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Monday February 17, 2014Billy Donovan Press Conference Quotes

Gainesville, Fla.

Florida Men’s Basketball Head Coach Billy Donovan

Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, Press Conference Transcript

 

Head coach Billy Donovan and SEC Player of the Week Scottie Wilbekin met with the media on Monday. Below is a transcript of their comments on the win at Kentucky and looking ahead to Wednesday’s game vs. Auburn.

 

On the growth of Scottie Wilbekin:

“Obviously, he went through a lot. I think it was the best thing for him as far as helping him grow all the way around. I do think, off the court and on the court, there are correlations for how you play. I thought there was times this year where he came back to the team and he played, and he really started to go in and fit in. In doing so, he really distributed the ball and was really well-balanced. I thought that when Kasey Hill went down, he was playing a lot of minutes. We had a lot of injuries in the Florida State game, and he did a lot in the Florida State game to help us win. After that game, I thought he was imbalanced in terms of trying to score and not getting other people involved. I think after that point he has been a little bit more consistent. He has better balanced in terms of himself, his teammates and defending, kind of incorporating everything. I still think it is a work in process for him. Every game he is going to be guarded differently. He has to figure that out as the game goes on. That is a challenging piece. People are going to do different things against him, and you’ve got to recognize and have awareness about how you go about attacking it. Him being balanced in when to shoot, when to pass and when to drive is important. And then I think he always gets a really difficult assignment on defense every game, where he has been a reliable defender. It has been a work in progress for him and I think it will continue to be a work in progress for him as he continues to get better.”

 

On the close game with Auburn earlier in the season:

“I think that we can take things from that game in terms of things that we need to do better, adjustments or changes. They are going to basically do the same thing. I don’t know if there is going to be any correlation from one game to the next. I think Auburn is very good team. I think a lot of times people look at results and the results of a record, and then try and identify what a team is. I think Tony [Barbee] has done a really good job of putting [Chris] Denson and [KT] Harrell in really difficult situations to defend with the way that they can score or put it down and shoot threes. It becomes very challenging and difficult to deal with those guys. When you do give those guys too much attention, it really opens up offensive rebounding for [Asauhn] Dixon-Tatum, for [Allen] Payne and their frontcourt players. So, you really look at that they have won four of their last six games. They are playing really good basketball. They’ve played everyone tough at home, it’s not just us. They had a lead against Kentucky in the second half. They’ve beaten Alabama at home. They just beat Mississippi State at home and they scored 92 points. This is a team that has played very well and has given itself a chance. Whether it has been home or away, they have played really good basketball.”

 

On an update on Kasey Hill:

“Right now, he is out for practice. My guess right now, and I’ll have a better idea tomorrow, is that he is doubtful and not going to play on Wednesday. If that changes, I’ll make sure that [we get] that out. But I would not anticipate him playing on Wednesday.”

 

On if Scottie transferred where the team would be now:

“It is really hard to say. I would say two points: one, if he would have come back and would not have changed, we probably would not have been undefeated and in first place in the SEC – if he didn’t change. If he left, we probably wouldn’t be undefeated in the SEC. It really is two-fold for me. For our team and for him to be better, he needed to change. The point of me asking him to transfer, if that is what he wanted to do, was more under the umbrella of if you don’t want to change, stay who you are and doing the things you have been doing that aren’t going to work out here, you’re better off moving on. If you want to change and become the kind of person and player we all think you can be, then you’ve got to make that decision. I think after thinking about it he said, ‘This is what I want to do.’ If he would’ve stayed like he was and wouldn’t have changed, no, our team would not be in the position that it is. A lot of that had to do with his change. I think Patric Young has changed. I think he has gotten better and improved. I think Will Yeguete is healthy for the first time in a while, although he might not be the same athlete that he was a couple years ago. And I think [Casey] Prather has gotten better. I think a lot of the times you look at Scottie, and he’s obviously played well and the attention goes toward him, but really it is our team. Our team has gotten better. DeVon Walker has gotten better. Doe-Doe [Dorian Finney-Smith] has gotten better. Our team has gotten better. Those guys have all improved as individuals. They’ve all improved and gotten better. I would say the same thing, if Patric would not have improved as he has, we probably wouldn’t be in the same situation. It’s really not about Scottie as it is more about our team.”

 

On Scottie not turning the ball over the past two games:

“I trust him with the ball in his hands. I think as time goes on and we run things on offense, everyone gets more comfortable. Everyone starts to fit into roles. But that is a tribute to him taking care of the basketball and making good decisions.”

 

On the evolution of the defense and successful in-game adjustments:

“Every game presents different challenges, as far as what you have to do. Auburn’s challenges will be different than what Kentucky’s challenges were. I think getting our guys an understanding of what they need to do from game to game is important. I thought our guys in the game defensively against Kentucky, although they shot a high percentage in the first half, for the most part, we did a good job. I think you need to give Kentucky credit for having the individual talent to make those plays. I think John [Calipari] puts them in those situations where they can make those individual plays. But the plays that we could control and maybe make them take tough shots, we did a good job there. Sometimes their talent was too big there to overcome on some of the plays that they made. I think our defense continues to get better. I’m a little bit more optimistic in our chances to continue to get better than I was maybe in November. In November, I was very disappointed where we were at defensively. I think our younger guys have made some growth and some strides in that area. Like I said, every game is going to be different. You’re going to have to guard in different ways and do different things because everyone’s personnel from game-to-game is different. What they run offensively is different.”

 

On Florida’s increased rebound efficiency as the season has progressed:

“I think it’s an emphasis, it’s an awareness. I think it’s also the challenge of the last two games, we played against the two best rebounding teams in the league against Tennessee and Kentucky, with the largest rebounding margin. Both of those two teams is to get 40 percent of their shots back, which is an incredible number, so that’s got to be a focus. The one thing that ends up happening is there’s always something coming out of the game that you can look at as a coach and as a team and say, ‘We need to get better here.’ And what happens sometimes is you have a tendency to take those things you need to get better at and you forget the things that you’ve done well and just think they’re going to continue to happen. I agree we’ve rebounded the ball better against two really good teams because it was a point of emphasis, but how well are we going to rebound against Auburn? Is that going to be an area where we continually do a good job? Can we build off of that? As a coach, ‘Here’s where we need to get better, here’s what we didn’t do well, here’s the improvements,’ but as a coach sometimes you fail to focus on what you do well. I think you’ve got to be able to do both things, and for us, rebounding has got to be something we continually focus on.”

 

On where the team can still improve:

“I think we can get better at shooting the ball from the free throw line. I think we’ve made some improvements there. I think we still have breakdowns on defense in pick and roll coverage. We had four in the first half against Kentucky and a couple in the second half; I think our pick and roll defense can continually get better. I think we can get better in our on the ball defense in terms of one-on-one and being able to cover straight line drives. I think offensively, we can continually get better in terms of shooting the basketball. I don’t think we’ve shot the ball great in the last few games and I think we can get better there through repetition, individual instruction and player development. I think we can get better executing on offense. There’s times we’ve executed pretty well and there’s been times we need to get better. I don’t think there’s one area of the game right now that I couldn’t tell you we couldn’t afford or use the opportunity to get better. I just think it’s a constant growth of trying to improve each and every day and whenever our last game is, it’s probably never-ending and we could probably still get better. But that’s what you’re trying to do is reach your fullest potential or get as close as you can to your fullest potential. I think that’s the challenge right now. You’ve got to have a group of guys that understand that they’re chasing something that (they may) not be able to attain but it’s still that effort of trying to continually get better. You’ve got to have guys that want that because it’s very easy after a win to want to relax or after a loss want to feel bad, but it’s the next day, ‘What do we have to do to get better?’ And a lot of that starts with their mentality and their approach.”

 

On the seniors embracing big moments late in games:

 “I don’t know. I think those guys are really good kids. They’ve got good chemistry, they’ve worked hard together. I think that they want to win. I don’t think we’re necessarily any different in wanting to win than any team that we’re going to play against. I think they’re competitive kids. I don’t know if there’s anything I would say they were stepping up in moments as much as we’ve made some plays that we needed to make, whether it’s been rebounding the basketball, getting several offensive rebounds against Tennessee, Scottie (Wilbekin) didn’t have anything really to do with that, it was more Doe-Doe (Dorian Finney-Smith), it was more Patric (Young). Something happened against Kentucky, we got an offensive rebound by (Casey) Prather. There’s kind of always been some different plays that have been made, even on the defensive end of the floor we’ve had to make some plays, get some stops, finish plays off, (Will) Yeguete had a big rebound in the game too. I don’t know that it’s any one guy, it’s got to be five guys on the floor collectively working together.”

 

On how well this year’s team is taking the “game-by-game” approach:

“I think for any coach, that’s a constant battle in trying to deal with moving to the next thing. I always say this, there’s always some kind of residual effect after a game, whether a player didn’t play well or he didn’t play enough or a guy played great and thinks he’s got it all figured out or he was in foul trouble – there’s some kind of effect your team deals with coming out of the game. I think the key is, are our guys willing and prepared today to start all over again in the process of getting ready to play on Wednesday night and be willing to not skip steps? To come to practice and start with film, to start practice and actually stretch and warm up correctly to get ready to practice well, to do the things in practice with a focus, an effort and an intensity to continually get better? That’s the hardest part, is after a game is over with whether you win or lose, you have to start all over again and even though it’s different than maybe you look at a season ending – they’ve got preseason conditioning, individual instruction, they’re starting all over for a new year. Well, the same thing goes on in a much, much smaller way with our schedule right now and in the SEC. We obviously had a week where we played two road games and it was two really good wins for our guys, but right now, they don’t mean anything as it relates to going into this next game against Auburn. So are we willing to take ourselves all the way down to the bottom and realize that we’re starting off at the bottom and now we’ve got to obviously prepare and build and get ready for this next game? And after the Auburn game, are you prepared to go all the way back down to the cellar again and have to prepare and go back up? And that is a tedious, grinding, fatiguing, hard process to go through, but it’s one you have to go through I think in order to be successful.”

 

On if there have been times this season the team hasn’t “gone back to the bottom” as well as he would have liked:

 “Yeah, there’s been plenty of times they don’t do it as well as I would like. I’m anxious to see how well we do it here today. It’s always a challenge. There’s a certain expectation that we have in terms of going into the next game and trying to prepare for it and how do we handle that approach. The hardest thing right now with regards to that is we’re dealing with really good kids that are between 18 and 22 years old that are trying to figure their way in life and understand and have some great opportunities to learn and grow in a lot of different ways, but at the same point, they’re human, they’re not robots or machines. I think the challenge I always talk to them about is, ‘Are you prepared today to battle human nature?’ Human nature says, ‘Let’s take it easy, we just had two good wins, everything’s going to be fine, everything’s OK.’ You’ve got to constantly battle and fight that every single day and as a coach you try to educate them on that. Let’s be honest, you really don’t want to be here right now, if you had your druthers, you wouldn’t want to be here, you’d rather be somewhere else. And you’re battling that right now and you battled it and you won and you came here today. And it’s no different for anybody else, there’s always things that we have to battle where we have to make those decisions, and our guys right now are going in there like, ‘Here we go again,’ and that’s a hard process. Are we perfect at it? No. Have there been times this year that we haven’t done a great job? Yes, they’re human, but we have to constantly bring it in front of them and have them address it and try to deal with it.”

 

On if Donovan likes that the players saying the same things he does and if it indicates they are bought in:

“I only like it if they believe it.”

 

On if Donovan thinks the team believes in what he teaches:

“I don’t know. I mean, I hope they do. I think a lot of times, you can say a lot of different things and I always feel like if you say those things, you can back it up with your actions. So, hopefully our guys, if they’re saying those things, they’re trying to at least back them up. For the most part, these guys have been really, really good. They’ve been coachable, they’ve worked hard, they’ve been great kids and they’ve done what we’ve asked them to do. I still think we can get better. There’s another challenge in front of us here, obviously this week with Auburn. If they are repeating some of the things that I say, the biggest thing is, do they really believe in what they put into those things? Hopefully they do.”

 

On what Patric Young had to change this year to succeed:

“A consistent work ethic would be the thing I’d say he had to change the most – just consistency. I think Patric has been one of those guys, through his career, where he’s had a good game and inevitably, he would come back feeling very, very good about himself and sometimes unwilling to kind of go back down to the cellar and prepare again. I think a lot of times for young players, it’s always easier to prepare when things don’t go well because you want to get back and redeem yourself. When things are going well, you have the tendency to say, ‘OK everything is OK, everything can stay as it is,’ and the reality is that it’s not going to stay how it is. You have to go back down. I would have to say he [Young] has become a consistent worker. He has become consistent in practice. Is he perfect? By no stretch, and neither am I. I’ve got my flaws and weaknesses, as we all do. But, he’s worked harder at that than I’ve seen him work in the past in that area of his development.”

 

On Chris Walker and DeVon Walker’s role on the team:

“Just to continually help our team with whatever role their roles are going to be in the game. I think DeVon gave us great minutes coming off of the bench against Tennessee. He did a really good job for us. This was a game where Prather was playing really well, Scottie was obviously playing well, Frazier being on the floor with his shooting is always a danger, so fatigue was not an issue for some of those guys. I thought DeVon did give us some good minutes when he did get in there and gave some of our guys a rest. I think Chris, because our front court, for the most part, stayed out of foul trouble, there wasn’t really a need for him. But, I still think that those guys can be called upon on Wednesday night and we could really, really need them. They need to be ready to play.”

 

On the backup point guard with Kasey Hill’s current injury:

“We’ll probably look at three guys, by committee, will be Doe-Doe [Finney-Smith], DeVon Walker, Frazier – those three guys I’d say we’ll probably try to look at using in some way when we take Scottie off of the floor.”

 

On if the team likes to practice and likes to get better:

“I’m not so sure. I tell our guys this all of the time: enjoyment and fun are sometimes hard words to use as it relates to practice and doing what these guys do. It’s probably fun and enjoyable at Southwest Rec Center because you’re playing on your own terms. You can’t play on your own terms because there’s a level of preparation that goes into this. There is a mental approach that those guys have to have in terms of trying to get themselves ready to play. There just is. I think if you can understand that dealing with that, you can get enjoyment out of the process because you know that going through that process is going to make you better. If you’re improving, I would think that’s fulfilling and enjoyment when you see yourself get better. The process of getting better and improving is not always the most fun and easiest process. I think we can all probably acknowledge that the most difficult times of all of our lives, although they’ve been hard and difficult, looking back on them, we’ve probably seen more growth in those difficult times and maybe even those times have gone great. I think the same thing can be said for our team. You go through those difficult times, where you try and prepare and get better as a team, you look back and say, ‘Wow, I’ve come a long way.’ But, during the process it’s challenging and difficult, but I do think there’s a reward in terms of seeing development and growth.”

 

On if it’s a challenge for Donovan to make practice challenging:

“No. I think there has to be confrontation in practice for those guys to grow. If I go to practice every day and it’s just easy for them, there’s no adversity or confrontation, I think it’s hard to grow. They’ve got to be able to take on things. There are going to be challenges presented to them inside of practice and they’ve got to be able to handle those challenges and achieve what they need to achieve together. It requires, a lot of times, those guys working together, being on the same page, being connected and getting it done collectively as a group.”

 

Senior Guard Scottie Wilbekin

On becoming more of a well-rounded offensive player:

“It’s a combination of me working to get better in the offseason and during the season, coaches helping me through things by teaching me the ins and outs of the college game and just the opportunity.”

 

On late night shooting sessions:

“Yeah, late night. Sometimes after practice or before, whenever I can fit it in.”

 

On what he has changed the most, on or off the court:

“I mean, I don’t know. Just the same things I’ve been saying. I’ve said it like a 100 times already. Just becoming more mature, learning the value of everything in life and especially the value of being here at a school like this. Also, being ranked top-five in the nation and being able to play for a bunch of fans every night.”

 

On evolving as a leader:

“I think it has helped. I think it can add perspective maybe to the way other people see the game and how I can help them. Just little things like that, just try to be a better leader in every area that I can.”

 

On whether his nature is to remaining calm or if he has grown into it:

“I would say it is a little bit of both. I definitely have gotten better since my freshman year. It’s just a mindset, I think. I just have so much confidence in this team that there’s no reason to get rattled because we’ve been in every situation we can be in. So, I mean, I just have confidence in our guys that we can pull through no matter what.”

 

On what he tells his teammates during intense game moments, specifically at Kentucky:

“Just stay the course. I tell them we know it’s going to be tough like if we got a foul called that we didn’t like or that we didn’t think should be called I’m just like, ‘We’re on the road, it’s an SEC environment, it’s Kentucky. We knew it was going to be like this. We knew they were going to make runs, we knew they were going to make tough shots but we just have to stick to the course and stick to the process.’”

 

On winning SEC Player of the Week and other individual honors:

“Yeah, they don’t really mean anything. It’s nice to be acknowledged but I still have to work and I still have to practice today, so that’s not really going to affect anything.”

 

On if this team can handle prosperity better than others:

“I would say it does have the best ability to do that since I’ve been here, and if I had to point to any reason it’s just the experience that us four seniors have, just growing through each year. You know, seeing the older guys when we were freshmen and how they handled it and how we handled it last year being juniors and being in a bigger role and just knowing how we want to handle it this year and just trying to do that the best we can.”

 

On how much fun the team is having right now:

“A lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun to win. It’s way more fun than losing.”

 

On how he and the teammates share the experience:

“Just hang out and have fun with each other and enjoy each win. We celebrate each win and we just want to do that as much as we can.”

 

On his success at the free throw line, especially late in games:

“Just getting up more free throws outside of practice. I was shooting really bad in the beginning of the year so I put some work into it.”

 

On if he’s taking more free throws in practice this year than previous years:

“Way more, yes.”

 

On keeping his mistakes with the ball at a minimum:

“Just trying to be smart, good passes, trying not to do too much and make the hero play. Just being smart.”

 

On the concerns and challenges of facing Auburn:

“[Chris] Denson and [KT] Harrell. I can’t remember how many points they had against us last time, but I knew they went off a little bit and they are capable of going off with big nights, both of them. So we got to do a better job this game of knowing their straight-line drives and just play better on-ball defense.”

 

On how much he enjoys and is inspired by Coach Donovan’s life lessons:

“It doesn’t get old. Sometimes it’s like, dang, when he’s getting on to us, but we know the reasons for it, so we can look past getting annoyed because he’s pointing out something that we’re doing wrong. But, we look past that and realize that he’s doing it for the best and he wants what’s best for our team and when he wants to motivate you, he can really motivate you. So, it’s great.”

 

On what is the biggest thing he’s learned from Coach Donovan:

“Probably just the day-in, day-out process of how hard it is to be good, and I would say that we don’t know what that is yet. He knows, because he coached back-to-back national championship teams, but he keeps telling us and we keep striving to get to that place where we’re working as hard day-in and day-out to accomplish something great.”

 

 

 

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