Senior forward Dan Werner is growing accustomed to his new role as Florida’s sixth man.
Werner had a string of 70 straight starts snapped when he came down with the flu before Florida’s third Southeastern Conference game against LSU. By the time Werner fully recovered, the Gators had won two straight. Florida coach Billy Donovan then decided to keep junior Chandler Parsons in the starting lineup.
Werner said Donovan explained to him why he made the change.
“Basically he said it was nothing I did wrong or anything, he just said he feels like the team is rolling really good right now with the lineup so he’s just going keep it, to understand that I’m still a big part of this team and and I just do a lot for the team on the court,” Werner said.
“He said to me ‘I’d rather be in at the end of the game then at the start.’ It’s not that big of a deal to me. I’d rather be on the end of the game when it really matters.”
Though Werner hasn’t provided the same offensive production off the bench as Parsons, he’s made some key contributions during UF’s stretch of six wins in seven days. At Alabama, Werner batted back a Crimson Tide in bounds pass attempt that allowed the clock to run out in a 66-65 win. On Saturday against Mississippi State, Werner hit two clutch free throws late and batted back a loose ball with 44 seconds left that allowed the Gators to retain possession on a missed free throw.
In his seven games off the bench, Werner is still averaging more than 20 minutes per game. But the move to the bench hasn’t helped him shake his career-long shooting woes. Werner is 1-for-9 from 3-point range in seven games off the bench and 3-for-17 from 3-point range in SEC play.
Werner said he’s shooting the ball as well as ever in practice and that Donovan still gives him the green light to shoot in games.
“Obviously you want to go out there and make shots, but that’s not the only thing I bring to the team,” Werner said. “If it was I wouldn’t be playing a lot because I know I’m not doing a great job making shots. It’s definitely frustrating you go in there in the gym, you work hard and you make shots in the gym and it doesn’t translate on the court.”
Werner said he tries to avoid reading newspapers or the Internet during the season. Most of the criticism of his game, he says, he hears second-hand from family or friends. He also said he tries to block out the occasional grumbling from the student section during UF home games.
“I’m sure there are people out there who like me a lot and there are people who don’t really like me,” Werner said. “I can’t really control that. I know I help this team win and play well so that’s keeping my head up, and I know my teammates appreciate me, they tell me that, and that’s all that matters.”
Werner said he also appreciates the support from Donovan.
“It means a lot to me,” Werner said. “I know there are is some stuff out there, people saying stuff and he’s always standing up for me. So it makes me feel really good.”