Donovan: Keep eye on Vols


Billy Donovan
Billy Donovan

Florida NCAA college basketball coach Billy Donovan speaks to media during the SEC basketball media day on Thursday, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 8:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 8:53 p.m.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Florida coach Billy Donovan didn’t have much to say about the Gators being picked to finish second in the Southeastern Conference.

But Donovan did have a feeling about which team should be considered the best in the league.

“Certainly Kentucky has a lot of individual talent, ability,” Donovan said at SEC basketball media day Thursday. “The teams that stands out to me, that has it all right now, more than anybody, is Tennessee. They are the best team, right now, in my opinion.”

Tennessee was picked fourth in the SEC preseason media poll, behind Kentucky, Florida and Missouri. But Donovan said he liked Tennessee’s veteran core, led by senior center Jeronne Maymon and junior point guard Trae Golden. He also coached Tennessee sophomore power forward Jarnell Stokes over the summer for Team USA’s 18-under national team.

Donovan said he felt it took the Vols time to jell under first-year coach Cuonzo Martin last season, which resulted in early losses that prevented Tennessee from making the NCAA Tournament. Tennessee beat Florida twice last season.

“Everybody is talking about our experience, Tennessee has more experience than anybody in our league,” Donovan said. “If you look at them towards the end of the year they were playing very, very good basketball and I think they are as good as anybody in our league and certainly as physical and tough as anybody in our league.”

Martin said he was “humbled” by Donovan’s comments proclaiming the Vols the team to beat in the SEC.

“We have good pieces, but there is a lot of work to be done,” Martin said.

Fogler reaches out

Missouri coach Frank Haith said it was tough to get over his team’s first-round exit against Norfolk State in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. The second-seeded Tigers were upset by a 15-seed to finish the season 30-5.

“If we didn’t play well, it would have been tougher,” Haith said. “But we shot 56 percent from the floor, we shot 50 percent from 3, if we had laid an egg and we weren’t ready to play, but that wasn’t the case.”

But Haith received some consolation from former South Carolina coach Eddie Fogler. In 1997, Fogler’s second-seeded South Carolina team lost to 15-seed Coppin State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

“He said those things happen, that’s what makes March Madness great,” Haith said. “In terms of what it does for us and our program, I didn’t want one win to determine how great of a season we had and no one tough loss would determine that, either.”

Recruiting bump

Florida women’s basketball coach Amanda Butler said she noticed an offseason recruiting bump with her team coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance last season.

“There’s always two groups of people out there, those who are cheering for the Gators and those who like to hate on the Gators,” Butler said. “I think for the latter group, it gave them a little less to bash on us about.”

The Gators were picked to finish ninth in the SEC women’s preseason media poll. Florida returns two starters — senior All-SEC first team forward Jennifer George and junior guard Jaterra Bonds — from a team that finished 20-13 last season.

“We’ve got to figure out some roles right now,” Butler said. “There’s a huge discovery process and that’s probably our biggest challenge as coaches, who needs to be on the floor, when and trying to put them in positions where they can succeed.”

Etc.

Former Missouri-turned-Arkansas coach Mike Anderson returned to Missouri’s graduation ceremony last May to watch the players he recruited graduate. … Donovan said senior guard Mike Rosario has continued to remain accountable and responsible in practice. “Can he sustain it? We’ll see,” Donovan said. … Donovan also said junior forward Will Yeguete needs to lose to some weight, but thinks it will happen in practice. The 6-foot-7 Yeguete bulked up to 240 pounds, mostly muscle, during the offseason. “He needs to move better, because he’s stronger,” Donovan said. “But I’m not worried about that right now, I think that, by the time we’re playing, will come off.” … Kentucky coach John Calipari, on being picked first in the SEC in the preseason media poll: “Whoever did that needs to be drug tested. We’re not a very good team right now. I think we will be eventually but right now, we’re just very average.” … Calipari said sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer improved over the summer, but needs to get better on the defensive end of the floor.

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