Knights' Jones returns to O-Dome


UCF basketball coach Donnie Jones brings the Knights to the O'Connell Center where he'll match wits with his mentor, UF basketball coach Billy Donovan. (Photo by The Associated Press)

Published: Friday, November 23, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 23, 2012 at 12:36 a.m.

It was a high moment in UCF coach Donnie Jones' career.

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UCF basketball coach Donnie Jones brings the Knights to the O'Connell Center where he'll match wits with his mentor, UF basketball coach Billy Donovan. (Photo by The Associated Press)

Facts

Today's game

Who: No. 7 Florida Gators (4-0) vs. UCF Knights (3-1)
When: 4 p.m.
Where: O'Connell Center, Gainesville
Gainesville TV:Sun Sports
Gainesville radio:AM-850, 103.7 FM

Rarely does the student beat the mentor. But Jones, a former assistant under UF coach Billy Donovan from 1994-2007, posted one of the biggest wins of his coaching career when UCF upset Florida 57-54 in December of 2010.

Former Gator forward Chandler Parsons had an off night shooting in his homecoming game at Amway Arena in Orlando, while former UCF guard Marcus Jordan (18 points) played like his dad, Michael Jordan.

“It was a great win for us and our school,” Jones said.

Close to two years later, UCF and Florida will meet again today at the O'Connell Center. Parsons is scoring in bunches with the Houston Rockets in the NBA, while Jordan left UCF last April for undisclosed reasons.

And UCF was hit with a one-year postseason ban in both football and men's basketball by the NCAA last August due to the school's alleged involvement with runners Ken Caldwell and Brandon Bender.

“I was surprised,” Jones said. “We had a postseason ban on our school and that's hard, it was unfortunate. But we have put that behind us now. It's in the rearview mirror, and we're about what's ahead of us.”

An internal report by UCF showed that Jones only had “modest involvement” in knowledge that Caldwell and Bender were improperly trying to recruit players to UCF. Jones was given a three-game suspension by Conference USA. In addition, UCF faces scholarship reductions for basketball (from a maximum of 13 to 11) for the next three seasons.

"I spent a lot of time talking to him,” Donovan said. “I really personally thought it was really unfortunate. Donnie is a good, good person in this profession and I think the hardest thing sometimes as human beings you go through is you go through what he's going through and all of a sudden people think that, well he's not doing his business the right way, and that couldn't be anything further from the truth.

“There are a lot bigger problems in college basketball than Donnie Jones, you know? To me, what happened to him does not reflect who he is as a person, a coach, his integrity, his character, what he stands for. And I will stand behind that as long as the day is because that's what he is.”

On the court, Jones said UCF is a different team from the one that upset the Gators two seasons ago. UCF is down to eight scholarship players and one scholarship guard, junior Isaiah Sykes. Jones said the lack of depth caught up to UCF in its 75-61 loss to Middle Tennessee State on Tuesday night.

“We're trying to find ways to work through that and get better,” Jones said.

One player who opted to return to UCF following the sanctions was senior center Keith Clanton. The 6-foot-9 big man had a big game against Florida two seasons ago, finishing with 12 points and 9 rebounds.

“To watch his growth and development has been tremendous,” Jones said. “He had a chance to go to some big-name schools, but he loves his mom. He wants to stay close to home and play in front of her. He has an opportunity to finish up here at UCF and continue to pursue his dreams.”

Jones said that even with the postseason ban, UCF still has plenty to play for this season. The Knights want to build positive momentum for its move from Conference USA to the Big East in 2013-14.

“The good thing is that the majority of guys are young and come back next season,” Jones said. “We still have a lot to play for. We can win our conference. So those are things that we can focus on, the things that we can control.”

FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS

G Kenny Boynton 6-2 Sr. 14.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg

G Mike Rosario 6-3 Sr. 12.8 ppg, 3.0 apg

F Will Yeguete 6-7 Jr. 7.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg

F Erik Murphy 6-10 Sr. 13.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg

C Patric Young 6-9 Jr. 10.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg

UCF PROBABLE STARTERS

G Rod Days 6-6 So. 3.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg

G Isaiah Sykes 6-5 Jr. 17.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg

F Kasey Wilson 6-7 So. 9.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg

F Tristan Spurlock 6-7 Sr. 13.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg

F Keith Clanton 6-9 Sr. 17.0 ppg, 11.8 rpg

Notes: Florida has given up 45 points or less in three of four games this season. … Junior center Patric Young recorded a career-high 6 blocked shots in UF's 58-40 win over Savannah State. Young is averaging 3.0 blocks per game this season. … Junior forward Casey Prather is expected to return after sitting out UF's first four games with post-concussion symptoms. … Florida is 35 for 57 from the free-throw line (61.4 percent) over its last two games. … UCF is coached by Donnie Jones, a former assistant under Florida coach Billy Donovan at Marshall and UF from 1994-2007. … Donovan is 9-2 all-time when facing former assistants who worked under him. … UCF comes into the game shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 32.7 from the free throw line.

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