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Donovan still getting to know new players
By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
Published October 11, 2007
GAINESVILLE - When you lose all five starters from your two-time defending national championship basketball team and you begin the season with seven freshmen and only one player with any significant playing time, it's tough to guess what the future may hold.
So don't blame Billy Donovan when he tells you just that: He has no idea what to expect from his 2007 team. Although they will carry the label of defending national champions, this is not the Gators of old.
Walter Hodge is the only guy I can say he understands what it's about, he's got a level of experience," Donovan said. "I've got a level of trust in him right now that he gets what's going on.These other guys I don't know right now. ... To be honest, the last six weeks I've been trying to get a feel for our team and what we're coaching."
CONTINUING THE TRADITION: The 04's may be long gone, but the tradition of living together and hanging tight lives on. Sophomores Marreese Speights, Dan Werner and Jonathan Mitchell have moved into the dorm room formerly occupied by Joakim Noah, Taurean Green, Corey Brewer and Al Horford.
"We wanted to be in there," Werner said. "Those guys were our teammates. It was a perfect situation. We figured why not just take it over?"
Several of the freshmen are also living together or in close proximity, including Jai Lucas and Adam Allen. Donovan said he likes the chemistry of this team and the players said living together has helped foster that.
"It's great," Lucas said. "We're together like 23 hours of the day."
And what about hour No. 24?
"I guess we have to have one hour apart," Allen said. "We stay together. Everything we do, we eat together, we go to class together. We see each other all the time and I haven't gotten tired of them yet, so I guess that's a good thing."
Werner said former and current players are still a part of each other's lives. On Werner's 20th birthday Tuesday, Horford texted him happy birthday.
"If we ever run into a problem or anything, we can just pick up the phone and call them," Werner said.
A NEW ERA: As the new women's coach, Amanda Butler has spent a good portion of the offseason trying to build interest and excitement in the community for her program. Butler, a former UF player, is confident fans will like what they see - if they show up.
"Everyone I've spoken to out in the community, I've told them if you come, you'll want to come back," Butler said. "No question, we're going to put a product on the floor that will make our fans proud."