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Billy Donovan Press Conference Quotes

March 4, 2014
INDIANA SPORTS PAGE



Head coach Billy Donovan and seniors Patric Young and Casey Prather met with the media on Monday to discuss the upcoming game at South Carolina and other topics.

 

On how South Carolina has improved since playing them the first time:

“I think obviously early on playing some young guys – (Duane) Notice being a freshman, (Sindarius) Thornwell being a freshman. They are a team like most teams this time of the year that has evolved and gotten better. From the beginning of January, the first game and now we’re playing the second, they have improved. I think there are some constants with their team that Frank (Martin) really believes in. They really defend hard. They do a terrific job of rebounding. (Brenton) Williams is as good a scorer as there is in our league. He’s getting about 18 a game. (Michael) Carrera was coming off the bench for them back then. Now he’s starting and playing more minutes. He’s become a more consistent performer. I think like most teams, you look at a team that you’re playing this time of the year and you go back and watch them play against us the first time – and hopefully you can look at us the same way and see improvements and see strides. They’re doing a lot more defensively. They’re playing box-and-one, they’re playing triangle-and-two, they’re playing zone, they’re playing man, they’re playing three-quarter court and they’re playing full court pressing. We’re going to have to deal with a lot of changing defenses. Obviously, they had an injury to a starter who played against us the first time. He broke his foot and he’s out. They are a team that has gotten better and obviously they’re coming off a great win Saturday against Kentucky.”

 

On having added depth:

“Certainly us having depth is a good thing. We’ve had times this year, especially in the middle part of the year, where we had guys out. We’ve had to battle through this year not having a full complement of players. Getting Kasey Hill back, I think it’s good for Scottie (Wilbekin) to rest him. We can play all those guys together and play Scottie off the ball. Chris (Walker), the game against LSU was a good one for him. He could inject some of the things he brings to the table into the game. I thought he gave us good minutes when he was out there playing. Hopefully he’ll be able to continue to progress and get better. It allows us to press. We have more depth in the backcourt. It helps you get out of foul trouble a little better. All of those things I think are very important and help your team when you have more numbers and bodies.”

 

On the importance of keeping a team on edge at this point of the year:

“I think it’s always important to keep your team on edge. I’m just a big believer that sometimes you’ve got to do things with these guys visually. When you can give them visual things to look at, I’m always thinking and our staff is always thinking about things to try to get a point across. One of our assistant coaches was talking to one of our players and trying to get him to see things the way he needed to see them, and he wasn’t seeing it that way. So he wrapped up and put it in his locker, kind of like, ‘Look in the mirror here.’ I think when you can do things visually, like the thing that I did with the bag (filling it with weights) was more along the lines of here we are coming out of these two really hard games at Rupp and in Knoxville and now we're coming back and playing Auburn and there's just a tendency to want to take that deep breath, ‘We're OK. We're at home.’ And you have a tendency, human nature-wise, just to kind of, it's hard to get, it's not normal to try to get to the level every team's got to get to play. So I think what happens is if you go in there with a preconceived notion that this is going to be easy, we're just going to show up and play. So my point to Will (Yeguete) was he thought it was a duffle bag and didn't think there was anything in it and goes to pick it up and all of a sudden it's like, ‘Wow, this was not as easy as I thought it was to pick this bag up.’ That's the point I was trying to get across to him. Nothing is ever that easy. Whatever you think about in your mind, you've got to get yourself to think about and understand. So I'm always trying to do different things visually so they can see maybe the point I'm trying to get across to them. I think it's important to be able to do that, whether we're showing film or whether it's, I showed them one time a picture of our whole team in a car driving. They're all looking around outside the road there looking at this ranking and this, this and this, and right there in front of them was a wall that we're getting ready to crash into and they didn't see anything. So like are we going to worry about the things around the periphery or are we going to be focused on the road and the lane we're in right now. I think that's just a visual to give them an understanding of, OK, I see that. I see what he's talking about. Sometimes as a coach, the one thing I've learned over the years is when you talk to these guys, you're talking to them through your eyes and through your lens, and words come out in a way that sometimes doesn't necessarily give the right message that you want your team to take. Sometimes, you see something visual, whether a player sees himself on film. I think that really happens. You're talking to a player sometimes about maybe giving a better effort and the guy's like, 'Coach, I am,' at that moment. Then they go back and see film and it's like, 'OK, now I understand what you're talking about.’ I think visual things, for me at least, with young people are always good when you're trying to get a message across to show them or to create a point and to get them to understand the next step or staying focused, in the moment, being intense, being ready to play. Those things, I think, are always important."

 

 On the development of the four seniors:

 "A lot of this with those guys is they've always been a pretty competitive group and they've always been a pretty physical group, but I think sometimes earlier on in their careers, their emotions got the best of them and they didn't channel that competitiveness the right way in a lot of ways. I think it was a maturation process for them to learn and grow through some of those things. Obviously Scottie's past is well documented. I think him going through that was another area of, 'I just got to go out there, show up, perform and play and everything's going to be OK.' And now he sees maybe a bigger picture that he didn't see two or three years ago. I think Patric Young, when Vernon (Macklin) and those guys left and moved into a starting role, he didn't understand how hard and challenging it was; there were times he looked exhausted and didn't really have energy. There were games he played well and he didn't play well and there were times he would get frustrated or he would get a little disappointed and didn't channel that intensity and that emotion in the right way and he's done a better job of that. I think Will Yeguete coming off of some knee injuries and some of those things, just channeling that emotion the right way to give our team what he can give us. Prather's another clear understanding, a guy that wanted to be a jump shooter when he first got here and never played to his strengths. And it was a part of him that had stubbornness, which makes him a good player. He wanted to prove that he could shoot jump shots. But when he got to a place that he says this is not who I am, I've got to do other things, his game started to take off. So, I think all of these guys' growth and their maturation while they're in college, there's different points and times that they create, as a coach you're always trying to create an epiphany. You're trying to create something for them that you can see the things that are getting in the way of them being good players or a team being a good team and then try to create something where they can kind of change - not just change their actions, but change their beliefs and what they feel internally and how they do things. And I think for these guys it's been a process. It's really been a process for them over four years and they have steadily gotten better. The thing that I'm most proud about them is they've stayed the course. A guy like Prather not playing a lot his first two years probably would have been very, very easy to pick up and move on, go somewhere else. A guy like Scottie Wilbekin, after his freshman year, could have come in and wanted a bigger role. But he always kind of played to his role. Patric, I think to his credit, I've always talked to him, over the years you guys have heard me talk about his energy, his motor and those things. He's addressed those things, they've gotten better. And I think the same thing can be said for Will Yeguete as well."

 

 On the seniors passing down their experiences to the younger guys:

"When we had that team with (Joakim) Noah, (Al) Horford and (Corey) Brewer, and we had young guys with (Marresse) Speights, Jonathan Mitchell, (Walter) Hodge, some younger guys there, Dan Werner - what I perceived that they would take from playing with those guys, they never took from them. Their view of what made that team great was not the view I wanted them to have or to take. They saw it through their own eyes of why they thought those guys were successful. I think it’s important going forward with, as you mentioned some of these younger guys, newer players coming in that we as a coaching staff certainly now later explain to them why this senior group has been good, and what goes into that senior group being good. And I think you try to just leave it up to them to internalize what the seniors have brought to the table. And that’s something my staff and myself have to do a better job maybe than what we did back in 2006 and 2007, because it was amazing talking to those guys after those guys left, why they thought they were good and why the team was good and it wasn’t why they were good. Had nothing to do with that. But that was the way they viewed it. Your team can be, besides the talent level, I think part of the reason those guys thought that team was really good is because they thought they were just so talented and such great players, that’s part of it, but there’s also the chemistry, the teamwork, the relationship part, those things were extremely valuable. I’m not so sure our guys ever looked at it this way.”

 

On how important the LSU game was for Chris Walker:

“The Vanderbilt game, just calling it like it was for him, was a tough game with the way they run offense and what they do, and sometimes putting five 3-point shooters on the floor. It was a hard game for him, defensively. There were things in that game that he had never seen before. And if you go back to that game, when he got in there, he gave up four points right away, gave up an inbounds layup and then he fouled a guy. This was a better game for him against LSU because they’re a really good executing team in the half court. But they do what they do. They’re a high-low basketball team. They’re going to pound the ball inside to (Johnny) O’Bryant and to (Jordan) Mickey. They’re going to put (Anthony) Hickey in a high pick-and-roll with (Andre) Stringer in the same thing. It was a little bit of a better game for him in terms of him being able to inject his game in there into the game on Saturday. And I thought he gave us very, very good minutes. I’m hopeful going forward that he can continue to learn and we can utilize him more and get him into a bigger role than maybe he has been. But a lot of it is going to be predicated on, is he picking things up that he needs to pick up? You know, I can control the offensive part of him and what we’re running and what we’re doing. I can’t control what the other team is running against him and what they’re doing and whether or not he can handle that. That’s where some of that defensively for us comes in for him. Maybe some of his minutes have been eliminated because he’s not equipped to handle some of the things he’s going to need to handle. Now he’s gotten better, but he’s clearly not at the level of Dorian (Finney-Smith) and Patric (Young) and Will (Yeguete) and (Casey) Prather across our front line. And I think he can get there. How quickly he can get there, I don’t know. But it would help our team if we can get him into a little bit of a bigger role where he’s providing our team with more minutes in the frontcourt.”

 On his evaluation of South Carolina players:

“(Brenton) Williams is an upperclassman, he’s an older guy. He plays with a really good motor. He’s shooting the ball extremely well; he’s right around 44 percent from the three-point line. He can do it a lot of different ways. Frank (Martin) puts him in situations in the half court where he’s using a lot of different screens in a lot of different ways. You’ve got to obviously really do a good job. But even when you’re kind of loading up on him, (Demetrius) Henry at the basket, (Michael) Carrera at the basket, some of their frontcourt players also benefit from that. (Sindarius) Thornwell is another guy. He’s a big, strong and physical guard as a freshman. You know he’s at his position when he plays the two or the three and then at a lot of ways he’s physically bigger than most guys. You know the same thing could be said for (Duane) Notice at the point guard spot, although they’re young they’re big strong physical guards. So, their backcourt plays are strong physical and athletic. I would say Williams is one of those guys that’s an extremely explosive scorer that clearly on several occasions this year has had over 25 in a game and he’s getting about 18 right now in league play. So, this is a team that I think offensively continues to execute better and better, they understand where shots are coming from and guys understand their roles. I think Frank’s teams always play to an identity that I think he wants them to play to they’re going to be aggressive on defense, they’re going to be extremely physical at the basket, they’re going to chase balls at the backboard, they’re going to do a lot of those things and they’re going do them as well as anybody.”

 

On South Carolina beating Kentucky catching the team’s attention:

“Well, I guess maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. I’m always talking to our guys hopefully what would be even the bigger lesson for our basketball team would be the fact that we played Auburn at home after coming off of two road games and was clearly was outplayed by Auburn at home. If it wasn’t for a Michael Frazier’s three that gave us a one point lead with 30 seconds to go and maybe an ill-advised foul on a missed free throw that allowed Patric (Young) to put us up three, and a pass that went out of bounds – stuff that we had no control over – clearly for about 39 minutes and 30 seconds we were outplayed. I hope that’s a bigger message for our team in terms of going on the road and playing against a team like South Carolina. That our guys can learn through their own experiences. He (Tony Barbee) takes advantage of his personnel very, very well. You watch him as a coach on film and you realize that those guys, that it’s a hard game. What happens is guys look at records and they don’t necessarily look at the scores of games, and if you look at the scores of games and outside of a game here or there Auburn’s giving themselves a chance to win every game. Outside of a game here and there South Carolina in a lot of ways have given themselves a chance to win, and nothing could be clearer than what happened on Saturday. They were right there and found a way to close out and win.”

 

On factors that go into winning eight straight on the road, experience one of them:

 “You can have all the experience in the world that you want on the road, you can have all those kind of things, but at the same time if you don’t play and play well, it’s really, really hard to win on the road. I don’t care who you play against or where you play, there’s a focus and intensity that you need and if you don’t come with that intensity and focus you’re putting yourself in a position to lose. A lot of times some of the things that you say, ‘Florida is an older team, an experienced team. They have a lot of guys that have done this before.’ All that’s good provided you play extremely hard, provided you play together and provided you execute. If you don’t do those things, whether you’re a young team or an old team, it doesn’t make a difference. You have to be able to do those things. We’ve had some success on the road, but like I always say that’s in the past right now. We’ll find out what kind of success we have on the road tomorrow going on the road to play South Carolina.”

 

On approaching the possibility of 18-0:

 “There are still things out there in front of our team. There are still things out there. I think going into this last game against LSU, these guys putting their footprints on our program is a good thing. They’ve been a part of three out of four SEC championships, these seniors. This group of guys has won more regular-season games than any team in the history of this program, and there have been some good teams here. The 1989 team got honored. Lon (Kruger) had a team that went to the Final Four (in 1994). There are things out there for these guys to achieve. I think those guys would like to take on those challenges and certainly for us the biggest challenge and all that stuff doesn’t make a difference if we don’t play well against South Carolina tomorrow night.”

 

On team health:

 “Health-wise everybody’s good right now. Everybody was in practice. Nothing that’s a problem right now. Hopefully after practice today there will be nothing that is a problem.”

 

Senior C Patric Young

On how he’s grown in his four years at Florida:

“Understanding the process of what it takes to know your role on the team and what it takes to win. Every single day you have a chance to impact the team with your attitude and effort. It took me a little while to understand that it wasn’t always about me. It’s about our team and about winning.”

 

On what he’s done to make his senior year the best year:

“I knew this was my last chance to do something great here. I just really wanted to give it my best shot by putting in the work during the offseason. I’ve been focused on doing whatever I can to be more connected to my teammates, being a better teammate and trying to improve myself mentally for the ups and downs that come during the season and focus in on working harder each day.”

 

On the things he wanted to change:

“Number one was my attitude – just having the mindset of not getting bored with the process. The process can be boring at times when you do the same things over and over again. You have to start from ground zero every year. You have to embrace that because the foundation you lay early in the season or the offseason is going to bear good fruit hopefully when the season moves along.”

 

On last year’s postseason:

“It was pretty frustrating, it was. It was tough to go out the way we did because no team is 30 points better than us. We just came out really slow. We came out really slow two games in a row actually, but you would think an opportunity to go to the Final Four would be enough motivation to come out with enough energy and the right mindset, but I guess that just wasn’t the case. We were all a little slow in that game. Michigan was the better team that game.”

 

On how he dealt with the postseason loss:

“I just looked forward to what I could do now. I didn’t look back too much in the past. There’s nothing I could do about it – just how could I improve and what could I do now in the summer to get prepared for next season?”

 

On what the team can do to make it past Elite Eight:

 “Finish games. The last game we didn’t have a chance in that one, but the first two, we were up with some amount of time left. The other team just made more plays than we did. We didn’t finish the game or do our job. We have to stay in the moment if we get another opportunity to go to the Final Four, hopefully. And not take any team for granted or the opportunity for granted. Just go moment by moment and know that we’re not going to get this chance again, especially me.”

 

On if it wears on you to miss out on Final Four three times:

 “I’ve had the potential to be on three Final Four teams three years in a row. But it’s the past and it’s helping us as a senior class to lead this team now. All we can experience is the now. We're not going to let that opportunity get by us. We're going to go out every single day that we can and make sure we give our best effort. We go to the tournament, we can't take any of those games for granted. Hopefully, we win six games in a row.”

 

On if it will be an emotional week:

“I guess we'll see. I'm really just focused on this game tomorrow and hopefully going into the history books as a team that can go 18-0 in conference. That's our goal right now, so we're just worried about South Carolina right now and just trying to make this the best year possible with this team we have, with this team that will never be together again ever.”

 

On what he’s learned about himself from being around Kaedyn:

“Just puts you into a perspective of basketball is not the most important thing in the world. It's just something that I've gotten an opportunity to play. People are going through so much, so many things in life, so much adversity. It just puts it in perspective when you're going through tough times on the court. There are people out there going through a lot worse things than you. So, it really helped put me in perspective, seeing people persevere and prosper through the whole thing, his mother and grandmother.”

 

On what he’s done to cheer him up:

“You probably want to ask Will (Yeguete) because he spends a lot more time with him as of late. When I see him, we just always play around.”

 

On Billy Donovan’s motivational tactics:

"Well, he's always on edge himself and I'm sure he even gets tired of the process sometimes, and he fights human nature. Running baseline runners 45 times in one practice for like 20 minutes was not fun. But he just keeps us motivated so that when it comes down to it these little things, it needs to be like we don't even think about it. We need to get it done and make plays. He always has some type of speech to help keep us motivated and doing those things."

 

On chasing greatness:

"That was definitely his (Donovan’s) idea. I think as he saw the results at the beginning of the season, winning so many games in a row, breaking records and all that, he just sees the ceiling of this team is really high and he wants to motivate us to keep striving for greatness. We can do that every game; we can do that every practice. We just need to focus in on that each opportunity we get."

 

On the senior class' accomplishments:

 "Hopefully, the greatest thing hasn't come yet. But as of now, this class has gone through a lot, from guys thinking about transferring to staying in school, to not playing games with injuries, all those things, this team, this senior class, has persevered, stuck together and won."

 

On the special senior bond:

"I believe we're a really tight team. We don't necessarily live together because I'm not going to call any names, but some of those guys are slobs. But this team this year has definitely taken a lot of steps as a whole just to be more connected and to know each other more in the meetings that coach Donovan has us have. It's just the steps we take to really be open and honest with each other and just to realize it's not about the individual; it's about the team and the common goal.”

 

Senior F Casey Prather

On the senior class achievements:

“I feel like we’ve achieved a lot of great things. Of course, we still have a little while to go. But this is a group of guys who came in working together, hungry from the get go. Just proud of the things we’ve accomplished together.”

 

On how close the team is:

“We’re so close. Even from the first day we met we just clicked. I don’t know what it was about it, but we clicked instantly. Since then we’ve just improved our relationship on and off the court.”

 

On how he’s grown:

“I’m smarter. More aware of what goes into winning, what goes into doing my job. I just feel like I had a lot of help with the seniors and coaching staff. I just feel like I’ve matured a lot.”

 

On how he overcame frustrations early in his career:

“Just staying the course. Just knowing that it’s a process and if I put in my work, eventually it will show.”

 

On how he wants the seniors remembered:

“Hard workers. Great attitudes. A group that loved playing basketball and loved play for each other. I don’t know. Just how hard we worked.”

 

On looking down the road, if he expects to still be tight with the seniors:

“I hope so. I know me, Scottie, Pat and Will, we’re in communication all the time. We still have group messages all the time, and hopefully that will continue.”

 

On his lowest personal moment and highest moment:

“Maybe the lowest moment was my early years, as a freshman. Not playing as much as I thought I should or not contributing as much as I thought I could. Now, I guess my highest moment would be playing with this team, playing with this team ... and just winning.”

 

On if he thought about leaving:

“It came across my mind, but not to the point where I was that serious about transferring. Just more of a conscious thought, I guess … “I mean, I was frustrated, but I like I said, I never really was that serious about transferring. I decided to stick with it and give it my best shot.”

 

On who he spoke with during that time:

“The seniors, Scottie mostly. Some of the coaching staff, they kind of helped me through it.”

 

On the depth on team right now:

“We’re playing good basketball right now. We have great depth. That helps us out on defense, pressuring the ball, doing the things we usually do. With the depth, I feel we can play all out and not have any empty moments on the court.”

 

On if the South Carolina win against UK changes how they look at SC:

“We knew they were a good team from the first time we played them. We don’t go into games taking teams lightly. We already were kind of aware of it whether they beat Kentucky or not.”

On DeVon Walker’s emergence:

“We see it every day in practice, so we’re not that surprised. We’re just happy for him. We just hope he continues to do what he does and continues to grow from there.”

 

On how helpful Walker is with his 3-point shooting:

“It’s very helpful having another guy coming off the bench who can give us great minutes.”

 

On his relationship with Billy Donovan:

“It’s grown quite a bit because he knows some of the obstacles I came through from earlier experiences in high school. He’s been a great guy and great mentor who has prepared me for the games and for the future.”


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