Mixing up the Lineups

When Monday's injury report comes around, you don't expect to hear the head coach's name in the list of casualties. But that's exactly what happened when coach Billy Donovan was unable to attend his weekly press conference due to a minor back injury.

Instead, assistant coach Larry Shyatt took a few questions from the media, particularly about his thoughts Sunday's live scrimmage.

"We just finished watching the tapes and it's sorta mixed emotions," Shyatt said. "A little disappointment, really, in terms of where we were after fatigue kicked in. It had been the fourth practice in a long weekend and that was probably a little bit disappointing at this point. We had a couple players that definitely stood out offensively. I think that the disappointment was we didn't really have a lineup or group of players at any one point that stood out defensively."

The offense will have to be effective, especially early while they continue to improve defensively. A lot of that should come from the team's strength in shooting and getting the ball to the open man. In most lineups, all five of the Gators' starters will be capable shooters from distance.

"I think we're comfortable when any of our players, all nine our scholarship players, are open," Shyatt said. "I think Coach Donovan has made sure that they understand that if there's a level of unselfishness, then he wants them to feel like when we're open that's an opportunity that we don't want to pass by."

The scrimmage revealed some of the lineups that the coaching staff is experimenting with using. The team showed numerous combinations and skill sets – quite the departure from recent years where the starting five was pretty concrete.

"Because of the lack of depth and the lack of numbers, we've had a lot of different combinations, some by design and some not," Shyatt said. "Hopefully that will be a blessing down the road because we may be forced into playing lineups that we're not accustomed to."

Being able to show different looks should help the deal adjust if injuries occur. But struggles with fatigue are inexperience are inevitable when you're dealing with so few and young players. The staff has done their best to anticipate and deal with those struggles without negatively affecting the team in the long term.

"That's an equation that we knew was around the corner when the four juniors left," Shyatt said. "I think we made a cognitive choice that we weren't just going to fill in with scholarships. So we approach it every day and try to listen to the heartbeat of our trainer and our strength coach and try to get the best combination of making these guys better."

The coaching staff will certainly face it's share of obstacles in the coming season, but they seem to have the kind of patience and attitude to overcome them.

"I don't think any of us, including Coach Donovan, looks at that as difficult," Shyatt said. "It's a challenge. It's exciting. Not many people get the opportunity we have right now and sometimes you can get dragged down if you don't look at it that way."

While Donovan figures to return soon, talking with Shyatt provided a unique perspective on Donovan's coaching in the wake of his brief departure for the NBA.

"He's definitely enjoying coaching these guys," Shyatt said. "I think he looked at this as he should look at this: as a great challenge. It's exciting for all of us. But a times, just like when you have your own children, it's frustrating at times, too, ‘cause you want to go faster and you want to get further."

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Blake Bonsack

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