Florida basketball opens at No. 7 in top 25 polls

Florida Gators basketball will open the 2014-15 campaign ranked No. 7 in both the Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today Coaches’ Polls, the former of which saw its preseason edition released on Friday.

Losing four senior starters to graduation, Florida will kick off its season in two weeks on Friday, Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. against William & Mary. First, the Gators will host Barry University in an exhibition contest on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m.

Kentucky is ranked as the unanimous No. 1 team in the nation, garnering 76-of-97 combined first-place votes (.784). Arizona is the unanimous preseason No. 2 with Duke, Kansas and Wisconsin – in different orders – rounding out the top five of both polls.

Florida will face Kentucky (No. 1/1) twice during league play and take on both Kansas (No. 5/5) and UConn (No. 17/15) in non-conference action.

UF could also face Wisconsin (No. 2/4), North Carolina (No. 6/6) and/or Oklahoma (No. 19/19) as part of the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.

AP Top 25
Preseason 1-5: Kentucky (52), Arizona (5), Wisconsin (8), Duke, Kansas
6-10: North Carolina, Florida, Louisville, Virginia, Texas
11-15: Wichita State, Villanova, Gonzaga, Iowa State, VCU
16-20: San Diego State, UConn, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Ohio State
21-25: Nebraska, SMU, Syracuse, Michigan, Utah

USA Today Coaches’ Poll
Preseason 1-5: Kentucky (24), Arizona (3), Duke (2), Wisconsin (3), Kansas
6-10: North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Louisville, Texas
11-15: Wichita State, Villanova, Gonzaga, Iowa State, UConn
16-20: VCU, San Diego State, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Ohio State
21-25: Nebraska, SMU, Michigan, Syracuse, Iowa

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Donovan: Gators need conviction, commitment

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Thursday, one week before his team takes the court for an exhibition game against William & Mary ahead of the 2014-15 regular-season opener.

WANTING CONVICTION AND COMMITMENT OR “WE ARE NOT GOOD AT ANYTHING” OR 95 PERCENT OF THE GAME

One week before Florida takes the court in the Stephen C. O’Connell center, Donovan has unleashed his season-long mantra: convicted and committed. In other words, Donovan wants the Gators to be strong, resolute and dedicated – to his coaching, to their teammates and to the program as a whole.

Donovan has seen some early returns from his team’s first few practices, but he nevertheless took his standard pessimistic stance on the team’s overall play so close to the start of the season.

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2014-15 NBA season begins with 12 former Florida Gators spread across 11 teams

The 2014-15 NBA season tips off on Tuesday night with 12 former Florida Gators on active rosters, tied with Arizona for sixth-most across the league.

Those players are spread out over 11 teams with only the Golden State Warriors employing more than one former Gators star on their roster.

Below is a primer on all 12 Florida players (five starters, seven reserves) ahead of the 2014-15 season.

STARTERS

C JOAKIM NOAH, Chicago Bulls
Drafted: 2007: 1st round, No. 9 overall pick
Height: 6’11” | Weight: 232 lbs.
Year: Eighth | All-Star: Twice (2013-14)

Already a popular player and stalwart in Chicago, Noah broke through during his seventh season to capture the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award and earn nominations to the All-NBA First Team and NBA All-Defensive First Team. He averaged career-highs of 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.2 steals, earning a trip to his second-straight All-Star game in the process. One year after becoming the seventh player in NBA history to record a triple-double with double-digit blocks, Noah became just the fourth center in NBA history to register four triple-doubles consisting of points, rebounds and assists in a single season. He was also the first Bulls player since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (1992-93) to record four in a single season. Noah enters the 2014-15 campaign coming off knee surgery and is expected to be limited at times during the season.

PF/C AL HORFORD, Atlanta Hawks
Drafted: 2007: 1st round, No. 3 overall pick
Height: 6’10” | Weight: 250 lbs.
Year: Eighth | All-Star: Twice (2010-11)

One of the most underrated players in the league, due in large part to his team (Atlanta) and in ability to stay on the court, Horford has become the Hawks’ unquestioned leader and go-to player. In just 29 games last season, the second in three that has been cut short early due to a torn pectoral, Horford averaged a career-high 18.6 points per game on a career-best .567 shooting. Though he has not been selected to an NBA All-Star team since 2001, Horford plans to make his way back this year with his eyes set on a 20-10 average.

Continue Reading » 2014-15 NBA season begins with 12 former Florida Gators spread across 11 teams

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FOUR BITS: Young, Noah, Wambach, Lochte

1 » Waiving two players on Friday, the New Orleans Pelicans whittled their roster down to 15 ahead of the start of the 2014-15 NBA season. Former Florida Gators center Patric Young, an undrafted free agent who was picked up by New Orleans and impressed during training camp, continued to flash during preseason action and earned a spot on the Pelicans’ regular-season roster. Young will be New Orleans’ fourth center (behind Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca and Jeff Withey) but may be able to work his way up the depth chart if he continues giving tremendous effort like he did last Thursday. On the floor as the clock ticked down against Dallas, Young slammed home a dunk with 2.1 seconds remaining to help his team pull out an 88-85 victory. “As far as having another guy that can come off the bench and doesn’t need the ball in his hands, I think I can step into that role right away,” he told The Times-Picayune. “My goal is just to come here with a great attitude and stay humble. I’m going to chase after rebounds with the mentality of, ‘If I don’t get this rebound then I’m out the league.’ It may be a little extreme, but I want it more than the next guy.”

2 » Former Gators C Joakim Noah has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Chicago Bulls for the last few seasons, but his body has held him back on numerous occasions. A multitude of injuries, primarily to his lower body, have either kept Noah off the court or – more often – forced him to play through pain that most players would not. With another NBA slate starting Tuesday, Noah admitted through gritted teeth that he “still ha[s] a ways to go” in recovering from left knee surgery. “It’s fine. It’s a work in progress. It’s getting better. I’m happy with where it’s at. Let me live, man. Geez,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times, trying to keep his situation close to the vest. A source close to Noah told the paper that his “knee is going to be an issue all season long,” and the Bulls appear prepared to limit his minutes on a game-by-game basis. “There’s a plan,” Noah explained. “We take it day by day and se how it feels, see if there are any setbacks.”

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Young, Noah, Wambach, Lochte

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Billy Donovan offers support for Florida’s football coach, again: ‘I am a huge Will Muschamp fan’

For the second time in 10 days, Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan went out of his way to openly praise Will Muschamp, standing behind Florida’s embattled football coach as Muschamp faces a likely dismissal following his team’s poor start to the 2014 season.

Last Wednesday, Donovan said he had an “enormous amount of respect” for Muschamp, noting that he took over a challenging situation in 2011 and dealt with an insane number of injuries in 2013. Donovan even revealed that he had Muschamp speak with the basketball team this past summer in order to enlighten players on how quickly success can turn into struggle.

During an appearance on an ESPN.com college basketball podcast that was published on Friday, Donovan went even further in his support of Muschamp.

“I will tell you this: I am a huge Will Muschamp fan,” he said.

Continue Reading » Billy Donovan offers support for Florida’s football coach, again: ‘I am a huge Will Muschamp fan’

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Kasey Hill still growing, preparing to step in at point guard for Florida Gators

Photo Credit: ESPN Images

It is rare for a freshman to start right out of the gate for the Florida Gators but that is exactly what point guard Kasey Hill did last season as he flashed explosiveness and potential in place of Scottie Wilbekin, who was suspended for the first six games of the 2013-14 campaign due to a violation of team rules.

Unfortunately for Hill, he only got four starts to himself to begin the season, as an ankle injury he suffered against Southern put him on the shelf for two weeks. By the time Hill returned to the court, Wilbekin was firmly entrenched again as Florida’s starter, but Hill nevertheless averaged 21 minutes per game over his final 28 contests (he missed four more games due to a groin injury).

With Wilbekin one of four seniors no longer with the program, and Hill easily the most experienced and talented point guard remaining on the Gators’ roster, the sophomore will have no questions about his role with the team this season.

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Billy Donovan on Florida’s practice intensity, Eli Carter’s return, early evaluations, SEC Media Day

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Monday, less than one week after his team began fall practice. Donovan discussed a number of pressing topics facing the Gators as they prepare for the 2014-15 season.

DOUBLE RAINBOW PRACTICES!

Donovan put Florida to work as soon as the team convened for practice last week, holding double sessions on Friday and Saturday with Sunday off and a fifth practice on Monday. Overall, he was pleased with the early results, especially on Saturday when there was a lot of installing and teaching going on with the team.

“Their attitude was good. They worked hard. It was really good effort. I thought there was sustained intensity. I thought the two freshmen, there was a lot thrown at them in those first four practices on Friday and Saturday, and they seemed to absorb it. They have a pretty good basketball IQ, picked things up. I think those guys will continue to get better,” he explained.

Asked why the Gators did not open practice with more pomp and circumstance – such as Midnight Madness (with or without a rap star running out with the team only to airball a shot) – Donovan somewhat avoided the question, instead pointing to his preference to get the team as ready as possible for the season with the time he has allotted.

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4 BITS: Driskel, Baker, Demps, Patton, Murphy

1 » Florida Gators redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel reportedly missed at least some portion of practice ahead of the Missouri game while dealing with a right ankle injury, which became more apparent last Saturday when his ankle was heavily taped before the contest. Driskel also hardly ran the ball in the game, just one week after carrying it 21 times. While it is currently unknown whether the still-imploding Driskel will get the start against Georgia on Nov. 1 – head coach Will Muschamp may address that very topic during his only media appearance of the week, the SEC teleconference on Wednesday – it looks like he is still missing some practice time.

OnlyGators.com reader Jeremy sent in the following photo, which he snapped Tuesday on his way to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center for an event. In the photo below, freshmen Treon Harris and Will Grier (dressed in full pads) are leading the pack of quarterbacks out to the practice field while Driskel is bringing up the rear, holding his helmet but neither wearing pads nor football pants.

I was taking my kids to see Sesame Street Live at the O’Dome tonight. When we parked, we noticed the football team going to the practice field. The players were upbeat and giving my kids high-fives. Then the quarterbacks walked by. Treon Harris and Will Grier led the way and looked focused. Driskel was at the back. No pads, no pants. He looked like a player who wasn’t practicing. Muschamp walked by, smiled and looked like a beaten soul.

Continue Reading » 4 BITS: Driskel, Baker, Demps, Patton, Murphy

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