Donovan sees positives, negatives

By the time Billy Donovan convenes his eighth-ranked Gators for practice Sunday afternoon, the film of their 110-88 exhibition game win over Florida Southern will have been dissected and there will be a laundry list of to dos to expand upon things done well and correct mistakes and breakdowns. The Gators open their regular season on Friday night against North Florida at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Immediately after the win over Florida Southern, Donovan thought the Gators had performed adequately, particularly since they were playing without Michael Frazier (mono), three suspended players (Scottie Wilbekin, Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris) and of the nine that dressed, four were less than 100 percent.


The positives were I didn’t think we played with the intensity level against Georgia Tech that we played with tonight,” Donovan said. “I thought our intensity level was much better. I thought we played unselfishly and we’re trying to play together. I think they get along very well with each other. I think we did some really good things at times defensively and some really bad things. I thought we made some great decisions on the break in the first half. We were 13-23 on the fast break in the first half. Then we had some transitions in the second half where we did some poor things.”


Florida was one of the nation’s best defensive teams last year, giving up only 54 points per game. With Donovan, defense begins with shutting down the three-point line, something the Gators didn’t do against Florida Southern, which hit 43% on 13-30 shooting from beyond the arc.

We’re a team right now that last year we gave up 54 points a game and we gave up 41 in the first half and 47 in the second half — 88 points, that’s never happened to this group,” Donovan said.  “It’s not so much our defense on the ball, it’s our positioning off the ball. We put ourselves in very difficult situations.  They made 13 threes, seven in the first half, six in the second. I think they started the second half – after talking about the three-point line – hitting three in a row.  You’ve got to understand the position you’ve got to be in in order to stop the line and some of our newer players don’t understand that yet. They get caught in these bad positions and their feet are below the three-point line.”


Freshman point guard Kasey Hill got off to a tentative start, but midway through the first half, started to get a feel for what he was doing. All14 of his first half points came in the final 11:52. He was the dominant player on the floor the final eight minutes of the half. In the second half, Hill rarely looked to score but concentrated on taking care of the basketball and getting teammates involved. His final stat line read 17 points, three rebounds and three assists.

Donovan thought Hill probably had to go longer stretches without relief because of Florida’s insufficient roster numbers.

I do think that because we don’t have Scottie, he probably at times played too many extended minutes,” Donovan said. “I probably should have done a better job getting him out of the game sooner. I’m going to probably need to learn him, in terms of what his body language looks like, when he really starts to get tired, but I still think the tempo and pace he needs to play with … he needs to play with that intensity all the time.”

Hill thought he played well but said there is adjusting to do.

How fast the ball moves, I’m not really used to that,” Hill said. “How fast the gaps close out on pick and rolls. [I did well with] attack, transition and got open shots for my teammates but I have to get better on defense.”


When Donovan talked to the media on Thursday, he expressed doubt that Yeguete would play, but a post-practice conversation convinced Yeguete to give it a try. Although he didn’t elevate well, Yeguete moved his feet, instinctively found the basketball and wound up with 12 points and nine rebounds.

I talked to Will Yeguete after practice and I told him I really thought it was smart to play this game, to get his feet wet and to see in a game where he is at,” Donovan said. “He had not practiced a couple of times during the week.”

Yeguete had microfracture surgery on his knee in the offseason. He is 100% recovered from the surgery, but he’s getting back into basketball shape now and it’s a process. Yeguete says he no longer has pain in the knee but does have soreness after practice and of course, after Friday’s game. Getting his elevation and reaction time back are critical moving forward.

I was about 80 (percent),” Yeguete said. “I wanted to get out there and see how I feel. I have to spend more time in the weight room to get work on my leg so I can get my explosiveness back.”


Eli Carter is returning from a broken leg that required surgery. Because of the coaching transition at Rutgers he fell behind on his rehab, so when he arrived in Gainesville after the transfer he was weeks behind in his recovery. He has been practicing every day and continues to improve daily. In 22 minutes of action against Florida Southern, Carter scored 11 points. He was 3-9 on three-pointers, but two of those shots did everything but go through the net.

You can see he’s hobbled out there,” Donovan said. “He’s really a good player. It’s pretty impressive that a guy can be effective out there playing and he’s almost playing on one foot. He’s got some lack of mobility in his ankle. He’s not moving through his ankle like he needs to. It’s going to be a little bit of a process but he gets better every day. He’s really a smart player and he knows how to play. I really wish for our team and for his sake that he would be fully healthy. He is a fun guy to coach because he has such a great feel how to play but I would love to see him at full strength.”


During the offseason, Donovan wanted Patric Young to strengthen his offensive game by simplifying things and going to quick power moves. We saw that against Florida Southern. Instead of slow developing moves to the hoop, Young felt the defender on his hip, spun the other way and went up quickly. He was 6-8 from the field. Another thing Donovan wanted was improvement at the foul line. Young missed his first two but went 7-8 the rest of the way. His final stat line was 19 points, eight rebounds one blocked shot and a steal.

Donovan was also pleased with Young’s conditioning. He played 27 minutes but never seemed fatigued during the game.

I thought his conditioning was very good,” Donovan said. “I liked the way he played. I was very happy with Patric. We need that consistency out of him every game. He really didn’t do anything in terms of fantastic moves but he ran to the post, he posted up, he jump hooked, he got offensive rebounds, he got fouled and got to the free throw line and made free throws. He grabbed eight rebounds in 27 minutes. That’s the expectation I would have for Patric [what we saw] tonight.”

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.