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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Rivers on his decommitment, final five schools

In a special blog he wrote for, five-star 2011 guard Austin Rivers (Winter Park, FL) goes in-depth on the reasons he first committed to the Florida Gators, why he recently decommitted and what teams are still in the running for the services of perhaps the best player in the country.

“I committed to Florida way back when I was a freshman in high school,” Rivers wrote. “I felt it was somewhere I could play, develop my game and my style fit – they get up and down, play aggressive defense and shoot a lot of 3s. They let their guards play and it’s beautiful weather.”

That was how Rivers felt until he competed in front of “more than 40 coaches” including Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski at a summer event; it made him realize that he had never expanded his college basketball horizons outside of the state.

“It was tough for a while because I was committed to Florida, but I wasn’t completely committed – and I knew that,” he wrote. “I wanted to look at other schools, but I have so much respect for coach [Billy] Donovan and the program that I felt it was wrong to do that. But then I realized that this is my life and I only get one chance to make this decision – and I need to make the right one.”

Now the full court press is on for Rivers, with North Carolina, Kansas and – of course – Kentucky all vying for his services. He plans to take visits to all four schools (he’s seen Florida enough) but has not ruled out re-committing to the Gators.

“I still like Florida and am definitely still considering them among the five schools I’m thinking about right now,” he added.

Rivers plans to make a decision before the 2011 high school season begins.

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TWO BITS: Larson’s future, Johnson’s nomination

1 » Roosevelt High School head coach Lee Taylor, who has been teaching Florida Gators 2010 three-star forward commitment Cody Larson for the last few years, spoke with the Orlando Sentinel Tuesday afternoon about the player, calling him a “terrific human being.” Taylor told the Sentinel’s Jeremy Fowler that Larson is aware of his mistakes, has learned from them and takes the entire situation as a growing experience. “I think Cody understands this whole process will make Cody a better player and a better person,” Taylor said. “He’s a smart, terrific kid who does well in the classroom. Getting away and going to Florida will really help him move forward.” OGGOA’s Story

2 » Florida baseball’s left-handed starting pitcher and designated hitter Brian Johnson has been named to the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award watch list, according to the University of Florida. He is on one only 25 players to be recognized on the list and could receive it on July 2. Johnson, in his short career, is already a two-time SEC Freshman of the Week who is 4-2 with a 3.74 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 53 innings. In the batters box, he is hitting at a .385 clip with 10 RBI and a grand slam.

Extra Bit » Former Gators defensive end Bobby McCray, who won Super Bowl XLIV as a member of the New Orleans Saints, sat down for a wide-ranging interview with SportingNews. McCray touched on winning the big game, playing for defensive coordinator Gary Williams and what he would like to do when his NFL career is over.

Extra Bit II » Check out this video of Larson from one of his local news stations:

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