4 BITS: Gators up for 2015 ESPY awards, Florida basketball players summer updates

1 » After showing out during 2015 NBA Summer League action in Orlando with the Orlando Magic, former Florida Gators point guard Scottie Wilbekin earned a second opportunity in Las Vegas with the Philadelphia 76ers. That kicked off for Wilbekin on Saturday as he scored nine points on 3-for-8 shooting in 21:02. He earned the start for the 76ers the following day and once again impressed, scoring 19 points on 4-of-8 shooting from deep with two assists and three steals in 29:38, the second-most minutes on the team. Wilbekin last week signed a one-year deal with the Cairns Taipans of Australia’s NBL after leading the team as its Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year in 2014. There is an out in that contract allowing Wilbekin to pursue his NBA dream if the opportunity presents itself, and he may very well be making strides in achieving that goal as soon as this season.

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4 BITS: Jim McElwain donates $5,000 to bring Colorado State player home from New Zealand

1 » Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain put his money where his heart is, reportedly donating $5,000 to a former Colorado State football player in order to bring the man, his young daughter and his deceased wife home after all were stuck in New Zealand. According to Matt L. Stephens of The Coloradoan, former CSU defensive lineman Eli Edwards lost his wife to lupus while the family was in New Zealand so she could undergo treatment. Edwards was unable to afford to fly home after the treatments and started a crowdfunding account in order to raise money to cover the trip and funeral costs. McElwain’s donation, gifted from his private company MacFam LLC, makes up approximately one-quarter of the $20,000 raised to this point. Director of strength and conditioning Mike Kent, who joined McElwain when he took the Florida job, also reportedly donated $500.

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Strength from within: DeVon Walker poised to rebound from injury, lead Florida Gators

It takes skill to be real and time to heal, which is exactly what Florida Gators redshirt junior guard/forward DeVon Walker has spent the last 10 months concentrating on while rehabilitating from a torn ACL suffered during a pick-up game in the 2014-15 offseason.

For a Florida basketball team that is undergoing a major shirt, not only at the top with a new head coach in Michael White but with two of its top guards leaving the program, Walker is suddenly presented with the opportunity to make a significant impact when he is finally cleared to return to the court.

And from the looks of it, Walker is prepared.

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Silver Lining: Billy Donovan exits Florida Gators as friend, AD Jeremy Foley looks for replacement

There are successful coaches, championship-winning coaches, hall of fame coaches … and then there are transformative coaches that come around once in a generation to shape a program in their image.

After 19 years with the Florida Gators, the efforts made and results produced by now-former head basketball coach Billy Donovan cannot be constrained by even such a broad categorization. Not when they extend well off the court to the athletic program as a whole, the university and even the surrounding community of Gainesville, Florida.

How, then, do you go about replacing a man like Donovan?

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KeVaughn Allen, Keith Stone sign National Letters of Intent with Florida Gators

Two of the four members of the Florida Gators‘ 2015 men’s basketball signing class – four-star guards KeVaughn Allen (North Little Rock, AR) and guard Keith Stone (Deerfield Beach, FL) – put ink to paper on their National Letters of Intent during National Signing Day on Wednesday.

The Gators have not announced their 2015 signing class, which also includes two other four-star prospects in forward Noah Dickerson (Montverde, FL) and Kevarrius Hayes (Live Oak, FL). A source told OnlyGators.com last week that Dickerson and Hayes had previously signed their NLIs.

Allen remained committed to Florida despite heavy pressure from those close to him to remain in state and play for Arkansas. Stone as long been a dedicated UF commit who was simply waiting until signing day to make his pledge official.

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Florida Gators junior guard Michael Frazier II set to declare for 2015 NBA Draft

Updated on Friday at 4:30 p.m.

Florida Gators junior guard Michael Frazier II has decided to forgo his final season of eligibility and declare for the 2015 NBA Draft, a source close to the player confirmed to OnlyGators.com on Thursday.

Frazier, Florida’s second-leading scorer in 2014-15 with 12.1 points per game, is expected to make his decision official on Friday, a source said.

He will sign with Andy Miller and Matt Ramker of ASM Sports, according to a source, as first reported by Darren Heitner of Heitner Legal.

Update: Frazier released the following statement via his personal Twitter account on Friday afternoon …

“Thank you to my coaches, teammates, and the entire Gator Nation for 3 special years of my life. I will be pursuing a career in professional basketball and have signed with Matt Ramker of ASM Sports. I will never forget my time in Gainesville and look forward to returning each summer to complete my degree. I will always be representing the Gator Nation. Go Gators.”

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Fastbreak: Florida edges Texas A&M 66-62

Florida Gators basketball (15-15, 8-9 SEC) won back-to-back games for the first time in over a month and returned to .500 with a 66-62 victory over the Texas A&M Aggies (20-9, 11-6 SEC) on Tuesday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Three days after picking up his 500th career victory, head coach Billy Donovan won his 200th Southeastern Conference game, making him just the third coach ever to reach that milestone in league play.

OnlyGators.com breaks down Tuesday’s action with nine quick-hitters:

It was over when: Five-straight points by redshirt junior guard Eli Carter (two free throws and a three-pointer) put Florida ahead 58-42 with just over three minutes to play and looked to put the game firmly in the Gators’ grasp. Instead, the Aggies began fouling and chipped away at that lead with a 20-7 run, cutting their deficit to three with 6.3 seconds left. UF went 8-for-18 from the charity stripe over the final two minutes.

“I think that, in the second half in particular, has been a real microcosm of our team mentally. We’re not a mentally-strong team,” Donovan said of the free throw shooting issues. “At the end of the game, you can’t just take two point guards off the floor from a ball-handling standpoint. So at some point, those guys got to make free throws. You look at those guys’ free throw percentages, calling it like it is, those guys felt a lot of pressure. They felt a lot of pressure. That’s what’s happened to our team a lot this year is we have these mental lapses.”

Significant stretch: Leading by two, the Gators put their foot on the gas and exploded on a 14-0 run, boosting Florida ahead of Texas A&M 47-31 with eight minutes to play. Redshirt junior forward Alex Murphy scored nine points (including seven-straight and six as part of the run), adding a block and a steal during the extended scoring stretch. “I really felt the last couple days here we’ve had some really good practices, in particular on the defensive end of the floor,” Donovan said. “For us I thought, defensively, all the way around … we did a much better job. I thought we made some strides defensively.”

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Fastbreak: SEC-worst Missouri embarrasses Florida 64-52 in Columbia

If the Florida Gators on the roster Tuesday had any respect for head coach Billy Donovan, they certainly did not show it. Florida (13-15, 6-9 SEC) was embarrassed once again this season as the worst team in the Southeastern Conference, losers of 13-straight games, upended the Gators 64-52.

The Missouri Tigers (8-20, 2-13 SEC) dominated the visitors over the latter 20 minutes of Tuesday’s contest, outscoring Florida 37-21 in the second half while ending the game on a 24-5 run at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri.

Donovan had no choice but to sit back and watch as his team struggled on both ends of the court, combining poor shooting in every facet of the game with lacking effort on defense and terrible decision making throughout the contest.

“We really made a lot of, really a lot of poor choices, things that — to be quite honest — left me scratching my head,” Donovan said. “We had Kasey Hill reaching across the out of bounds line for a technical foul, an Eli Carter foul before the ball ever came in bounds while the game was obviously in reach, a Devin Robinson foul. Our fouling enabled them to get to the free throw line. With 13 minutes to go we’re in the bonus and we never really could take advantage of it. For us, we got to the free throw line 23 times, which is drastically more than we normally go, but certainly hard to win when you go 9-for-23. Even when we did get there, we weren’t able to capitalize. We just didn’t make enough smart basketball plays in the game.”

OnlyGators.com breaks down Tuesday’s action with nine quick-hitters:

It was over when: Missouri guard Namon Wright bombed in a three-pointer with 4:16 remaining, pushing the hosts ahead by six and putting Florida in a deficit that it was unable to overcome. Wright, who averaged 5.4 points on 32 percent shooting entering Tuesday’s game, scored a career-high 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting, hitting 6-of-8 treys. The Tigers only increased their lead from there. “We didn’t really have anybody [who could cover him],” Donovan said. “Give him credit. He really got it going, shot the ball very well. Tonight, he was a hard match-up for us. We really didn’t have anybody who could stop him.”

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