Thursday, June 21, 2018
Sports

Basketball coach Billy Donovan nears 400th Florida Gators victory

GAINESVILLE — If all goes well for the Florida basketball team this week, coach Billy Donovan will hit an impressive milestone. Now in his 17th season with the Gators, Donovan is two wins shy of 400 for his UF coaching career. (He's 433-180 overall.)

To earn No. 400 this week, the Gators, who moved up to No. 10 in the AP poll, will have to win at Texas A&M on Thursday then defeat Missouri at home Saturday — the Gators' first sellout this season. Understandably, that's not foremost on Donovan's mind, but he's aware of where he stands and said it's a reflection of the players.

"I think for me, what I will reflect back on is that I have been really fortunate to coach a lot of really good players," Donovan said. "Going all the way back to Jason Williams and to Mike Miller and to (Udonis) Haslem and to (Matt) Bonner and David Lee and to (Matt) Walsh and to (Anthony) Roberson and to (Joakim) Noah and to (Corey) Brewer, Patric Young, Brad Beal. I've been very, very fortunate that I have been coaching really, really good quality kids that have been brought into Florida and bought into winning. To be able to stay at one place this long, in today's day and age, is very, very difficult to do. Those things, from a coaching perspective, any accomplishment or win number — I always thought was a total reflection of the guys you're coaching."

Young said he hopes Donovan sticks around at Florida to earn 400 more victories.

STILL HURTING: It's one of those tough Thursday-Saturday stretches in the SEC this week for the Gators, who are still battling multiple injuries. Junior F Casey Prather is the latest, suffering a high ankle sprain against LSU.

"I don't think it's a real severe high ankle sprain," Donovan said. "I think our best guess right now is probably 10 to 14 days."

Senior G Mike Rosario also has a sprained ankle. He was cleared by medical staff to play Saturday but couldn't go. Senior F Erik Murphy will continue to play with a broken rib and junior G Scottie Wilbekin with a broken thumb, and junior F Will Yeguete is expected to have further evaluation for right knee tendinitis.

"I think they want to take an X-ray because he's got some swelling in his knee," Donovan said. "Whether or not it's anything more than that, we'll have to wait and see."

The injuries are giving young players, such as Tampa freshman Michael Frazier, more opportunity to see playing time.

"Coach told us at the beginning of the season we have to stay ready even though we might not be getting a lot of playing time at the beginning of the year, because if we do have injuries we have to step in and be ready," Frazier said. "We can't be like a deer in the headlights. We have to be ready."

CONFIDENCE GAINED: Amanda Butler isn't into moral victories, but she believes Florida's 78-75 OT loss to then-No. 9 Tennessee on Sunday may turn out to be beneficial for the Gators (13-5, 2-2 SEC) down the road.

"It was very similar to the way we felt after the Kentucky game (a 76-69 loss on Jan. 3)," Butler said. "We felt like we should have won. We put ourselves in a position to do that, but we also put ourselves in a position to lose and ultimately that's what we've got to learn from. There is a tremendous amount of confidence to be gained by the way we played in Jennifer's absence."

Jennifer George, the Gators' lone senior, did not play in the final 29 minutes because of an injury.

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]

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