Donovan Discusses Life After Speights

Before SEC football takes center stage next week at SEC Media Days, the basketball coaches assembled for a teleconference on Wednesday as they prepare to head into a new season themselves. Gator head coach Billy Donovan talked about life after Speights and some of the other issues surrounding college basketball this summer.

When Marreese Speights first threw his name into the NBA Draft, Billy Donovan was a bit surprised, but everything ended up working for the former Gator center.

"I think when the process first started the information that came back from the league office was that he was anywhere from 20-35, somewhere in that range," Donovan said. "I was pretty surprised when he put his name in, but is was clear very early that Philadelphia at No. 16 was very interested, and all it really takes is one team to be interested."

"I'm very happy for him and his family because he's going to great city and a great team."

With a giant hole in the middle of the Gator offense (and defense), Donovan said the frontcourt will be the biggest question mark, but it won't be the only one.

"Obviously, we're losing a guy who played the only semblance of minutes," he said. "Dan Werner is really our only seasoned frontcourt player, so the question that stands out the most heading into this year is what is our frontcourt going to be like? We have three freshmen coming in that will be young and you don't know what you'll get out of them or what type of impact they'll make. Alex Tyus as a freshmen got some good minutes, but he was up and down as most freshmen are. Dan Werner is the most consistent frontcourt player that we have. I don't think there is any question that the biggest question mark with the departure of Marreese is do we have enough up front to continue to grow."

"We've got a group of freshmen who now have to step up into leadership roles, and they've never had to do that before at this level. And now we've got new freshmen coming, so I think there are questions all around our team, not just with our frontcourt."

Last year's squad makeup forced Donovan to use a lot of three-guard sets. It wasn't a matter of choice, but rather a matter of personnel.

"There weren't a lot of options," he said. "The only player back there [in the frontcourt] who had any success was Adam Allen. I thought Chandler Parsons had a very difficult time guarding the small forward. So really, we were left with having to play those three guys, and they got a lot of experience and a lot of playing time, but it wasn't like we had a lot of options to go to. We bring in Erving Walker and Ray Shipman and there's two perimeter players that give us some options and more depth, but what they can do for us remains to be seen."

Over the weekend, former Gator Teddy Dupay was charged in Utah with rape. Donovan has touched base with his former player and is hoping for the best with the situation.

"I touched base with Teddy just to find out how he was doing," Donovan said. "We talked and he feels that there are some things that need to be taken care of that are not all truthful that's going on right now. I think anytime one of your players goes through something like this you certainly feel a sense of concern for them. For any kid it's a difficult situation, and certainly for the girl it's a difficult situation. You hate to see anything like that. Where the truth lies, I don't know, but it's an unfortunate situation for both parties."

In recent weeks, Donovan has come under some heat regarding his newest commitment. Austin Rivers committed to Florida after just finishing his freshman year of high school. The commitment came at roughly the same time the National Association of Basketball Coaches urged college coaches not to have contact with younger players.

"One of the things that's going on that the NABC needs to be clearer on is there's been a bigger push with these seventh and eighth grade camps going on," Donovan said. "What's happened is college coaches have been able to work it, and they're getting the best kids. These college coaches are able to evaluate and project down the road and I understand that as being a problem. I think when you've got a situation where you've got a relationship that's gone on for a very long time, but I think it comes down to the families that are making the decisions. I think the NABC is putting something out there that has to do with these coaches working these younger camps and offering scholarships because they are projecting. We have not done that, and our situation is much more based upon what we feel is in the best interest of the young man and the University of Florida by way of a relationship. I can't talk about this situation specifically, but if you trace the history of this young man and his family and their relationship with Florida, I don't think you can compare this situation with that one."

And finally, Donovan commented on Arizona coach Lute Olson's recent decision not to recruit kids who are projected to be "one and done."

"I think there's a lot of problems in college basketball and how it relates to the NBA," Donovan said. "There's a lot of window dressing with some of this stuff. There are certain players that have the ability to come out of high school and go right to the NBA. These kids in my opinion should have the right to leave and go straight to the NBA out of high school."

"I care more about a kid's mindset. If a kid's mindset is, 'I don't care about your program, I'm just using this as a vehicle to get to the NBA. The only reason why I'm coming to Florida is because I'm forced to pick a school and I'm only picking a school that I know I can get where I want to get to. I don't care how much we win or lose, I just care about how many points I'm going to score.' That's probably someone that I would stay away from. But if I have a kid that really wants to come to the University of Florida and wants to learn and develop and win and become a better basketball player, and if the opportunity presents itself after a year to leave, I would be alright with that. But I think every coach has got to go with what works best for them and their program."

"I think the bigger problem is you're going to see some of these great players as freshmen and sophomores and agents are going to get involved. And as a college coach, you're not going to want to touch these players because you don't know what's gone on while these kids have been in high school. We have all these rules on us about contacting kids and calling them, and then when they get on our college campus we have nothing in place to protect these players when they're here from all these agents. The problem is not with David Stern, it's with the players association and the agents and regulating them. We've got more restrictions on us in terms of recruiting them than the agents do in terms of their contact."

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Chris Chmielenski


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