Donovan Focused on Defense and Rebounding

When the Gators came to practice the day after their 57-point exhibition win over Catholic University, head coach Billy Donovan was stern and realistic. The Gators likely won't be topping their mark of 20 three-pointers this season. The high percentage shooting was great, but Donovan eliminated the long-range shots and made the team focus on its defense and rebounding.

"They were probably a little taken back after practice on Friday," Billy Donovan said before Tuesday's practice. "When you shoot the ball well, it cures a multitude of sins. But what happens is when you don't shoot the ball well, sometimes those things are a lot more exposed.

"When you score 114 points and make 20 threes, a lot of times you're oblivious to things that happened during the course of the game that would be exposed if we didn't shoot it well."

It's tempting for the Florida players to get caught looking at numbers. The team went 20-for-40 from behind the three-point line, including a streak of eight straight near the end of the first half. Instead of watching the film of their ball movement that created wide-open threes at will against Catholic, Donovan wanted them to learn about toughness.

To do that, he went to another game—one that Florida didn't play in. Since practice has started, Donovan has put in clips of last year's national championship game between Butler and Connecticut. Neither team's offense looked good that night, and Donovan wanted his team to understand that the shots won't always be going down.

"It was an absolute blood fest in the paint," Donovan said. "It was an ugly game offensively and nobody got into a rhythm. It came down to a bunch of loose basketballs. I think that the better teams you play, the more your weaknesses can get exposed. Once they get exposed, you have to find a way to deal with that."

Even last year's Florida team can teach this one a lesson. The dominant shooters like Brad Beal and Mike Rosario weren't on the team, so the streakiness of Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton carried or buried the team.

That turned into a positive for Florida. The returning players learned how to grind out a win, even when the perimeter shots weren't falling.

"In the last two years, we at least gave ourselves a chance because we would defend and rebound the ball," Donovan said. "If you have a bad shooting night at a key part of the season, you have to understand how to deal with it. That's what I've been trying to teach right now."

Donovan made it clear that this year's team is a "much better shot making team" than last year's. The addition of Beal and Rosario help that, but it also creates more open shots for Walker and Rosario. Add in more minutes for a power forward like Erik Murphy, who can step out and hit the three-pointer, and the Gators have a team that can put up plenty of points.

"We have a chance to be explosive when those guys get going at the same time," Donovan said.

GUARD REBOUNDING: The only negative of having so many scoring guards is that the Gators will be at a disadvantage on the glass. Ever since the Gators were outrebounded by UCF in a scrimmage over a week ago, Donovan has been pushing the guards to get more involved in rebounding.

Beal has the most ideal size of the group, so Donovan said he is counting on 5-7 rebounds from him. If he can get 4-5 rebounds a game from Boynton, Rosario and Walker, there shouldn't be much of a disadvantage.

"If we can do that, we'll collectively be a good rebound team," Donovan said. "It has to be done collectively as a group. We don't have guards with great size, so they have to be willing to and understand the importance of doing it."

Donovan said he wasn't ready to panic about the lack of rebounding in the first two scrimmages because the Gators have shot such a high percentage, which has taken out the offensive rebounds.

YOUNG LEARNING: Despite learning in a reserve role last season, Patric Young still has some maturing to do on the court. The Gators don't need his points this season as much as they need his toughness in the paint and rebounding. Young pulled down seven rebounds in the team's exhibition win against an undersized front line of Catholic.

Donovan wants his improvement to come when he doesn't have the ball. Whether the Gators have the ball or are playing defense, he wants Young to be in better position. The sophomore has missed opportunities to post up and give the Gators an offensive option near the basket.

"The one thing I'm trying to get him to understand is that because he's so athletic and plays hard with a good motor, there are times when he can make incredible, exceptional plays by being totally out of position," Donovan said. "I want him to understand positioning on the court offensively and defensively."


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