Florida forward Walter Pitchford will transfer

Florida Gators freshman forward Walter Pitchford has decided to transfer after one year with the team in order to play basketball closer to home.

Spending just one year at the University of Florida and only seeing a total of 22 minutes of action in 13 of the team’s 37 games, Pitchford was the last scholarship player on the bench this season and considered a bit of a project. However, he always worked hard in practice and was a productive member of the team.

Pitchford told OGGOA on Wednesday that he and his family decided it would be best that he leave the program and play closer to his home state of Michigan at least partially due to his grandfather being ill.

“It’s definitely the best thing for him and his family, just with some of his extenuating circumstances,” head coach Billy Donovan told the school’s website. “Right now, he just needs to be near his family. They need him home and they want him home.”

Pitchford was pleased with his time in Gainesville, FL and praised both the coaching staff and his teammates for helping make him a better basketball player.

“My time here – I like to say that this was a learning year for me,” he said. “I really enjoyed learning from one of the greatest coaches in Coach Donovan. The assistant coaches – I really loved learning from them. Besides that, I learned a lot from my teammates. I learned something from everybody in the program. Everybody had something to add that I picked up from and will learn from.”

Donovan noticed that leadership was an issue with UF during the season and began preaching communication among the players during games. Pitchford said that is one thing in particular that he will take away from his time with the team.

“Something that clicked for me was being more verbal, being able to help tell [my] teammates what to do, saying good job, picking them up or just keeping the team excited. I learned [how important it is] to bring more energy and extra stuff,” he said.

His departure opens up one scholarship for the Gators to utilize in 2012-13. The team may wind up with two available slots should freshman guard Bradley Beal decide this month to declare for the 2012 NBA Draft.

Florida has targeted five-star power forward Anthony Bennett (Henderson, NV) to fill that remaining scholarship, but he will not make a decision until early May and is also considering a number of other schools including Kentucky, Oregon and UNLV.

The Gators’ 2012 recruiting class currently consists of three guards. With Pitchford planning to leave the team, Florida will have only three players over 6’7” on the roster next season (as of press time) – sophomore center Patric Young (6’9”), junior F Erik Murphy (6’10”) and redshirt freshman F/C Cody Larson (6’9”).

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TWO BITS: Jenkins’s dismissal, Gators video

1 » Following up on the Sporting News report published Monday on the end of head coach Urban Meyer’s tenure in Gainesville, FL, The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley dedicated the opening segment of his most recent column to dropping a few tidbits corroborating the investigation done by Matt Hayes. In the paragraph, Dooley calls former wide receiver Percy Harvin “the most coddled athlete in the history of Florida football” and provides one damning detail about the meeting between new head coach Will Muschamp and former cornerback Janoris Jenkins following his second arrest for possession of marijuana in less than 90 days last summer.

When Muschamp told Jenkins he would have to be suspended, Jenkins replied, “Do you know who you’re talking to?” And that was the end of his career at UF.

2 » Something that is probably either a promotional video by or class project at the University of Florida, a new clip appeared Monday on YouTube called “The Gator Grind – Day In the Life.” It depicts a number of Florida Gators athletes including sophomore center Patric Young, junior running back Trey Burton and senior centerfielder Michelle Moultrie (among others) basically doing what they do during a normal day set to music. You can check it out below:

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Assistant Norm Roberts leaves Florida for Kansas

For the second time in the last four months a prominent Florida Gators assistant coach has left the school to take a job with the Kansas Jayhawks. Just like offensive coordinator Charlie Weis moved on from the football team at the end of their regular season in December to become head coach at Kansas, assistant Norm Roberts has left the Florida basketball team following their successful postseason to accept the top assistant job under KU head coach Bill Self, according to InsidetheGators.com.

One of three new assistants to join head coach Billy Donovan‘s staff for the 2011-12 season, Roberts will leave the Gators after spending just one year with the team. Like the others, his reasons for moving on from Florida are well-intentioned.

Roberts and Self have a relationship that dates back to 1995 when Self first hired him as an assistant at Oral Roberts. The two spent a total of nine seasons together with Self as the head coach and Roberts as his assistant at Oral Roberts (1995-97), Tulsa (1997-2000), Illinois (2000-03) and Kansas (2003-04) before Roberts left to take over the St. John’s program as head coach from 2004-10.

His last year at St. John’s came just as his son Niko Roberts was deciding where to play basketball at the collegiate level. He will be entering his junior year as a walk-on with the Jayhawks next season and will now have his father as an assistant coach.

A spot opened up on the Kansas bench for Roberts as former KU No. 1 overall pick Danny Manning, an assistant with the Jayhawks since 2006-07, was officially announced as Tulsa’s new head coach on Wednesday.

“I’m thrilled,” Self told the Lawrence Journal-World on Monday. “We were together for nine years. My family helped raise his kids. His family has helped raise mine. We’re close. Certainly we hate to see Danny go, but Norm coming back will be a big bonus to our program.”

Donovan now must hire his fifth new prominent staff member in the last two seasons. He replaced three assistant coaches and a strength and conditioning coach last year and will now have to find a suitable candidate to fill Roberts’s shoes going forward.

Florida has since confirmed Roberts’s departure from the program.

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FOUR BITS: Ferris, Walker, Parsons, Boynton

1 » There was plenty of good news to go around the Florida Gators football program over the weekend but one player in particular – junior long snapper Drew Ferris – may have received the best news of all when head coach Will Muschamp told him that he would be put on scholarship for his final two years with the team. Ferris, who walked on to the Gators in 2010 as a five-star long snapper (a designation given by Chris Rubio Long Snapping), played the position full-time on field goals and punts in 2011 and returns to that role this season.

2 » Florida point guard Erving Walker is unlikely to be selected in the 2012 NBA Draft later this year but is still doing his best to raise his stock by participating in the 2012 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament from April 11-14. It is the second-straight year that a former Gators player will be in the event as forward/center Vernon Macklin was a standout performer in 2011 and wound up being picked in the second round of the draft by the Detroit Pistons due in part to how impressive he was in the PIT.

3 » Houston Rockets F Chandler Parsons was credited for his defense on Kobe Bryant last time his team faced the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant, asked about him after the game, first joked that he did not know Parsons before saying he thought he had a great future in the league. This past week Parsons and Bryant went head-to-head again with the former producing a highlight Kobe-esque play on the offensive end.

4 » Florida junior guard Kenny Boynton announced on Twitter this week that he will be returning to the team for his senior season. GatorZone.com’s Chris Harry caught up with him following the announcement to inquire about the decision to which Boynton mostly said that his family and head coach Billy Donovan both agreed it would be more beneficial for him to stick around for one more year. Boynton also noted that “coming back and playing more of the point guard position” could help him overall in his quest to play in the NBA. Should freshman G Bradley Beal leave for the draft as many expect him to, Boynton may not have many opportunities to play point with sophomore Scottie Wilbekin returning and frosh Braxton Ogbueze joining the team for 2012-13. Should Beal return, Boynton could be shifted to point guard with redshirt junior Mike Rosario moving into the starting five (or he could split the duties with one of the other two).

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Kenny Boynton set to return for senior season

Florida Gators junior guard Kenny Boynton made it official Thursday morning, announcing on Twitter that he has decided to return to school for his senior season.

The Gators’ leading scorer this past season, Boynton averaged 15.9 points per game while also registering 2.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 0.8 steals in 31.6 minutes. He shot 44.0 percent from the field, 75.4 percent from the line and 40.7 percent from downtown, making strides in his overall game play and improving his stroke from beyond the arc by 7.6 percent compared to his sophomore season.

Boynton registered 15 or more points in 20 of Florida’s first 28 games but struggled towards the end of the season, only eclipsing that figure once over the team’s last nine contests in a third-round NCAA Tournament game against No. 15-seed Norfolk State. He shot 33.0 percent from the field and 26.8 percent from three over that nine-game stretch and would undoubtedly like to end his career on a higher note.

With Boynton returning to the Gators, he has the unique opportunity to become the school’s all-time leader in a number of major categories including (among others) scoring, games started, minutes played and three-point field goals made.

Boynton is the third non-senior to commit to returning to Florida for the 2012-13 season, joining sophomore Patric Young and redshirt junior G Mike Rosario. The Gators are still waiting to hear from freshman G Bradley Beal, who could reportedly take until April 29 to decide whether or not he will enter his name into the 2012 NBA Draft. Beal is considered a consensus lottery selection and potential top-five pick who has been projected to go as high as No. 3 overall in the draft.

Photo Credit: FOX Sports Florida

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TWO BITS: O’Sullivan, Whitson, Noah dancing

1 » Florida Gators head baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan touched at the two hottest topics surrounding his team on Wednesday. Addressing Florida going 4-4 in their last eight games (all on the road), O’Sullivan noted that he was not worried one bit because, simply put, these things happen. “Every year every team goes through something like this. Every single year. It doesn’t matter how talented you are or how much experience you have,” he said. “This game is a humbling game and you’re not going to go 50-6 through the regular season. You’re going to have some stretches where you’re not going to play your best. The key to this whole thing is not to have this stretch at the need of the year as you go through tournament play. That’s the key. This will make our team better. It is frustrating and sometimes you don’t want to go through this obviously but ultimately it does build character and puts you in a better position at the end of the year.”

He also talked about sophomore right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson, who returned to the mound for one inning of work on Tuesday. It was his first time pitching in a game in over a month and he struck out two batters while retiring the side in the top of the first on just eight pitches. “We’ve basically taken it probably slower than he’s wanted to at this point,” O’Sullivan said. “He looked really good on his pen on Sunday. After talking to him Sunday night, we felt like we needed to get him out there. His pen [Tuesday] was outstanding; he was commanding all his pitches. His arm feels good – that’s the most important thing. He threw eight pitches, got two strikeouts and was around the plate. His slider was outstanding. His fastball velocity looked good; not sure exactly what it was but it looked good to me. Probably if it was up to him he probably would have been to the mound 10 days ago, but we feel good with where he’s at right now. The goal is to possibly start him this weekend; obviously he will be on a pitch count.”

2 » A Comcast SportsNet reporter was praising Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah last Friday after he posted an outstanding performance for his team including 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting with 12 rebounds (eight offensive), four assists and two blocks. Noah happened to walk by her just as she was mentioning his name and, well, just watch:

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Erving Walker cited for alleged theft of taco

Point guard Erving Walker, playing his last game in a Florida Gators uniform just under one week ago, was cited early Friday morning for two misdemeanors after allegedly stealing a taco from a street vendor and evading police.

According to an arrest report from the Gainesville Police Department obtained by the Palm Beach Post and Gator Country, Walker ordered a $3 taco from a cart in downtown Gainesville, FL and chose to run away rather than paying after being handed the food.

An officer eventually tracked down Walker but he continued to run until the officer and “several marked patrol cars” found him again. He reportedly admitted to stealing the taco but claimed he was “just playing around.”

Walker has been charged with a pair of misdemeanors for petty theft and resisting arrest without violence and received a notice to appear in court on April 19 at 9 a.m.

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Beal, Boynton still mulling futures with Gators

There was a grave concern at one point that the Florida Gators could lose as many as five players following the 2011-12 season as freshman guard Bradley Beal and sophomore center Patric Young flashed NBA potential, senior point guard Erving Walker was set to graduate and many believed junior guards Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario were questioning whether or not to remain with the team.

That number has already dwindled down to a maximum of three as Young and Rosario have both expressed their intention to remain in school at least one more year. Young will be a junior in 2012-13 and Rosario will play his second year in orange and blue before hopefully graduating as a redshirt senior.

However, the future of the other two players remains up in the air as Beal and Boynton have yet to officially decide on the path they will take in their respective careers.

According to The Gainesville Sun‘s Kevin Brockway, Boynton may be near a decision that will put a smile on the faces of Florida fans. “Boynton’s father, Kenny Boynton Sr., said he expects his son to return for his senior season,” Brockway wrote on Thursday.

NBA scouts do not consider Boynton to be talented enough to select in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft due to the fact that he remains somewhat inconsistent with his shot (even after taking a huge step forward last season), is not proficient enough at driving to the hoop and is undersized for a shooting guard yet does not have the proper handle or experience to run the point. Should he decide to leave school, chances are Boynton would wind up playing somewhere overseas.

Beal, on the other hand, is a consensus top-10 pick who is expected by most analysts to be one of the first five players selected in the draft. He has been ranked as high as No. 3 overall and could certainly go that high depending on the needs of the teams selecting in the top potion of the first round.

That does not mean his path is necessarily leading him away from Gainesville, FL.

“I know it’s going to be a hard decision for him,” Bobby Beal, Bradley’s father, told Brockway on Thursday. “Some people say [leaving] is a no-brainer, but I know that he loves college, loves the atmosphere down there.”

There are two other factors in addition to loving college that could lead him back to Florida. He was reportedly extremely disappointed that the Gators did not reach the Final Four (seeing the goal as unfinished business) and remains close friends with Young, who has already decided to return and continue his Florida career.

The Sun reports that Beal is currently on his way back to his hometown of St. Louis, MO to see his family and begin discussions about what to do with his future. Where he would be selected in the draft is likely of little concern to Beal as there is no chance he would fall out of the lottery and a slim chance he would even make it past No. 5 overall.

With the decision deadline of Tuesday, April 10 rapidly approaching, expect Beal to announce where he will ctoninue his playing career sooner than later.

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