Chandler Parsons talks Gators basketball

With Florida Gators basketball season approaching, OGGOA sat down with forward Chandler Parsons to discuss the team heading into the 2011-12 season. We spoke with Parsons while he was overseas in France playing with Cholet Basket of the Ligue Nationale de Basketball – the top men’s French professional basketball league.

Parsons was signed through Oct. 31 and has since returned to the United States as he waits for the NBA lockout to come to a conclusion. When it does, he will suit up for the Houston Rockets, which selected him with the No. 38 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Fans have not gotten the chance to see Mike Rosario play in a Gators uniform yet. What was it like to go against Rosario in practice, how talented do you think he is and how will he fit in with Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker?
CHANDLER PARSONS: “Mike Rosario is going to be a fun player for fans to watch. Last year in practice he really pushed the starting five and can really shoot the ball. He’s one of the best shooters I’ve seen and will play well off Erv and K.B. He’ll ensure that his defender doesn’t help because the way he can shoot the ball gives Florida more ability to get in the lane and create. If his defender helps, he will knock down the open shot and give them many assist possibilities.

AS: Same question in regards to Cody Larson. What did you see from him in practice and what can he bring to the team?
CP: “Cody is a big body who can rebound and run the floor and step out and knock down jumpers. 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 if he earns the opportunity.

AS: With yourself, Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin all having graduated, Florida is obviously lacking the experience inside that the team has had for the last few years. In what areas do you think Patric Young needs to improve in from the start in order to step up and be a consistent presence for the team?
CP: “Pat is an absolute monster. Watching him work out 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. He’s going to have to play big all year long and lead the way rebounding with me, Alex and Vernon gone. 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.”

AS: Obviously Erik Murphy is going to start as a forward, but he was also working on his perimeter game a bit last year. Who do you see stepping up and being the No. 2 “big man” presence for the Gators?
CP: “All the other bigs have potential and can help them out in different ways. I heard Erik had a great summer and looked a lot bigger than the last time I saw him. He can really shoot it for his size and can space the floor, too. The same goes for Walter [Pitchford]. With those guys having the ability to shoot the three, they could really cause problems. Will [Yeguete] and Cody can also help out rebounding and providing us with another big body to throw at you. Everyone knows our guards can score, so our bigs have to rebound, block shots and just play physical for however long there in the game.”

AS: Knowing Billy Donovan as you do, how often do you think Florida might play with four guards? Do you think he’ll be using any different offensive/defensive principles with a smaller lineup?
CP: “I could definitely see them going four guards depending on who they’re playing, but I don’t see them starting that way. Our guards are going to have to really help out rebounding when we go small, especially Brad [Beal] and Casey [Prather]. Whatever coach does, the guys just have the understand it doesn’t matter who starts, it matters whose on the floor at the end of the game. With this team, it could be anybody’s night on any given night. As long as they stay together and play unselfish, they could be special.”

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Hilliard, soccer, Wambach, drugs

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Ike Hilliard (1994-96) was announced Thursday by the Southeastern Conference as a member of its 2011 Football Legends Class. Hilliard and 11 other former players will be honored during the SEC “Weekend of Champions,” which culminates with the SEC Championship on Dec. 3.

Ike Hilliard finished his college career with 126 catches, which is seventh-best in UF history, for 2,214 yards, fourth-best in school history, and 29 TDs, third-best total in SEC history. He tallied a TD/catch ratio of 4.34 (29TDs/126 catches) which ranks second in Gator history. He was named a first-team All-SEC selection and an All-American as a senior in 1996. Hilliard was selected in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the New York Giants, Hilliard went on to play 12 NFL seasons, recording 546 career receptions for 6,397 yards and 35 TDs. The Patterson, La. Native, played his first eight seasons with the Giants and finished his NFL playing career playing four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a “Gator Great” in 2009.

2 » No. 23 Florida soccer (15-6, 7-4 SEC) took its first step toward making up for a disappointing finale to their regular season with a 2-0 win over the Georgia Bulldogs (12-6, 6-3-2 SEC) in the opening round of the 2011 SEC Tournament on Wednesday. Senior midfielder/forward Tahnai Annis scored both of the Gators’ goals, one at 26’ and another at 45’. Florida advances to face Alabama on Friday for an opportunity to advance to the event’s finals.

3 » Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mahr is touting former Gators striker Abby Wambach as his pick for Sportsman of the Year, an honor that SI will announce on Dec. 6. In this piece, Mahr refers to her as a “soccer luminary” and one of the “most prolific scorers in U.S. history.” He even says her header in the quarterfinals against Brazil was “arguably more enthralling” than Landon Donovan’s last-second goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup and notes that her other big-time headers against France and Japan propelled the United States to the finals and gave them a chance to win the whole thing. Mahr makes a strong argument for Wambach to win the award but with so much competition she may have a rough time ranking above the other nominated athletes.

4 » Tackling the drug policies of most major college football programs, CBS Sports’ Brett McMurphy submitted public records requests to each school (or looked up an institution’s policy on its own website) and compiled this list. Florida falls in line with many programs nationally and hold separate policies for marijuana and other drugs.

Florida: For marijuana/synthetic marijuana: (1) none; (2) 10 percent of games; (3) 20 percent of games; (4) dismissal. For all other drugs: (1) 50 percent of games; (2) dismissal.

Extra BIT » Former Gators basketball star Craig Brown will return this year as a permanent broadcaster for the Gator Basketball Radio Network. Brown, who is famous for being a part of Florida’s run to the Final Four in the 1994 NCAA Tournament and retiring as the team’s all-time leader in three-pointers, will provide color commentary alongside play-by-play man Mick Hubert this season, a role he held on occasion one year ago.

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FOUR BITS: Bruder, Pouncey, Tebow, Herren

1 » The NCAA announced Tuesday that former Florida Gators outfielder Kelsey Bruder will be honored with the NCAA Top VIII Award, a distinction that recognizes student-athletes for “their success on the fields and courts, in the classroom and in the community.” Bruder and the other recipients will be recognized on Jan. 13 during the NCAA Convention in Indianapolis, IN. Below is the NCAA’s write-up on Bruder:

Kelsey Bruder helped lead the Gators to four consecutive Women’s College World Series appearances, including two appearances in the national championship series. She was named to the 2011 Women’s College World Series all-tournament team and set a Women’s College World Series record for runs scored. Bruder, who received the 2011 Honda Award for softball, was also the 2011 SEC Player of the Year and a two-time All-American. In 2011, Bruder led the SEC in runs, doubles, slugging percentage, hits and RBI, and she was tied for first in home runs. In all, she set eight SEC records. Bruder completed her collegiate career with 15 school single-season records and nine single-game marks. Bruder was a 2011 Capital One Academic All-America honoree and was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll three times. She participated in Shands Hospital visits, fundraising events and volunteered at an after school program. After her successful 2011 season, Bruder was the fifth overall pick in the 2011 National Pro Fastpitch Senior Draft to the USSSA Florida Pride.

2 » Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey injured his neck on Sunday against the New York Giants and was forced to sit out the second half because he felt tingling up and down his body and tests had to be done on the injury before he could return to play. Pouncey underwent a MRI on Monday and it was found that no significant damage occurred, the Sun-Sentinel reports. That being said, Pouncey may still miss next Sunday’s game depending how he feels and how much he is able to do practice-wise this week. Pouncey has been a rookie starter at center in every game his team has played.

3 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow turned in the worst performance of his NFL career on Sunday, completing 18-of-39 passes for 172 yards with a touchdown and two turnovers (both returned for touchdowns) as his team fell 45-10 to the Detroit Lions. Though it was only Tebow’s second start of the season and fifth of his career (he is now 2-3 with two come-from-behind victories), he has been panned by the media and former players over the last 48 hours. Head coach John Fox said Monday that Tebow will once again start this Sunday but did not provide an endorsement going forward after that game. Perhaps the team running plays better suited to Tebow’s style would allow both him and the Broncos to perform better on the field.

4 » Former NBA point guard Chris Herren will be featured Tuesday in the ESPN Films documentary “Unguarded,” but the Florida basketball team already knows his story. Herren spoke to the Gators basketball team in August about his life’s journey and his problems with addiction, as OGGOA noted on Twitter two months ago. The Gainesville Sun reported Monday that Herren also personally mentored Florida junior forward Erik Murphy over the summer at the request of the player’s father. Murphy, who was arrested in April for allegedly trying to break into a car, was indefinitely suspended from the team at the time but doing his best to settle his legal battle and earn his spot on the roster back. “I told Erik, if that’s the worst mistake that he makes than he’s lived a pretty good life,” Herren told the Sun. “If he can turn this mistake around and use it for a positive, and I think Erik will, he will be great. Erik, I care about as a person more than a basketball player and I think he will handle this and learn from it.

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FOUR BITS: scrimmage, Sheppard, soccer

1 » Those who follow us on Twitter saw a retweet from CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman Monday morning noting that the Florida Gators basketball team held a “secret” scrimmage against the Central Florida Knights over the weekend. OGGOA inquired about the scrimmage and learned that Florida head coach Billy Donovan was pleased with his team’s effort following the game. The Gators’ starting five consisted of senior point guard Erving Walker, guards junior Kenny Boynton and freshman Brad Beal, junior forward Erik Murphy and sophomore center Patric Young.

Beal, as noted by Goodman, was the standout performer in the scrimmage, but redshirt junior transfer G Mike Rosario also played quite well. Florida earned a double-digit “victory” at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, a nice prelude to their exhibition game against Catholic University on Thursday.

2 » Eight full weeks into the 2011 NFL season, former Gators cornerback Lito Sheppard was finally signed by a team. The Oakland Raiders picked up Sheppard, who they cut just before the season after signing him as a free agent, on Monday and hope to have him ready to play as soon as this upcoming weekend. Sheppard was one of three notable ex-Florida veterans available on the free agent market. Defensive ends Alex Brown and Bobby McCray remain unsigned.

3 » Every year, the Gators women’s soccer team holds a special practice on Halloween with all of the players going through the motions in full costume. The annual tradition gives the team a boost each year before they begin playing in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. Florida had an opportunity this past weekend to earn a share of the 2011 SEC regular season title but failed to do so dropping a 2-1 decision to the SEC champion South Carolina Gamecocks. SEC Tournament action begins Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. when UF faces Georgia in Orange Beach, AL.

4 » The Gators soccer team received good news Monday when the SEC announced its women’s soccer awards. Junior midfielder/forward Erika Tymrak and redshirt junior defender Kathryn Williamson were named to the All-SEC first team, while senior D Jazmyne Avant and junior MF Holly King garnered second-team honors. Florida also had two picked as All-Freshman – MFs Havana Solaun and Annie Speese.

Extra BIT » Below is the Thriller video put together by a number of UF student-athletes for Gator Growl in 2009. Happy Halloween!

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NCAA’s newest rule changes just a small step

The NCAA on Thursday announced that its Board of Directors has approved a variety of sweeping rule changes that improve academic standards, provide further support to student-athletes and revamp the basketball recruiting process.

“These changes demonstrate a remarkable resolve by presidents,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a press release. “They represent a return to and a focus on values that are at the core of what intercollegiate athletics are all about. They also represent a clear signal to the world about what we care about and what we stand for.”

ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE

The NCAA has mandated that the minimum Academic Progress Rate (APR) to participate in postseason activities for any given team will be raised to 930 from its previous level of 900. The implementation will take a few years, but the NCAA set up a three-level penalty structure including loss of practice time and postseason suspension, coaching suspension and financial aid reductions

Furthering this goal, the Board of Directors also decided that junior college transfers that hope to join a four-year institution must have a 2.5 grade-point average instead of the 2.0 previously required and must meet a number of other qualifications as well. They also created an academic redshirt for first-year students to receive aid and practice but not compete if they are not immediately eligible.

SUPPORTING STUDENT-ATHLETES

Another piece of legislation was passed that effectively gives student-athletes on full scholarships with or without additional financial aid the ability to receive up to $2,000 in additional monies in order to cover the full cost of attendance for their university. It is one small step the NCAA is taking to try and ensure that student-athletes are able to receive enough financial aid.

“It’s not going to deter rule-breakers but should help out kids who don’t have enough to pay a bill or two,’ CBSSports.com‘s Bryan Fischer told OGGOA on Thursday. “If players or agents or coaches want to break the rules, they’re still going to. This isn’t a deterrent so much as it is increasing the amount of aid to players.”

Another perhaps greater changed made by the NCAA was approving “multi-year grants up to the full term of eligibility” for student-athletes “though one-year grants will remain the minimum.” In other words, colleges can promise players four-year scholarships that cannot be reduced or cancelled for on-field reasons – only academic ones.

In addition to ensuring student-athletes receive an education and fulfill the “student” part of the name, the change may provide an advantage to smaller schools that could potential promise full grants while larger institutions may not be willing to offer as much.

“If a kid wants to play in the SEC or go to the NFL, he’s still going to go to places like Florida if they’re that caliber of athlete,” Fischer said. “I don’t think it will have as big an impact as people are making it out to be in sports like football because the vast majority of scholarships are renewed currently.

“It could give a small advantage to schools like Stanford or Vanderbilt who can tell parents they’re guaranteed a great degree. It might hurt depth at some schools. Multi-year scholarships could be huge in equivalency sports like baseball though.”

BASKETBALL RECRUITING

No longer will basketball coaches be restricted in the number of times they can call, text message or contact a potential recruit via social media. The NCAA is allowing unlimited contact between the two parties as long as that contact remains private; public messaging would violate the organization’s rule that schools cannot publicize their recruiting efforts.

This change has been adopted for a number of reasons but mostly because coaches and schools were often receiving secondary violations for what wound up being minor instances or perhaps even accidental contact.

“The most important change is that communication is much more deregulated,” Fischer said. “Coaches don’t have to worry about accidental texting or calling a recruit, and in many ways we’ll see who really wants to work on the recruiting trail.”

The NCAA also implemented new contact rules and earlier visits that, as Fischer explained, “move the rules more in line with what is actually happening.

Coaches are now allowed to contact student-athletes earlier in the recruiting cycle, and recruits can take official visits beginning Jan. 1 of their junior year of high school. Representatives of a university can also visit a recruit’s school during their junior year for evaluation purposes with some restrictions.

CONCLUSION AND OTHER RULE CHANGES

With these changes, the NCAA is proving that they have recognized the need to reform some facets of collegiate athletics and understand that changes have to be made going forward in order for the system to continue long-term.

Fischer thinks the commitment to reform is one that has a chance of lasting as long as the organization continues to take steps in the right direction.

“The takeaway from these reforms is that the Presidents and the NCAA are serious about making changes,” he said. “They know all about the negative press and the issues facing the organization and are committed to fixing things. It might not be the right avenue in some cases but at least they’ve gotten the message that it’s time to change.”

Additions to the changes written about above:

– Universities can provide financial aid to former student-athletes who want to return to college to complete their degrees even if their eligibility has been exhausted athletically.

– The July recruiting period in basketball will be three four-day periods that span from Wednesday evening to Sunday evening.

– The April recruiting period in basketball will be limited to “certified events that begin after 6 p.m. on Friday and before 4 p.m. on Sunday.” No contact may occur during the Final Four, standardized tests or over Easter weekend.

– Coaches can begin contacting junior-year student athletes beginning on June 15, 2012, while the rest of the provisions go into effect on Aug. 1, 2012.

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Gators basketball in top 10 of preseason polls

The preseason Associated Press Top 25 Poll was released Friday and, like the USA TODAY/ESPN Top 25 Coaches Poll announced last Thursday, has the North Carolina Tar Heels slotted as the overwhelming No. 1 team in the country with 62 of 65 first-place votes. North Carolina, which received 30 of 31 first-place votes in the USA TODAY/ESPN poll and returns all five starters from 2010, is one spot ahead of the Kentucky Wildcats.

Four Southeastern Conference teams made the respective polls including Kentucky [No. 2-USA, No. 2-AP], Vanderbilt [No. 7, No. 7], the Florida Gators [No. 10, No. 8] and Alabama [No. 17, No. 19].

The 2010-11 Gators were ranked No. 11 and No. 13 heading into last season, which saw them win the SEC and end the year with a record of 29-8 (13-3 SEC) that included an appearance in the Elite Eight round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

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
Preseason 1-5: UNC (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
Preseason 1-5: UNC (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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Brice Johnson spurns Florida for UNC

Recently thought to be favoring the Florida Gators, four-star power forward Brice Johnson (Cordova, SC) surprised some Wednesday morning by committing to play for the North Carolina Tar Heels in 2012.

Johnson, who visited Florida in early October and also had N.C. State and Clemson in his final four, is the No. 49 player nationally according to Rivals.

He is the second player in as many months to have the Gators in his final four but pass them over in order to play for another top program. Five-star point guard Kyle Anderson (Jersey City, NJ), picked UCLA over Florida in September.

The Gators already have three commitments for 2012 including four-stars PG Braxton Ogbueze (Charlotte, NC) and shooting guard Michael Frazier (Montverde, FL) as well as three-star SG Dillon Graham (Orlando, FL). Florida would like to add a frontcourt player before closing out the recruiting class.

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OGGOA Week In Review – Oct. 16-22

Now that the Florida Gators bye week is over, there is only one more order of business before resuming the normal weekly routine. OGGOA will be in attendance at the Miami Dolphins vs. Denver Broncos game on Sunday, a contest which will feature quarterback Tim Tebow starting for the first time this season as well as a Gator Day celebration honoring the 2008 national championship team.

There will be live updates from the game all day long via the @OnlyGators Twitter account, so be sure to follow us if you are not already.

In the meantime, be sure to check out all of the posts that have been written this week just in case you happened to miss a thing or two. And don’t forget to check back Sunday evening for a story on Gator Day and Tebow’s performance.

FOOTBALL
» Head coach Will Muschamp was slightly agitated (read: fuming mad) at the officials during last Saturday’s eventual 17-6 loss to Auburn. Here is some video of Muschamp’s outrage along with the apology he issued on Tuesday.

» Muschamp’s first update on redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley came on Tuesday, when he said that the player’s recovery was going well but he had not returned to practice yet. He discussed this issue again Wednesday during the SEC teleconference, with Muschamp reiterating that Brantley returning Monday is the goal.

» During his weekly media availability, Muschamp provided some injury updates, evaluated each position on the team, and spoke about his plan for the bye week as well as a number of other topics.

» A report from the Orlando Sentinel revealed that Gators freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson had been served a written arrest for underage drinking on Sept. 14.

» Each discussing the same topic this week, Muschamp and head basketball coach Billy Donovan agreed that learning how to win starts with being mentally prepared

» UF lost a verbal commitment from four-star linebacker Lorenzo Phillips, who decided to reopen his recruitment and wants to play college football closer to home.

BASKETBALL
» Florida basketball gave everyone a sneak peak at their new uniforms during media day when the players donned the away jerseys and shorts while doing interviews and posing for pictures. OGGOA learned that the Gators would also have new home uniforms as well as an orange alternate this season and had a graphic designer do some mockups of what the uniforms may look like. UF wound up releasing a few shots of the home uniform via the team’s Twitter account later that day (also on the post).

» Donovan had his second media availability of the season, during which he spoke about how freshmen guard Brad Beal and forward Walter Pitchford are works in progress, senior point guard Erving Walker’s unselfishness has been remarkable, sophomore center Patric Young is handling adversity better than expected, and much more.

» He also held a gathering on Thursday and noted that the team had a rough day of practice on Wednesday. Donovan spoke about building this team from the ground up, an injury suffered by junior F Erik Murphy and the team’s shooting ability so far in practice.

» The preseason USA TODAY/ESPN Top 25 Coaches Poll was released Thursday with Florida earning a No. 10 ranking.

INTERVIEWS / FORMER PLAYERS
» OGGOA published part three of our hour-long interview with Florida hall of fame defensive lineman Jack Youngblood, which featured an amazing story about him being held at gunpoint back when he was a player. You can also check out part one (Gators) and part two (NFL) of that interview.

» Having a chance to sit down and speak with former Gators running back and Dolphins wide receiver Nat Moore, OGGOA got the opportunity to ask about his playing career, off-the-field interests since retiring and how influential he was in setting up the special Gator Day celebration being held on Sunday. The full interview with Moore includes tons of great tidbits about his career and the special event.

» Former Florida QB Danny Wuerffel announced that his recovery from Guillain-Barre syndrome is going slower than originally anticipated and that it may take up to one more year until he is nearly symptom-free.

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