Soon after, Mike Rosario transferred to Florida from Rutgers and was billed as a dominant scorer. Word started to come out of practices that Rosario was one of the best players on the court, and by the time he was eligible, the expectations were that Rosario would be among the top scorers in the Southeastern Conference. He had a solid two years at Florida before graduating last year.
Now Donovan wants to make sure the same thing doesn't happen with Dorian Finney-Smith.
"What happens is sometimes when people don't watch a guy play for a year, their legend grows by leaps and bounds of how good they actually are," Billy Donovan said. "In fairness to Dorian, I don't want him to feel undue pressure on himself. He's always been a team guy, he's really unselfish and he plays the game the right way.
"I don't want him to feel the burden of having to feel like he had to carry our team because it's unfair to him and it's not who he is."
In the first four practices since the Gators opened on Friday, Donovan wants to see more out of the Virginia Tech transfer. Finney-Smith spent last year practicing with the team and learning the Florida system, but now as the Gators practice with only seven healthy players, Donovan wants to see more production.
"He's just been okay," Donovan said. "There's a lot of expectations on him, and when you get a chance to see and be around a player for a year, you kind of get an idea the strengths and weaknesses. He's one of those guys that has to get better right now. His attitude is great.
"When you're playing with Boynton, Murphy and Rosario out there, you've got a lot of different people and it's easier to function. Now where those guys are gone and we're dealing with some injuries, more has fallen on his plate. I don't want to say he hasn't handled it well, but I do think that he has to get better."
Finney-Smith has turned heads in the early part of practice because of his shooting ability. His athleticism and length is well documented, but when the players started practice last Friday, Finney-Smith has been hitting more shots from the perimeter.
"I never knew he can shoot as good as he has been shooting," freshman point guard Kasey Hill said. "He crashes the boards really hard, he's always around the rim getting tip backs."
Donovan compared Finney-Smith to senior forward Casey Prather. Their athleticism and length makes them good defenders and rebounders. They matchup every day in practice, and even Prather said on Wednesday that he sees the similarities. They both fill the stat sheet and change the game in ways other than scoring.
Finney-Smith will do that this season, too. Donovan said last week that Finney-Smith could even play a point forward position for the Gators that has him bringing the ball up the court. When Scottie Wilbekin is serving an undetermined suspension to start the season, Finney-Smith could be the one serving as the backup to Hill.
The redshirt sophomore will make his impact all over the floor.
"He's a multifaceted guy that can do a lot of things, and I don't necessarily mean from a scoring standpoint," Donovan said. "He has the ability to impact the game with his defense, rebounding, passing and putting it on the floor."
"He has an offensive game and shoots it pretty decent. He can put it on the floor, post up and do many different things. But it's his motor that has to get better."