As the 13th-ranked Florida Gators (9-2) prepare for their Sunday matchup with Savannah State (3 p.m., Stephen C. O’Connell Center, Sun Sports/Fox Sports Network), the next to last non-conference game before the SEC portion of the schedule kicks in, Billy Donovan sees one area in serious need of improvement. The Gators aren’t turning the ball over all that much (only 10.9 per game) but the assists aren’t anywhere near where Donovan wants them to be, which he interprets as evidence his team isn’t aware of where each player is on the floor.
“I think we’re getting 12.9 or 12.7 assists per game,” Donovan said Saturday before the Gators began practice. “That is a product, in my opinion, of us not utilizing each other well enough.”
Some of the deficiencies can be attributed to a constantly shuffling lineup in the early part of the season, but with injuries healed and suspensions a thing of the past, Donovan foresees more cohesiveness, particularly with a slower schedule that allows more practice time. Following the Savannah State game, the Gators will be off until next Saturday when they play host to Richmond so there will be plenty of time for Donovan to get his point across.
Donovan’s offensive schemes are designed to get all five players involved. He has always believed a balanced attack in which all five players have an opportunity to score goes a long way toward negating any game plan to take away certain scorers. Now in his 18th year as Florida’s head coach, Donovan has never had a 20-point per game scorer but the Gators have always been one of the best teams in the nation at sharing the basketball, evidenced by high assist totals.
“I’d like to see us get to a place where those assists are up between 16 and 22,” Donovan said. “I think that would be a good, realistic range. But we miss too many opportunities to take advantage of each other in different situations.”
This isn’t about play calling so much as court awareness. Donovan calls plays to get players certain shots, but if the player he has in mind is defended it often leaves another player open.
Then there are fast break situations.
“When Patric Young runs the floor and is open in the middle of the lane we’ve got to find him,” Donovan said. “When Michael Frazier is running and gets open and he’s got a three, we’ve got to find him. Casey Prather is ahead of the field … we’ve got to do a better job of finding him.”
It’s an area that Donovan hopes will improve before the conference schedule kicks in on January 8 with a home game against South Carolina.
“It’s like an awareness of okay what’s going on, who’s where?” Donovan said. “And we’ve worked on that, we’ve talked about it, we’ve shown film and hopefully we can get better in that area.”
YOUNG CLOSING IN ON 1,000 POINTS
With 12 points against Savannah State Sunday, Patric Young will become the 50th member of Florida’s 1,000-point club. Young has never been a volume scorer, but there has been consistent the past three years after starting his Florida career as a backup to Vernon Macklin. Currently, Young is averaging 10.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. He averaged 10.2 and 6.4 as a sophomore and 10.1 and 6.3 as a junior.
Now in his senior year, Young has averaged 11.3 points and 7.5 rebounds in the last four games against very good opponents, a stretch that Donovan calls one of the best of Young’s Florida career.
I think this is the most consistent he’s been since he’s been here,” Donovan said. “I think his effort has been really good. I think his work ethic has been very good. I think at least the last week here it’s the best I’ve seen him for a length of time where he’s chased balls off the backboard.”
Donovan said that Young’s rebounding numbers sometimes don’t tell the entire story of how effective he can be.
I think the other thing that gets lost sometimes with Patric is I think because of his size and strength, people don’t realize that a lot of times in certain situations he gets double-teamed on blockouts,” Donovan said. “What it has done is it has freed up a Will Yeguete, Dorian Finney-Smith or a Casey Prather – some of our other guys – to go in there and rebound the basketball. That was my whole point with him is that when he makes that kind of concerted effort to go rebound and he’s going to occupy one or two guys to keep them off the backboard, it’s going to free things up for other people.
WALKER, MURPHY UPDATE
Chris Walker continues to wait for his okay from the NCAA that will allow him to play for the Gators. Meanwhile, Duke transfer Alex Murphy is now on campus and going through the admissions process. Although he won’t be able to play in the second semester, he is awaiting clearance to begin practicing with the team.
Donovan once again stated that all he can do is wait for Walker to be cleared by the NCAA.
I haven’t heard anything, anything right now,” Donovan said. “It’s in the hands of the NCAA. It’s in the hands of our university. I really do hope for his sake there can be some kind of timely decision, because certainly he’s here on campus; he’s cleared to practice; he’s not cleared to play right now. He’s already missed a game; he’s going to miss a game here on Sunday. I’m just hopeful that our school, the NCAA can all get together and figure out a solution. I do think it’s a very difficult time that he has come to school with the holidays, the new year and people that have plans so different things are going on and it makes it more challenging. Hopefully we’ll be able to hear something soon.”
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
SAVANNAH STATE (2-10): Saadiq Muhammad (6-7, 210, FR); Hikeem Champaigne (6-9, 216, JR); Alante Fenner (6-5, 180 FR); Whitley Carter (5-9, 145, FR); Terel Hall (6-1, 185, JR)
FLORIDA (9-2): Will Yeguete (6-8, 230, SR); Casey Prather (6-6, 212, SR): Patric Young (6-9, 240, SR); Scottie Wilbekin (6-2, 176, SR); Michael Frazier (6-4, 199, SO)