Gators prep for cram session

UF coach Billy Donovan is preparing his team for games on Thursday and Saturday this week.

Tricia Coyne/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, January 18, 2010 at 11:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 18, 2010 at 11:48 p.m.

Call this week a cram session for the Florida men's basketball team.

To build off their first Southeastern Conference win, the Gators (12-5, 1-2 SEC) will travel to Arkansas for a 9 p.m. tipoff Thursday night against the Razorbacks.

Then, less than 48 hours later, Florida will return home to face South Carolina on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the O'Connell Center.

The week is the first of three Thursday-Saturday turnarounds this season for Florida. As part of the SEC's new television deal with ESPN, the league added Thursday night games to provide broadcast windows for ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.

“It's going to be different for everybody in the league,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “It's almost going to be like an NCAA Tournament situation, where you have a Thursday-Saturday, Friday-Sunday game, you have one day in between to prepare.

“I think the only difference is in the NCAA Tournament, if you're fortunate enough to advance, you're at least staying at the same site. This is a little bit different with regards to travel.”

Donovan said he is still working out plans for the trip to Arkansas. Florida flies to all of its SEC games on a private charter jet and typically flies back from road games an hour or two after the final buzzer.

Last week, SEC teams that played on Thursday went 3-1 in games the following Saturday. But two of those wins weren't easy. Tennessee rallied from down 12 points in the second half to beat Ole Miss in overtime. Mississippi State came back from down 13 points late in the second half to beat Georgia.

Florida's problems with the quick turnaround are compounded by a lack of depth on the roster. Sophomore center Kenny Kadji is out indefinitely with a herniated disc in his back. Kadji is awaiting a third epidural injection in his back before he can even attempt to resume practice.

Sophomore guard Adam Allen is out for the season after undergoing his third knee surgery in two years last November. As a result, Florida has just nine scholarship players and two walk-ons available. That number dropped to eight scholarship players last week when senior Dan Werner missed time with the flu.

“You're always worried about the balance of how many minutes guys play in games and keeping them fresh for the next game, but also the balance of trying to get better and improve,” Donovan said. “We're just trying to deal with, coaching-wise, the hand that we're dealt with there.”

Donovan said walk-ons Kyle McClanahan, Hudson Fricke and freshman scholarship guard Rod Tishman have taken an active role in practice.

“But you know, when we are down a player or two sometimes we don't have enough personnel-wise,” Donovan said.

For example, with Werner out with the flu last week, Donovan was forced to use sophomore Chandler Parsons at power forward in practice to simulate LSU's Storm Warren.

“It's been tough,” Parsons said. “But as long as we go four-on-four, as long as we get some of their actions, go over some of their plays, go over some of our stuff, I mean as long as we're going hard and competing, we're still getting better.”

Parsons said he's looking forward to the Thursday-Saturday turnaround because both games will be on national TV. Florida's game Saturday against Arkansas will air Thursday night on ESPN and the Saturday game against South Carolina will air on ESPN2.

“We like to play,” Parsons said. “We might be a little tired, legs might be heavy but it's still, we're playing basketball and having fun.”

Florida will face two more Thursday-Saturday turnarounds in February. After playing at Alabama on Feb. 4, Florida will return home to face Mississippi State on Feb. 6. Later in the month, Florida will play Auburn at home on Feb. 18 before traveling to Ole Miss for a noon tipoff on Feb. 20.

“The balance of preparation going into the next game where you really only have probably less than 48 hours to do that, that is difficult, it is challenging,” Donovan said. “But you know what, that's what comes with the TV package that we were able to put together, that the league put together. Everybody is going to be dealing with it.”

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