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October 15, 2014

Billy Donovan

THE MODERATOR:  Questions.

Q.  What made your team last year was consistency.  What are your hopes or expectations for this team growing and developing as a defensive team?
COACH DONOVAN:  I think obviously what those guys did last year was pretty remarkable and pretty special.  But I think you'd have to make the point that that group had to go through a lot of pain and suffering, so to speak, losing three games in the Elite 8 with the opportunity to get to a Final Four, losing in some conference tournament championship games, winning the league three out of the last four years is a positive.
They went through some very painful situations.  That is always difficult when you're sitting in a locker room when you get eliminated at any point during the NCAA tournament.  Certainly three years in a row getting to that point, not being able to get past that.
I do think when you get into those situations, a lot of times the experiences you go through, some of that pain and suffering enables you to persevere, be more resilient.  I think you develop qualities as a team through those failures that allow you to progress and move on.
Those guys understood, being seniors, what went into a league schedule, what went into a non‑conference schedule, what it was like to play in the post‑season.¬† They had some experience there.
I think the different part for us is we're losing four players that were very consistent, experienced, knew what college basketball was all about.  I think this year's team, they haven't faced adversity like this past group had.  We really have not.
One of the things I think happens with adversity is last year's team worked really, really hard, and the results that we got were extraordinary.  But that team also in the past had worked very, very hard and didn't get the same results.  So that's going to be I think a challenge that these guys have not been tested in the fact that they can come out there, work really hard, may not get the results through a lack of experience or being prepared to handle that.
So I look at a couple things right now for this team going forward, a couple things that are concerns for me.  There was no level of consistency at all from our returning players outside of Michael Frazier.  There were moments they played exceptionally well.  There were moments they really did a great job.  But there was a discipline issue on the court in terms of being reliable guys game in and game out.  That is going to be a challenge.
That's one thing I thought about last year's group, they developed a real great level of discipline on the defensive end of the court.  They were really good at what they were doing.  That's got to be something we have to develop.

Q.¬† Michael Frazier has received a lot of pre‑season attention.¬† How would you describe his off‑season?¬† Do you think he has to take on more of a leadership role?
COACH DONOVAN:  Concerned about that.  I'd say the last couple years for Michael, he's played on some teams where he hasn't had to do any of those things you've mentioned.  He's been a guy that probably had been in the background a lot, was able to do the things he does well, and that's shoot the basketball.
This year it's going to be different for him.  I think he has worked really hard in understanding that.  I think he understands what he's up against this year.
It's a little bit different when you take the floor and you're the fourth or fifth guy in a scouting report and then move to the number one guy in the scouting report.  There's a totally different set of circumstances he has to deal with that he's never dealt with before.
As a coach, I have to try to help him get through some of that stuff.  But a lot of those accolades or things that people are talking about before the season has started really don't make a difference because he has not done it yet in this kind of role he's going to be in this year.
It doesn't all fall all on his shoulders.  We have other guys that need to step up as well.  Michael is a great worker, very driven, very committed.  I think he's also excited about the challenge this year because this is going to stretch him in some ways he hasn't been stretched before.

Q.  You started with a couple suspensions last year, couple injuries.  DeVon is out for the season from July.  Any updates on injuries or suspensions going into this season?
COACH DONOVAN:  A couple things.  One, Chris Walker is going to be suspended the first three games for violation of team rules.  He's not going to play.
Brandone Francis right now is admitted into school.  The NCAA has given him the opportunity to be here, but he's got to prove himself academically.  He is not available to play this year.  He will not be allowed to play.  There's things he has to do academically while he's here to get himself eligible to play.  If he progresses in his first semester like we hope he will, he'll be allowed to come back to practice for the second semester.
Eli Carter is moving in a much, much more positive direction than he did a year ago.  He should be much, much better in terms of his availability this year.  He is recovering from a little bit of an ankle injury.  He has a bone bruise right now that shouldn't slow him too much.  But he could be limited the first couple days of practice.
As you mentioned, DeVon Walker with his injury's out.
Alex Murphy, due to him transferring, may miss the first eight or ten games.  Once the first semester is over, he'll be back.
That's where we're at right now with our team.
We've got Dillon Graham finally also cleared for contact.¬† He's done some stuff last week contact‑wise.¬† Again, he's been out for a long period of time.¬† Where he's at right now as a player I'm not really sure.¬† I did see him do some individual things against other players, but nothing team‑wise yet.
I do think anytime you miss a whole year, that's something that probably has hurt his growth and development.  Where he will be once we start practice, I'll probably have a better feel after the first couple weeks of practice to see how he responds to having hip surgery in both of his hips.

Q.  You mentioned losing a year hurts growth and development.  Talk about DeVon losing this whole year.  He proved to be an effective swing man last year.
COACH DONOVAN:  I think it's a big loss for us just 'cause he's a veteran guy, he's a junior.  But I do think this.  When the injury took place, we're hopeful to have him back in January or February.  He won't play, but he'll be able to get back on the court and contribute in practice.  I still think that he can salvage this year as it relates to his development.  It's not going to be a situation where he's going to be actually no activity.
Right now he's rehabilitating his knee.  There will come a point in time during this season we'll be able to get him back on the practice court and be able to work with him.  I still think he can make some strides and grow from this injury based on when it took place, based on when we hope to have him back in practice.

Q.¬† You had some great point guards through the years.¬† What does Kasey have to do?¬† I think you're a believer you're only as good as your point guard.¬† What he's done over the off‑season to improve his shooting.
COACH DONOVAN:  Yeah, I think one of the things with Kasey is he's really obviously explosive in the open court.  He's great when he gets in the lane.  I think the biggest thing for him, one, is he needs to be more of a physical point guard, especially on the defensive end of the floor, than he's been.  I thought last year he had some really, really incredible bright spots and then I thought he had some spots where he learned a great deal.
We couldn't rely on him maybe as much.  We had that luxury, which was pretty good, because as consistent as Scottie was, we could play both of them together.  If Kasey wasn't playing well, we could always kind of fall back to Scottie.  This is going to be a different role for him this year in terms of being a primary guy that has to make a good jump for us from a year ago.
I think the biggest challenge that I see in Kasey is, you know, what kind of jump can he make defensively?  That's going to be really, really important.  He is a great kid.  I love coaching him.  He's coachable.  He wants the truth.  I think a lot of players sometimes don't like hearing the truth.  I think he does.  I think that's what gives him a chance to grow and get better.
I do think his energy level and his emotional level needs to be better than it's been in the past.  But there's a lot of things he's got to get better at that he has control over.
I'm really not that worried about his shooting.  I think he needs to take good shots.  I think he's gotten better as a shooter.  But he needs to play to his strengths and we need to try to help him do that.
I think from an offensive standpoint, because our team is a little bit different, we're going to have to do some different things offensively for him and other guys than maybe we had to do the last couple years.

Q.  What is it like to be the standard bearer for recent success among football and basketball here?
COACH DONOVAN:  I'm not sure I understand.

Q.  Four Elite 8s, Final Four, you have better success than the football team has in more recent years.  What's that like?
COACH DONOVAN:  I don't really look at it that way.  I think the one thing that Jeremy has done here, we're all in this together.  It's not about that.  I've got an enormous amount of respect for Will.  Obviously I look at things a little bit differently.  Certainly he took over a situation that was really, really challenging, in my opinion.  I thought he imposed his style of play on his team.  I thought the year before, I saw an unbelievable change inside of his team from a physical standpoint from year one to year two.
I also think that the way they had to handle all the injuries last year was something to me that was just totally insurmountable to ever overcome.  You can't lose that level of players.  I respected the way Will handled it because he never used it as an excuse.  But the truth is you can't lose that many good players and be good.  You just can't.
Then I think I look at their team this year, there was times last year when I watched, you saw them kind of, I think Will talked about this, woe is me, all this stuff.  Their team is not that way at all.  I think the guy has done an incredible job of changing the culture in terms of his team from one year to the next in a very positive way.
For me we're all in this together.  I had him actually come over and talk to our team in the summer because I wanted him to get across to our guys like they did coming off an incredible season, going to a BCS bowl game, then the next year turned around and being decimated with injuries.  Whether it's graduation or whether it's injuries, we lost a lot of guys.  As he said, you just don't plug guys in and guys just step up.
I think there's a lot that he was able to provide for our team and helping our team grow in terms of his experiences as a coach, too.  I always look at it as Florida, everybody doing well.  Me, from a coaching standpoint, where his team is at emotionally now, it's really impressive.  I look at things a little bit differently.  I know a lot of times people look just at results.  If you look at the transformation inside their team, to me watching them play this year compared to last year, it's night and day.  I don't know anything about football, strategies and schemes.  I'm just talking about how they play the game.

Q.¬† As you head into year 18‑‑
COACH DONOVAN:  19 (laughter).

Q.¬† ‑‑ how do you adjust to the way the game has changed?
COACH DONOVAN:¬† Well, I think one thing I always try to do is at the end of every year is you always try to self‑reflect in areas we could get better, things we did well.¬† I always like learning and trying to get better.¬† Meet and talk to different people, evaluate.¬† I enjoy that part of it there.¬† Maybe there's something that we can bring to the table that was a little bit different than the year before.
But I would say the one thing that for me that excites me in terms of starting a new year is the preparation leading up to it in terms of how I want our team to play, what identity we want to play to, then try to figure out ways for us to become a cohesive team, a team that plays for one another, is unselfish and has good chemistry.

Q.¬† College basketball changes so much every year.¬† You have the one‑and‑done.¬† I know you're never satisfied.¬† How satisfying has it been to keep the level of success you've had since winning the national title, keeping this program on top even with losses every year?
COACH DONOVAN:  The thing that was most rewarding last year, as I sat in this room a year ago today, I think I mentioned, people think I come in here doom and gloom when the year starts, but we were really a dysfunctional team last year.  We had some suspensions, some injuries.  I didn't think we were a real connected, cohesive group.
To see those guys come together as a team like they did, to see them in the non‑conference deal with some of the adversity we had to deal with where we had Scottie out and Kasey Hill out, we played against Middle Tennessee State with no point guard, we came down the stretch at UConn in early December, Scottie fouled out of the game with two minutes to go, Kasey Hill was still hurt with a high ankle sprain.¬† Will Yeugete managing a difficult knee situation all the way through.¬† We became a team.¬† I would say when we started a year ago, we were not a team.¬† That was the most rewarding part for me, is how those guys evolved and became a team.¬† I think we were a true essence of a team.
To me, we weren't the most talented team in the country last year.  We went through a year, none of those guys even got drafted.  You talk about them investing in one another, them sacrificing for one another, them caring for one another, wanting to play the game for the right reasons, for one another, that was really rewarding to me because I could not sit here a year ago and say I was really 100% sure that could happen.
We had our Player of the Year in Scottie.  Obviously some of the choices and decisions he made, where he was at a year ago today, where he ended up, was one of the great things for me as a coach.  I had a chance to experience, to see the growth of Patric over three or four years.  The same with Prather, the year he had.  He was a guy hobbled by a lot of injuries.  Senior year he had an unbelievable year, really stepped up and played well.  Those things to me really, really bring a lot of value.
Obviously at the end of the year UConn was clearly the best team.  Not taking anything away from them, but I don't think we played one of our better games against them.  They probably had a lot to do with that.  That's the only disappointing part.  At the end of the year I know we didn't play one of our better games.

Q.  Chris, will the exhibition game be included among the three?
COACH DONOVAN:  I would imagine one of them would be, yes.

Q.  Notwithstanding the suspension, how has he developed physically and off the court?  What is his weight up to?  How critical of a role do you expect him to play this year?
COACH DONOVAN:  I think to all those questions, I don't know.  I don't.  He has worked very, very hard in the weight room.  I think the biggest thing, his biggest challenge this year, in my opinion, is going to be his ability to manage expectations.
The one thing I admired about him a year ago was here comes a highly profiled kid coming into our season in the middle of January.  I had so many people tell me, Geez, your team is playing so well, you're going to inject this guy, what is his ego going to be like.
He was an unbelievable teammate last year in understanding the fact he missed so much of the summer, non‑conference.¬† When he came there, he never, ever once complained about playing time.¬† He wanted to do whatever he could do to help.
You hear all these expectations and people look at the fact that he's gotten physically strong and everything else.  He has such a long way to go in terms of being reliable, accountable and disciplined.  Those would be the three things I would say I don't have a real good grasp on right now, but we're going to find out.
Him being reliable on the court, to be able to do his job, him being responsible as it relates to his work ethic each and every day, understanding his role, those are going to be some things where I think he's going to have to battle some of those expectations part of it because certainly he has been billed and hyped up.  I've never seen a guy have more hype coming into the middle of our year.  I kept telling you guys, Listen, he's not going to be ready to do all that.  I think I was accurate.
I don't know what kind of impact he's going to make.  I think that he's going to have to really be able to handle that, where he's got maybe his own personal expectation of where he thinks he should be.  If he's not at that level, how is he going to handle that?  I think that's one of the most difficult things to deal with as a coach, is when you have players with individual expectations that don't get met with how they're performing.  He's got to have a realistic expectation.  He's got a long way to go.

Q.  What's his weight?
COACH DONOVAN:¬† I think he's probably up to about between 222, 225, somewhere in there.¬† The best part of his game I think is offensively right now.¬† He's got a long way to go.¬† I don't know if he necessarily has an offensive go‑to game, so to speak.¬† He's a terrific athlete.¬† He's got a really good motor.¬† He tries to go rebound and chase balls on the glass.¬† He's a good shot‑blocker.¬† I think he's very quick off the dribble.¬† He actually can drive the ball some from the perimeter.¬† But he's not a great jump shooter.¬† He is not a great back‑to‑the‑basket player.¬† He is not a guy you can just throw the ball to and he can go get you a bucket.¬† I think there's a lot of value he can bring into our team.

Q.  Talking about how the team was really defensively well set up last year, can you see expectations maybe from Walker as well as Jon Horford, adding that to around the rim, set up a defensive presence, especially with their height?
COACH DONOVAN:¬† Yeah.¬† I mean, Patric clearly, when we went into every game, was always going to be the strongest, most physical guy on the court.¬† We had a huge advantage with that.¬† I still think to this day maybe the greatest pick‑'n‑roll defender I ever coached here was Patric.¬† He was just incredible there.
I don't think Chris is that kind of player.  He doesn't have that kind of physicality at the basket.  Neither does Jon Horford.  With Murphy being out mid semester, Dorian being available, we don't have the size, strength or physicality at the basket that we had a year ago.  We just don't.
I wouldn't say we're a soft team at the basket, but we don't have the girth and physicality of Patric.
Will Yeguete was a physical presence around the basket.  Prather was a physical player.  We don't have those kind of physical players.  We're a little bit of a different team as it relates to that.  We're going to have to do a good job collectively protecting the low post and helping.  But that's certainly going into this year a concern of mine, what kind of presence we're going to have at the basket.

Q.  Devin Robinson, what can we expect from him, him getting minutes and experience?
COACH DONOVAN:  He and Chris Chiozza have done a good job here so far.  I don't think you ever really get a full taste of what a freshman is going to be his freshman year.  I usually get a pretty good idea after the first couple weeks of practice when they start to respond to adversity, fatigue, those kinds of things.
I think Devin has really good potential.  I think he's going to be a really good player.  He gives us perimeter shooting.  Even though he's 6'9", he doesn't give us good physicality.  He's wiry, athletic.  He's very gifted offensively.
I think Chris Chiozza right now, very similar to the way Kasey Hill was.  Needs to be more of a physical defender.  But he has a good feel how to play, he's good with the ball, he can see, can really pass.
I would say one thing that's better with this team than a year ago is we have a little bit more shooting than we had the previous year.  We may be better at passing the basketball than we were a year ago.  We don't have that defensive nastiness that we had a year ago, and we're going to have to work hard to develop it.
What kind of identity we can create on the defensive end of the floor remains to be seen.¬† That's certainly something we're going to have to work really hard at when you look outside of Frazier, Dorian Finney‑Smith, when you look at Kasey Hill, when you look at Chris Walker, in terms of their reliability, accountability, they were really, really hard at times to rely on defensively.¬† They need to make a big jump there from where they were a year ago.

Q.  How do you envision Dorian's role with the team this year?
COACH DONOVAN:¬† I'm really, really pleased with the growth he's made, the jump he made.¬† I felt like last year he was really, really inconsistent.¬† He had some unbelievable games like at Arkansas where he stepped up and actually single‑handedly helped us win the game.¬† He played exceptionally well at home against Florida State, good against Kansas.¬† Then there were some games where he kind of disappeared.
I think he's starting to step up and emerge as a guy that's going to be a little bit more reliable than he was a year ago.  I thought one of the things he struggled with is he had a hard time finishing and making plays around the basket.  That's an area of his game where he's gotten a little bit better and has more confidence playing around the basket.

Q.  Could you touch on John Egbunu joining the program?  Did he petition for immediate eligibility?
COACH DONOVAN:  We are in the process of doing that.  There are some things that are going on there.  I'm probably not allowed to get in any great detail about those things.
John is going to be a very, very good player.  Whether or not he plays this year, if it's next year...  He's 6'10", 250, 260.  He's a big, strong, physical presence at the basket.  He's a great kid.
I think he'll help us in practice if he's not able to play.  But we are appealing.  Where that leads, I don't know yet.  I would say that right now, if I had to guess, it's probably leaning more towards him having to sit out this year.  We're going to exhaust all of our avenues and see where it leads us.  I think he's going to be a very good player.

Q.¬† How concerned are you depth‑wise early in the year, half your scholarship roster won't be available?
COACH DONOVAN:  I'm concerned from this standpoint.  Obviously with Chris being ought and Alex Murphy being out, Brandone Francis being out, the biggest question comes in our back court, how reliable will Dillon Graham and Eli Carter be coming off their injuries?  They're much better than they were.  Can they hold up in practice every day?  Is this a situation where they practice a couple times or have to take a day off?  Where are they going to be at physically?  That gives us a little bit of depth.
If they're not great physically, how do we now have to play Chris Chiozza and Kasey Hill together?  Now we have two really small guards back there, which is probably not ideal.  If not, do we now slide a guy like Devin Robinson into the backcourt because he has sufficient guard skills, he can do that.
But I always get a little bit leery when you have a freshman and you're trying to get that guy to learn multiple positions.  Becomes really challenging.  We'll have to rely on a guy like Dodo moving around in spots, he's been in system, knows a little bit more.  Jon Horford being a senior, obviously being a part of a lot of the success at Michigan, can play a couple different spots.
We're going to have some flexibility in our roster as we get everybody back.¬† But at the beginning of the year, as you mentioned, having a lot of guys out, maybe being limited, we're going to have to probably do some things differently lineup‑wise to offset some of those depth issues.

Q.  Zach Hodskins is an inspirational story.  How is he adapting?  What do you want his approach to be?
COACH DONOVAN:  I think the biggest thing for Zach, I think he just wants to be like everybody else on our team.  With him being on our team, I think he just wants to contribute and help any way he can.  I think it was a dream for him to come here to Florida.  He's a great kid.  Certainly inspirational I think to a lot of different people.
He's got a great platform, in my opinion, to really inspire a lot of different people.  The one thing I admire about him is he loves the game of basketball, he loves competing, he loves being out there.  It's good to have him part of our team.  At the same time I think he would tell you he just wants to be treated like everybody else.

Q.  Closing in on a milestone of 500 wins.  What does that mean to you?
COACH DONOVAN:  Getting older (smiling).
I always say this.  I think anytime you hit milestones like that, I think it's always a byproduct of the players and the assistant coaches.  As a coach, you're only as good as the people around you.  That goes to players and coaches.  To me that just says starting 19 years here I've been fortunate to have a lot of good players and a lot of good assistants around me.

Q.  Two at Marshall.
COACH DONOVAN:  Had a pretty good staff there that came with us here to Florida.  Pretty good players with Jayson Williams and John Brannen, some of those other guys.  They did a pretty good job as well.

Q.  You mentioned a lack of consistency.  Is there almost a sense of entitlement because of what happened last year?  Could that be motivation or hurt?
COACH DONOVAN:¬† I don't think it's entitlement.¬† I think it's a lack of not living in the real world.¬† What I mean by that is I've been doing this for 25, 26 years.¬† I've never been a part of a team that won 30 straight games.¬† We went 125 days without losing.¬† When you talk about a guy like Dorian Finney‑Smith, Kasey Hill, Chris Walker, when you talk about guys being young being involved in that, that's all they really know.
There's an expectation part for them.  I think they're hopeful they can get back to that point, but they haven't had to face a lot of adversity.  Personally maybe at different points in time they did, but we never faced a lot of team adversity.
We've talked a lot about this in the off‑season, not to say we're going into the year hoping to lose or face adversity, how you respond to those things is going to be really important.¬† There's no doubt in my mind Scottie had the year he had because he responded the right way to adversity.¬† There's no question about that.¬† Same thing with Patric Young.¬† Same thing with Prather, Will.¬† All those guys responded well to that.
I don't know how these guys are going to respond.  Chris Walker played four minutes a game, all of a sudden everybody is expecting him to be a savior in the front court.  I can't really tell you he is ready to handle that or capable of handling that or is in a position to handle that.  Kasey Hill is going from a guy that played a backup role to Scottie and now he's stepping in.
They have expectations they want to do well.  But I always think there's got to be a reality complement of having a level of humility and understanding what competition is, and also being confident in competition.  When those two things don't match up, if you're overconfident, if you don't have enough confidence, there's a healthy balance there.
I think last year there was no balance for those guys.  I'm glad there wasn't.  Means we had a good year.  But how are they going to handle that going forward is going to be critical.  We need a healthy dose of that.
I feel like my challenge to coach this year is there's going to be things that are going to have to take place that are going to be really, really painful that are going to enable our team to grow, okay?  But then there's also things that you know are detrimental as a coach you got to try to head off because we're just going down the wrong road.
There's got to be a balance between them going through some struggles and some adversity because it's just part of their normal growing and maturing process, and sometimes I may not be able to help.  They're going to have to figure some of this out.  There's other times I think I can help.  But I think that's going to be a challenge for myself and our staff.

Q.  Horford and Murphy, as soon as they take the court, they'll be compared to their older brothers.  How are they similar and different?
COACH DONOVAN:  The ironic part is they're not even similar to each other at all other than they have the same last name.  Alex is a totally different player than Erik.  He's more of a small forward.  He's better with the ball.  He almost can play like a guard.  Whereas Erik was obviously a stretch four man.  We played him at the center spot some.
Al Horford was a real physical, athletic guy at the basket.  Jon is not really like that.  Jon is a really good perimeter shooter and can do a lot of different things.
But I think both those guys' games are a little bit different than each other.

Q.  You mentioned worrying about the team defensively.  Losing the four seniors, the offense you had, are you worried about how you're going to score the basketball this year?
COACH DONOVAN:  I mean, I think we're always going to score like we always have here.  We've had years where we lost guys to graduation or early departure.  I think the biggest thing for us is going to be through ball movement, player movement, extra passing, those kind of things.
I've always been a big believer in trying to come down the floor and get quality of shots, quality possessions.  Whoever shoots it, is it a good shot for them they can make?
I've never gone into the year, This guy has to score.  We have to utilize each other and put ourselves in position to score.  One thing that helps you offensively is when you have a team that can pass the basketball.  I think we'll be an improved team passing the basketball.  We're not going to have the offensive presence at the basket like we had the last couple years with Patric, so we're going to have to do some different things, but we're going to have to be a team that has to rely on each other to score.

Q.¬† If teams are going to focus on Michael Frazier this year, what is he going to have to do to not just be a spot‑up shooter anymore?
COACH DONOVAN:  That's a great point.  It starts with his conditioning.  Is he going to be conditioned enough to work the floor enough to get himself free?  If he does get a lot of help and coverages coming off screens, is he going to have the wherewithal to find the open man and make the game easy for himself?  It could be a situation for Mike where, you know what, in some games he might not score.  But it could be a game where he gets five or six or seven assists.
If someone wants to take him out, there's got to be someone else open.  That's part of his growth.  That's something he's never had to experience before, something he's going to be challenged with.
I think he understands that, he just hasn't gone through it yet.  We'll see how he responds to that.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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