Cody Larson contrite, apologetic after sentencing

Incoming Florida Gators 2010 three-star power forward commitment Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD) spoke about his recent legal ordeal with The Argus Leader on Saturday, one day before receiving his high school diploma and one day after being sentenced to 120 days suspended jail time and two years probation in a Minnehaha County court. He will also volunteer three days a week until he leaves for Gainesville, FL.

Larson who, according to court documents, was found with Hydrocodone (pain killer) in his home during an investigation into extensive prescription drug abuse at Roosevelt High School, was charged with a misdemeanor for being in a room where it was known that drugs were stored and utilized. He accepted a plea deal Friday, avoiding a trial and potentially the maximum allowable punishment of a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Should he stay out of trouble for two years, he will never have to enter a jail cell – and Florida head coach Billy Donovan believes that he will successfully avoid just that.

“Cody and his family were very upfront about the situation,” Donovan told the Leader on a separate occasion. “When we first got in touch with him after he got his release from Iowa, we didn’t know any of this. He brought it to our attention and made it clear that he was ready to learn from it and move on. This is a young man who made a mistake that he’s paying for. I think he’s embarrassed, and I think there was naiveness on his part about what he was getting into.”

Nevertheless, Larson’s qualifying for admission to the University of Florida was far from a decision that Donovan could make on his own.

“Anytime something like this happens, where an athlete is brought up on charges, it’s not just my decision,” Donovan said. “It goes through the athletic department and our compliance person, and it’s a matter of getting more information. Our school felt like the situation was not as severe as some people thought it was going to be. Based on the information we had, we decided that we would definitely recruit Cody and offer him a scholarship.”

Below are portions of a lengthy and informative interview Lasron did with the Leader. He speaks about why he took and shared the pills, why he decided to join the Gators and how he has changed as a person…after the break.

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TWO BITS: Driskel’s adjustments, Foley on Meyer

1 » As he finishes his junior baseball season and gets ready for his senior year of football at Hagerty High School, four-star 2011 Florida Gators quarterback commitment Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) knows the comparisons to Denver Broncos signal caller Tim Tebow will be coming sooner than later. “I’d love to continue the standards he set on the field and off the field,” Driskel told ESPN. “But at the same time, I have to make my own impact and be my own person.” Driskel is also aware that extra attention will be paid to him throughout the upcoming season due to his commitment to Florida. “Whenever you are linked to the football program at the University of Florida, all eyes are going to be on you,” he said. “I know there will be people that have never seen me play [who will] develop a new interest in us and how well we play this season.” Driskel is receiving plenty of praise and support from his coaches who realize that he will be a good fit with the Gators. “I had visited a few schools but every time I went to Florida it felt right,” Driskel admitted. “I wanted to be in the SEC because that’s where the best football in the country is played. Florida is competing for national titles every year and they run an offense suited around the quarterback. I love everything about that program.”

2 » Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley was in Jacksonville, FL, on Wednesday night, speaking to a bunch of fans at the Jax Beach Gator Club’s annual Gator Gathering. WJXX ABC 25 was on hand to cover the event, where Foley spoke about head coach Urban Meyer, redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley and a number of other topics.

On Meyer: “He’s doing well. He’s really doing well. He’s worked very hard – worked on some things that will help him be a better coach in terms of obligation. Very excited about the upcoming year. I can see the energy back. I can see the color in his face back.”

On Brantley: “I think his a heck of a talent. I know what our coaches think about him. I know how hard he’s worked. I know how hard he’s worked this spring. Johnny Brantley is a quality kid, a quality quarterback. Does he have the same reps as Tim Tebow? No. Will there be a learning curve for him? Certainly, but I think he’s got a chance to be a big time player. We’re very excited about Johnny Brantley.”

On Florida-Georgia: “It’s a tradition that’s second-to-none, in my opinion, in college football. Probably similar to Texas-Oklahoma. It’s as good as football stadium in the country, and we do have a contract. There’s a few Is to be dotted a few Ts to be crossed. I think that thing will be signed before next fall, and keep it here for another seven years and that certainly excites us all in Gainesville.”

Photo Credit: ESPN

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FOUR BITS: Rivers, Pouncey, baseball, Dixon

1 » Five-star 2011 guard recruit Austin Rivers decommitted from the Florida Gators on April 8 and named the Duke Blue Devils his new leader a month later on May 5. He went in-depth on why he made this decision just a week ago, but now his AAU coach – Therion Joseph of Each 1 Teach 1 – is adding some fuel to the movement away from Florida and to Duke. “Florida is obviously a very good program but basketball is just one of their sports,” Joseph told Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog. “Duke sells out every game and Florida is fighting to get half their students there. He likes to play with a bulls-eye on his back. He plays better with a bulls-eye. He wants to play at a school that is on ESPN every day, kind of like Notre Dame in football.” Once Rivers decommmitted, OGGOA believed he was all but gone from the Gators for good – now it is looking like they may even be falling out of his top five. To Joseph’s credit, attendance last year was embarassing.

2 » New Pittsburgh Steelers center/guard Maurkice Pouncey sat down with WTAE ABC 4 in Pittsburgh, PA, to discuss his transition to the NFL “This team here is just like college – family here, there aren’t any individuals,” Pouncey said. “Everybody pulls together, so it kind of feels like Florida.” Obviously he is looking forward to getting on the field and competing, but Pouncey is also anxiously awaiting one more perk of playing in the NFL. “Oh man, I can’t wait for that first paycheck, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I’m kind of living the college life still with no money, but whenever that first paycheck comes in, it will be amazing.” You can watch the entire interview by clicking here.

3 » No. 4/5 Florida baseball (38-12, 20-7 SEC) and the No. 6/7 South Carolina Gamecocks (42-11, 20-7 SEC) begin a three-game series on Thursday that will ultimately decide the Southeastern Conference’s 2010 regular season champion. Tied atop the standings, the weekend road series’ pitching match-ups are as follows: Thursday – sophomore Alex Panteliodis (8-2, 3.34 ERA) vs. senior Blake Cooper (10-0, 3.01 ERA); Friday – freshman Hudson Randall (6-3, 2.96 ERA) vs. junior Sam Dyson (5-4, 3.79 ERA); Saturday – freshman Brian Johnson (5-2, 3.53 ERA) vs. TBA. The Gators have won eight of their last nine conference series and are 10-time conference champions (last in 2005). Saturday’s game – perhaps the decider – will air live on Sun Sports at 4:00 p.m.

4 » Former Florida assistant basketball coach Nate Dixon, who was a member of head coach Billy Donovan’s Gators staff from 2003-05, has been hired by the Wyoming Cowboys to a similar assistant position.

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FOUR BITS: Baseball tops UNF, Wilbekin signs

1 » Tuesday evening was all about freshman first baseman Austin Maddox. Going 4-4 with five RBI and a two-run home run, Maddox powered No. 4/5 Florida Gators baseball (38-12) to a 9-3 win over the North Florida Ospreys (29-23) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Maddox’ 17th blast of the season set a new Florida freshman single-season record while also giving him the team lead in homers. Making his first start since having facial surgery, sophomore starter Tommy Toledo (3-1) collected the win in only two innings of work. Tuesday’s victory marked the Gators’ 12th in their last 13 games and fifth in a row. Tied atop the Southeastern Conference standings with South Carolina, Florida travels to Columbia, SC, on Thursday for a three-game series to determine the regular season champion. The Gators must win two of three games as they would otherwise lose the tiebreaker due to their greater number of canceled SEC games due to inclimate weather.

Four more BITS on Wilbekin, Tebow, Haden and Donovan…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Baseball tops UNF, Wilbekin signs

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TWO BITS: Tebow=Elway? Young=Horford/Noah?

1 » Columnist Woody Paige of The Denver Post has taken to calling former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow the Denver Broncos’ next John Elway. You know, the nine-time Pro Bowler who happens to be the best quarterback in the franchise’s history. Colleague Dave Krieger takes issue with Paige’s praise asking, “Seriously, can we just stop? […] Tebow is no Elway. And we will do him and everybody else a favor if we kick the habit of pretending he is.” Read the rest of what Krieger had to say in the Post. For a little more on Tebow’s progress, you can check out this video update from NFL Network.

2 » The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway put together a nice piece on incoming four-star 2010 power forward commitment Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL). Sure to be a defensive-minded presence for the Gators next season, Young knows what it takes to make an impact. “You can always be selfish on defense,” Young said. “No one is going to complain if you are getting too many rebounds and keep running the floor and that’s primarily what I do. So I’m just going to come out there and play a big role and do whatever I can to help the team.” Even head coach Billy Donovan has taken to comparing him to two former Florida stars – the Atlanta Hawks’ Al Horford and Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah. “[Young] is a very physical, high-energy, likes-contact guy,” Donovan said. Check out the Sun’s article for more from Young and Donovan.

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TWO BITS: Profiling Wilbekin, Vargas’ transfer

1 » Three-star point guard commitment Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL), who is leaving The Rock School a year early as a junior to join the Florida Gators‘ 2010 recruiting class, remains a mystery to many fans who are curious as to what he can bring to the program right away. Reggie Rankin, who covers basketball recruiting for ESPN caught a glimpse of Wilbekin at the second session of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) and came away impressed. “[Wilbekin] has added about 25 pounds and his confidence and swagger on the court is tremendous,” Rankin wrote. “He may not be a star for the Gators, but he will provide them with a lead guard that possess a high basketball IQ, can run the team, get others involved and makes open shots. He also is an excellent defender that is alert in the passing lanes. He will provide Billy Donovan with a steady hand at the point position. […] It is great to see a kid have these options not only because he is a good kid and player, but most importantly a good student.”

Wilbekin’s school also went ahead and published a video with his coaches profiling his game and some of his accomplishments. (h/t Orlando Sentinel)

2 » Speaking of Florida basketball and its recruiting, former four-star 2008 commitment center Eloy Vargas has transferred for the second time in as many eligible seasons. This time, Vargas is leaving Miami Dade College for none other than head coach John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats. Vargas averaged 25 points and 15 rebounds last season and hopes to make a quick transition back to the Southeastern Conference.

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Wilbekin says Allen gave up scholarship for him

The Florida Gatorsnewest 2010 basketball commitment, The Rock School junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL), told Florida Today on Thursday that Florida redshirt sophomore forward Adam Allen plans to give up his athletic scholarship in order to open up a spot on the team for him next season.

Wilbekin said Thursday night that backup forward Adam Allen is giving up his scholarship so the Gators could sign him. Allen qualifies for a Bright Futures scholarship to pay for his education.

By giving up his basketball scholarship, Allen allows Wilbekin to be signed while still having the chance to rejoin the team for the 2010-11 season as a walk-on with his education being covered by the state of Florida. He could also choose to retire due to chronic knee problems that have plagued him since he arrived in Gainesville.

If what Wilbekin says is true, the Gators are now only one scholarship over the NCAA’s limit of 13 due to their six-player signing class. Most expect freshman point guard Rod Tishman’s spot on the team to open up one way or another.

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2011 PG recruit Scottie Wilbekin to join Gators

Florida Gators basketball has added the final piece to its 2010 recruiting class, one which will give the team and head coach Billy Donovan a drastically different look next season. Confirming a story OGGOA first posted on April 21, the Orlando Sentinel and The Gainesville Sun are reporting that three-star 2011 point guard recruit Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL) has committed and will officially sign with the University of Florida next week.

Though Wilbekin is only a high school junior, he has excellent grades and enough credits to graduate early in order to be eligible for admission to UF as a member of the basketball team’s 2010 recruiting class. He has already completed his standardized tests, is set to receive clearance from the NCAA and plans to sign his National Letter of Intent at The Rock School on Tuesday.

“At first I was hesitant to give up my senior year,” Wilbekin told Florida Today. “[My coaches and parents] reassured me and I’m looking forward to being a Gator next year.”

Now the sixth scholarship player brought in for 2010, Wilbekin will join four-star forwards Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) and Casey Prather (Jackson, TN), three-stars Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD) and Will Yeguete (Melbourne, FL) and Rutgers transfer guard Mike Rosario (Jersey City, NJ), who will not be eligible to play until 2011-12.

In order to sign six recruits to scholarships, further changes must be made inside the Florida program – especially after junior forward Alex Tyus removed his name from the 2010 NBA Draft and decided to return to school for his senior season.

Jim McKenzie, The Rock’s vice president, told the Sentinel that UF has already set aside a scholarship for Wilbekin, meaning the future of two players has already been decided.

Sophomore guard Ray Shipman has chosen to transfer, but the Gators still must clear two more scholarships to get them to the NCAA-mandated maximum of 13. The most likely candidates to be taken off scholarship are freshman point guard Rod Tisman (who would remain in Irasel or transfer) and redshirt sophomore forward Adam Allen (who would retire and be granted a medical hardship or transfer).

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