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Thursday, October 17, 2013
Impressions: SEC media day 2

By Eamonn Brennan



BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- I like my team. That's the first line of any coach's typical media day script. On Thursday, Florida coach Billy Donovan tossed that script into the shredder.

It's not that Donovan went rogue. Nor was he particularly negative. On Day 2 of the SEC's media days, Donovan merely acknowledged reality: His 2013-14 Gators team, though undoubtedly talented, is so beset by injuries and personnel issues that there isn't much of a team for Donovan to like in the first place.

Billy Donovan
Between injuries and off-court issues, Florida coach Billy Donovan has been running practices with only seven scholarship players.
To wit: Eli Carter and Will Yeguete are both recovering from injuries suffered in the spring. Michael Frazier II is being tested for mononucleosis. Point guard Scottie Wilbekin is still serving an indefinite suspension. Damontre Harris is working through a hamstring issue. And star freshman forward Chris Walker is still working to attain his academic eligibility and join the Gators in December.

As a result, Donovan -- a two-time national champion and perennially successful recruiter -- has found himself running practices with just seven scholarship players. He admits he has no idea what to expect.

"We have a lot of unknowns," Donovan said, "with our injuries, not having a full complement of players. ... I'd tell you today, if we had [all our players available] and we could start Oct. 11 fully healthy, then I'd tell you we have a chance to be really good. Hopefully we can get there as the season goes on. But we're not there right now."

That adversity has led Florida's players to adopt an incongruous new slogan for the 2013-14 season: "S.W.A.G." But it's not just about confidence or flash (or slightly outdated tween lingo).

"It means 'Strengthen When Adversity Grows,'" senior forward Patric Young said. "We need to strengthen as adversity gets more and more in our face. We need to stay together and be connected."

Donovan was willing to praise his team on that front. He said his players were forming a "different bond and different connected-ness."

For now, it seems, chemistry is the least of the Gators' numerous worries.

Other notes from SEC media days: