UF MEN'S BASKETBALL
Notebook: Donovan familiar with Pitt point guard
Published: Friday, March 21, 2014 at 10:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 21, 2014 at 10:37 p.m.
ORLANDO — Florida coach Billy Donovan knows first-hand the problems Pittsburgh sophomore point guard James Robinson can present.
Donovan coached Robinson on both the FIBA 18-under Americas team in 2012 and Team USA 19-under World Championships last summer. The veteran Florida coach will face Robinson on the opposing bench today when the Gators play Pittsburgh in the NCAA tournament Round of 32 game at the Amway Center.
“He's a winner,” Donovan said of Robinson. “He is a guy that makes big plays, big shots. He comes up with loose basketballs, steals. He's got a great IQ for the game, a really, really solid point guard and great kid.”
The 6-foot-3 Robinson credited Donovan for helping him get ready for his freshman season at Pittsburgh when he first coached him on the FIBA Americas 18-under team.
“He ran practices similar to how colleges would run practice,” Robinson said. “It kind of gave me a head start at what a college practice would be like.”
Robinson faces a daunting task trying to bring the ball upcourt against Florida's press. Asked if his familiarity with Donovan could help him with UF's press, Robinson said: “A little bit, but at the end of the day we're going to have to be more focused on what we have to do in terms of Pittsburgh. But playing for him a little bit you kind of know when the press is going to come, just little things like that. He's going to make adjustments, but so are we.”
Young not 'Dirty'
During Friday's news conferences, Pittsburgh center Talib Zanna created a mini stir when he said Patric Young plays “dirty.” But Zanna, who is Nigerian, clarified his comments by saying he didn't mean Young was unsportsmanlike.
“I don't mean like a dirty player,” Zanna said. “I mean he's physical, get after it, and he's a hustle player.”
Near sellout expected
As of Friday afternoon, only 300 unsold tickets remained for today's South Region doubleheader in Orlando, according to tournament manager Ricky Hazel. Florida and Pittsburgh will tip at 12:15 p.m., with Louisville to follow against Saint Louis.
Capacity for the Amway Center for this weekend's event is 19,500. On Thursday, 16,074 showed up to watch the Gators beat Albany, with the majority of the crowd Gator fans.
“It could definitely give us a boost,” Florida senior forward Will Yeguete said of a potential sellout. “But we know that between the lines it's going to be on us to bring that energy and fire and make sure we're ready to go.”
Hill still OK
Freshman point guard Kasey Hill had no lingering effects from a turf toe injury he suffered earlier in the week, Donovan said Friday. Hill sat out practice Wednesday but returned to play Thursday against Albany and was a big factor off the bench with 10 points and two steals.
“He seems to be fine,” Donovan said. “He's cleared to practice and will practice with us today.”
During Friday's news conference, Donovan was asked if he viewed himself as a “Florida lifer” or if he had any interest in trying to coach in the NBA. Donovan accepted an NBA coaching job with the Orlando Magic in 2007, but returned to UF six days later.
Donovan has spent 18 years at UF and could pass LSU's Dale Brown (448) for the second-most wins by an SEC coach with a win against Pittsburgh.
While he's enjoyed the challenge of rebuilding Florida after back-to-back national title seasons in 2006 and 2007, Donovan said there's a part of the NBA that still intrigues him because it's 24 hours of basketball a day, instead of spending time on recruiting or away from coaching his team over the summer due to NCAA rules.
“When you say I'm a lifer, that means to me that I'm never going to go anywhere and be there,” Donovan said. “Who knows? They may get sick of me at Florida and want me to move on. But I don't like coming out making predictions or statements. I would say right now I'm extremely happy with my life right now at Florida.”
Ninth seed Pittsburgh is the highest seed the Gators have faced in the Round of 32 since seventh seed UCLA in 2011.