FOUR BITS: Fowler, Haskins, lacrosse, Miller

1 » Five-star defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. (St. Petersburg, FL), who the Florida Gators have continued to pursue even though he has been committed to the Florida State Seminoles since Dec. 5, 2010, hosted five Florida coaches at his house Thursday night. In attendance were head coach Will Muschamp, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, linebackers coach D.J. Durkin , cornerbacks coach Travaris Robinson and tight ends coach Derek Lewis. According to The Gainesville Sun, the Gators coaches gave him plenty to think about. “I don’t know where I’m going,” he told the paper after saying last week he was still 100 percent committed to Florida State. “Not yet. I need this week to think about it. It’s gonna be pretty hard. I’m making a decision that’s gonna stick with me for the rest of my life.” Even though Fowler has remained committed to FSU for over a year, he has visited UF unofficially on a number of occasions.

On Thursday he also took the picture above wearing the Gators’ No. 6 jersey. With a family mostly full of Seminoles fans, Fowler previously felt pressure (especially from his father) to go to Tallahassee, FL for college. Now he knows it is all up to him. “My family really doesn’t care which one I go to now,” he said. “I’m making this decision on my own. My parents and coaches already talked with me, so now it’s my time to make the last call. It’s up to me. I finally get to call some shots.” Fowler will announce his decision on National Signing Day at 10 a.m.

2 » As noted Tuesday evening, Florida has hired Jon Haskins as the team’s new director of player personnel. UF senior writer Scott Carter has since composed a feature on Haskins, who explained what his role will be with the Gators and how he can impact the program from the office. “At the end of the day the head coach is the one who pulls the trigger on who he wants to bring into this program,’’ Haskins said referring to his assistance in recruiting. “We set the table. What really matters is that two days into camp, our coaches feel like, ‘that kid is going to be really good here.’ And then a year later you really have an idea of how he is going to fit long term in your program. When people think about recruiting, they think it’s the sexy stuff – the meet-and-greets and the visits. In reality, in my opinion, it’s more of an interview process. It’s really trying to give our coaches what they want however they want to attack recruiting.”

3 » Though it was only an exhibition match, No. 5 Florida lacrosse absolutely routed England 17-2 on Thursday with the team’s freshmen scoring 12 goals in the contest. Junior attacker Gabi Wiegand scored five goals on seven shots and also had two assists on the evening. Freshman midfielder Nicole Graziano scored four times on five shots, and junior A Kitty Cullen scored thrice on nine shots. The Gators will begin regular season action on Feb. 11 at North Carolina.

4 » Miami Heat guard/forward Mike Miller is set to sell his oceanfront mansion in Hillsboro Shores, FL to the highest bidder in a Feb. 25 auction. The property, which was once worth $12 million, will go on sale with a suggested opening bid of $4.5 million. How ridiculous is the home? The three-story mansion has six bedrooms, eight full bathrooms, two half-bathrooms, two gourmet kitchens, a home theater, a ventilated and climate-controlled wine/cigar room, a game parlor, a wet bar, an elevator, a swim-up bar with a grill, a hot tub, a fire pit and an outdoor entertainment lounge with dual waterfalls, a large plasma TV and a second summer kitchen. The entire property is nearly 13,000 square feet. Interested in learning more and placing a bid? First donate some money to OGGOA and then click here to view the listing. (Thanks to OGGOA reader Charlie B. for the heads-up.)

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No. 13 Florida steals 64-60 victory at Ole Miss

Down 16 points eight minutes into the game and looking lost on both ends of the floor, the No. 13/14 Florida Gators (16-4, 4-1 SEC) rode an impressive second half to a come-from-behind 64-60 victory over the Ole Miss Rebels (13-7, 3-3 SEC) on the road at Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford, MS on Thursday.

Coming off the bench for the Gators, sophomore center Patric Young led his offense with 15 points, and senior point guard Erving Walker helped UF to 21 assists on 24 baskets thanks to nine dimes of his own in a composed 31 minutes.

For the first time in a while it was Florida’s opponent that got off to an unbelievably fast start as Ole Miss began the game with an early 20-4 lead thanks to hitting their first four buckets from downtown as part of an impressive 14-0 run.

With the Gators looking to get back into the game, UF rebounded from its ugly 2-for-10 start from the field and cut their deficit to 10, but the Rebels would not relent.

An 11-2 run by Florida – including a pair of treys by junior guard Kenny Boynton – reduced Ole Miss’ lead to 29-23 with 5:27 remaining in the first half. However, the Rebels once again fought back, ending the first 20 minutes with a 9-5 scoring stretch to take a 10-point lead on the Gators heading into the break.

Ole Miss was a perfect 6-for-6 from downtown in the first half with G Nick Williams hitting all four of his attempts and F Terrence Henry knocking in both of his treys as well.

Florida opened the second half with gusto and a 6-0 run, continuing their stellar play with an explosive 12-2 scoring stretch to take a 48-46 lead with 8:09 left. It was UF’s first advantage since they led 2-0 early in the contest thanks in part to nine points by Young.

The Gators continued their onslaught of the Rebels with another 11-2 run, going up a game-high seven points (61-54) thanks to a trio of treys including two more by Boynton.

Maintaining their seven-point advantage with 49 seconds to play, Florida appeared to be letting the game slip away. Henry hit a big three-pointer for Ole Miss and Boynton missed the front end of a one-and-one on the other end to give the Rebels the ball back.

Ole Miss would then draw a foul with 24 seconds remaining but hit just one of two free throws to find themselves down three points. Rushing the ball back up the court, Walker tripped and fell, allowing the Rebels to grab on for a jump ball with 18.2 seconds left.

Fortunately for Walker and the Gators, sophomore forward Will Yeguete swiped the ball away just outside the paint and freshman G Bradley Beal picked it up. Beal would then hit a free throw, and Henry missed a three-pointer with six seconds left to end the game.

After being outscored 38-28 in the first half, Florida posted 14 more points than Ole Miss (36-22) in the second half. The Rebels hit a cold stretch from long range, connecting on just one of their last six attempts while also committing 13 turnovers.

The Gators were a paltry 6-of-11 (54.5 percent) from the free throw line but only turned the ball over six times for a 3.5 assist/turnover ratio. Florida also scored 18 points off turnovers and had 26 off the bench including Young’s 15.

The Rebels outrebounded their visitors 41-23 (12-3 offensive) and shot 58.3 percent from three after netting just 27.3 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc over their first 19 games.

Boynton finished second on the Gators with 12 points by hitting 4-of-10 attempts from downtown, Walker added 10 points to his impressive performance, and redshirt junior G Mike Rosario had arguably his best game of the season by playing stellar defense and scoring eight important points.

Henry led the way for Mississippi with game-highs of 21 points (on 9-of-16 shooting) and 10 boards, and Williams added 14 points and five rebounds of his own.

Florida snapped Ole Miss’ eight-game home winning streak and hopes to continue its 16-game stretch of victories at home by hosting No. 16/18 Mississippi State on Saturday. The game will air live at 1:30 p.m. on SEC Network (check your local listings).

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SIX BITS: Guy, Koch, Bennett, Bullard, Meyer

1 » While the Florida Gators wait to figure out which scholarship quarterback to bring in as part of their 2012 recruiting class, the team has offered a preferred walk-on role to three-star Jacob Guy (Dade City, FL). According to the Tampa Bay Times, Guy has scholarship offers from Massachusetts, Ohio and Western Michigan and is also being considered by Memphis and Miami (OH). He is unlikely to make a decision before National Signing Day on Feb. 1, probably in order to see how the situations shake out at all of his potential destinations.

2 » Former Florida golfer Gary Koch will be inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame as part of the 2012 class on March 19-20 in Tampa, FL. He is one of 14 athletes to be included in the ceremony and will be inducted alongside names like Charlie Ward, Alonzo Mourning and George Smith. A four-time All-SEC first team member, three-time All-American, two-time SEC Champion (1973-74) and NCAA Champion with the Gators, Koch won six PGA Tour events but never finished better than tied for fourth at a Major Championship (The Open Championship, 1988). He also spent time on the other tours and has worked for both ESPN and NBC Sports as a sportscaster.

3 » Five-star power forward Anthony Bennett, Florida basketball’s lone remaining target for its 2012 recruiting class, is not any closer to making a decision where he will play next year. In an interview with SNY.tv’s Adam Zagoria, Bennett said that his mom is favoring UF and Kentucky but that UK has told him they expect to lose up to seven scholarships next year so he could come in and start right away. With the Gators, Bennett notes that head coach Billy Donovan is telling him that he will be able to develop his inside-out game better than any other school. His top five also includes Oregon, Washington and UNLV.

4 » In a feature by The Gainesville Sun’s Robbie Andreu, Florida 2012 commitments five-star defensive end Jonathan Bullard (Shelby, NC) and three-star defensive back Rhaheim Ledbetter (Boiling Springs, NC) discuss their long-time friendship and a trick Bullard played on his buddy before committing to the Gators. “We’re going to be roommates at Florida. We talk about it a lot, how much fun it’s going to be,” Ledbetter said. “It’s just going to be real nice to have an extra few years with my best friend, playing on the same team. It’s crazy.” Bullard added, “I’m glad it worked out the way it did. Maybe it’s a sign that we need to be together and achieve our goals together to win championships. It’s exciting. We’ve got a strong bond. We’ve been best friends since the sixth grade. I see him as a brother now.”

5 » Former Gators head coach Urban Meyer committed last October to be the keynote speaker at the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner on Feb. 7. However, just a month before the event was sent to take place, Meyer has now notified the organization that he “could no longer honor his commitment,” according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal. The chamber has been selling advance tickets ($100 apiece) to the event for a while but luckily as of Jan. 24 has not had anyone request a refund. Meyer has since been replaced as the keynote speaker by a pair of political analysts, CNN’s Paul Begala and FOX News’ Tucker Carlson.

6 » Florida announced Wednesday that Paul Spangler, “a 10-year assistant track and head cross country coach at The Virginia Military Institute,” will be the new assistant coach for distance and cross country with the Gators. His responsibilities include being the head cross country coach during the fall and an assistant for the distance track and field athletes during the indoor and outdoor seasons. “I’m really looking forward to this outstanding opportunity to get back to the SEC and contribute as a coach at the University of Florida,” Spangler, a former Alabama cross country runner, said. “I’m excited to be in a position where I can work with the Gator student-athletes one-on-one to help them reach their full potential and work towards a common goal of bringing another national championship back to Gainesville.”

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Florida to wear Nike Hyper Elite Platinum uniforms

Nine national championship-winning NCAA basketball teams, including the Florida Gators, will don specially designed Nike Hyper Elite Platinum uniforms this season.

The Gators will wear theirs for the first time during a home game against Tennessee on Feb. 11 at 4 p.m..

The uniform, which Nike claims was “designed at the intersection of sustainability and performance,” consists of shorts made from 100 percent and jersey fabric constructed with 96 percent recycled polyester.

“Both short and jersey are tailored for the optimal efficiency of movement and are five percent lighter than the previous Nike Hyper Elite uniform,” the company explains regarding the uniforms. “Featuring laser-cut bonded logos, a sharp platinum design as well as prominent accent colors, the Nike Hyper Elite Platinum uniforms are sure to shine on the court.”

Aside from Florida, eight other national championship-winning programs that have provided with the special uniforms include: Arizona, Baylor (women’s), Connecticut (men’s and women’s), Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse.

The Gators’ regular uniforms this season are also part of the Nike Hyper Elite line.

Jerseys, t-shirts and hats promoting the Nike Hyper Elite Platinum line are expected to be on sale closer to the game date of each respective team wearing the uniforms.

According to Florida’s media guide, the Gators have never worn grey uniforms since head coach Billy Donovan took over the program in 1996. Florida is 270-56 all-time in white, 79-78 all-time in blue, 14-12 all-time in black and 3-2 all-time in orange. The Gators are undefeated this season (2-0) in their alternate orange uniforms.

Check out three additional images of the uniform…after the break!
Continue Reading » Florida to wear Nike Hyper Elite Platinum uniforms

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SIX BITS: Young, Orr, Horford, Spikes, Donovan

1 » Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan continues to insist he is not too worried about sophomore center Patric Young’s ankle, noting Monday that team doctors have determined he is not in jeopardy of aggravating or worsening the injury though he will “deal with periodically some discomfort and he’s going to have to work his way through that.” “He’s fine right now,” Donovan said. “I don’t expect him to miss practice. He’s not complaining of anything. It could flare up. Patric’s never really I think ever had a sprained ankle. He’s never really dealt with this before so it’s all new to him.” Young himself said that doctors have told him the tendinitis has to do with the lining of his joints and that he does not have any tears or sprains. “It was just from overuse or something like that. It’s just a nagging thing, like a lot of pain whenever I try to just move or walk, lateral movements really affect it,” he said. “I still can’t really jump too well off my right foot and not too well off of two feet. When it comes time for the game, I’m normally ready and it doesn’t really bother me. After a certain level, I have to pass the threshold of pain and then I don’t feel it anymore.” It is unknown whether or not Donovan intends to start Young for the first time in three games on Thursday at Ole Miss.

2 » Gators redshirt freshman defensive tackle Leon Orr, who received a written arrest on Jan. 10 and was given a notice to appear in court for misdemeanor possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, has agreed to deferred prosecution with the State Attorney’s Office, according to Florida Today. As a result of the agreement, Orr will pay $50 in court costs and either an additional $150 fine or perform 12.5 hours of community service. Orr was the fifth player to be charged with possession of marijuana since head coach Will Muschamp took over in Jan. 2011. “At the end of the day a mistake was made, and I’ve learned from it,” he tweeted on Jan. 19. Orr played in all 13 games in 2011, registering 10 tackles, a sack and a pass defense.

3 » There is not much to talk about in regards to Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford now that he is out at least until the end of April with a torn labrum. However, ESPN’s Marc Stein dropped an interesting note about Horford in his Friday column, explaining that he is “a likely down-the-road top contender to succeed” Los Angeles Lakers’ point guard Derek Fisher as president of the players’ union two years from now when the latter’s contract expires. Known for his personable yet serious character, Horford is already heavily involved with the league serving as one of the NBA’s biggest international ambassadors. A shift into a role like this would seem natural to many who know him, and Horford himself even tweeted “Maybe…” when a fan asked if he was up for the gig on Jan. 22.

4 » Media shy New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes got on the phone with WEEI radio in Boston, MA following his team’s victory in the AFC Championship game on Sunday. Spikes told the hosts that the win was “a dream come true, a childhood dream” and he was “just trying to take it all in right now and enjoy it tonight with my teammates and family.” Missing the majority of the season with a knee injury, Spikes was proud that his late-game interception was able to impact the team. “I don’t want to let nobody down. I want to take my responsibilities and just make a play, and I’ve done that,” he said. There are plenty of Spikes fans in the Patriots organization including owner Robert Kraft, who took the phone and discussed Spikes during the segment (which can be heard in full here). “Do you know how lucky we are to have Brandon Spikes on the team? He’s the man; he’s the man. He told me we were going to win that game and when he made that interception that was so cool,” Kraft beamed. “He told me he was going to do it for Myra [Kraft’s deceased wife]. […] I love having this man on our team.”

5 » Donovan has been quite pleased with guards junior Kenny Boynton and freshman Bradley Beal all year long, even as the youngster was going through a tough slump toward the end of the non-conference slate. In regards to Boynton, Donovan has seen the notiable improvement in his shot and knows that it will continue to progress and not regress as the season goes on. He’s also pleased that Boynton is driving to the basket, taking pull-up jumpers and getting to the free throw line on a more consistent basis. With Beal, Donovan is happy to see that he has continued his quick maturing process. “When you’re a talented offensive player and when you’re on the court, a lot of times your scoring has a direct [correlation on] the outcome of the game when you’re in high school and your team needs you to score,” he explained. “Sometimes your identity gets wrapped up in scoring. He’s starting to figure out right now that there’s so much more he can do.”

6 » The University of Florida and Gator Boosters, Inc. announced Monday that outfielder Kelsey Bruder (softball) and catcher Mike Zunino (baseball) have been named the 2011 Ben Hill Griffin Award winners. The honor, which is given to “the top male and female student-athletes…is based primarily on athletic achievement” but academics and extra-curricular activities are also considered. Bruder and Zunino were each named SEC Player of the Year in 2011 and led their teams to the 2011 NCAA College World Series in their respective sports. It was the first time in school history that Florida had SEC Players of the Year in softball and baseball simultaneously.

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Billy Donovan says SEC schedule needs balance

When the Southeastern Conference signed a new television deal with ESPN in 2008, the network requested that the league adopt a scheduling format in which conference games were mostly played on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday so as many contests as possible could be aired on ESPN‘s array of channels.

Though commissioner Mike Slive received approval from the SEC’s coaches to adjust the schedule and make the deal, the league has found and continued to do its best to work out kinks in the scheduling ever since.

During No. 13/14 Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan‘s press conference on Monday, he spoke at length (nearly nine full minutes) about one major flaw in the schedule – teams being forced to play late games on Thursday and early games on Saturday. This type of scheduling, he argues, provides the players with little (if any) time to rest and the coaches with even less time to put a solid game plan in place.

Florida is set to face Ole Miss Thursday at 7 p.m. on the road before turning around and returning home to take on No. 16/18 Mississippi State on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Donovan’s complete thoughts on the issue and how he believes it makes the SEC schedule unbalanced for some of the teams in the league is available…after the break.

Continue Reading » Billy Donovan says SEC schedule needs balance

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Florida Gators continue to rise in top 25 polls

The 11th editions of the 2011-12 regular season USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls were released on Monday, and the Kentucky Wildcats (19-1, 5-0 SEC) took over the No. 1 spot in both rankings, receiving the vast majority of votes to be the new top team in the country.

The Florida Gators rose a few spots to No. 13 and No. 14 in the respective polls on the heels of a victory at home against LSU following their bye week. Florida is one of three Southeastern Conference teams listed in both rankings.

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)-
4L(OT) 65-66 vs. Georgetown
W 56-47 vs. UAB
L 64-75 vs. North Carolina
3-3NR (40)No. 24 (60)-

USA TODAY/ESPN COACHES POLL
This Week 1-5: Kentucky (31), Missouri, Ohio State, Syracuse, Kansas
6-10: Duke, Baylor, North Carolina, Murray State, Georgetown
11-15: Michigan State, San Diego State, Florida, Creighton, UNLV
16-20: Mississippi State, Indiana, Marquette, Connecticut, St. Mary’s
21-25: Virginia, Michigan, Harvad, Kansas State, Louisville/Wisconsin

Last Week 1-5: Syracuse (31), Kentucky, Baylor, Duke, Missouri
6-10: Ohio State, Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State, Murray State
11-15: Connecticut, Georgetown, Indiana, Florida, Mississippi State
16-20: San Diego State, Virginia, Creighton, Michigan, UNLV
21-25: Louisville, Marquette, Saint Mary’s, Harvard, Illinois

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
This Week 1-5: Kentucky (61), Missouri (2), Syracuse (2), Ohio State, Kansas
6-10: Baylor, North Carolina, Duke, Georgetown, Michigan State
11-15: Murray State, UNLV, San Diego State, Florida, Creighton
16-20: Indiana, Marquette, Mississippi State, Virginia, Michigan
21-25: St. Mary’s, Kansas State, Florida State, Connecticut, Wisconsin

Last Week 1-5: Syracuse (60), Kentucky (4), Baylor (1), Duke, Missouri
6-10: Ohio State, Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State, Georgetown
11-15: Indiana, Murray State, Connecticut, UNLV, Virginia
16-20: San Diego State, Florida, Mississippi State, Creighton, Michigan
21-25: Marquette, Illinois, Louisville, Saint Mary’s, Kansas State

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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1/21: Florida vs. LSU post-game news and notes

The No. 14/17 Florida Gators earned another solid victory on Saturday by defeating the LSU Tigers 76-64 at home in Gainesville, FL. With sophomore center Patric Young (ankle) again out of the starting lineup and Florida set for two games in three days next week, head coach Billy Donovan had plenty to talk about after the win.

YOUNG GETTING BACK INTO THE GROOVE

Now having been held out of the starting lineup for consecutive games, Young is obviously anxious to get back to the spot he earned in the offseason. However, due to the fact that he missed plenty of practice over the bye week and is still experiencing some discomfort with his ankle tendinitis, Young came off the bench again on Saturday.

Donovan said after the game that one additional benefit of bringing Young in as a reserve is that it bucks his tendency to leave him in the game too long. He explained that he has previously been keeping Young on the court for long stretches and noticed that his energy level can go down a bit.

For Donovan, Young’s energy is more important than his offense. Saturday’s performance, in which Young was all over the court defensively and when shots went off the glass, is proof that thought holds some merit.

“Forget about the offense, I think there’s so much talked about him getting the ball and not getting the ball. It really doesn’t make a difference because right now our team is an efficient offensive team,” Donovan said. “We do have a balance. The thing that Patric brings to our team is when he plays at an incredible emotional level it opens up so many different things for our team.

“When he is running the floor as hard as he can and he is posting up, it draws so much attention that it opens so many things up on the perimeter. And when they try to shut down the perimeter, you can throw the ball inside to him.”

Once Young returns to the starting lineup, which could be as soon as Thursday in a road game against Ole Miss, Donovan may still reduce his minutes not only to help his ankle but also to assist in keeping his energy on full throttle.

“Right now he says he feels fine. Whether or not it will be prolonged or continue, I don’t know,” he said of Young and his ankle injury. “I just didn’t think [with him missing so much practice] it warranted him starting.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on what Florida can learn from the victory: “They’re eager to learn. They’re good guys. But the basketball IQ and the basketball experience for some of them needs to get better. Hopefully through experience they can get better. There are some things that we can learn from this game [like] making decisions and things that allow team to go on a run, how you yourself can break your own momentum.”

» Donovan on if practices have been much more difficult recently: “I’m working them hard. We are a great group of kids that sometimes get a little too easy going. We need to have a little more fire, a little more passion, and I think that probably needs to come from me as a coach.”

» Donovan on junior guard Kenny Boynton’s 34-game streak with a three-pointer ending: “I don’t even know if Kenny realized it during the game. I didn’t realize it.”

» Senior point guard Erving Walker on winning without hitting threes: “We believe we can win these games when we’re not shooting well. Maybe [the media] didn’t, but we thought we could.”

» Freshman G Bradley Beal on Donovan’s lessons in practice working in games: “He’s not one of the best coaches for no reason. He knows what he’s talking about. We just have to bear down and just listen to what he’s saying and buy in to everything he’s saying.”

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