BASKETBALL: Quotes from Donovan & Players

Gator basketball is on its way and there's a lot of excitement in the air this season with a new assistant coach in Larry Shyatt, new players, and a more upbeat system on the way. Read on for quotes from Coach Donovan, David Lee, Matt Walsh, and Anthony Roberson.

Coach Billy Donovan

Opening Statement:

"Certainly we're excited to start practice here on Saturday. We were fortunate to have the chance to start practice back in August and be able to get eight days of practice in before the hurricanes hit and our trip to the Bahamas was cancelled. We felt that in those eight days we got a really good feel of what some of our guys that have returned and some of our new faces and we're excited about our basketball team more so than anything else is there attitude. I don't think you can truly find out what you're dealing with as a coach until you get hit with some form of adversity during the course of the season. I felt that these guys, especially the young guys came in and we're very, very humble – they've worked very, very hard. I don't know if anyone is going to make an immediate impact on our program in terms of the four freshmen that are in. But I do really feel that with their work ethic, their attitudes, and with their toughness right now that they're four guys that are going to have the opportunity to play. But to come in right away and to have a major impact is asking too much right now from those guys. But I do believe that if you look at it to evaluate and judge them over a four year career, I think that they'll do a lot of very good things here at the university of Florida. Right now we've just been finishing up individual instruction, doing conditioning and they've been lifting weights. I think things have gone well and their attitudes have been very good. People have some high expectations for this team. What do I think? I don't really know what to think. This team last year at one point made it all the way to number one in the country and by the end of the season dropped out of the top 25. So I think a lot of times expectations are placed on a team by the media as far as what you guys expect, and that may not be reality. And to be honest with you I don't know what my expectations are because I think that we've had so many things happen to our team. Certainly last year, with the loss of Christian Drejer along with Ryan Appleby although he didn't play much last year. But I like our guys right now where they're at, I think the big thing will be how we move forward, and how good can we become? I really don't know. But I do like this team very good in terms of coaching them."

On this off-season and its difference than previous years:

"Well I think you're always evaluating yourself, your players, and your coaching staff. You're trying to put your self in the best position to move forward and get better. We've made some changes this past off-season. But you're basically trying to evaluate our team. What you need to do to get better, how we're gonna play. The guys' commitment in the summer time more so than anything else, a lot of guys made a strong commitment and stuck around the whole summer. To me it hasn't been that much different during the off-season. But you're always focusing on the same thing: how do I get better as a coach? How do our assistants get better? How does our basketball team get better? You try to implement those things and move forward and get better in those areas."

On losing two practice days for the Bahamas trip:

"I would of liked to have those last two practice days from the standpoint that we were going to scrimmage. We really didn't get a chance to scrimmage at all. That would've been a good measuring stick to see where some of our guys were at. The games, I don't know how competitive they would've been in the Bahamas. It'd really been hard to say how challenging they would've been or how good the teams would've been, with this being an Olympic year. But with that said, I still think the eight days of practice that we had was beneficial to our team. We got a chance to find out a lot about our team and our kids. The trip would've been good but I don't think we missed that much by not being able to go to the Bahamas – other than not being able to go on some water slides."

On the professional athletic background of the fathers of the incoming freshmen class:

"Taurean (Green) is someone that's had to live with his dad as someone who's played 15 years in the NBA. Joakim's (Noah) dad was obviously a tremendous athlete and a great tennis player. I think when Jo goes back to France to visit his dad and just the popularity of Yannick back there. And the same thing goes for Al Horford from the standpoint of Tito coming over here from the Dominican Republic and playing. And a lot of these guys's names are still very visible. But I get the sense that they love their dads very much, there's great respect and admiration for their dads. But I don't think they put any extra added pressure on their selves because of the level of athletic success that their dads have reached. I don't get that sense from them at all. These guys have probably been in that limelight or in that mode for so long they understand. And I'm sure that they as parents have done a terrific job in explaining to them because they are very secure in who they are as a player and who they are as people and to me that's always a tribute to the family and being around them."

"Taurean grew up being around NBA players his entire life. I'm sure Joakim has been around all sorts of tennis people at the highest level. Same thing with Al in that they've been exposed to a lot of different things. And sometimes that's good because sometimes they're unfazed by things, things that would maybe get someone else excited wouldn't necessarily get those guys overly excited. But I don't feel like there's any extra added pressure on them, and I do think that they've had a chance to experience a lot just in terms of what their dads did."

On what new assistant coach Larry Shyatt brings to the team:

"Well I think Larry brings some newness, some freshness, some different ideas. I think Larry got a lot of credit, and rightfully so, in some circles from working with Rick Barnes at Texas and what he's done defensively. And I think people look at Larry as someone who's defensively-minded coach, and there's no question he's done a great job in that respect. But I think that I'd be limiting him to a very, very small area that he could really be effective in our program. I think he does a very good job recruiting. I think he does a very good job in terms of his personal relationships with the players. I think it's a different voice that the guys have heard. I think he's got a personality where he can pretty much deal with any type of kid based on his personality – think the guys genuinely and sincerely like him. But I also think too, that with Larry there's a lot of newness and for me as the head coach to throw ideas off of somebody. I think that will be very beneficial for us."

On Coach Shyatt's philosophy fitting in with the program:

"Larry has a very subservient mentality. He's a very humble guy. He's not a guy that's seeking the limelight or attention. If anything I've had to push Larry to do more. Because I think that he has great respect for Anthony Grant and Donnie Jones being here for ten years. The last thing that he wants to do is to come in here and say ‘this is the way things have to be done and if you don't do it that way you don't know what you're doing.' It's nothing like that at all. I think Larry has come in with the idea of wanting to learn himself. You know ‘What are we doing? Why do we do things that we do?' But I think if anything he's been totally sensitive. I think when you're a head coach you understand the dynamics of a basketball team and you understand the dynamics of your staff. And he understands coming into this situation with a lot of people that have been here for a long period of time and us having some success here that the last thing he wants to do is come storming in. He really wants to make sure that he bounces things of Anthony Grant and Donnie Jones and gets their opinion on things and talks to them. I think he has a different mentality than maybe a lot of other guys that don't have things that I mentioned when I hired him. He's been a coach for something like 31 years, and I think that 26 of those 31 he's been an assistant coach so he understands what his role is and what he needs to do. And I think because of that he's very sure of what he is and what he represents."

Senior forward David Lee

"We have pretty much the same team as last year, now we have 5 new freshmen. Last year at this time we were ranked what, like 6th or 7th. So being my senior year, I've got one last go around and I think that this is going to be a very special year."

"I have a good feeling about this year. I think we've definitely got the talent it's just a matter of putting it together. It's definitely going to take a focus on defense and rebounding. You can take a look at this team last year and say we had a lack of scoring and say that coming into this year you don't have enough guys scoring to win games and that's not the case. It's just going to take our dedication to defense and rebounding. Also, some of the changes in the coaching staff and a change in attitude, even thus far and we haven't even starting practicing yet, will change things big time in that respect."

Junior guard Matt Walsh

"Coach Shyatt has been great. I'm really excited to have him around here. I think it's gonna add a new flavor to the team. He brings a whole different defensive concept and tie that in with Coach Donovan's aggressiveness and press, I think it's gonna be great. We have at least one, maybe two individual workouts a week, and I've never had an individual defensive work out since I've been here."

"Defense is a lot about effort. And just a mentality and I think they're trying to build that mentality. Plus, we're learning the fundamentals and we're gonna be more disruptive this year. I don't think it can do anything but help."

Junior guard Anthony Roberson

"I just do the things that coach needed me to do to win. And my career has been a lot of scoring, and my freshman year I had to wait for my opportunity to lead. I think that I have to help my teammates any way I can. A lot of people look at me in different ways but I can't help how other people judge me as a player. But I feel like I'm a point guard that can score and get my teammates involved when I need them to."

"I got very confident in this system pretty fast. And the freedom that coach gives us to play, and the freedom he gives me and Matt (Walsh) to play. It'll be pretty easy and not too much pressure on us. This year I'm gonna play my same role and try be more vocal. And this year we have someone coming in here like Taurean (Green) that's looking up to me that is gonna come in here and fill my shoes when I'm not playing any more. A lot of freshmen that we have and I feel very happy that they're gonna help us out a lot – filling out a lot of depth that we have. I'm very excited about this season. And we're gonna be very explosive. I'm happy about our chances this year."

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