Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Texas A&M Aggies – Super walk-on Jacob Kurtz set to be honored

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPNU (Rich Hollenberg, Dino Gaudio)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: Watch ESPN app

SiriusXM: 136/190 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS TEXAS A&M AGGIES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Billy Kennedy
Record: 14-15 (7-9 SEC) Record: 20-8 (11-5 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -4

SUPER WALK-ON WALKS OFF

The origin story for Florida super redshirt senior walk-on forward Jacob Kurtz is well-known by now.

Once a mild-mannered student at Florida who asked to watch practice inside the Gators’ facility, Kurtz was granted the opportunity to do so by Donovan and quickly became a constant presence around the team. Seeing Kurtz was extremely interested and undoubtedly persistent, Donovan let him begin contributing to the program as a glorified custodian who mopped the floors and took care of the laundry. “The Snake” then slithered his way into a role as an official team manager. Then one day, Florida was short on bodies for a practice, so Donovan asked if Kurtz wanted to run around with the team. That’s when everything changed.

“Then it was like, ‘Wow, this guy is not that bad. Would you like to play?’ ‘Oh yeah, I would love to play,’ [Kurtz replied]. Then he is in practice every day and all of a sudden he is playing and he was very, very cerebral and he was smart and pays attention,” Donovan recalled on Monday.

“I give him a lot of credit for perseverance, patience and resiliency and being really smart and always being ready. He took advantage of his opportunity and was prepared for his opportunity.”

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Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan becomes second-youngest to 500 career wins

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan on Saturday became the second-youngest coach in Division I college basketball history to reach 500 career victories.

Donovan (49 years, 271 days) joins former Indiana coach Bob Knight (48 years, 81 days) as the only other man in D-I history to achieve win No. 500 before his 50th birthday.

The vast majority of Donovan’s wins (465) have come with the Gators as he’s led Florida to four Final Fours, three appearances in the national title game and back-to-back NCAA National Championships in 2005-06 and 2006-07.

“You’re only as good as the people around you. It’s really the players, it’s the coaches that I’ve had here. I think people lose sight, a lot of times, that Jeremy [Foley]’s been here since I started. As an athletic director, there’s an incredible bond that he and I have in terms of a shared vision. Not to say we get along and agree on everything, but I think we’re always moving together in the right direction. So there’s been a lot of stability [with Foley and my assistant coaches]. … And there’s been a lot of really, really good players that have come through,” said Donovan after the game.

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Fastbreak: Florida whips Tennessee 66-49, earns Gators coach Billy Donovan career win No. 500

Just days after turning in an embarrassing performance on the road, the Florida Gators picked themselves up and came through for head coach Billy Donovan with a dominant 66-49 win over the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

The victory gave Donovan an even 500 wins for his career, making him the second-youngest coach in Division I college basketball history to reach the mark.

Florida (14-15, 7-9 SEC) had one of its best showings of the season against Tennessee (14-14, 6-10 SEC), due in large part to the return of one of the Gators’ best players.

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

It was over when: With less than four minutes to play, sophomore point guard Kasey Hill took off on a fastbreak, driving the lane and laying in a basket to put Florida back on top by 19 points. Hill, who finished with seven points (three layups) and seven assists to just two turnovers, played a composed game and helped lead UF to victory. “He takes responsibility. He knows he has not played great. … He does try to come back. The biggest thing with him that I’d like to see more is he’s just got to get more fire and passion and competitive spirit,” Donovan said. “He gets down on himself. I keep trying to explain to him, ‘If you’re competing, you’ve got to be able to move past that.’”

Significant stretch: Soon after redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith rose up and drained his fourth trey of the evening (on four attempts), pushing Florida’s lead to a game-high 23 points, Tennessee went off on a shot 8-2 run to cut its deficit to 15 points with just over seven minutes to play. UT was unable to progress from there.

Prominent player: Finney-Smith’s return cannot be overlooked. Though other Gators played well, he led the way with a game-high 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting, draining his first four treys (4-of-5 overall) and grabbing a game-high 10 boards with one block.

“When you’re coming off a suspension and all of a sudden you got to go out there on the court, there can be this level of remorse,” Donovan said. “He’s got to be able to move past it. He served his time. He paid his penalty. It’s over with. He needs to move forward and how he moves forward is really important. I thought he was really locked in and ready to play. I thought he wanted to play well because of what had happened, him missing three games and being out of practice a little bit.”

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Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Tennessee Volunteers – Time running out for UF to improve

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 6:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN2 (Mark Jones, Kara Lawson)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: Watch ESPN app

SiriusXM: 134/191 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS TENNESSEE VOLS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Donnie Tyndall
Record: 13-15 (6-9 SEC) Record: 14-13 (6-9 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -6 | O/U 116

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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

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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