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 FOXSports.com, 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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New Florida basketball commit Cody Larson to make scheduled court appearance on Tuesday

One of the Florida Gators’ five incoming 2010 commitments, three-star power forward Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD), is facing a scheduled court appearance Tuesday for a misdemeanor drug charge dating back to February.

According to court documents, Larson was found with Hydrocodone (pain killer) in his home while the Sioux Falls Police Department was investigating extensive prescription drug abuse at Roosevelt High School.

Larson, 18, had injured his ankle in January and was suspended from the team after being charged with a misdemeanor for being in a room where it is known that drugs are stored and utilized. His teammate, Grant Wynia, 18, was charged with illegal use of the same prescription drug.

The Argus Leader reports that Larson’s charge can be punished with a year in jail, a $2,000 fine or a maximum of both. He is most likely looking at probation.

Larson’s commitment to the Gators came after his arrest, and the team’s coaches and administration knew about the issue before taking on the player, according to University of Florida assistant athletics director Fred Demarest.

“The [Larson] family was forthcoming and honest with us during the recruiting process, and the University of Florida was aware,” Demarest told Keoland TV on Monday.

UPDATE: Larson did not appear in Minnehaha County court on Tuesday but his lawyer, Dick Travis, was there representing him. According to the Leader, Larson’s motions are due June 1, he can make a plea deal up until June 15 and his trial is set for June 22.

Photo Credit: Des Moines Register

OGGOA: Three’s a charm: Cody Larson commits to Gators

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“Driskel or LeMay?” becomes Driskel vs. LeMay

One of the Florida Gators’ main goals with their 2011 recruiting class was to bring in a top-flight quarterback to eventually replace redshirt junior John Brantley as the next great University of Florida passer. For a while, there was a debate among Urban Meyer and the coaching staff about who would be the better fit: Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) or Christian LeMay (Matthews, NC). In the end, Driskel looked to be the chosen one (of course, LeMay’s perceived lack of interest helped that along).

The Gators’ search came to an end on April 19, when they gained a commitment from Driskel, who impressed Florida greatly at the Gainesville Nike Camp that same weekend. Though he originally planned to make his decision at some point over the summer, his budding relationship with quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler and desire to end the recruiting process led him to make an early commitment.

LeMay, on the other hand, had yet to decide where he would play college football beginning in 2011. That changed Friday, when he – alongside his parents (including former Gators chaplain Rev. Stacy LeMay) and friends – announced that he would be joining the Georgia Bulldogs next year.

Like Driskel, LeMay will enroll early. At 6’2” and 195 lbs., he is an inch shorter and 30 pounds lighter than Florida’s commit but has plenty of time to add some much-needed bulk before he dons the red and black.

Unlike Driskel, the competition in front of LeMay is a bit steeper. While the former will have three-star Trey Burton (Venice, FL) to beat out in 2012 (assuming Brantley sticks around), the latter will have to deal with four-star 2009 commitment and 2010 starter Aaron Murray (Tampa, FL), who will only be a redshirt freshman this year.

LeMay’s background with the Gators (his dad was wearing a UF shirt before his son’s announcement) and the duo’s future on opposite ends of one of the most storied rivalries in the Southeastern Conference should make for plenty of storylines and great head-to-head match-ups for years to come.

Photo Credits: ESPN, Tom Hauck/ESPN

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SIX BITS: Tennis, Tebow’s defense, Cunningham’s future, Mullen’s job, Johnson’s start, Moyer

1 » The No. 3 Florida Gators women’s tennis team was honored extensively by the Southeastern Conference on Wednesday, taking home the top three available annual awards. Freshman Lauren Embree won SEC Player of the Year, freshman Allie Will took home SEC Freshman of the Year honors and Roland Thornqvist was named SEC Coach of the Year. Also representing the team were seniors Marrit Boonstra and Anastasia Revzina, who were named to the All-SEC First Team and Second Team, respectively. Embree and Will also earned All-SEC First Team honors and placement on the SEC All-Freshman Team. Florida was undefeated (11-0) during the regular season, won the 2010 SEC Tournament and will compete in the 2010 NCAA Team Championship beginning May 14.

2 » When it comes to former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow’s future with the Denver Broncos, you will find no stronger advocate or staunch defender than Denver Post columnist Woody Paige. As someone who suggested the team select Tebow from the get-go, Paige has gone on the offensive against a number of his readers who continue to question head coach Josh McDaniels’ decision, comparing Tebow to the likes of John Elway and San Francisco’s Steve Young.

Check out four more BITS on Cunningham, Mullen and Florida baseball…
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Tennis, Tebow’s defense, Cunningham’s future, Mullen’s job, Johnson’s start, Moyer

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FOUR BITS: Leonard, Davis, Tebow’s party, SEC

1 » Florida Gators 2011 tight end commitment A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, FL) will be transferring to his second high school in as many years. According to The Florida Times-Union, the goal is for Leonard to improve his test scores in order qualify for admission to the University of Florida. “Academically he’s on the right track,” University Christian head coach Heath Nivens told the paper. “His grades are solid, but he’s got to get his test scores up. We’re going to help him with some of those things this summer, as far as an SAT prep class so that in July he’s in great shape to qualify.”

2 » Former Gators defensive tackle Torrey Davis, who played his final college season with the Jacksonville State Gamecocks after leaving Florida due to academic and off-the-field issues, has agreed to a free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers according to The Birmingham News. One of the nation’s top recruits in 2007, he is best known for making two exciting goal line tackles in the 2009 BCS National Championship game against Oklahoma. He will attempt to make the Buccaneers’ roster during mini camp workouts.

3 » Apparently a radio host in Boston, MA, named “Toucher” working for 98.5 The Sports Hub, after former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was selected by the Denver Broncos, said his family’s celebration “looked like some kind of Nazi rally … so lily-white is what I’m trying to say. Yeah, Stepford Wives.” As David Whitley of Fanhouse explains, it will be interesting to see whether or not CBS decides to take action against the host like it did against Don Imus for calling the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.” Take a look at Whitley’s thoughts and decide for yourself.

UPDATE: On Monday, “Toucher” apologized for his comments. “Anyone who listens to the show regularly knows that I am not the most articulate person in the world,” he said. “I apologize to you that were offended. You know, I just apologize, and I regret what I said.” CBS still has a decision to make…

4 » Though he told reporters that he has yet to speak with any universities in particular, Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive said Monday that his organization is discussing expansion internally. “Given the success we’ve experienced over the past decade, we are comfortable in the position in which we find ourselves,” Slive said. “Having said that, if there’s going to be a significant shift in the conference paradigm, the SEC will be strategic and thoughtful in order to maintain its position as one of the nation’s premiere conferences.” In other words, if the Big 10 chooses to expand to 16 teams, the SEC will do its darnedest to make sure they are not upstaged.

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Four commits in four days: Wilbekin to join Gators

The Florida Gators basketball team will have a drastically different look in 2010 as head coach Billy Donovan has acquired his fourth commitment in as many days. Florida Today is reporting that Donovan plans to sign three-star point guard Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL) to a 2010 basketball scholarship.

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 the University of Florida as a member of the basketball team’s 2010 recruiting class. Before he can do anything, he must complete standardized testing and receive clearance from the NCAA.

Wilbekin, who is quite familiar with the program, is very much a fall-back option for the Gators after the team failed to land two of the top point guards in the country in Brandon Knight (Fort Lauderdale, FL) and Ray McCallum (Detroit, MI).

They also lost out on three-star point guard Brandon Young (Baltimore, MD), who has decided to uphold his commitment to DePaul and enroll as a freshman.

Potentially the sixth scholarship player brought in for 2010, Wilbekin would join four-star forwards Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) and Casey Prather (Jackson, TN), three-stars Will Yeguete (Melbourne, FL) and Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD) 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 are likely abound inside the Florida program. Sophomore guard Ray Shipman has already decided to transfer, many believe freshman point guard Rod Tishman may return to Israel, redshirt sophomore forward Adam Allen could retire and junior forward Alex Tyus has submitted his name for evaluation for the 2010 NBA Draft. Florida would need two of either Tishman, Allen or Tyus to leave the program or else it would exceed its allotment of 13 scholarships.

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