Dan Werner trying his best to prevail under difficult circumstances
Werner was replaced in the starting lineup by Chandler Parsons seven games ago, and has been in a long shooting slump. Werner is currently shooting 34 percent from the field and 28 percent from 3-point range (17-of-59). During the Jan. 12 Kentucky game, fans in Florida's student section began screaming for Werner to stop shooting after several missed shots.
But Werner's teammates and coach Billy Donovan remain in his corner, which he said on Monday has been vital in keeping him focused on helping the Gators and trying to get better.
"It means a lot to me because I know there’s stuff out there, people are saying stuff,'' Werner said. "But he’s (Donovan) always standing up for me, so it makes me feel really good. I don’t read it, but I hear people telling me stuff (about what's on ) the computer. I personally don’t read the stuff.''
The Middletown, N.J. native started every game but one during the 2007-08 season, and started all 36 games last year. He said his current shooting struggles are not because of a lack of work ethic or ability.
"I think it’s a mental thing, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my shot,'' he said. "I go in the gym and practice, and I shoot better now than I ever have. I think it’s just a confidence thing. Sometimes I’ll catch the ball and I’m not shooting the best in that game and I don’t want to just force shots. Sometimes I think guys are maybe closing in on me when they’re not. So it’s definitely not mechanical, it’s just confidence and seeing the game.''
Donovan has defended Werner all season, reiterating that he does "the little things that nobody sees on the stat sheet'' and affects the game in a positive manner in other ways when his shot isn't falling. It was Werner who swatted the ball down the court in the final seconds against Alabama to allow the clock to run out and the Gators to win the game last week. And it was Werner who had the presence of mind to inbounds the ball quickly after South Carolina's Devan Downey scored a late basket - allowing UF guard Erving Walker enough time to get down the court and pass to Chandler Parsons for the winning basket as time expired.
Still, he knows the criticism is out there.
"I’m sure there’s people out there who like me a lot and I’m sure there are a lot of people who don’t 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''