Looking for Leadership

Two games left in the regular season isn't the ideal time for Billy Donovan to be pushing players on his team to step up and lead, but it's the situation he's stuck in after Saturday's loss at Georgia. Losing Will Yeguete for the season hurt the mentality of the Gators, and Donovan is still waiting for someone to step up. If no one does, the season could end quicker than Florida expected.

The logical choice is Erving Walker. He's the lone senior on this team and runs the offense from his point guard position. After three years of taking charge of the offense in that same position, Walker isn't vocal. He wasn't from the time he came to campus and it hasn't changed with two regular season games left in his career.

Donovan won't force it anymore.

"I think the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result," Donovan said Monday morning. "He has to just worry about himself playing with energy and passion and emotion. After a dead ball or a free throw situation, there needs to be more huddling our guys there.

"Whether he forgets to do it or doesn't do it or doesn't feel comfortable doing it, I've got to get someone else to do it because that needs to happen. Especially when you play on the road; it's hostile, it's loud. Someone has to get in there and grab everybody to say, ‘Okay, listen, this is what we are doing,' or, ‘We're moving to next play.' And there is not a lot of that."

It makes sense for Walker to be that player. Running the offense for three years and being the only senior on the team makes it seem like he should be the perfect fit. It hasn't been like that until this year, though.

Last season, Walker had three senior frontcourt players to lean on, as Vernon Macklin, Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus had plenty of experience of their own. Parsons was the leader of the team. When something needed to be said, he said it. When a shot needed to be taken, Parsons would take it and most often make it.

The three seniors helped last year's team to an Elite Eight run. Walker was a big part of that team, but he never had to speak up and be vocal.

"He never really is way too high or way too low, he's a pretty even-keel guy—but there are some times that your team can reflect the personality of the guy in charge," Donovan said. "And with him being in charge and when things are not going well for your team, there are some times that we do need more fire out of him. Because I do think we have guys that are out there playing that are left to their own thoughts. There's not enough communication going on."

There were key times in Saturday's 14-point loss at Georgia where Walker found himself on the bench.

"I just felt like with the way the game was going, we needed to make some changes to try to get some kind of passion injected into our team," Donovan said. "I think Patric Young is starving for that. I think Brad Beal is starving for that. I think (Erik) Murphy is starving for that. I think our team is starving for that. We don't have that, we don't. For whatever reason, we don't.

"When it's not going well and he's not talking, it's almost like we get—and I'm not placing it all on him, everybody's got to be responsible for themselves—but we don't have somebody grabbing somebody by the shirt and pulling guys in here and having one clear voice on the floor all the time. When we're playing well, it all flows together, but when we're not, when we're in those battles and those struggles and those challenges, we need somebody."

The search will continue as Florida heads into Tuesday's game at Vanderbilt. It's Senior Night for the Commodores, and with seven players to be honored, Memorial Gymnasium will be loud and hostile. Donovan said Brad Beal, Patric Young and Scottie Wilbekin are players that could become the vocal leaders of the team, but it needs to happen in a hurry.

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