2/28: Donovan on SEC title, Grant, defense

No. 14/14 Florida Gators (22-6, 11-3 SEC) head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes following his press availabilities Monday.

IT’s ALL ABOUT THE ‘SHIP

Don’t get it twisted. While there are plenty of storylines that will converge Tuesday night in Gainesville, FL, the most important thing to both Florida and the Alabama Crimson Tide is the opportunity to capture the 2011 Southeastern Conference regular season title. It is something that the Gators have worked four years to be in the position to achieve, while the Crimson Tide has simply played terrific basketball in conference play after starting the season out shaky.

“Ultimately both teams are going to go out there and are going to have to play,” said Donovan of facing his ex-associate coach. “We both do similar things, there are some similarities there. But you’re always coaching to your personnel and what you have.”

Alabama head coach Anthony Grant shared a similar sentiment, also heavily complimenting Florida as a team and the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. “Florida’s playing terrific basketball right now. It will be a tough environment to walk into, in their building Tuesday,” he said. “The thing we try to do is stay in the moment. It’s one game at a time. We’ve got enough with Florida’s team. They’re very talented.”

Perhaps summing it up best from UF’s perspective is redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, who will play his final game in the building Tuesday. “I just want to come out of here with a win, our last win at home. It would be very rewarding,” he said. “I don’t know a player in college basketball who wouldn’t want [to win a conference title].”

PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP REMAINS STRONG

Donovan and Grant, both of whom became great friends while working together and have forged a bond that will last a lifetime, have not seen much of each other on the court since the latter left to become a head coach. However, the respect level they have for one another knows no bounds.

“I’m really happy for Anthony because he’s done a teriffic job with his team,” Donovan said early Monday during the SEC media teleconference. He continued praising Grant later in the day. “The personal relationship with Anthony, I’m very happy for him and the job that he’s done with his team. He really has done a terrific job.” Grant shared his thoughts as well. “Obviously I’ve got a lot of respect for what Billy’s done,” he said, “not only this year but the way his guys play [in general].”

PHYSICALITY, TOUGHNESS AND DEFENSE

The Gators have been lauded for the hard-nosed, grind-it-out defense they have exhibited game-in and game-out. In fact, many of Florida’s big victories this season have come from a thorough defensive effort. UF may meet its match Tuesday when it takes on UA, a team that has been holding opponents to fewer points per game (67.6-70.8) and lower shooting percentages (.452-.457). The Crimson Tide also block more shots per game (5.2-3.7), grab more steals (9.6-6.1) and force more turnovers (16.1-13.0).

“They’re a physical team. They do a great job defensively creating a lot of steals. They do a great job with their hands,” Donovan remarked. “Our ability to be strong with the ball is going to be really important in the game. They really don’t give up a lot of easy baskets so to speak. They have good speed, good quickness and athleticism [as well as] size across the front line. They’re just very active defensively and very athletic.”

This is a fact that has not been lost on the players, especially senior forward Chandler Parsons. “They’re one of the best defensive teams in the country. We’re going to have to execute our offense really well,” he said. “Coach Grant was in this system for a while, so I’m sure he knows some of the stuff we’re going to throw at him. It’s all about us being strong with the ball, making smart plays, not turning the ball over because they’re very disruptive on defense.”

FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Black, Hill, soccer commits

1 » Florida Gators center Mike Pouncey has heard the doubters, but he is steadfast in believing a few things: (1) he’s better than his brother, (2) staying another year at UF had a positive affect on him and (3) he will be drafted higher than No. 18 overall [where the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Maurkice Pouncey in 2010]. “I think I block in the open field better, but like I said, we’re the same player,” Mike quipped during the media session at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine. He also told CBS’s Len Pasquarelli that not being picked before his brother would cause him great anxiety. “I won’t sleep, man, if I don’t go higher than he did,” he said. “I mean, I came back to [the Gators] for a reason. It’s not like we have a bet or anything. He keeps saying, like, ‘OK, you can go 19th [overall]. That would really be good.’ But I want to be higher, if possible. That would be good, too.” Pouncey also discussed his early season struggles. “There was a lot of [focus] on the bad shotgun snaps at the beginning of the year,” he noted. “But things got a lot better as the year went on. And people were looking at one or two snaps out of the 70 that I played, and making a judgment on them. Scouts, they’re looking at all 70 plays and grading them. Judge me on a whole game. I think I can play.”

2 » Florida safety Ahmad Black is sick of having his size criticized, especially when scouts only have positive things to say about all of his other attributes. Nevertheless, he has not let the insults get him down and continues to push ahead toward his goal of starting in an NFL secondary sooner than later. “It’s frustrating,” he said, according to the Sun-Sentinel. “At the end of the day, it’s about making plays, You’ve got the big guy that’s fast and can make plays and you just want to make more plays than that guy. I get to the ball, I’m fast. At the end of the day, I get what they’re saying. But can he make plays or can he not? That’s how I live. Teams may pass on me because of my size, but the team that picks me up will definitely have something good.”

3 » Black was not the only Gators safety to depart this season; junior Will Hill left a year early to pursue his dream of playing football professionally while providing for his family. Before the combine, Hill was the subject of a feature story by the Newark Star-Ledger. In it he noted that he was concerned with how teams perceived his character. “How are they going to judge me as a person, see me as a person?” Hill said. “Character issues are a big thing in the NFL and that can make or break you, so that’s the biggest pressure.” The writer speaks with a number of people close to Hill to get a fuller picture about the type of person he is both on and off the field. The paper also spoke with ESPN’s Todd McShay, who had this to say about Hill’s future:

“He’s going to be asked a lot of questions. He’s going to have to answer them sincerely and NFL teams are going to have to feel comfortable with him. When you’re one of the top 30, 40, 50 players, teams are going to overlook more than when it comes to guys who are somewhere in the 100s, 150-250 overall — it’s like anything in life. And with Will Hill, obviously, there are some of those questions.”

4 » Florida soccer, which finished the 2010 season ranked No. 12 in the country and No. 1 in the SEC, announced Monday that 13 players will be joining the team as part of the 2011 recruiting class. Joining the Gators in the fall are forwards Tessa Andujar (San Clemente, CA) and Jillian Graff (Medina, OH); defenders Savannah Berry (Encinitas, CA), Annie Bobbitt (Fleming Island, FL), Kim Sapienza (Gainesville, FL), Lauren Silver (Delray Beach, FL) and Taylor Thigpen (Jacksonville, FL); midfielders Lindsey Cooper (Seminole, FL), Katrina Gutsche (Valrico, FL), Jennifer Larrick (Westford, MA), Havana Solaun (Gainesville, FL) and Annie Speese (Augusta, GA); and goalkeeper Taylor Burke (Medina, OH). Cooper is the sister of former Gators star wide receiver Riley Cooper, and Burke signed her National Letter of Intent with the track & field team so she will not count against soccer’s scholarship limit. For more information on the newest Florida student-athletes, click here.

New York Knicks waive forward Corey Brewer

Updated March 1 at 4 p.m.

Just days after making sure they acquired him in a side deal included in the blockbuster trade for forward Carmelo Anthony, the New York Knicks bought out and waved former Florida Gators F Corey Brewer on Tuesday.

New York decided to buy out Brewer in order to free a roster spot to sign veteran F Jared Jeffries, who the team traded to Houston in 2010.

Brewer, who was released on March 1 in order to be eligible to participate in the 2011 NBA Playoffs, was already being courted by four teams on Monday, according to ESPN‘s Marc Stein. Boston, Dallas, Oklahoma City and San Antonio – all playoff teams – are all vying for his services as a defensive specialist on the wing.

Yahoo! Sports’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Tuesday that “nearly a dozen teams have checked in” with Brewer’s representatives, who are “sorting through the suitors” in order to find the best fit for their client. In addition to the four teams above, Stein reports that Miami, Chicago, New Orleans and Cleveland have also joined the hunt for Brewer. Chances are he will wind up with a contender, but Cleveland can offer almost $3.7 million of their mid-level exception, a figure which could sway him toward the Midwest.

Averaging 24.3 minutes per game with the Minnesota Timberwovles this season, Brewer posted 8.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game (all below his career numbers). He did not see the court for a single minute with the Knicks in the three games played while he was a member of the team.

OGGOA will update this story as more information is made available.

Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Allen to skip fifth season, be honored Tuesday

Redshirt junior forward Adam Allen, who has not played since first injuring his knee in April 2008, has decided to forgo his fifth year of eligibility and conclude his basketball career with the Florida Gators.

Due to his decision, Allen will be honored alongside redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and senior Fs Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus during Senior Day ceremonies on Tuesday before Florida plays Alabama at home.

“It means a lot to me,” Allen said, per The Gainesville Sun. “Even though I haven’t been able to compete this last three seasons, I still feel like I’m a huge part of the team.”

Allen, who sits on the bench for every home game but does not travel with this team, has been a great cheerleader for his teammates. Whether consoling guys who are struggling or running down the court on one leg after a teammate hits a buzzer-beating game winner, he has done his best to smile in the face of continued adversity.

Moving on to what he hopes will be a career in broadcasting, Allen is departing on the heels of the best season he has seen as a member of the team.

As the Sun’s Kevin Brockway points out, Allen’s decision opens up a second scholarship that head coach Billy Donovan could use for the 2011-12 season. The Gators will have four available with two being filled by five-star guard Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) and three-star F Walter Pitchford (East Lansing, MI).

Photo Credit: Unknown

Florida basketball drops one spot in Top 25 polls

Hoping to remain undefeated for the month of February, the Florida Gators (22-6, 11-3 SEC) came close but failed in the end, defeating the Georgia Bulldogs (18-9, 7-6 SEC) 71-62 on Thursday in Gainesville, FL before falling to the No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats (20-8, 8-6 SEC) 76-68 on Saturday in Lexington, KY. Due to numerous losses in the Top 25 and Florida’s improved standing among coaches and voters, the Gators only fell one spot when the polls were released Monday afternoon.

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)-

ESPN/USA TODAY
Last Week 1-25: Duke (19), Kansas (1), Ohio State (4), San Diego State (3), Texas, Pittsburgh (4), Brigham Young, Purdue, Notre Dame, Arizona, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Florida, Villanova, Connecticut, Louisville, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Syracuse, Missouri, Kentucky, Utah State, Temple, St. John’s
+ Florida received 397 voting points

This Week 1-25: Ohio State (17), Kansas (14), Brigham Young, Duke, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Notre Dame, Texas, San Diego State, Wisconsin, Louisville, Syracuse, North Carolina, Florida, St. John’s, Connecticut, Georgetown, Arizona, Villanova, Vanderbilt, Utah State, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Missouri, George Mason
+ Florida received 337 voting points

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Last Week 1-25: Duke (35), Ohio State (10), Kansas (5), Pittsburgh (12), Texas (1), San Diego State, Brigham Young (2), Purdue, Notre Dame, Arizona, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Florida, Connecticut, Villanova, Louisville, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Missouri, Texas A&M, Kentucky, St. John’s, Temple, Xavier
+ Florida received 841 voting points

This Week 1-25: Ohio State (45), Kansas (14), Brigham Young (5), Duke (1), Pittsburgh, Purdue, Texas, Notre Dame, San Diego State, Wisconsin, Louisville, Syracuse, North Carolina, Florida, St. John’s, Connecticut, Georgetown, Arizona, Villanova, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Xavier, Texas A&M, Utah State
+ Florida received 688 voting points

Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

Florida men’s track & field wins SEC Indoor title

No. 1 Florida Gators men’s track and field captured their sixth conference title and first since 2004 on Sunday, winning the 2011 Southeastern Conference Indoor Championship with 148 total team points.

Florida took down the No. 5 Arkansas Razorbacks (136.5), No. 2 LSU Tigers (98), No. 17 Alabama Crimson Tide (65.5) and No. 24 Georgia Bulldogs (55.33) at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, AR.

Junior running back and sophomore sprinter Jeff Demps captured the SEC 60-meter dash championship with a 6.55, one-hundredth of a second faster than his record-setting time from the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships. Joining him with SEC titles were junior Gray Horn (heptathlon), junior jumper Christian Taylor (triple jump), junior Dumisane Hlaselo (3,000-meter run), senior Kemal Mesic (shot put), freshman Eddie Lovett (60-meter hurdles) and two members of the women’s team – junior Fidela James (20-pound weight throw) and freshman Cory McGee (mile run).

Horn’s heptathlon title is the first in school history, and Hlaselo’s 3,000-meter title is Florida’s first since 1993. Taylor’s triple jump title is his third-straight. The Gators finished held the top three places in the triple jump with junior Will Claye and sophomore Omar Craddock following Taylor for silver and bronze.

Florida has two more meets next month before competing in the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships March 11-12.

Photo Credit: GZTrackField

TWO BITS: baseball and softball complete sweeps

1 » Simply put, the Boston College Eagles (2-4) were no match for No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (7-0). Already up two games, Florida completed the series sweep against Boston College with a 7-2 victory Sunday at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Freshman right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson (2-0) had another stellar outing as the team’s starter; he allowed one earned run and five hits but struck out five in 5.1 innings of work. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (3-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) led the Gators offensively with an outstanding performance including a two-run homer.

Florida started things off in the bottom of the second with a four-run rally that included RBI hits from sophomore center fielder Kamm Washington (1-2, RBI, R), senior second baseman Josh Adams (0-3, RBI) and sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (1-3, 2 RBI, R), who drove in two on a one-out triple. The Gators added another run in the third when left fielder Daniel Pigott (2-3, RBI) singled to second base to score first baseman Brian Johnson (1-4, R), who tripled to center field with one out. After Whitson gave up his sole earned run in the sixth, Zunino added his two RBI in the eighth. The duo of juniors left-handed pitcher Nick Mardone and RHP Greg Larson got UF into the ninth, combining to strike out three in 2.2 innings. The Eagles had once last chance in the top of the ninth with sophomore third baseman/RHP Austin Maddox (2-4, R) on the mound; he surrendered one run before retiring the final two batters to end the inning.

2 » Playing all weekend at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, CA, No. 4/5 Florida softball (14-0) dominated their competition, winning a total of five games against Indiana, No. 11/12 Texas, San Diego State, No. 2/2 UCLA and the Utah Utes (5-10). The Gators took down the Utes 7-3 on Saturday to conclude the event behind 6.2 innings from ace senior RHP Stephanie Brombacher. Brombacher struggled with her command a bit, giving up six hits and four walks while only striking out three; the defense behind her was porous as well, committing two errors and allowing an unearned run. Junior CF Michelle Moultrie (3-3, 3 RBI, R) was clutch at the plate for Florida, as was 1B Megan Bush (1-2, HR, RBI, R, BB), who hit a solo shot in the fourth to tie the game at 1-1. Moultrie finished the event 10-17 with three triples, a double, nine RBI, five runs, three walks and 17 total bases. Senior 2B Aja Paculba (2-4, RBI) hit 9-18 with two doubles, four RBI and two walks at the event.

4 BITS: Andrews, Schintzius, Brewer, Calathes

1 » Name a major sporting event, chances are ESPN reporter and former Florida Gators dazzler Erin Andrews has covered it. Talk about one of the most popular reality shows (Dancing with the Stars), her name pops up as a contestant who almost won it. Just over a month after college football has ended and with college basketball in full swing, Andrews will be taking on a new task: reporting live from the red carpet and interviewing some of the winners at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. She has been in Hollywood, CA all week taping segments for Good Morning America but is still a bit edgy for the event. “I’m really, really nervous for Sunday,” she told Newsday. “I was talking to a couple of my buddies who are in the NFL and I was like, ‘I’m really nervous.’ They were, like, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘I know you guys. I can talk to you guys. These people, they don’t know me. I’m really out of my comfort zone.’ It’s kind of cool to feel that way.”

2 » Surviving a serious leukemia scare last year, former Gators Dwayne Schintzius has been cleared as healthy and made a very public appearance at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Thursday to cheer on his Florida basketball team as they faced and defeated the Georgia Bulldogs. Wearing an “I’m Awesome” shirt, one worn by WWE wrestler The Miz, Schintzius stepped into the O’Dome for the first time in 21 years and was introduced by the public address announcer to an ovation. “I did come back for a football game, when they brought us back once, but never for a basketball game since the time I played,’’ he told GatorZone’s Scott Carter on Thursday. “Wasn’t sure if I felt right about it or [if] people would want me back. I do like coming back and I want to come back again.’’ Schintzius’s hesitation to return was due to some off-the-court issues he had as a player (including allegedly hitting a student with a tennis racket and quitting on the team well before the season was over) but all of that is in the past now. “I’m very proud to be a Gator,’’ he said. “I feel like I helped start something. I don’t want to call it ‘The House That Dwayne Built,’ because that’s not true. I helped to build it. Makes me feel good where the program has come.’’

“It was important to me for Dwayne to come back here,” head basketball coach Billy Donovan told the Tampa Tribune. “Every time I’m down in Tampa or St. Petersburg for a Gator function, Dwayne is there. He’s very supportive. He still feels part of it. Yet he never came back. I think he felt he wasn’t welcome here, but that wasn’t true. He is an important part of this program’s history. He needs to feel welcome here, regardless of what happened in the past.”

Read two more BITS on Corey Brewer and Nick Calathes…after the break!
Continue Reading » 4 BITS: Andrews, Schintzius, Brewer, Calathes

 Page 479 of 715  « First  ... « 477  478  479  480  481 » ...  Last »