11/14: Donovan, Boynton, Young talk Ohio State

With No. 7/8 Florida Gators basketball set to take on the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes Tuesday evening in Columbus, OH, head coach Billy Donovan, junior guard Kenny Boynton and sophomore center Patric Young met with the media Monday to discuss what preparations have been made for the first road game of the season.

CONTAINING SULLINGER IS PRIORITY NO. 1

When it comes to preparing for Ohio State, center Jared Sullinger always stands out on film as the most dominant player on the court. Like most teams, Florida will do what it can to reduce the effectiveness of a player who averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game just one season ago.

“We’ve faced enough big, strong, physical guys. The thing with Sullinger to me that makes him great is he has a great basketball IQ and he’s very smart. He understands how to play. He’s a really good passer. He understands how to play angles. He’s a very good offensive rebounder. He’s a good decision maker and can certainly score inside and out,” Donovan said Monday.

“People talk about his size, but the thing that’s never talked about when you watch him on film…I have a great deal of respect for him because he really understands the game. He reminds me of a throwback guy from a long, long time ago.”

Sullinger and Gators sophomore C Patric Young are quite familiar with each other from their days in AAU basketball. Though they did not go head-to-head much when the Buckeyes came to Gainesville, FL last Nov. 16, Sullinger’s 26 points (on 13-of-17 shooting) and 10 boards that evening undoubtedly stood out and made him an even bigger target this year.

“The game plan is to keep him off the boards, not let him get anything easy,” Young said of Sullinger. “He’s a good player, and he’s going to a few score points here and there. Don’t let him get anything easy. He scores a lot of points off of offensive rebounds, so keep him off of that. Everyone just contain their other guys.”

Young realizes Tuesday night’s game is not just about his personal competition with Sullinger and plans to play within himself throughout the contest.

“I keep realizing that the game is not about me; it’s about our team. Picking up dumb fouls isn’t really good because we’re short in our frontcourt this year. It would be bad if I picked up a dumb foul trying to make the game about me,” he said.

Florida sophomore guard Kenny Boynton likes what he has seen from Young in practice this week and is confident in his ability to make an impact Tuesday. “Pat has been more focused this week, definitely focused on getting better position in the low post,” he said. “I think he’s ready.”

NEW LOOK LINEUPS THIS SEASON

The series between UF and OSU may be going strong but there has been plenty of turnover since it began a few years ago. Just between 2010-11 and 2011-12, each team has lost three starters heading into the contest.

The Gators, of course, will be without their three forwards – Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin – while the Buckeyes no longer feature Dallas Lauderdale, David Lighty and Jon Diebler. Florida sees this as an advantage heading into Tuesday’s contest.

“They don’t have the same leadership hey had in Lighty and Diebler last year, but they’re still a good team,” Young said. We feel we have an opportunity to disrupt those guys because their chemistry isn’t as good as it was last year.”

Boynton thinks UF’s defense will be the most improved.

“Watching our team on film last year, we did not play defense very well at all last year. I feel that the defensive presence for this team is a lot better than the team last year,” he said. We had to elevate our team’s level to a really high level at the end of the year last year, and I think now we’re better than that team.

“We are going there for the win this year. It’s going to be on the road; they beat us at our home last year. We’re definitely looking forward to getting the win this year.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on the Florida-Ohio State series: “I think it’s been really good hopefully for them because I know it’s been very good for us. The second game of the year, getting a chance really to find where we are going on the road against a good, quality team has been good. The history of the football team playing for the national championship game and then us having to play them twice in that one year. […] I know coming out of this game we’re going to find out a lot more about our team because it’s a great test not only playing against a good team but playing on their home court.”

» Donovan on point guard Aaron Craft: “He probably doesn’t get enough recognition for his speed and quickness. He’s very quick, heady, tough kid. Another guy I’ve really enjoyed watching play. He was on the all-defensive team in the big 10. He’s a great defender. He’s great with his hands and comes up with a lot of steals. He’s got toughness and is savvy. I would classify him as a winner. He’s a winner. His ability to do what he did last year [at point guard] allowed [William] Buford to play a little bit more to his strengths.”

» Donovan on junior forward Erik Murphy: “Offensively the strength of Erik is shooting the basketball. He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well in the first game, but in that game he ended up having five rebounds and probably should have had 10-12 in the game. He had a lot of balls knocked out of his hands and plays in traffic where he couldn’t come down with it; he was off-balance. We just need Erik to continue to defend, rebound and be a threat offensively, to make good decisions.”

» Donovan on UF participating in something like the Carrier Classic: “There was talk last year for next year for us doing that. I would definitely be interested. We’ve been invited to do a lot of different things. […] We try to balance those neutral site games and also for our fans have an Ohio State come in, and Arizona come in, obviously we have the home-and-home with Florida State. We try to have for our fans really high levels of teams that people identify with as it relates to college basketball. The balance of being able to do that and then not just being totally overloaded where you’re all over the place. I’m always open to – I thought that stuff was really a great thing for our country, a great thing for college basketball and something I would be interested in if it made sense for our schedule.”

» Boynton on how he has improved this year: “Gym time pretty much. I think I’ve been in the gym a lot more than I was previously. That’s pretty much why the first two games I was better.”

» Boynton on former players talking to the team: “It’s definitely good. Chandler [Parsons] I played with him for two years; he gives great advice about defense. Chandler did the small things like rebounding and things like that. Joakim [Noah] sometimes talks to us about winning, how they won and how focused you have to be to win it all.”

» Young on if he was happier about his double-double or one foul against Jackson State: “I’m sure the one foul made [the media] happier, but the double-double made me happier. [The media] always think I’m going to foul out or something. [Laughing]”

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Florida bumped up in first top 25 polls

The first regular season USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls were released on Monday, and the North Carolina Tar Heels remain slotted as the overwhelming No. 1 team in the country with a combined 92 of 96 first-place votes. The Florida Gators advanced a spot in each ranking and are one of four Southeastern Conference teams listed in the respective polls.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 7 (1,153)No. 7 (568)-
2W 68-45 vs. William & Mary1-0No. 8 (1,127)No. 7 (560)-
3L 69-67 vs. Miami
W(OT) 61-56 vs. ULM
2-1No. 18 (467)No. 16 (303)-

USA TODAY/ESPN COACHES POLL
This Week 1-5: North Carolina (30), Kentucky (1), Ohio State, UConn, Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Louisville, Florida, Pittsburgh, Memphis
11-15: Kansas, Baylor, Wisconsin, Xavier, Alabama
16-20: Arizona, Michigan, Texas A&M, Marquette
21-25: Cincinnati/Vanderbilt, California, Gonzaga, Florida State, Missouri

Preseason 1-5: North Carolina (30), Kentucky (1), Ohio State, UConn, Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Vanderbilt, Louisville, Memphis, Florida
11-15: Pittsburgh, Baylor, Kansas, Wisconsin, Xavier
16-20: Arizona, Alabama, Michigan, Texas A&M, UCLA
21-25: Marquette, Cincinnati, Gonzaga, California, Missouri

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
This Week 1-5: North Carolina (62), Kentucky, Ohio State (1), UConn (2), Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Florida, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Memphis
11-15: Baylor, Kansas, Xavier, Wisconsin, Arizona
16-20: Alabama, Michigan, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Cincinnati
21-25: Marquette, Gonzaga, California, Missouri, Florida State

Preseason 1-5: North Carolina (62), Kentucky, Ohio State (1), UConn (2), Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Vanderbilt, Florida, Louisville, Pittsburgh
11-15: Memphis, Baylor, Kansas, Xavier, Wisconsin
16-20: Arizona, UCLA, Michigan, Alabama, Texas A&M
21-25: Cincinnati, Marquette, Gonzaga, California, Missouri

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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Florida vs. Jackson State post-game notes

The No. 8/10 Florida Gators opened the 2011-12 regular season by soundly defeating the Jackson State Tigers Friday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some Florida players discussed the contest as well as their outlook for the upcoming season.

NEW GUARDS ADJUSTING NICELY

Freshman Brad Beal and redshirt junior transfer Mike Rosario were outstanding in the opener, combining for 38 points and hitting 8-of-14 shots from beyond the arc. The duo was also quite effective on Friday. Rosario (and junior Kenny Boynton) led all scorers with 19 points (5-of-8 from downtown), while Beal added 14 on 10 shots but was just 1-for-6 from three.

“The ball went in the basket for him,” Donovan said of Rosario. “The one thing I talk to those guys about is just that there’s so much more to the game than that. Mike made some shots tonight. He did some things that helped our team where maybe two of our better shooters from behind the three-point line didn’t have it going. Offensively there’s some firepower out there with our team as it relates to shooting the basketball. If we can get stops and out in transition, we can really get it going.”

He also said that Beal’s ability to score even when his shot is not falling is something special the team can take full advantage of this year. “The thing that makes him a great player is that he’s not a high-volume shooter. He scores very quietly and is very efficient when he scores. He had great looks,” Donovan said. “He scores 14 points and 10 at the half, and he’s 5-for-10 and probably in the realm of the way he thinks, 1-for-6 from the three-point line is unacceptable. On 10 shots, he’s very capable of getting 20 points pretty quickly because he’s very efficient scoring.”

Beal simplified it a bit, noting that the large scoring numbers are something fans can expect as the season continues to go on even against better defenses. “We were just playing Florida basketball basically,” he said.

WALKER’s IMPACT NOT SHOWING UP IN BOX SCORE

Senior point guard Erving Walker’s final line may have only been 10 points and four assists, but Donovan believed he played exactly the way he was asked all offseason. Donovan has gone out of his way to say that his plan for Walker this year is for the player to become the SEC’s regular season assist leader who is more concerned about making sure Florida gets open looks than knocking down baskets himself.

On Friday, Walker not only shot efficiently (4-of-6 from the field, 1-for-2 from downtown), he also had a 4-0 assist-to-turnover ratio, grabbed a steal and hustled for four boards. Donovan said the way he effected the game is much deeper than that, too.

“Erving Walker is a special player. He’s special. He does a lot of different things. The thing that’s not even talked about today – I’m really proud of him. He was 4-for-6 today, pretty efficient, four assists and no turnovers,” he said. “In hockey the guy that throws it to the guy that gets an assist also gets an assist. How many times did Erving Walker drive down the lane and kick the ball out to an open guy and that guy threw it to the guy who shot the ball but Erving Walker was the one that created the play?

“When you play that way from a media standpoint there is not a lot of recognition that comes with playing that way. People that really understand the magnitude of what you’re doing, they can see it. There was a lot of examples of Erving having four assists and he probably could have had 15 if there were hockey assists being counted. He made some passes and some plays that led to a lot of open shots for our team.”

REBOUNDING MUST REMAIN A POSITIVE

After only out-rebounding Catholic by five in their exhibitioner, UF grabbed 15 more boards than Jackson State did Friday (40-25). Donovan said after the game that a margin like that is exactly what the Gators should have against such competition.

“That’s kind of the expectation level I have for our guys,” he said. “Overall I thought our guys competed on the backboard. I thought we did a good job there.”

One player Donovan was looking for more from was junior forward Erik Murphy, who grabbed just four boards because a handful of others were bobbled underneath the basket. Donovan thought he could have had a big rebounding game if he had just been able to hang on to a few more.

Florida also acquired 23 offensive rebounds which provided the high-powered offense additional opportunities to put the ball in the basket. Donovan said that number was “encouraging” as was the way the Gators came out of halftime – on a 15-0 run that resulted in a 51-point lead. “Hopefully it’s something where they can develop that kind of mentality,” he said.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on the team’s shooting: “When the floor is spaced like it is, there’s so much shooting out there that Mike just happened to be on the receiving end on knocking down a lot of shots. I also thought that Brad and Murph had a lot of shots they normally could have knocked down.”

» Donovan on playing Ohio State on Tuesday: “This is a great test for our team. It’s a great challenge. Obviously they’re ranked extremely high and playing at home. Hopefully our guys are ready to take this challenge on. I’m excited about it for our guys, and I think our guys are excited about it. Any time you get a chance to play against the best, that’s what you want to do and find out where you’re at.”

» Boynton on the victory: “We’re right where we want to be. We got to clean up a little bit of rebounding but other than that we are where we want to be for Ohio State.”

» Rosario on playing well in his first game: “It was tough but every last bit of it is worth everything today. Everything that I’ve been through since I’ve got here made tonight unbelievable.”

» Sophomore center Patric Young on facing Jared Sullinger on Tuesday: “It’s going to be a team effort. I’m not going to be guarding him the entire game, so I’m just going to do the best I can.”

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Florida wins season opener in 40-point rout

The sharpshooting No. 8/10 Florida Gators opened the 2011-12 regular season in style Friday night, dominating the Jackson State Tigers 99-59 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Sophomore center Patric Young posted his first career double-double, and a duo of guards – junior Kenny Boynton and redshirt junior Mike Rosario – led Florida with 19 points each on 14-of-25 combined shooting (9-of-15 from downtown).

The Gators opened the game by outscoring the Tigers 18-3 in under five minutes and held a 59-23 lead at the half. Florida began the second half with a 15-0 run to take a game-high 51-point lead with nearly 17 minutes left to play.

UF outrebounded JSU 44-29 and forced 24 turnovers while only giving up the ball 10 times. Florida also dished out 14 more dimes (20-6) and held Jackson State to 34 percent shooting while hitting 51.3 percent of their tries during the contest.

Young tied a career-high with 12 points and added 10 rebounds for his first double-double. Four other Gators (including Boynton and Rosario) posted double digit points.

Freshman G Brad Beal shot 1-of-6 from downtown but posted 14 points. Senior point guard Erving Walker contributed 10 points and notched a game-high four assists.

Sophomore forward Will Yeguete was efficient in his 15 minutes of action, hitting three of four shots for seven points and seven boards. Redshirt freshman F Cody Larson scored the first points of his career, and sophomore PG Scottie Wilbekin played 15 minutes after sitting out the exhibition game due to a broken finger.

Florida passed its first test of the young season but will have a much tougher opponent in their next game as they are set to face Ohio State on the road in Columbus, OH on Tuesday. The game will air live at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (15-1)

With just days to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 basketball season gets underway, the second half of OGGOA‘s series – The Countdown – takes a look at those players on the roster wearing jerseys ranging from No. 15-1.

15 – Will Yeguete (Bourdeaux, France)
Sophomore forward
6’7” 222 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010-11 Season: A diamond in the rough, Yeguete joined Florida as a three-star recruit out of high school last year. He played for Florida Air Academy (the same school attended by Walter Hodge) for two years, averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds in his senior season. Prior to that, Yeguete lived in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and France before coming to the United States with his family. As a freshman last year, he averaged 1.3 points and 2.6 rebounds in 7.1 minutes per game but was often a spark off the bench for the Gators who could attack the boards and be active on the floor.

2011-12 Outlook: Yeguete has been told by head coach Billy Donovan that he is being counted on to be a rebounding machine, a role he embraces tremendously. “I know that’s my first thing – defensively getting rebounds,” he said. Though he is comfortable with that assignment, Yeguete has also been trying to improve his offense in order to stay on the floor longer and contribute even more to the team. “I’ve tried to be more aggressive offensively. I can’t just play defense,” he said. “Coach D wants me to be a fixture on offense and not turn the ball over. I’ve been working on it a lot lately and the whole summer, so I think it’s coming along pretty good.”

11 – Erving Walker (Brooklyn, NY)
Senior guard
5’8” 177 lbs.

Quick Bio: The lone remaining player from Florida’s 2008 recruiting class, Walker joined the Gators as a three-star point guard but has become a veteran leader and dynamic shooter. Arguably Donovan’s favorite current player, Walker earned second team All-SEC honors in both 2009-10 and 2010-11. He was also nominated to the SEC All-Freshman team in 2008-09 and led the team in assists and steals during his sophomore season. Walker has hit numerous game-tying and game-winning shots in his career, often coming through in the clutch late in the second half for Florida. He has also had his share of miscues, turning the ball over too often and taking poor shots.

2010-11 Season: The Gators leader in points (539) and steals (41) as a junior, Walker started 37 games and was Florida’s leading scorer often throughout the season. He scored more than 18 points in three-straight non-conference games, had a season-high 25 at South Carolina and scored double-digit points in each of UF’s first three NCAA Tournament games. Walker also had a team-high 87 turnovers and posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.4 (fourth-best on the team among active players).

2011-12 Outlook: Donovan charged Walker this offseason with leading the SEC in assists and spreading the ball around to the Gators’ numerous dynamic scorers. He scored 15 points and dished four assists in the exhibition game but played within the system and looked to have improved. Nevertheless, Florida is going to need Walker to hold onto the ball and only take quality shots in order to maximize his ability this year. “He has really tried to grasp and understand who he is playing with on the floor. His assist-to-turnover ratio in practice has been very good. He has an idea and understanding of the challenges in front of him, and I feel like he’s really trying to do that,” Donovan said.

5 – Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL)
Sophomore guard
6’2” 178 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010-11 Season: A two-star recruit coming out of high school, Wilbekin skipped his senior season and accepted a scholarship to UF as a junior. A lifelong fan of the Gators, Wilbekin proved to be a capable backup point guard last year, spelling Walker when he was tired and also allowing him to play off the ball on occasion. He posted the best assist-to-turnover ratio on the team (2.2) and earned one start. Wilbekin scored a season-high 11 points against North Carolina A&T and handed out six dimes on two occasions last year. He was the first player to come in off the bench in 16 games and led Florida in assists in five different games.

2011-12 Outlook: Though he broke one of his fingers in practice and missed the exhibition game, Wilbekin will be healthy and is set to return for the start of the season. He will continue to serve as the primary backup point guard and a good backcourt defensive presence for UF, though it is unknown how often Donovan may go without one in order to get more shooters on the floor.

4 – Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL)
Sophomore forward/center
6’9” 247 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010-11 Season: A 2010 McDonald’s All-American, Parade Magazine second-team All-American and a five-star recruit out of high school, Young was the Gators’ top recruit one year ago. With a veteran frontcourt set as starters, he served as the primary reserve, playing 17.8 minutes per game off the bench (with two starts when Vernon Macklin got injured). Young averaged 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds but also blocked a team-high 31 shots, earning his way onto the SEC All-Freshman team. He was the first player off the bench 22 times and dunked the ball 16 times. Young had the opportunity to leave for the NBA after the season but chose to stay for at least his sophomore year (if not beyond).

2011-12 Outlook: Moving into a starting role in his second year, Young is Florida’s primary frontcourt presence this season. His size, strength and athleticism makes him tough to defend, but his offensive game continues to be a work in progress. However, Young is an impressive defender who – if he can keep his fouls down – may very well find his way on some All-SEC teams at season’s end. “Pat is an absolute monster. Watching him workout this summer, he really impressed me. He competes and plays so hard and has a great motor and is all about the team and winning,” former Florida forward Chandler Parsons told OGGOA last week. “He’s going to have to play big all year long and lead the way rebounding. He’ll also have to step up and block shots as well as finish everything around the rim. I believe in him and think he has the potential to be one of the best centers in the conference.”

3 – Mike Rosario (Jersey City, NJ)
Redshirt junior guard
6’3” 191 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star recruit out of high school who signed with Rutgers and played there for two years, Rosario was just the second sophomore in team history to hit 1,000 career points. He was named a freshman All-American and Big East All-Rookie in his first when he set the team’s all-time freshman scoring mark with 517 points. As a sophomore, Rosario scored 16.7 points per game and led Rutgers in scoring 19 times with 28 double-digit scoring games and nine games in which he posted 20 or more points. He transferred to Florida one year ago and sat out the 2010-11 season.

2011-12 Outlook: Back in action once again, Rosario adds another dynamic scoring option to the Gators’ offense. He is also a solid defender who – like Walker – Donovan wants to learn to play within UF’s system. Rosario scored 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting (4-for-7 from downtown) with six assists and two steals during the exhibition game and was visibly excited to be playing college basketball gain. Though he may have hoped to be a starter for Florida, Rosario will instead play off the bench and will likely be the team’s primary sixth man. “The biggest thing for Mike is just being more and more consistent each and every day,” Donovan said. “We’ve got to be a very unselfish group, and Mike’s got a good feel of how to play. He’s smart, he’s intelligent. He’s competitive. He’s got to be an everyday guy though.”

1 – Kenny Boynton (Pompano Beach, FL)
Junior guard
6’2” 189 lbs.

Quick Bio: The No. 3 leading scorer in Florida high school basketball history, Boynton was a five-star recruit who has started all but two games in his entire Gators career. A McDonald’s All-American and Parade All-American who honored with a SEC All-Freshman nomination in 2009-10, he led UF in scoring his first year and posted a school-high 27 points against BYU in the NCAA Tournament that year. Boynton only shot 37.6 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from three in his first season but still managed to be an important part of Florida’s team.

2010-11 Season: Returning as a starter, Boynton averaged 14.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists while shooting slightly better from the field (38.5 percent) and downtown (33.1 percent). He made 82.3 percent of his foul shots and turned the ball over 15 fewer times than he did as a freshman. Boynton continued to be a streaky shooter but scored in double digits in each of the Gators’ final 16 games including every SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament contest. He was also named to the SEC All-Tournament Team and the All-SEC second team in 2010-11.

2011-12 Outlook: Boynton scored a team-high 21 points (on 6-of-11 shooting from downtown) in Florida’s exhibition game and said he has been working on being a more consistent shooter all offseason. “Instead of trying to change it [my form], I have just been getting more repetitions and get used to it.,” Boynton explained. “Basically getting more practice makes perfect, so I have been trying to shoot a lot of it every day.” His defense was a highlight throughout the 2010-11 season, and Donovan plans to continue playing him on the opposition’s best backcourt player each game. “He’s got a better understanding of shot selection. He is a consistent guy every single day. He gives you great effort. He works really hard. He’s a great kid and he wants to be a good player,” Donovan said.

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Allen’s Alley: Previewing the 2011-12 Gators

A four-year member of the Florida Gators basketball program under head coach Billy Donovan, former forward Adam Allen – a four-star recruit coming out of Milton High School – was forced to retire due to multiple knee surgeries. No longer with the team, he has joined OGGOA as a basketball columnist and will provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2011-12 season.

College basketball season has arrived, and the excitement is in full force surrounding the new-look Florida Gators squad. Florida basketball has the potential to be one of the best programs in the nation this year and should be one of the most exciting teams to watch from November to March.

The Gators feature what could be the best backcourt in the nation to go along with a rather inexperienced but talented frontline that has been waiting to prove itself.

There is no question that this team possesses the talent to be great but concerns surround the backcourt chemistry and keeping
everyone happy with playing time.

Guards senior Erving Walker, junior Kenny Boynton, sophomore Scottie Wilbekin and sophomore Casey Prather already have experience playing together, but how will the addition of two potential star players in freshman Brad Beal and redshirt junior transfer Mike Rosario wind up working long-term?

In head coach Billy Donovan‘s portrait, he sees a perfect combination. Many wonder how the talented guards will share the ball and allocate shots amongst one another. The only true “pass-first” guard is Wilbekin but sharing the ball will be an issue with this group. Coach Donovan will have the guards playing together and feeding off each other because he is the best in America at getting players to understand their role and what they need to do to help the team win.

Read the rest of this edition of Allen’s Alley…after the break!
Continue Reading » Allen’s Alley: Previewing the 2011-12 Gators

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FOUR BITS: All-SEC, Oliver, Meyer, Jones

1 » The Southeastern Conference announced its coaches’ preseason All-SEC first and second team selections on Wednesday, and three Florida Gators were honored on the lists. Senior point guard Erving Walker and junior guard Kenny Boynton both earned first team nominations, while sophomore center Patric Young was the only UF representative placed on the second team. Walker and Boynton were both on the media’s All-SEC second team, and Young was left off.

2 » Former Florida safety Louis Oliver was one of six people inducted into the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame on Tuesday evening. Fellow former Gators student-athlete Dara Torres was inducted previously. “It is very flattering,” Oliver said, according to the Sun-Sentinel. “I am very excited to be in a group that includes a group like [Dan] Marino, Coach [Don] Shula, H. Wayne Huizenga, Michael Irvin and those types of people. Just to be recognized with those people puts me in a category that most people aren’t in. It’s not Canton, Ohio, but it is a really big deal for me.”

3 » With Joe Paterno stepping down from his job as head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions at the end of the season, former Gators head coach Urban Meyer is obviously going to be the No. 1 name on the list of the university and fans. Meyer discussed his admiration for Paterno at the 2011 Outback Bowl but has also said on numerous other occasions how much he is enjoying his time off from the game. However, Meyer is not the only candidate as Miami head coach Al Golden and Rutgers top man Greg Schiano could also be in the running for the job. The fact of the matter is that Meyer may very well not be ready to return to college football and could also look at the sport’s landscape (with major violations and legal issues going on at his supposed top two destinations of Ohio State and Penn State) and choose to wait a bit longer.

4 » Central Florida Knights head coach Donnie Jones was suspended three conference games without pay and publicly reprimanded by the NCAA on Wednesday for being aware of contact between a recruiter for a sports agency and student-athletes and not preventing it. The recruiter allegedly paid tuition and travel expenses for some players and recruits. “As the program’s head coach, I accept responsibility for mistakes when they occur,” he said in a statement from the school. A former assistant at Florida under head coach Billy Donovan, Jones took his UCF team to Gainesville two Saturdays ago for an exhibition game against UF.

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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (35-23)

With just days to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 basketball season gets underway, the first half of OGGOA‘s series – The Countdown – takes a look at those players on the roster wearing jerseys ranging from No. 35-23.

35 – Walter Pitchford V (Grand Rapids, MI)
Freshman forward
6’10” 221 lbs.

Quick Bio: A three-star recruit coming out of high school, Pitchford was the last player to join the Gators’ 2011 signing class. He originally committed to DePaul in 2010 but requested a release from his signed scholarship when the head coach was fired; Pitchford wanted to attend Summit Christian Academy prep school for a year and reevaluate his options. DePaul and the NCAA initially denied his request before eventually granting it in July, paving the way for him to commit to Florida.

2011-12 Outlook: Though the Gators do not have much size, Pitchford is still quite raw as a player and will likely see the fewest game minutes of anyone on the roster this season. “Walter is still learning and growing,” head coach Billy Donovan said in mid-October. “Walter is not any different than a lot of freshmen that come in terms of figuring out how hard they have to play, better competition, what to do, where to go, what’s happening.” Pitchford said in April that Donovan plans to have him on the court as a stretch four who will have opportunities to play on the perimeter at times.

34 – Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD)
Redshirt freshman forward/center
6’9” 231 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010-11 Season: A three-star power forward coming out of high school, Larson is quite athletic and quick for his size and position. Though he averaged 19.8 points and 7.8 rebounds as a high school senior, Larson redshirted last season and will play his first regular season minutes this year.

2011-12 Outlook: Back with the team after being indefinitely suspended over the summer, Larson is expected to see major playing time as a reserve at the four and five. He is the primary backup to sophomore center Patric Young and could have a big role this season. “Cody is a big body who can rebound and run the floor and step out and knock down jumpers,” former Florida forward Chandler Parsons told OGGOA last week. “He just has to bring it every night and provide energy and whatever else the team needs. He could really help out down low this year.” Donovan has also praised him. “Cody has been a guy that is doing a lot of really good things right now in terms of the little things that aren’t going to show up on a stat sheet,” he said. “I’ve been pleased with what he’s been able to do for our team physically because we need another physical presence up front.”

33 – Erik Murphy (South Kingstown, RI)
Junior forward/center
6’10” 230 lbs.

Quick Bio: The first-ever player from Rhode Island to be named a Parade Magazine All-American, Murphy was a four-star commit in 2009 who has played as a backup in each of his first two years with UF. He is shooting 55.7 percent for his career, 40 percent from downtown and 69.2 percent from the line while averaging 2.4 rebounds per game.

2010-11 Season: Murphy earned one start in 2010-11 when Parsons was injured and unable to play. Otherwise he served as the primary frontcourt reserve off the bench behind a veteran unit. He averaged 4.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 33 games and scored in double digits three times. Murphy shined in the NCAA Tournament against UCLA, scoring seven points on 3-for-4 shooting.

2011-12 Outlook: Like Larson, Murphy was indefinitely suspended for most of the offseason but rejoined the team and earned a starting role this year. He was 6-of-9 from the field and 3-for-4 from downtown for 17 points in the team’s exhibition against Catholic. “I’m just going to try to play my role, do what coach asks and do whatever I can for the team to help us win,” he said last Wednesday. Murphy jumped up to 230 lbs. in the offseason and said that his much-needed weight gain has helped him become stronger and more durable. “A couple times both seasons I got banged up a bit,” he said. The weight [gain] has definitely helped me. I’m in the best shape of my life. It feels good, and I feel comfortable right now.”

24 – Casey Prather (Jackson, TN)
Sophomore guard/forward
6’6” 212 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010-11 Season: A highly recruited swingman and four-star player coming out of high school, Prather saw 6.7 minutes of action per game as a freshman but served mostly as a roleplayer during the season, averaging 1.2 points and 1.1 rebounds per appearance. He wound up starting two games due to Parsons’s injury and scored double-digits once – on 5-of-8 shooting against North Carolina A&T.

2011-12 Outlook: Prather, who can play in the frontcourt or backcourt, is one of the Gators’ most versatile players. His length and athleticism allow him to move the ball, get open in space and attack the basket, but he is still trying to refine his touch and become an all-around player. Prather had a team-high seven rebounds in the exhibition and will be counted on to hit the boards hard all season long.

23 – Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO)
Freshman guard
6’3” 207 lbs.

Quick Bio: Arguably the best player ever to sign a national letter of intent with Donovan and the Gators, Beal was a five-star recruit and one of the top five players in the country coming out of high school last year. The 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year, he averaged 32.5 points, 5.7 boards, 2.8 assists and 2.7 steals per game as a high school senior. Beal is the 14th McDonald’s All-American signed by Donovan and also a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Missouri. In the offseason, Beal led the United States’s U17 FIBA World Championship team to a gold medal and captured the tournament’s most valuable player honor.

2011-12 Outlook: A starter from day one, Beal joins a veteran backcourt that has been playing together for three years. He has been a model freshman in practice so far and could be a big catalyst for Florida in 2011-12. Beal scored a 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting (4-for-7 from downtown) with five dimes in the exhibition game one week ago and could very well be the team’s best offensive player this season due to his ability to hit open shots and slash to the basket. “He’s been a guy that’s absorbed everything pretty well,” Donovan said of Beal. “He’s more advanced than most freshmen in terms of being able to retain and understand what we’re trying to get done. Coupled with the fact that he’s a talented and gifted player. He’s been unfazed, so to speak, by what he’s gone through. It’s been challenging, but it’s not like he’s lost or confused. He has a really good understanding and feel of what we’re trying to do and [he] is able to do that.”

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