Florida bounces back to rout N.C. A&T 105-55

Just two days after suffering a tough loss at home to No. 4/5 Ohio State, the No. 9/10 Florida Gators (2-1) rebounded with a dominating 105-55 victory over the North Carolina A&T Aggies (1-3) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Senior forward Chandler Parsons and sophomore guard Kenny Boynton led the Gators with 16 points apiece and were just two of eight Florida players to score in double figures on the evening. Freshman F Will Yeguete proved to be a dominating presence down low, grabbing 15 rebounds (nine offensive) while also scoring seven points, dishing four assists and stealing the ball thrice.

Yeguete’s 15 boards were the most by a freshman since Al Horford (18 vs. Alabama in 2005), but he was not the only first-year player to have a big night. Center Patric Young posted 11 points, six rebounds, four steals and two blocks, G Casey Prather scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting (2-of-4 from downtown), and point guard Scottie Wilbekin finished with 11 points and six assists.

Rounding out the starting five for the Gators were senior C Vernon Macklin (10 points, six rebounds, two blocks), PG Erving Walker (11 points, six assists, no turnovers) and sophomore F Erik Murphy (11 points, four rebounds, two blocks). Murphy started the first game of his young career in place of senior F Alex Tyus, who missed the contest with a mild concussion but is expected to return to action on Sunday.

Up 28 points late in the first half and eventually winning the game by 50, Florida scored 52 points in the paint, 35 off turnovers and 25 on second chances. The Gators’ bench produced 41 points, which helped UF score more than 100 for the first time since defeating North Florida by 102 in 2007. Florida also notched 26 assists, 16 steals and eight blocks while turning the ball over 11 times as a team.

Though most of the team was solid defensively, head coach Billy Donovan had to sit Boynton early on due to a poor defensive effort. He returned to the court after a quick talking to and helped hold North Carolina A&T to 34.5 percent shooting on the evening.

The Gators are back in action in less than 72 hours, taking on Morehead State in the O’Dome on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. The game will air live on Sun Sports.

POST-GAME NOTES & QUOTES (After the break…)
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TWO BITS: Noah featured in major publiations

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, featured both in the latest issue of ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated is just beginning his fourth NBA season. Signing a five-year, $60 million extension over the summer, the former Florida Gators star and two-time national champion finally feels at peace in the NBA and is making a case to be known as one of the best centers in the league. ESPN The Magazine‘s feature story focuses on Noah’s living arrangements, comfort in Chicago and acceptance by the fans, while Sports Illustrated‘s article concentrates on Noah’s ascension within the NBA, struggles since joining the league and turn from draft-day pariah to fan favorite.

Below is a video ESPN.com shot to accompany the Noah story as published online.

2 » With Noah and former Florida teammate, Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford, signing nearly identical five-year, $60 million extensions, comparisons between the two players continue to be made in the NBA just like they were in college. Horford, who was taken No. 3 in the 2007 NBA Draft compared to Noah who was drafted in the No. 7 slot, was considered by many to be the better pro prospect coming out of college. However, when looking closely at their numbers and production since joining the league, many executives might take Noah over Horford if given the opportunity.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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Horford, Hawks agree on 5-year, $60M extension

Less than one month after former Florida Gators teammate center Joakim Noah agreed in principal to a five-year, $60 million contract extension with the Chicago Bulls, forward/center Al Horford has decided to accept a similar deal with the Atlanta Hawks.

Atlanta had been feverishly working over the last two months to sign the back-to-back national champion and No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft to an extension.

“From the moment he arrived in Atlanta, Al has been a large part of our success,” executive vice president Rick Sund said in an official release from the team. “The winning tradition he brought to the franchise as a rookie out of Florida has extended to three consecutive playoff seasons in a Hawks uniform. In addition, he was deservedly recognized as an All-Star last year, and we certainly look forward to his continued development as we move forward.”

Last season, Horford was selected to his first NBA All-Star team after averaging career-highs in points (14.2), rebounds (9.9), field goal percentage (55.1%), free throw percentage (75.3%) and minutes (35.1) while starting all of the Hawks’ games.

“It happened like I’ve been predicting – down to the wire,” Horford told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday. “When we finally kind of agreed on everything, I was super excited. It’s great to be able to get it done and have peace of mind. It makes me able to come out and just focus on basketball, which is my priority to begin with. So I’m happy about that part.”

He was named a team captain this offseason and has incentives in his new contact, according to ESPN, that could add an additional $8 million to the deal. ESPN also reports that Horford will earn a flat $12 million annually, higher than Noah’s $10 million.

Photo Credit: Atlanta Hawks

OGGOA Related: Bulls, Noah agree to five-year, $60M extension

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NBA season begins, Gators look to make impact

The 2010-11 NBA season tipped off Tuesday night with nine former Florida Gators standouts on professional rosters. Some won National Championships while wearing the Orange & Blue, others went undrafted, but all want to prove that the Florida basketball program has and can produce legitimate NBA stars.

Al Horford, F/C, Atlanta Hawks
2009-10: Averaging career highs in points (14.2), rebounds (9.9), field goal percentage (55.1), free throw percentage (78.9) and minutes (35.1), Horford also contributed 2.3 assists and 1.1 blocks per game last year. For the second-straight season he led his team to the second round of the NBA Playoffs where, like in 2008-09, they were swept.
2010-11: The Godfather was named a captain in Atlanta during the preseason and will be a restricted free agent when the year ends. The Hawks are believed to be making a concerted effort to resign the first-time NBA All-Star and No. 3 overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft to a five-year deal worth $50-60 million.

Joakim Noah, F/C, Chicago Bulls
2009-10: Averaging a double-double with career highs in points (10.7), rebounds (11.0), blocks (1.6), assists (2.1), free throw percentage (74.4) and minutes (30.1), Noah was also good for 2.1 assists per game and shot 50.4 percent from the field. He missed 28 games with a plantar fasciitis injury but regained his form before the playoffs, which saw Chicago fall in the first round.
2010-11: Noah was rewarded by the Bulls for his hard work with a five-year, $60 million extension in the offseason. His defense and shot blocking makes him an elite big man in the league and, with Chicago adding All-Star forward Carlos Boozer to the frontcourt, some of the pressure he felt to do everything for the team defensively may be relived.

David Lee, F/C, Golden State Warriors
2009-10: Averaging a double-double for the second-straight season with the New York Knicks, Lee posted career-highs in points (20.2), assists (3.6), blocks (0.5) and free throw percentage (81.2) along with 11.7 rebounds while shooting 54.5 percent. A fan favorite who was a victim of circumstance due to the blockbuster free agents available this summer, Lee was moved to the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade.
2010-11: Agreeing a six-year, $80 million contract with Golden State, Lee will once again play for an up-tempo offense in which he will be able to shine. Though he will not be relied upon as heavily with the Warriors as he was with the Knicks, Lee will have ample opportunities to showcase his talent on the left coast.

Profiles for six more former Gators basketball players…after the jump!
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2010-11 Florida Media Day: Players speak, too

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan and a number of players represented the team at the 2010-11 Florida Media Day on Wednesday in Gainesville, FL. Read on for news and notes about the upcoming season, now from the players.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP ON THEIR MINDS

Though Donovan is trying to keep egos in check, that does not mean he wants his team to lower their expectations for the year as a whole. In fact, if you ask senior forward Chandler Parsons and junior point guard Erving Walker, nothing less than a national title is unacceptable.

“They asked me today, ‘What’s your goal?’ I said, ‘National championship.’ I don’t expect anything less,” Parsons said. “We want to win the SEC Tournament championship. That’s our goal. We want to be the best possible team that we can be. If that’s us getting to the Final Four, if that’s winning the national championship, we just want to continue to work hard every day and improve. [...] I think we have what it takes. We’re experienced, we have good guards, we have size, a great coach. I don’t see why not.”

“We don’t really talk about it that much but everybody knows, a goal is everybody wants to compete in a national championship,” Walker added. “But we all know, and I know Chandler knows, it’s a process. We can’t just jump to that. I feel like we can get there. I’d be lying to you if I told you I didn’t. But I know we’re not there yet, there’s no need to jump to March when we’re in October. It’s definitely nice to hear [the talk].”

BOYNTON: THE SHOOTER

Sophomore shooting guard Kenny Boynton improved significantly toward the end of last season but an albatross around his neck all year was his poor shooting percentage. He made a concerted effort to work on that this offseason.

“Last year I never knew when it was going to go in, I was just shooting it,” Boynton said. “Now I know when it’s off and how long it’s going, and I think it’s just a better shot now. I feel like in workouts I’ve been knocking down my midrange shot a lot. That was definitely a big thing I wanted to work at.”

Boynton now releases the ball “more in front of my head”. He has seen an increase in control and accuracy.

“I learned that you gotta put a lot of work into this,” he said. “It’s not just going and taking shots. It’s watching film, it’s studying the guys that you’re playing against. It’s mentally going into the game and being prepared, knowing that it’s more than just basketball.”

Read the rest of this recap of the players’ media availabilities…after the break!
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2010-11 Florida Media Day: Billy Donovan speaks

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan and a number of players represented the team at the 2010-11 Florida Media Day on Wednesday in Gainesville, FL. Read on for news and notes about the upcoming season, first from Donovan.

DEPTH MEANS LESS IS MORE

It was obvious listening to Donovan speak Wednesday that he is excited about his team going into the season. With just a handful of weeks to go before Florida plays its first meaningful game, it is the Gators’ depth that he thinks will be integral to the team’s success. And because the team is so deep, Donovan hopes it will also be molded into an unselfish group, similar to the teams that produced back-to-back National Championships for him in 2006 and 2007.

“Right now today we have depth. And when I say we have depth, we have bodies, we have numbers,” Donovan said. “Can [sophomore forward] Erik Murphy really carve out a role for himself? Can [senior F] Alex [Tyus]? Can our veteran guys? For us to be a better team, some of our veteran guys are gonna have to take less. And that’s what really made that 2006-2007 team special. Because you know what? [Joakim] Noah could’ve scored more points. [Al] Horford could’ve scored more points. [Corey] Brewer could’ve scored. They all could’ve scored more, but they understood that less was better for the team.

“We’re going to have to have some older guys understand that less is better for the team. It’s OK for them to have less provided that we can somehow find a way to utilize that depth. Who is going to emerge out of that younger group? Looking at it on paper, we have depth. But you don’t have depth if you don’t have guys that can get into a role.

“We had depth a couple years ago in our front court but none of those guys could emerge to take control of the role that was out there for them, and then we didn’t have depth. I’m hopeful these guys, just with their mentality and their attitude so far, will take that on and give us the depth that we think we have.”

TWO SENIORS STEPPING UP AS LEADERS

Florida brings back three seniors this year with Tyus, F Chandler Parsons and redshirt F/C Vernon Macklin all coming together to form as a solid frontcourt. However, Donovan expressed that it was Parsons and Macklin in particular who have really stepped up as leaders for this young team through the offseason.

“Verbally right now [Parsons] and Vern are doing a great job, but I think the verbal part only goes so far. When they get on the court their actions have got to back it up,” Donovan said. “Chandler and Vern in particular, those two guys, want kind of that responsibility. It’s good for both of those guys. Vernon probably in the beginning first half of the season was kinda feeling his way through and then he started to show signs of the reputation he had in high school. And then Chandler, coming off of his sophomore year, really felt like he had something to prove and kind of got through that a little bit.

“Both of those guys, to me, they’re in a little bit of a danger zone in the fact that they now gotta take that next step and not get complacent and get comfortable. They’re trying to do all the right things and I would say the best thing they’ve done is with some new faces in our program, they’ve really tried to incorporate the group and make it a team and they’re reaching out and doing some of that stuff. And up to this point in the time with Chandler and Vern I’ve been very, very happy with what they’re trying to do leadership-wise.”

Read the rest of this 3,000-word recap of Donovan’s presser…after the break!
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FOUR BITS: Horford, Richard, Lawrence, LSU

1 » Over the last month two sources have told OGGOA that the Atlanta Hawks are working feverishly to sign former Florida Gators two-time National Championship-winning forward/center Al Horford to a long-term extension. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, Horford was selected to his first NBA All-Star team last season. He averaged career-highs in points (14.2), rebounds (9.9), field goal percentage (55.1%), free throw percentage (75.3%) and minutes (35.1) while starting all of Atlanta’s games in 2009-10. Horford was named a team captain this offseason and should receive a deal for more than the five years and $60 million given to former teammate F/C Joakim Noah by the Chicago Bulls early this week.

2 » On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Bulls announced Wednesday that they have waived former Gators F/C Chris Richard after re-signing him on Sept. 27. Richard filled in for Noah while he was nursing a plantar faciitis injury last season, playing in 18 games and averaging 2.1 points and 3.3 rebounds. OGGOA spoke to Richard early this summer in an exclusive interview, which you can read here.

3 » Former Florida wide receiver T.J. Lawrence, now playing for the Florida A&M Rattlers, is finally happy as he has been seeing the field and getting plenty of playing time. On Wednesday he told The Famuan that he wanted to leave the Gators a full year before he actually did. “I guess I wasn’t happy,” Lawrence said. “I wanted to leave a year earlier, but I said I’d stick it out another year. I had to make the decision to leave because I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t playing as much as I wanted to.” Now Lawrence feels he is “being utilized how I want to be utilized.” He has 11 receptions for 166 yards this season, both team-highs.

4 » During the SEC conference call on Wednesday, LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles noted that starting defensive end Sam Montgomery will miss the remainder of the season after tearing ligaments in his right knee. Montgomery will likely undergo reconstructive surgery.

Photo Credit: Atlanta Hawks

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F/C Chris Richard: “All I can do is give my best.”

Former Florida Gators forward/center Chris Richard is a busy man. Entering his fourth season of playing professional basketball, Richard just returned from summer league action and was in his hometown of Lakeland, FL, when OGGOA caught up with him for an exclusive interview covering his college career, professional future and charitable efforts.

Though he is headed back to Chicago soon to workout and attempt to earn a contract, Richard has been concentrating on getting his foundation, The Rich Kids Project, off the ground.

Designed to help and provide opportunities for underprivileged and at-risk youth in the Polk County area, the organization aims at assisting children financially while, at the same time, ensuring that they are building a foundation for their future. “I want to teach substance and individuality through education, arts and just basic knowledge,” Richard told us. And even though the charity is based in Lakeland, he hopes it can grow big over time – with your help. More information on Richard’s charity will be available in the future.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Coming out of high school as Mr. Basketball in the state of Florida, you chose to sign with the Gators. What other schools were you considering and why did you end up picking Florida?
CHRIS RICHARD: “At the time I came out of high school, I could have went to just about any school in the country. I got recruited by everybody from North Carolina to Maryland to Indiana … all of the Florida schools. I only wanted to go to Florida. Growing up, once I got into basketball and once I got into sports, for whatever reason, Florida just stood out to me. I was a big Florida basketball fan. I grew up kind of liking Florida State and Miami football-wise. I [also] have family that actually lives in Alachua, outside of Gainesville, so going up there every summer – it kind of grew on me. I chose [Florida] over Florida State and Alabama.”

AS: You did get some playing time early on in your Gators career, but last two years is when your role increased. Losing its three top veterans, the team was significantly underrated going into the 2005-06 season. At what point did you guys realize that you had something special going on?
CR: “You know what, honestly, I know it sounds cliché and everybody says it, but once we got together that summer … Everybody went home for summer break and we came back to start working out for the season, and once we got back and started playing with each other, that was our first time playing together without David [Lee], Matt [Walsh] and Peep [Anthony Roberson]. So we never really saw what each person was capable of doing because everybody’s role was a little bit different that previous year. Just coming in and playing pick up, it was just a lot different. And we saw that on any given night that it can be anybody’s night. So we kind of took that and kind of embraced that and thought it was an advantage for us because we knew that we didn’t have any selfishness on the team. So nobody minded playing backseat … everybody just helped each other and kept it going.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Chris Richard…after the break!
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