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Florida Gators basketball coach Billy Donovan trying to keep team grounded

Chandler Parsons, who hit a winning 3-pointer Saturday, has helped Florida win three straight SEC games.

Associated Press

Chandler Parsons, who hit a winning 3-pointer Saturday, has helped Florida win three straight SEC games.

GAINESVILLE — Two weeks ago, the Florida men's basketball team was 0-2 in SEC play, vastly undersized in most games and down to eight scholarship players not injured or getting limited time.

Most of that hasn't changed, with the exception of the record. Florida hosts Georgia on Wednesday night having won three straight conference games.

And after Florida's last-second win last week over South Carolina on a 3-pointer by Chandler Parsons, the latest challenge for coach Billy Donovan is to reward the Gators for overcoming the obstacles yet keep them grounded and mindful of what it has taken to reach this point.

"As a coach, every day you want to go into it having the guys' focus on the right things," Donovan said Monday. "Certainly there is a little lack of depth on our team and a lack of depth in our backcourt, but we try to go out there and play to the very best of our ability with the hand we're dealt.

"We try to have everyone on the same page. I think our guys have their focus on the right things. They're really a good listening team, and I feel like they try. The goal and the result you want is to win in the end, but there's a lot that goes into that. To get yourself in the position, your team has to be in the right frame of mind to try to get wins. I think they're doing it the best they can in those areas."

It's not just that the Gators have won recently. It's how they've won: coming from behind or battling through close games. It's a drastic difference from last season.

"I think it shows how we keep playing every possession, we play to the very last possession, and it's paid off," Parsons said.

And there's the chemistry. There are no big-name superstars on this team, and therefore no egos, the players said. It's strictly an all-for-one attitude.

"Without the chemistry we have on this team, we probably would have been down and feeling sorry for ourselves," sophomore G Erving Walker said. "And Coach plays a big part in that. Coach doesn't allow us to feel sorry for ourselves. Being down 0-2, we just looked at each other and said we've got to clamp down and get some wins."

Enjoying the ride: It has been seven years since Roland Thornqvist led the women to an NCAA tennis title in just his second year as UF head coach (2003), after leading them to the national finals his first season.

The years that followed were filled with the drive to get back to the top again. Until last year, when the Gators struggled through one of their worst seasons in recent years.

Now Thornqvist has the No. 8 team filled with young talent and a new perspective.

"One thing last year really taught me was to not take teams like this for granted," Thornqvist said. "We've felt like making the Final Four is like (the only goal), and that's not a healthy attitude. I can sort of relate a little bit to perhaps how Urban Meyer feels. It's hard to chase the whole time. And sometimes you've got to stop and smell the roses a little bit, and last year was that moment for me.

"Even though we lost more matches than we ever have in my years here, there were a lot of really neat things about last year where we discovered things about our players, their character. And we had other goals than winning a national championship, and we were able to achieve those goals. And so this year, I told my assistant Dave (Balogh) we're really going to enjoy this ride. We're going to enjoy this team … but not take for granted what we have this year and really try to enjoy the ride. That's what it's all about."

Did you know?: DE Bobby McCray (New Orleans Saints) is the 54th former Gator to make an appearance in the Super Bowl. McCray's appearance marks the sixth consecutive year a former Gator has advanced to the Super Bowl, the longest streak in school history. Sixteen Gators have won Super Bowl titles.

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.

Florida Gators basketball coach Billy Donovan trying to keep team grounded 01/25/10 [Last modified: Monday, January 25, 2010 9:09pm]
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