"I feel kind of bad at first," Patric Young said. "Once I see they're okay, I feel like it's just part of the game."
It's the only way Young knows how to play the game. His activity on the floor makes him difficult for opponents, or his teammates in practice, to box out and keep away from the ball. Sometimes that aggressiveness means there will be injuries to go along with it.
Most of the experienced players that have been on the practice floor with Young over the course of his career haven't taken the blows, and Florida head coach Billy Donovan thinks he knows why.
"I give our team a lot of credit," Donovan quipped before Friday's practice. "Vernon Macklin, Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons, being older guys, probably did a good job of moving away from him in those situations."
This isn't a unique situation around Florida basketball. Donovan compared it similarly to how Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Chris Richard were in practice. Their physicality in practice made the team better and more prepared for game situations.
"I don't think Patric is a guy that is any different," Donovan said. "He goes out of his area to rebound and make plays. Sometimes there's a lot of contact. He's just physical. I don't think our guys think he's doing anything maliciously. When a shot goes on the glass, he's going after it. There's a responsibility with the other team to block out and keep him off the backboard."
Every time a Florida player hits the deck because of him, Young cringes. That is first because he's worried about the player's health, but he also knows what's coming soon after that. His teammates start to make fun of him and sarcastically accuse him of doing it on purpose.
"It's just who I am now," Young said with a smile. "I'm a bruiser of my own teammates."
"When there's that kind of contact, there's sometimes going to be some blood shed," Donovan added.
INCREASED EFFORT: Donovan upped the physicality of practice after Florida lost at Tennessee last weekend. The Gators had a long day of two practices last Sunday and followed up with a physical practice on Monday. After beating Georgia on Tuesday, Donovan gave the team Wednesday off.When they returned on Thursday, practice regained the same intensity it had before the Georgia game. The Florida players don't expect that to change anytime soon, joking that a win over South Carolina forces Donovan to think his methods worked and intensity has to stay high.
"(If we lose Saturday), he kills us even worse probably," Erving Walker joked. "We're in a lose-lose situation."
Donovan hasn't seen any hesitancy for the team to buy into what he's preaching. Sometimes it just takes a little while. He pointed to the start of the 2007-08 season where he was coaching Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus and Nick Calathes' recruiting class as freshmen.
He faced issues of motivation and effort in practice.
"I don't get at all any defiance or issues with commitment," Donovan said. "Chandler and those guys his freshman year-- that was a major problem. I don't see that from this group. They have a good work ethic and are pretty self reflective of how they need to get better and what they have to do."
The joy of coaching this team is still there for Donovan. He enjoys their eagerness to learn, but there is still room for them to grasp what he is preaching. Since training camp, Donovan has been focused on teaching about togetherness and becoming one unit. They're slowly learning.
"You look at Alabama in the national championship game," Donovan said. "The announcers are talking about energy and togetherness. They had an incredible year and football team, but all those things are what you need to have when things aren't going well and adversity hits.
"You can't get fragmented. It's not that they're disconnected or mad at each other, but there needs to be one unifying voice where they're all on the same page moving to the next thing. That's a maturing and growing up thing that we need to handle as a team."
WILBEKIN STAYING POSITIVE: Last season, Scottie Wilbekin had to skip his senior season of basketball and enroll early because the guard depth was so thin. He's adapting to less plain time this season after the Gators signed Brad Beal and have Mike Rosario eligible to play after he transferred from Rutgers.Wilbekin still brings a hard-nosed defensive intensity off the bench and facilitates the offense whenever his number is called.
"He has been great," Donovan said. "The one thing with Scottie that I admire and respect about him is he has a great understanding of our team and his role. He realizes there are two veteran backcourt players. Scottie has always been there to provide whatever he can provide."
The sophomore's team-first mindset is a big part of why he did decide to enroll early. He fit in immediately and hasn't looked back.
His teammates see it, too. Walker said Wilbekin has handled the change "like a trooper" and made the team better.
"He has brought the same attitude every day to just work hard," Walker said. "He just has to continue doing that, and I think coach sees his work ethic."
NBA ALUMNI: Donovan said he spoke with Joakim Noah and Al Horford on Thursday. He "felt bad" for Horford, as he is expected to miss 3-4 months with a pectoral injury. Noah is also dealing with a hand injury. The contact with his former players isn't consistent, but Donovan said he reaches out and communicates with them as often as he can.The biggest surprise of the Gators in the NBA this season has been Chandler Parsons, who recently earned a starting job with the Houston Rockets during his rookie year. Parsons had 20 points in a game on Tuesday night and has created a role with the Rockets.
"I'm really proud of him because of where he was as a freshman and sophomore and what he went through here to the level he's at now," Donovan said. "Hopefully the experience at Florida he had as a player prepared him for that next step as a player. It's encouraging to see him as a guy that got taken in the second round has started games and is doing well."