second half, we shot a very, very high percentage. We moved and passed the basketball and got good inside-out action. I thought our press and our defense in the half court allowed us to get out on the fast break and I think we converted on the break. Those are some things I think we did well in the game.”

 

On facing Tennessee:

“Well, you know, one I think they are much improved from when I first got here. I think Bruce (Pearl) came in and did a very, very good job. They had drafted T.J. Watson to the NBA, Tyler Smith. They had really, really good personnel. I think when Bruce left, he left Cuonzo (Martin) a very good team, a talented team. Cuonzo has kind of put his staple on their team and how he wants his team to play and I think they play to their identity. But they’ve been very, very good. They’ve been a team that has kind of been right on the cusp the last couple of years, kind of getting into the NCAA Tournament and being right there. Maybe some early losses in November and December hurt them, but clearly they’ve been one of the better teams in our league over the last 10 years in my opinion.”

 

On what Will Yeguete has meant to the team:

“I told him after the Missouri game that he is one of those guys that is very undervalued and underappreciated. I try to do the best job I can in letting him know how much I appreciate what he does. He’s really reliable on defense. He’s smart, he knows what’s going on. Obviously, he’s not the best scorer in the world but he impacts the game in so many different ways. I have a high level of respect and trust for him and I know personally as his coach I appreciate what he does every day because he’s not a guy that steals headlines after games. But as a coach, you go back and watch the film and stuff that he does doesn’t show up in the stat sheet but it shows up in the win-loss column. But maybe he doesn’t get the type of attention that some guys get, and that’s unfortunate sometimes, but there’s no question he is a vital part of our team.”

 

On the team’s health standpoint, specifically Casey Prather:

“Everyone was in practice (Sunday) except Prather. He could’ve practiced yesterday, but the trainer wanted to give him an extra day of rest with the quick turnaround. But he should be fine to play. I imagine he will practice today. Everyone else was out there and was fine.”

 

Senior G Scottie Wilbekin

On what he’s learned this season:

“Like I’ve been saying … just how much of an opportunity it is to be playing at this level, here at Florida, with a great coaching staff and great teammates. I just learned to value that a little bit more. I’m just trying to make sure that I do the right things and put myself in the position to keep doing what I love doing.”

 

On his leadership role:

“I think when you’re a point guard, that’s the kind of position you’re put into. I think I’ve done a better job, a good job, of being more vocal on the court and trying to relay what coach wants as a position on the court. So, just talking to my teammates, encouraging them and trying to get them on the right track.”

 

On his comfort level with his leadership/point guard position on the team:

“I’m comfortable with it. That’s been my position ever since high school, so this is really, last year and this year, is really the first opportunity for me to step into more of that role – more so this year. I’d say I’m pretty comfortable with it.”

 

On the importance of getting the win at Tennessee:

“I’d say that’s the most important thing right now because that’s our next game. We’re 10-0 right now, and we’re not looking to the past and relishing that 10-0 record, but we’re looking to this next game and we want to win this game and make it 11-0…I think we’ve lost the last two there and it’s a tough place to play. They have a great crowd up there. They play really well at their home court, so it’s going to be a tough game, but we do really want to win it.”

 

On what stands out about the first game vs. Tennessee this season:

“I think [Tennessee’s Jordan] McRae, I think he would have liked to have shot the ball better, obviously he’s a great player and he’s capable of going off for 30 points, so I know that he’s going to come out looking to get some buckets in front of his home crowd.”

 

On how the four seniors have grown together:

“That’s something we talked about as freshmen, saying that one day it would be our team and one day our time will come. It’s just funny that it’s here now. Sometimes, we think back to when we were freshmen and kind of laugh to ourselves. We’re definitely cherishing every moment we have this season.”

 

Senior F Will Yeguete

On how to handle distractions, such as the crowd, on the road:

“I’ve been here for four years, so we just do the same thing we’ve been doing. Coach D always tells us to just focus on what’s going on in between the lines  and on what we have to do to win the game.”

 

On the tough road games ahead:

“Just focusing on defense – getting stops down the stretch and, regardless of what’s going on in the game, just being able to move on and stay focused.”

 

On playing against Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes:

“He’s just strong inside. Once they get close to the basket, they do a good job positioning and getting the ball. We just have to make sure that we don’t push him away and we stay low.”

 

 

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