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March 10, 2010

Billy Donovan

Chandler Parsons

Erving Walker


THE MODERATOR: We're ready to continue on with Florida. We'll ask Coach Donovan for his thoughts on the Florida team headed into the Tournament, and then we'll take your questions just for the two student-athletes and excuse them back to the locker room, and then we'll finish up with Coach.
COACH DONOVAN: I think this is a very, very exciting time in college basketball and certainly for our league.
I think, looking at our league from a year ago to where it is now and all the improvements and how many really terrific teams there are. I know our guys are excited about playing tomorrow, as I'm sure Auburn is and the rest of our league.
But it's a great opportunity. You know, we're happy to be here in Nashville and just looking forward and excited about playing tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take your questions for the two student-athletes.

Q. Erving, can you just talk about how different it is for you now coming into this SEC Tournament as opposed to last year, the first one, and your memories of that Auburn game last year?
ERVING WALKER: It's just totally different. I'm more prepared this year, and I understand what it's about.
Working with coach has been a pleasure for me. And we're just ready to go, and we're focused for tomorrow.

Q. For Chandler and Erving. Coach said yesterday that he feels like the best approach for you guys is to not worry about all the stuff swirling around, what's at stake, just to play the game within the game. Could you just talk about that.
CHANDLER PARSONS: I just think the biggest thing for us is to focus on our game tomorrow. I mean, that's who we're playing, that's who's up next. Right now, that's the biggest game on the schedule.
We've just got to follow the scouting report. We've been practicing hard the last couple of days. So we just keep our whole focus on Auburn because that's who we play next.
ERVING WALKER: Just as Chandler said, it doesn't make no sense for us to look ahead because without getting past Auburn we don't play anybody else. So we're just ready for Auburn.

Q. For either player, how much pressure has it been playing uphill the last three games, and how important is it to get off to a good start this time around?
ERVING WALKER: We know we got off to slow starts, and we just want other teams to play from behind. We want to come out aggressive and play our game from the beginning and hopefully get a lead.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue on with Coach Donovan.

Q. Billy, this is just a little bit off topic, but just your thoughts. Do you ever think a 16 seed will be able to beat a 1 seed. Or do you think we'll ever see that in the NCAA Tournament? At what point in the tournament field does the ability kind of even out as the seeds get closer?
COACH DONOVAN: I don't think it's ever happened, but I think there's always a first time for everything. When that first time will come, you know, who knows.
But I think that, you know, in competition, there can always be a lot of firsts, and I'm not saying it's going to happen a lot, but certainly there's a chance in the future that it could happen. And I think the fact that we've gone from 15 scholarships to 13 scholarships, you know, has something to do with that. I think there's a lot more very, very good college basketball programs that are out there that are very, very competitive.
When that will happen or how far down the road it will take, but I do think at some point it definitely could happen.
There's been two seeds that have lost to 15 seeds. That's happened. So you're not too far removed from that. But when it could happen, I'm not sure.

Q. Billy, I know you're not that into all the awards and stuff, but are you surprised that Chandler didn't make either the coaches first or second team?
COACH DONOVAN: You know, it's hard because it's other coaches that are voting, and they're looking at different things. You know, you could have a situation where you've got an East team playing against a West team and a guy may have a great game and really, really play well against them and may leave a different impression on a coach.
I think for Chandler he certainly should have been considered, I'm sure he was considered, but there's a lot of good players in our league that maybe some coaches thought maybe were a little more deserving than Chandler.
I still don't think, with Chandler not being on the first or second team, in my opinion, doesn't really take away from the way he's performed, the strides he's made as a player, and how much better he's gotten.
I think any time -- you know, those awards to me, although they're great and it's terrific, I think Chandler's total focus and goal was more geared towards our team than that. And, again, it's something that's out of his control. All he can do is go out and play the best he can.
I think he's terrific. I love coaching him. I wouldn't trade him. I really have enjoyed the strides he's made, and I think he is one of the better wing players in our league. I do believe that.

Q. Coach, Kevin Stallings and Bruce Pearl both said today that they felt like you were in the NCAA Tournament. What are your thoughts right now?
COACH DONOVAN: You know, I really don't know. I don't know. I think right now -- and I'm not trying to give any cliche or anything else. I just know this, and I've always said this all along.
The more games you win, the better opportunity you put yourself in. You know, I think it's nice for Kevin and Bruce to say that. Certainly, our side this year has been very, very difficult when you look at the teams on our side.
You know, I also think the West maybe hasn't been given enough credit this year because there's some very, very good teams, and we're playing one tomorrow.
Sunday's going to be here soon enough, and for me to take one second to think of whether we're in or out or anything else, I don't think the season's done yet for me to know. And I think our total focus right now is to go out and compete against Auburn and get as prepared and ready as we can to play, and then hopefully tomorrow play one of our better games of the year because I know it's going to be Auburn's attitude and mentality for them to come out and play one of their better games of the year and move on and advance.
Right now we're all in a situation right now that's totally different than any other time during the year unless you're in a Christmas tournament or Thanksgiving tournament. It's one and done right now out of this tournament. You lose, you go home.
So right now for us, that's where our focus is. I think our team has played a very, very competitive nonconference schedule. I do think we have some terrific wins. I'm not taking anything away from our guys. But I think, if I came and gave a response to that, I would just be speculating on something I really don't know.

Q. Billy, you've talked all year about the difficulty engaging this team emotionally, the highs, lows, and where they fall in. Can you sense in practice today how they were? Are they tired? Were they loose? What can you sense for today about going into tomorrow?
COACH DONOVAN: I think the word I would use for our team is they're excited. I think they're excited to play. I think they're excited to be in Nashville. I think they're excited that you have all 16 teams here at a neutral site competing and playing.
You know, I think with all the talk -- like there's always going to be some level of pressure, you know, on anybody.
I think Mike just talked about can a 1 seed lose to a 16? Someone's trying to get a better seed, someone's trying to get in the tournament, someone's trying to win and advance in their conference tournament.
There's always going to be things that are out there, but what happens when you get into those things is you lose track of what you actually have to do because you spend so much time thinking about all the peripheral things that are going on.
And I feel like our team wants to do well, they're trying to do well. I think they're playing as hard as they can. I do think on the road at Kentucky we didn't get off to a great start. Same thing about Georgia. I think Vanderbilt jumped on us a little bit. In all those games, maybe we hadn't gotten off to the start we wanted, we were right there in the second half of games.
And I think the same thing could be said for Auburn, playing them tomorrow, in that a lot of people don't realize this. There's only two teams in the SEC that have had the lead every single game in all 16 league games: Kentucky and Auburn. Only two teams.
So you look at how close they are, and in all that stuff, you've got to just play the game. You've got to go out and play.
I guess my thing would be, when you think about all that exterior stuff, how does that help prepare you to play? I think that's what we've got to keep our focus on.
The game's still 40 minutes. The free-throw line is the same stance. The three-point dimensions are the same. Time-outs are coming at 16, 12, 8, and 4. It's the same thing. But what happens is everybody looks at this game as being different than the first game of the year. But it's still a basketball game that we've got to go out and play well and execute and put ourselves in a position to win.
That other stuff right now doesn't really mean anything. And I don't think it's any different even in 2007 when those guys tried to repeat, and everybody was talking about the pressure of repeating, repeating. Like I told those guys back then, we can talk about that -- the second the horn goes off, we can talk about that. Right now you have to play the game. It's not about repeating. We have a 40-minute game to play, and we have to go out there and play it.
I think you have to keep your focus on that because that is what allows you to move on and advance and take the next step as a team.

Q. When Jeff Lebo was in here, he was talking about the depth perception as a former player when you play in these kinds of arenas. Are you concerned about that at all?
COACH DONOVAN: I do know the depth perception for me as a player was always different playing in a dome setting. I always thought it was really, really hard to shoot in a dome.
This is definitely more of an arena setting. I think, when we're at the Georgia dome, it's a different environment than any of our -- any kid in the SEC has played against unless you really have gone against Syracuse or have played in the New Orleans Superdome or something like that.
I don't know how much the depth perception plays into this arena. You know, it appears just visually coming in here like it's a good place to shoot. I think the depth perception comes in from the top of the key when you have a lot of space behind the basket, and I always felt like in domes it almost looked like the basket was suspended in space when you were out top, just because there was nothing behind the backboard to give you any depth perception.
I don't know if I feel that way about this place, but if we don't shoot it well tomorrow, I'll use it as an excuse.

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