Florida coach Billy Donovan made it clear that senior forward Chandler Parsons won’t start Sunday against LSU.
But Donovan left the door open for Parsons to play off the bench as his deep thigh bruise heals. A reporter then asked Donovan given Parsons’ injury, and the fact that LSU has lost nine straight, why would he consider to play him off the bench.
“Have you ever seen Willis Reed?” Donovan asked.
Reed, of course, played through a torn muscle in his thigh in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, inspiring the New York Knicks to the championship win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Donovan also compared Parsons’ situation to when Al Horford tried to play through a sprained ankle in a 2006 regular-season game against Ohio State. After struggling through the first half, Horford got re-taped and insisted he still wanted to play. Horford raised his play in the second half, helping Florida to a blowout win over the Buckeyes at the O’Connell Center.
Donovan said that Parsons runs no further risk of damaging the thigh if he plays Sunday afternoon against LSU.
“If he’s cleared to play, I want to give him that chance,” Donovan said. “He’s going to be padded up enough where if he gets hit there, they feel like it’s not going to be an issue. I could put him in the game and he may play well and he could do some really good things. If that happens, I think we can look at that as being a bonus.”
— It appears that Donovan is gaining more and more trust with junior point guard Erving Walker. Donovan has acknowledged in the past that he’s probably harder on his point guards than any other position. That comes from Donovan being a former point guard at Providence, where under demanding coach Rick Pitino he guided the Friars to the 1987 Final Four.
“For me here as a coach at Florida, that’s always been my battle with those guys,” Donovan said. “And when I say battle, just with point guards. Whether it be Jason Williams or Taurean Green or Erving Walker, sometimes those guys hear it from me a lot.”
Walker, who leads Florida in scoring with 14.7 points per game, enters Sunday’s game at LSU with an assist to turnover ratio of 84 to 63. Walker, who had 33 turnovers through his first 11 Southeastern Conference games last season, has cut that number to 21 turnovers through 11 SEC games this season.
“The biggest thing I would say to those guys is with freedom comes responsibility,” Donovan said. “Jason Williams, when I had him here, I would say, ‘Jason, I don’t care if you throw it out your ear, around your back and through your legs but if you turn it over, you are coming out of the game. You’re coming up. But you better complete the pass.’
“I think with Erving, he’s enough of a competitor that he has gotten better. There was a time when he was turning it over too much where I had to take him out. I had to sit him. But I tried to use that as a challenge for him.
“But I’ve got confidence in him. I like coaching him. My relationship with him is I think he’s seeing things more how I’m seeing the game. And I’m not sure last year he saw it that way. I just think he’s looking at things a little bit differently.”