Billy D wins NBA preseason debut


Yes, it’s only preseason. But former Florida coach Billy Donovan had an impressive debut coaching for the Oklahoma Thunder on Wednesday night.

Donovan led the Thunder to a 122-99 win at the Minnesota Timberwolves in his first NBA preseason game.

Like in 19 years coaching at Florida, Donovan’s Thunder team won with balanced scoring and a quick start. Seven Thunder players scored in double figures, led by Serge Ibaka’s 18 points. The Thunder jumped to a quick 42-28 lead in the first quarter and didn’t trail the rest of the way. Oklahoma City finished the game shooting 55.5 percent from the field (50-90) and 50 percent from 3-point range (11-22).

Donovan’s regular season coaching debut with the Thunder will come Oct. 28 against the San Antonio Spurs. Two days later, Donovan will return to the state of Florida when the Thunder play at the Orlando Magic on Oct. 30.

New Florida coach Mike White said Donovan has remained in touch and has been available to him when he’s needed advice on a player.

“Coach Donovan has been incredible,” White said. “I’m going through something similar, but at least I’m going through transition with the same rules. It’s a different level. It’s a different league. We’re recruiting a little differently. We’re going to go and play probably a little bit differently, and there are a lot of question marks.

“With Coach Donovan, heck, it’s a different game. It’s a different game from college basketball, so I can imagine somewhat of what he’s going through. And he’s taken time on several occasions to reach out or return a call or text from me.

“I know one thing, he wants Florida to be really successful. He’s proud of what he’s built. Obviously built something special here. Probably most importantly he wants these kids that he’s recruited here to have success. So he cares. He’s been very, very helpful, and I’m very appreciative for it.”

Other notes:

— Four-star 2016 Canadian power forward Eddie Ekiyor (6-9 220), who visited Florida during the Tennessee football weekend, committed to Xavier on Wednesday. The Gators remain in search of a big man to join guard Eric Hester in its 2016 class.