Building a Team

The weekend provided the Gator basketball team's coaching staff their first opportunity to get the new team in to a full practice and begin to evaluate their performance. With such a young team, a lot of the time is being spent on teaching fundamentals.

Coach Billy Donovan talked about the ways that the team will have to excel in order to compensate for their weaknesses.

"They're working really, really hard," Donovan said. "I think the biggest thing that I've tried to get them to understand the things that we're really going to have to do well. Because of our lack of size and shot-blocking ability we're going to have to be a great block-out team, we're going to have to be a team that's great in transition and we're going to have to be really good at taking care of the basketball."

Donovan has so far been impressed with the team's work ethic, despite being the first two-a-days for most of them.

"Their work threshold have been very good," Donovan said. "We went once on Friday night, we went twice on Saturday and twice Sunday," Donovan said. "Their work habits have been good, but we've got to first shore up the things that will get us beat. There's a lot of work for us to get to a point where we're going to be in a position to compete."

Despite Donovan's overall upbeat attitude, he expressed a great deal of concern over what he's seen so far from the team's sophomore class. Dan Werner, Marreese Speights and Jonathan Mitchell are expected to join junior Walter Hodge as the core of the team's lineup. But when asked if they had shown that they were ready to make the transition, Donovan was unconvinced.

"I haven't, which to me has been a little bit surprising," Donovan said. "All three of those guys, so far to me, have been inconsistent. Dan Werner did not have a real good practice on Friday. He had some flu symptoms and he was battling some illness and that could've been part of it because he was in an out of practice."

"Marreese [Speights] practiced very well on Friday and Jonathan [Mitchell] practiced very well on Friday. And we come back on Saturday and Werner was very good and Marreese and Jonathan were not very good. So to me that's a little alarming."

It's not an issue of skill or athleticism that the coaches haven't seen consistency in, but rather many of the basic duties that are expected of players that are going to start and contribute for the team.

"You can have a great practice every day, in my opinion, because the things that we're looking at and holding you accountable to are things that you can take care of," Donovan said. "You can block out, you can rebound, you can run the floor, get on the floor for loose basketballs, screen – there's things that you're in control of that can make you have a good practice. I just thought mentally, in terms of the competitiveness and fighting through fatigue, those guys have been really up and down."

Donovan was much more applauding of the freshmen so far, but a lot of that is because he has lesser expectations of players who haven't already been in the program a year like the sophomores.

"The freshmen right now have done a good job," Donovan said. "We'll see how they handle the fatigue as we go forward and continue to add things. There's no question that sophomore class has got to be consistent every day and they haven't been up to this point."

The lack of consistency has its most glaring impact as the coaching staff attempts to establish a starting lineup and how they'll go about substitutions. Without consistency, they don't know what to expect and who to rely on from day to day.

"I think the way I'm looking at it right now is I think our starting lineups could change from game to game based on who's playing, who we can rely on, who's consistent," Donovan said. "I look at the nine guys we have that are on scholarship and all of them having an opportunity to play but probably a lot's going to depend on the consistency level of these guys. Unfortunately, with a young team some times consistency is one of your biggest issues. We'll probably, as a coaching staff, be mixing and matching lineups based on that day."

Questions or comments? Contact's Blake Bonsack

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