Florida Gators reinstate F Dorian Finney-Smith; G Eli Carter (health) questionable

After missing three games while serving a suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules, redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith has been reinstated by head coach Billy Donovan ahead of Saturday’s game against the Tennessee Volunteers.

Finney-Smith, whose absence has played a role in Florida (13-15, 6-9 SEC) dropping two of its last three contests, is the Gators’ second-leading scorer and top rebounder, averaging 12.9 points and 5.8 boards per game. He’s also the most efficient all-around shooter on the team, hitting 47.5 percent of his field goals and 39.8 percent of his long-range attempts.

“He’s taken care of all his responsibilities and everything we’ve asked him to do,” Donovan said in a statement posted to the school’s website. “I still feel like he needs to understand that when it comes to some of the choices he’s made there are other people affected by it. From my perspective, he’s got to earn back some trust from our team and show a higher level of commitment, especially being an older guy.”

Continue Reading » Florida Gators reinstate F Dorian Finney-Smith; G Eli Carter (health) questionable

TWO BITS: Scottie Wilbekin, Percy Harvin, Franco

1 » Former Florida Gators point guard Scottie Wilbekin, a rookie in Australia’s National Basketball League, continues to lead the Cairns Taipans towards the organization’s first title. With the best record in team history, the Taipans (21-7) defeated the Perth Wildcats 71-64 on Friday in the NBL Semifinals. Wilbekin, Cairns’ Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year, registered game-highs of 23 points and 10 rebounds while going 7-for-11 from the field, 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and 6-for-6 at the charity stripe. He also posted four assists and two turnovers in 36:38. Taipans coach Aaron Fearne believes Wilbekin should be under strong consideration for league MVP honors, especially if he leads Cairns all the way to a title. “He’s extremely valuable to us and has been a big focus for opposition teams. For a 21-year-old to come out and have the impact he’s had, he should be a frontrunner (for MVP honors) in my opinion,” Fearne told The Cairns Post on Thursday.

A source close to Wilbekin told OnlyGators.com that the former Gators star will enter the NBA D-League immediately upon returning to the United States. He will join the league’s free agent pool therefore be available to get signed by any team.

Continue Reading » TWO BITS: Scottie Wilbekin, Percy Harvin, Franco

Florida to open 2015 spring practice on March 16

The Florida Gators announced Friday that their 2015 spring practice slate will officially begin on Monday, March 16.

With new head coach Jim McElwain holding his first set of practices with the Gators, they will all be closed to the public. UF will, however, open select periods of each practice to media members, meeting with the media himself after 12 of 15 practices. He will also make a nine assistant coaches available once each.

Florida previously announced that its annual spring game, the 2015 Orange & Blue Debut, will be held on Saturday, April 11 at a yet-to-be determined time. It will be the second-straight year that the Gators will hold their spring game on the second Saturday in April after generally holding it on the first Saturday in previous years.

The 2014 spring game, which ended in a 23-23 tie, did not air live on television and was only available live online for $3.99. The last two spring games have been abnormal in one way or another due to limited rosters and player availability.

As Florida practices, it will be doing so in the shadow of the program’s new $15 million indoor practice facility, which is being constructed during the spring and summer with a planned launch date of Sept. 4.

OnlyGators.com will offer complete coverage of Gators football through the spring.

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Florida infielder Mark Ellis retires from baseball

A 17-year veteran who played for four MLB franchises during his career, 37-year-old second baseman Mark Ellis officially retired from baseball on Tuesday.

Ellis, who primarily played third base for the Florida Gators from 1996-99, was a three-year starter for UF and the Most Valuable Player of the 1998 Gainesville Regional, where he hit .500 with three home runs and 10 RBI.

Ellis had at least one hit in 28 of 31 career postseason games for Florida and holds school records for runs scored in a career (240), most home runs in a single game (three), most stolen bases in an inning (three), most homers from the shortstop position in a single season (14, 1998) and most career doubles in the SEC Tournament (six).

Continue Reading » Florida infielder Mark Ellis retires from baseball

Florida Gators postpone $60 million renovation to Stephen C. O’Connell Center for one year

The Florida Gators announced Wednesday that a planned $60 million renovation to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center has been postponed one year.

Citing an “aggressive schedule, escalating costs associated with the rehabilitation project and a change in the construction management team,” the University of Florida‘s University Athletic Association will no longer push the project forward at the conclusion of the 2014-15 basketball season.

“The renovation proposal is a major renewal of one of our campus’s most iconic buildings,” said new school president Kent Fuchs in a release. “It’s incumbent on us to take the time and do it right.”

According to Florida, the new construction management team’s design plan is “about 60 percent complete.”

Continue Reading » Florida Gators postpone $60 million renovation to Stephen C. O’Connell Center for one year

Florida Gators extend apparel contract with Nike

A Nike program since 1999, the Florida Gators recently signed a seven-year extension with the industry leader, pushing their contract through April 1, 2024.

According to the Portland Business Journal, which obtained a copy of Florida’s contract the week of Jan. 15, the Gators will receive “$3.1 million in Nike product this academic year, one of the highest product allowances in the country and up from the $2.1 million it was previously due.” That total will increase by $100,000 every two years, concluding with a $3.5 million allowance for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons.

In other words, UF will receive a combined total of $2.1 million more in equipment and apparel over the next two seasons than was originally agreed upon when it last signed a contract with Nike in 2013, along with a total over the subsequent five seasons that will provide it with one of the highest allowances in the country.

Continue Reading » Florida Gators extend apparel contract with Nike

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Fastbreak: SEC-worst Missouri embarrasses Florida 64-52 in Columbia

If the Florida Gators on the roster Tuesday had any respect for head coach Billy Donovan, they certainly did not show it. Florida (13-15, 6-9 SEC) was embarrassed once again this season as the worst team in the Southeastern Conference, losers of 13-straight games, upended the Gators 64-52.

The Missouri Tigers (8-20, 2-13 SEC) dominated the visitors over the latter 20 minutes of Tuesday’s contest, outscoring Florida 37-21 in the second half while ending the game on a 24-5 run at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri.

Donovan had no choice but to sit back and watch as his team struggled on both ends of the court, combining poor shooting in every facet of the game with lacking effort on defense and terrible decision making throughout the contest.

“We really made a lot of, really a lot of poor choices, things that — to be quite honest — left me scratching my head,” Donovan said. “We had Kasey Hill reaching across the out of bounds line for a technical foul, an Eli Carter foul before the ball ever came in bounds while the game was obviously in reach, a Devin Robinson foul. Our fouling enabled them to get to the free throw line. With 13 minutes to go we’re in the bonus and we never really could take advantage of it. For us, we got to the free throw line 23 times, which is drastically more than we normally go, but certainly hard to win when you go 9-for-23. Even when we did get there, we weren’t able to capitalize. We just didn’t make enough smart basketball plays in the game.”

OnlyGators.com breaks down Tuesday’s action with nine quick-hitters:

It was over when: Missouri guard Namon Wright bombed in a three-pointer with 4:16 remaining, pushing the hosts ahead by six and putting Florida in a deficit that it was unable to overcome. Wright, who averaged 5.4 points on 32 percent shooting entering Tuesday’s game, scored a career-high 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting, hitting 6-of-8 treys. The Tigers only increased their lead from there. “We didn’t really have anybody [who could cover him],” Donovan said. “Give him credit. He really got it going, shot the ball very well. Tonight, he was a hard match-up for us. We really didn’t have anybody who could stop him.”

Continue Reading » Fastbreak: SEC-worst Missouri embarrasses Florida 64-52 in Columbia

FOUR BITS: Haslem, Culpepper, Beal, Parsons

1 » Miami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem has only shot 13 three pointers over 751 career NBA games before last Friday, so why has he attempted three since? According to the Miami Herald‘s Barry Jackson, his coach told him he needs to start doing so if the 34-year-old plans to play major minutes in place of Chris Bosh. “If I want to play [power forward], I have to shoot the corner three. It’s part of our offense,” he told Jackson. “If I’m going to play the four, I have to implement that. you’re not going to make all of them, but you have to take them with confidence. I’m going to make some.” Haslem started his career 0-for-16 from three (0-for-3 with the Florida Gators), draining his first trey on Friday. He is 0-for-2 since for a combined 6.3 percent lifetime from beyond the arc.

2 » According to David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune, who painstakingly did the research, no Southeastern Conference coaching staff has seen more turnover in the last 15 years than Florida. The Gators have had 65 coaches rotate in and out of the program in that time, nine more than the next-highest program (Ole Miss, 56) and nearly 20 more than the average among the other 13 SEC schools (45.4). That average is weighed down heavily by Missouri (17) and Georgia (30), though UF’s high number is still indicative of its hiring issues, especially most recently under Will Muschamp.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Haslem, Culpepper, Beal, Parsons

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