When Billy Donovan first envisioned his team on media day, he recalled them being a process. Now, two weeks later and after seeing his team play through practices, they’re still just that.
Things are progressing slowly for this team and it’s going to take time for things to come together.
Donovan has seen players make jumps on improving their game and becoming better but as a team, he sees nothing they’re good at yet.
“I would say right now that we work really hard, we got pretty good chemistry. I think we’re unselfish as a team, but right now we’re not convicted or committed to anything and that’s not a good recipe right now,” Donovan said. “Their attitudes been good, they work, but we’re not good at anything right now. The only thing I’ll say we’re good at right now is we’re unselfish. We have a long, long way to go.”
Donovan understands exactly what the team needs at this moment and it revolves a lot of what certain players in the past possessed – conviction and commitment.
During the team’s preseason practices, Donovan has noticed what his players believe playing well is, but it’s not the formula this team needs in order to succeed.
“Their idea of playing well is when I shoot and score and make shots,” Donovan said. “That’s about five percent of the game, the other 95 percent of the game is going to be things you have to do inside the game where the ball’s not in your hands. And we don’t have a concept or a clue of that right now and I’m hopeful we can get better at that.”
The adjustment of playing under Donovan has taken the most effect on freshmen forward Devin Robinson and guard Chris Chiozza.
Donovan explained the way they’re absorbing the system is making their heads spin at how much is being thrown at them and they never would’ve thought about half the stuff the coaches are making them do.
The transition from playing at the high school level compared to college has immediately taken a toll on Robinson and Chiozza, but that is only making them become better.
“It’s real tough on D. It’s very different from high school. The closeout concept is different, put your hands up,” Robinson said. In high school, shots would go up much slower, it’s a lot quicker right now so it’s a lot harder on defense.”
In order to continue the transition to collegiate ball, Robinson has been adding activities, such as late night gym sessions with teammate and roommate Dorian Finney-Smith.
In practice, the Chesterfield, Virginia native has been paired up with other freshmen, backcourt guards and in the frontcourt with Jon Horford utilizing his versatility.
While developing into the system, Robinson believes a strength that has helped him thus far is his ability to absorb new aspects of the game. He said because of his high IQ, he’s like a sponge taking everything in and is using what he learns to his advantage, but everything hasn’t yet clicked.
“I’m still waiting,” Robinson said. “It’s a long process. It’s going to take time. I’m just waiting.”
The transition for Chiozza has been an experience thus far as well.
Guarding Kasey Hill every day in practice he said is a challenge and one he likes. The Memphis, Tennessee native also likes the fact that Donovan gets on him about his game and the pros and cons he displays during practice.
“The first couple practices, he wasn’t too hard on me and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be,” Chiozza said. Then last week, he just kinda exploded on me one time. I was like, “oh man, I wasn’t ready for that.” I thought I was doing good. He showed me the film and I was like, ‘wow, I didn’t know I was that bad out there.’”
Throughout the preseason, the Gators are going through a drastic change and with that comes the highs and lows a team can experience.
Donovan doesn’t want to simplify things for this squad, he wants them to mature and develop into the system, but right now the team must take one step at a time before jumping to conclusions.
“As a team you have to have a clue or an idea what goes into it. And I would say right now, we don’t, we don’t have that,” Donovan said. “I feel like that’s my job and my responsibility as a coach to try to get them to see those things. We have been trying to do that. But right now, we need to make more progress in that area.”