UCF Loss was Turning Point for the Gators

The unselfishness head coach Billy Donovan preached through the offseason finally sunk in while the Gators sat in the locker room at the Amway Center in Orlando. Florida experienced the upset in early December against UCF, and the thoughts started to roll through each player's head. Maybe the head coach was right.

It escalated into a players only meeting when the Gators got back to Gainesville. The message of the meeting was simple. There wasn't any yelling, screaming or pointing any fingers. The players realized that their selfishness needed to stop. They needed to stop looking at the box scores to make sure each player was getting his points, and focus more on the final score.

"After the UCF game, it all made a lot of sense," Florida guard Kenny Boynton said. "We had to watch film and we realized we had to come together as a team to get to where we want to be.

"That was the start. Every game after that, we came out and played as a team. We had a players only meeting and told each other that it's not about individual. No yelling, just talking."

The Gators ripped off three straight wins after that, including a win over a Kansas State team that was ranked in that top five at that point of the season. Florida then lost to Jacksonville after taking the Dolphins lightly, but since that game, the Gators have won 16 of their last 19 games.

Fighting through selfishness is tough for every team, especially for a group that returned all five starters, but the Gators haven't looked back since conquering it.

"That's every team and everybody," junior guard Erving Walker said. "This is a mature group and I think we're willing to do that."

EXTRA MOTIVATION: After clinching the SEC Championship in the regular season, this weekend in Atlanta serves the Gators with a new challenge. They weren't able to cut the nets down after clinching the championship, so this weekend gives them an opportunity to do that.

"That's definitely a motivation," Boynton said. "Coach told us we have three more times to cut down the nets, and we definitely want to reach those goals."

It has been a goal for the seniors since they came to campus, and the last few weeks of the season will present their final opportunity.

"That's something you always want to do, climb up on that latter and get those nets," forward Chandler Parsons said. "It's hopefully some extra motivation going into Atlanta."

The challenge this weekend comes for the Florida shooters playing in a dome. The SEC Tournament was in Nashville, TN, last season, but it returns to the Georgia Dome this weekend and presents a tough shooting environment. Thursday's practice in Atlanta will be important for Florida to try to get used to it.

"I've never even stepped in one, honestly," Boynton said.

PARSONS RECOGNIZED: Parsons was named as the SEC Player of the Year by the coaches on Tuesday, but he wouldn't take any of the credit for it.

"For there never be a player at the University of Florida to get that award, it's an honor," Parsons said. "It's an individual award, but I never could have done it without my teammates and coaches. I'm sharing it with my whole team."

Parsons was frustrated with his own inconsistencies early in his career, but his hard work turned him into the player that earned the award.

"If you would've told me three years ago that I'd be Player of the Year, I never would've believed it," Parsons said. "It just shows how hard I worked and how far I've come."

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