The “one-and-done” culture of college basketball is something written about in endless reaches of the internet, printed on a multitude of newspapers and will probably be bloviated about on ESPN until the end of time — or at least until the NBA relaxes its stance and does away with the age limit.
Saturday, Florida head coach Billy Donovan’s program said goodbye to four seniors in the O’Connell Center on senior day. They’ll likely end up being the winningest group of players in UF history with 113 wins so far, four shy of Walter Hodges’ 117. Some may think Donovan is saving college basketball, protecting the old guard, preserving the way college basketball teams were operated when you had to walk uphill both ways in the snow to get to the O’Connell Center. It’s an easy juxtaposition to make, especially when Donovan’s Gators are fresh off a season sweep of the most popular factory of one-and-doners in the nation: John Calapari’s Kentucky Wildcats. Donovan pushes back against the notion that he’s against one-and-dones.
“I’m not opposed,” Donovan said. “I think what happens is you have a team that arrives on your campus and then all of the sudden you sit there and see guys that are here for four years and everybody sits here and says Billy Donovan is just into four year players — that’s not true.”
Florida’s head man has had two one-and-done guys in the past. The first: forward Donnell Harvey. After scoring 10.1 points per game and grabbing seven rebounds in the 1999-2000 season, Harvey bounced around the NBA after becoming a 1st round pick to the New York Knicks at No. 22 overall. He played for five different teams in seven seasons, and was out of the league after 2005.
Guard Bradley Beal is the other. Beal was second on the team in 2011-2012 with 14.8 points-per-game, and led the Gators in total steals and rebounds. He was selected third overall by the Washington Wizards.
Donovan almost had a third. Center Patric Young didn’t think he’d stay in college four years, but now he’s a senior looking back on a four year run at UF that’s mostly in the rearview.
“Patric Young had had the opportunity to leave since his freshman year,” Donovan said. “He elected not to, that has been his choice, to me. I’m proud of that part, I’m proud of a guy like Brad Beal being able to leave after one year and do as well as he is in the NBA and I’m also proud of a guy like [Chandler] Parsons and David Lee staying for four years and doing what they are doing.”
It’s not like Donovan hasn’t recruited top talent — you’d be silly to think otherwise. 16 McDonald’s All-Americans have played for him, three of whom are on this current team –he’s seventh in the nation in total McDonald’s All-Americans since 2000 with 11. 12 of his 17 NBA products left before their senior season, including the talented oh-fours, that have brought UF its greatest hardwood achievements and putting Donovan in the same sentence as Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and John Wooden as coaches who have guided teams to championships in back-to-back seasons.
Two national championships, three Final Fours, six Elite Eights, three SEC tournament championships, six regular season SEC titls. The results are there but there’s more than one way to cut down nets, Donovan has just happened to do it without players that have bolted after nine months.
“I just want to create an environment here that whenever they are ready to go,” Donovan said. “They are going to have our blessing, but if they do stay here, rest assured they will get to be as good as they can possibly be once they leave here and that’s the one thing.”
So no, Billy Donovan isn’t actively trying to save college basketball from itself, or running a program full of college kids that are nursing home age compared to some of the other top programs in the country. That’s not the point. If you leave Gainesville after one year, fine, if you stay that’s fine too. Who knows, if you do hang around you might have a pretty good chance at a national championship.