It’s been 10 days since the Florida Gators basketball team has played a game and with the extended break a gift came with it.
For the first time this season the Gators were able to practice with a full roster. Some players have either been ineligible or injured and that has caused the team to work around less than a 10-man roster.
If this means anything, Florida now continues to search for an identity and going from a limited roster to a full one, head coach Billy Donovan takes the pros and cons from the different start to the season and is moving forward.
Dealing with the insecurities of being limited, Donovan enjoyed the challenge of having to work with what the team had and moving different players and pieces around. Donovan said when he saw seven players on the court to practice with he found it rewarding to work through that adversity.
“Knock on wood, we had a whole roster yesterday,” Donovan said. “Friday, Saturday and Sunday we had a full roster. Everybody should be cleared to play. Eli is back from strep. Alex has been fine. We’re at in terms of all our numbers; this is the first time we’ve had three consecutive practices.”
“We’ve got 12 players out there now and practices have been much, much more competitive. I think there’s a better opportunity for us to get better and improve in practice with more bodies. So from a competitive standpoint and even in duration of practices, there’s a little bit more subs, there’s a little bit more rest, we can go a little bit longer and we can do a little bit more.”
With the roster coming up to full strength, Donovan now has a better sense that his team is being able to finally get together. Having the 10-day break has enabled the roster to get healthy and start to put other players in the mix within practices, which can help the team make a competitive jump.
The timing couldn’t be more perfect as the Gators look to match up against their rival in the Florida State Seminoles on Tuesday. Both teams share similar records and ups and downs throughout non-conference play respectively.
But Donovan would like to see his team, now with a full cast, find and play to their identity – something the Gators haven’t been struggling to do all season.
“As a player in between the lines, I think we all stand for stuff as people. You better stand for something as a player,” Donovan said. “You’ve got to stand up for something as a player. We need to stand up for something, and what that something is, they’ve got to take ownership for that.”
Entering the season were short-handed and at times it was hard and unfair to judge a team that wasn’t fully built, but Florida has all their men now heading into their final two games of this calendar year. The start of watching the Gators at their full potential has started.
“Yeah, I mean I think we’ve gotten better but I still think we’ve got a long way to go,” forward Alex Murphy said. “I think we’ve just scratched the surface with new guys coming in to play and practice now like we were talking about before it’s been more competitive and that’ll help us in game environments so I think that’s definitely true.”