Gators’ Kurtz manning up after mistake

For many it would be a devastating moment, one that might cause someone to retreat into a shell. For Jacob Kurtz, Florida’s manager, turned walk-on, turned part time starter at forward, Billy Donovan hopes and believes he will turn the moment into an inspirational one for his team.

With the game tied in Tallahassee and Florida State forced to shoot a last second turnaround jumper from three-point land. Florida forward Jacob Kurtz boxed out, and went up for the rebound of the ball to secure it to maintain the tie and go into overtime. Instead, the ball bounced funny in the palm of his hands and ricocheted on the backboard and into the basket of the opponent to allow the Seminoles the win.

It was one of those shots that people make fun of when it happens any time in a game, that it happened on the game winner, or loser as it was in this account, it was mind boggling dramatic and traumatic at the same time.

Kurtz has done so much with so little expectation of him in the last year and a half and Billy Donovan expects more out of him in terms of making this a learning moment for the rest of his teammates.

“Obviously he felt awful about the play,” Donovan said about Kurtz. “But, he was trying to make the right play for the right reasons and it didn’t go well. I told him as a senior he has an unbelievable opportunity to display what mental toughness is.

“Mental toughness is displayed when things aren’t going well. Maybe that happened to him in that game because he is one of the mentally toughest guys on our team to show the rest of our team how to handle adversity and tough situation and how to respond back from that.”

Donovan is faced with a young and fairly inexperienced team this year that is a far cry from the rough and rugged experienced unit he displayed a year ago. Kurtz has a chance to show them what putting that stuff behind him means.

“I wish our guys responded more like he does when things don’t go well,” Donovan said. “He was right back at practice yesterday… great, understands it, felt bad about it, and has moved on. He has an unbelievable opportunity to set an incredible example of what mental toughness, resiliency, and perseverance are.”

It is still a problem for Donovan’s unit.

“He didn’t come in here pouting, feeling sorry for himself ‘woe is me, I can’t believe I lost the game for everybody. I feel terrible, I can’t pick myself up for practice’,” the Gators’ winningest head coach said. “There is none of that with him. Sometimes with our team, we get too much of that. It isn’t a mental toughness that they have. It is nothing they are innately born with, it is something they get over time.”

Eli Carter on the mend

Donovan met with the media at 1 PM and guard Eli Carter had already missed an 8 am workout that morning. At the time of the media session, Donovan said that Carter was doubtful for the game against UConn on Saturday.

“I would say right now he’s doubtful. It is the same injury he had and the one he has been sitting out with before the strep,” Donovan said. “I don’t know if it is a re-injury, but it’s being diagnosed as a mid-foot sprain. I guess right now he is doubtful and not practicing today, so I would say right now he will be out.”

Things changed shortly after the media session and Carter actually made the afternoon practice. Still, his injury seems to have the coach and the medical staff somewhat perplexed and there continues to be uncertainty about when he will and won’t be able to perform.

“We were overly cautious for that injury,” Donovan said about not pushing him back too soon. “We went for two weeks. He was cleared to play and got extra rest because of the strep throat. He would have played against Wake Forest. Once the doctors and trainers clear him to go it is kind of on him how he feels. When he was cleared to play, he elected not to. He felt like it was still bothering him.

“I don’t think there is anything necessarily structurally wrong. They are going to do an MRI just to make sure there isn’t any damage in there. Whenever they clear him it is up to him.”

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