Florida Gators guard Michael Frazier II comfortable and confident in decision to turn pro

Though his decision to leave school early for the 2015 NBA Draft was met with disappointment from fans, Florida Gators junior guard Michael Frazier II feels comfortable and confident that the time was right for him to take the next step in his basketball-playing career.

Frazier, who many believed would remain in college for one more season to hone his skills and help the 2015-16 Gators rebound from the program’s worst campaign in nearly two decades, spoke exclusively with OnlyGators.com on Friday about his decision to leave Florida and try his hand at being a professional.

“I [made the decision] a couple days ago,” he said. “I felt like I had accomplished a lot and had a lot of success, had a positive experience, broke a couple records at Florida. I just felt like it was time for me to take my game to a professional level and see how good I can actually be. I felt I was ready to take that next step.”

Two points shy of reaching 1,000 for his career, Frazier holds two Gators program records: most three-pointers in a game (11 at South Carolina on March 4, 2014) and most consecutive games with a made triple (41). He is also seventh all-time at Florida in three-point field goal percentage (.432), attempts (525) and makes (227).

While Frazier feels like he has performed well for the Gators, he did not take his decision to leave school lightly. He consulted his family and sat down with head coach Billy Donovan to go over his options.

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Florida Gators junior guard Michael Frazier II set to declare for 2015 NBA Draft

Updated on Friday at 4:30 p.m.

Florida Gators junior guard Michael Frazier II has decided to forgo his final season of eligibility and declare for the 2015 NBA Draft, a source close to the player confirmed to OnlyGators.com on Thursday.

Frazier, Florida’s second-leading scorer in 2014-15 with 12.1 points per game, is expected to make his decision official on Friday, a source said.

He will sign with Andy Miller and Matt Ramker of ASM Sports, according to a source, as first reported by Darren Heitner of Heitner Legal.

Update: Frazier released the following statement via his personal Twitter account on Friday afternoon …

“Thank you to my coaches, teammates, and the entire Gator Nation for 3 special years of my life. I will be pursuing a career in professional basketball and have signed with Matt Ramker of ASM Sports. I will never forget my time in Gainesville and look forward to returning each summer to complete my degree. I will always be representing the Gator Nation. Go Gators.”

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Florida Gators announce $1.2 million upgrade to basketball practice facility weight room

As referenced last month by athletic director Jeremy Foley, the Florida Gators have followed through on plans to make a significant upgrade to the weight room at the Basketball Practice Complex.

The two-story facility – which spans nearly 48,000 square feet and was built for $10 million in 2001 before being renovated to include pieces of the Final Four courts and additional technology at a cost of $1.8 million in 2007 – will receive a $1.2 million upgrade to improve its weight room.

According to the school, the area of the facility designated for health and fitness will be doubled to more than 3,000 square feet, a “nutritional bar” will be added and extra office space will be provided for training coordinators for men’s and women’s basketball, golf and tennis (all of which utilize the complex).

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The Silver Lining for March 24 on Billy Donovan, NBA interest and Florida Gators basketball

You never say ‘never,’ and you never say ‘forever’ either

With the end to another college basketball season comes another offseason of questions about the future of Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan.

A two-time national champion who has led Florida to four Final Fours and 10 SEC titles (six regular season, four tournament) over the last 16 seasons, Donovan has spurned overtures from other programs (Kentucky – twice, NC State, etc.) and the NBA (Orlando Magic) to remain with Gators.

His second stint with Florida – if you consider his six days as Orlando’s coach to be a break of sorts – has included Donovan taking on additional challenges, such as serving as the head coach of USA Basketball’s Under-18 and Under-19 National Teams, to fill the void of not coaching basketball year-round.

Donovan’s international record? Just 19-0 with three gold medals and an average margin of victory of 43.7 points per game. He is returning to coach the U19 team this summer.

But back to that void. Donovan has long stated and never shied away from the fact that he has felt the lure of the NBA – not simply because he wants to test himself on a professional stage (he does) or coach the best athletes in the world (that too) but due to the fact that the NBA is all basketball, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Some of the NBA stuff, as I’ve said before, is intriguing in a lot of ways – the basketball part of it,” Donovan told the Orlando Sentinel last May.

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FOUR BITS: Bonner, Tebow, Noah, Wambach

1 » During an NBA game on Friday, former Florida Gators forward Matt Bonner received an uppercut to the groin courtesy of Boston’s Marcus Smart, who was ejected from the game and subsequently suspended one game by the league. Smart claimed it was unintentional and “just a freak accident,” noting that Bonner likely would’ve gone after him had he thought it to be intentional. Bonner, a 10-year veteran who is averaging 4.0 points and 1.6 boards for the San Antonio Spurs, has yet to discuss the incident.

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With no postseason berth, Florida Gators basketball ends disappointing 2014-15 campaign

One year after earning the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, Florida Gators basketball (16-17) failed to qualify for the postseason as it did not receive a bid to the National Invitation Tournament and will not accept a bid to another event.

Florida (16-17, 8-10 SEC) posted its worst record since 1997-98, head coach Billy Donovan’s second season with the team. The Gators had qualified for the postseason in 17 consecutive years under Donovan, last failing to do so during his inaugural campaign at UF in 1996-97.

The No. 4-ranked strength of schedule and No. 70 RPI were simply not enough to help Florida. In a season filled with injuries and suspensions, ultimately the Gators only have themselves to blame for being in this position, due in large part to their inability to simply put the ball in the hoop.

The 63.7 points per game the Gators scored this season ranked No. 266 nationally and is the team’s lowest average since 1950-51 (62.7).

Florida’s .635 efficiency from the free-throw line (328th nationally) matched the program’s worst since 1992-93, while its .434 field-goal shooting (177th nationally) is the worst since 1995-96 (.426) and the second-lowest in program history.

UF finished 7-11 in games decided by single digits and 2-6 in contests that came down to two points or fewer. The Gators also ended a record of 16 consecutive seasons with 20+ victories, the longest such streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally.

Donovan stands as one of only eight coaches that have ever won 20+ games in 14+ consecutive seasons.

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2015 SEC Tournament Fastbreak: No. 1 Kentucky pulls away from Florida 64-49

(8) Florida Gators basketball (16-17) dropped its third game to the (1) Kentucky Wildcats (32-0) this season, this time in the quarterfinals of the 2015 SEC Tournament on Friday afternoon at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

With the loss, Florida finished below .500 entering the non-conference postseason for the first time since head coach Billy Donovan‘s second season with the program in 1997-98. The Gators also lost to their longtime-rival Wildcats thrice in a single season for the fifth time (1995-96, 2002, 2012).

OnlyGators.com breaks down Friday’s action with eight quick-hitters:

It was over when: A 7-0 run, including four free throws, pushed Kentucky ahead by 14 with under five minutes to play. Donovan got a bench warning for complaining about the uneven officiating, and Florida was unable to fight back from a devastating foul disparity built throughout the contest. UK ended the contest with a 14-2 stretch as UF went 5:09 without a field goal.

“I thought we had some moments. I thought we played very, very well. Certainly we got off to a good start, which was positive. … Statistically, if you look at the game, everything was pretty even,” Donovan said. “The difference in the game was the free throw line. Twenty-three attempts to our five was a huge factor in the game. … If you take away the free throw line, it’s pretty consistent all the way through. Just about every stat’s pretty even. But the one huge drastic difference was the free throw line and that was really, ultimately, the margin in the game.”

Significant stretch: Two Florida turnovers helped fuel a 9-0 run for Kentucky, which gave the Cats an 11-point lead with 14 minutes to play. UF redshirt senior center Jon Horford responded with five straight points to cut his team’s deficit to six, but his the Gators never got within fewer than five over the duration of the contest.

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Former Florida Gators PG Scottie Wilbekin signs with A.E.K. Athens B.C.

Former Florida Gators point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who originally planned to continue his professional career in the NBA D-League, has instead decided to sign with A.E.K. Athens B.C., a source close to the player told OnlyGators.com on Friday.

Wilbekin, a Most Valuable Player candidate who helped lead the Cairns Taipans to the Grand Final in Australia’s National Basketball League, averaged 15.4 points and 4.3 assists per game. The team fell short of the championship, but Wilbekin was named to the All-NBL First Team this week.

Like the NBL, the Greek Basketball League is the top league in its country. Wilbekin is expected to start for the veteran-laden team, putting himself in position to be a featured player in one of Europe’s best leagues over the next three months.

He will be the second Gators point guard to join a GBL team in the last few seasons as Nick Calathes led Panathinaikos B.C. to back-to-back titles (2010-11) during a four-year run from 2009-12.

Calathes coupled his success at Panathinaikos with a solid run for Lokomotiv Kuban (Russia) to propel himself into the NBA as a 24-year-old rookie in 2013-14. A successful run in Athens could get Wilbekin back in the United States next season, possibly as an NBA rookie.

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