With football and basketball both in the spotlight and Florida Gators gymnastics winning a third straight NCAA National Championship last week, it was easy to overlook two other tremendous accomplishments made by Gators athletic programs in the form of regular-season league titles won this month.
Two Florida Gators basketball players were voted onto the 2015 All-SEC teams on Tuesday, as chosen by the league’s 14 coaches.
Redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith was named a second-team All-SEC selection, while F Devin Robinson was voted onto the SEC All-Freshman team.
Finney-Smith finished the regular season as Florida’s top scorer (13.1 points per game), best rebounder (6.0 boards per game) and most-efficient shooter (.481 from the field, .433 beyond the arc). Robinson averaged 6.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 19.1 points per game but suffered from inefficiencies both overall (.401) and beyond the arc (.250).
Kentucky led the way with five selections (two on the first team), while LSU also picked up two nods. Kentucky led the way with four All-SEC selections (two first team, two second team), four SEC All-Freshman picks, and an SEC All-Defensive team player. The Wildcats also picked up SEC Coach of the Year (John Calipari), SEC Freshman of the Year (Karl-Anthony Towns), SEC Sixth-Man of the Year (Devin Booker) and SEC Defensive Player of the Year (Willie Cauley-Stein) honors.
The Gators are the No. 8 overall seed in the 2015 SEC Tournament and will play in their first game on Thursday against No. 9-seed Alabama.
Updated at 11:10 p.m.
Florida Gators sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, widely considered the team’s best returning player on either side of the ball, injured his left knee in the middle of practice Thursday evening.
Hours later, results of an MRI determined that it was not a serious injury.
“An MRI revealed that Vernon Hargreaves suffered a bone bruise, and he is listed as day-to-day,” said head coach Will Muschamp in a statement released by the team.
According to reporters on-site, including the Orlando Sentinel’s Edgar Thompson and the Independent Florida Alligator’s Richard Johnson, Hargreaves was helped off the practice field by two trainers after a scuffle broke out between Florida’s defensive backs and wide receivers during a drill.
He was reportedly unable to put any significant pressure on his left knee while trainers were testing it in a tent far removed from reporters and fans, all of which gathered Thursday night for the Gators’ first open fall practice of 2014.
Hauling in a pair of interceptions in the first two games of his career, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III raised his already-high expectations basically the very moment he stepped on the field as a freshman for the Florida Gators.
A five-star recruit, he may have started that first game had Florida not had three NFL-caliber corners returning, but he basically outplayed each of them as the season went on and wound up as a first-stringer for the final 10 games of the campaign.
His 11 pass breakups tied Janoris Jenkins for most by a freshman in school history, and his lockdown defense made him a national name in no time at all.
As a result, Hargreaves was named a third-team Associated Press All-American, first-team Freshman All-American by a number of organizations and got chosen unanimously to the first-team All-SEC and SEC All-Freshman teams.
To him though, it was all a blur.
“My first year was kind of fast. It went fast. I had to learn quick cause they told me I was going to play early. But I enjoyed it, it was fun. Had a lot of great guys behind me showing me the ropes. I enjoyed it,” he said.
“All that [award] stuff, it was good. I guess I was proud of myself for it, but I’d much rather win games than have all of that stuff for myself.”
Three first-year Florida Gators football players were named Thursday to the 2013 SEC All-Freshman team as voted on by the league’s 14 coaches.
Running back Kelvin Taylor, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and punter Johnny Townsend were each honored as members of the team, giving Florida the second-most selections to Arkansas, Ole Miss and South Carolina (four each).
Taylor played sparingly early in the season but started the final five games of the 2013 campaign, finishing with 508 yards and four touchdowns on 111 carries. He broke out with 21 touches for a career-high 96 yards and two touchdowns on Nov. 16 when the Gators played the Gamecocks on the road.
Hargreaves, who was also named to the 2013 All-SEC First Team, saw action from the get go and registered a team-high three interceptions on the season. He also broke up a team-high 11 passes and compiled 38 tackles through 12 games.
Townsend took over the punting duties due to some early-season struggles from Florida’s incumbent and booted the ball a total of 29 times. He averaged 42.0 yards per punt, kicking five more than 50 yards and dropping six inside the 20-yard line.
No. 5 Florida Gators soccer (16-3-1, 9-2 SEC) put together a heck of a regular season but has not received the attention it’s deserved due to the tumultuous and something-new-happens-every-day nature of its football counterpart.
Nevertheless, Florida is currently on a month-long, eight-match winning streak while being led by freshman forward Savannah Jordan, who is putting together one of the greatest goal-scoring seasons in program history.
Jordan on Monday was named the 2013 SEC Offensive Player of the Year, becoming the first freshman in league history to receive the honor. It should be no surprise that she was chosen as the 2013 SEC Freshman of the Year while also being named an All-SEC (first team) and SEC All-Freshman player.
Junior midfielder Havana Solaun and sophomore defender Christen Westphal joined Jordan on the All-SEC team, while freshman MF Pamela Begič also picked up an SEC All-Freshman honor.
Jordan has already surpassed Abby Wambach’s freshman goal scoring record and is on pace to find a spot among the greatest single-season goal scorers in school history. She has already found the back of the net 21 times, putting her two goals out of the top-five and the Gators freshman record held by Andi Sellers.
Her latest goal came in the first round of the 2013 SEC Tournament as one-seed UF picked up a 1-0 victory over the eight-seed Arkansas Razorbacks (13-8-0) on Wednesday in Orange Beach, AL.
Florida will square off against Ole Miss in the semifinals on Friday at 5 p.m. The Gators have already won the regular season 2013 SEC Championship, splitting the title with Texas A&M. It was UF’s eight-straight SEC regular season crown. Florida is now looking to win its third tournament title in the last four seasons.
Florida Gators senior Lauren Embree was named the 2013 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year on Wednesday, becoming the first player in the history of the award to be honored with it three times in her career.
Embree, who was also named SEC Player of the Year in 2010 and 2012, is 39-0 for her career in singles matches during conference play. She is 17-0 overall this season and 10-0 against SEC opponents. Embree has also been a catalyst in the Gators winning eight total SEC Championships including four-straight SEC regular-season titles and four-straight SEC Tournament titles.
“It is really special to me,” Embree said in a school release. “I’ve never thought I’d be the first player to win this award so many times because there are and have been so many talented and great players in the SEC.
“I’m not really focused on awards. I just try and come out every day and win for the team and for my teammates. It’s an extra cool award to get and it’s something I want to thank my coaches and teammates who have helped me.”
Head women’s tennis coach Roland Thornqvist, who was named SEC Coach of the Year for the fourth time in the last 11 seasons, praised Embree just like he has throughout her entire career.
It took 15 seasons with the Florida Gators for head coach Billy Donovan to earn his first conference coaching honor despite winning two national championships, coaching in three title games and leading his team to three-straight SEC Tournament victories. Coming off his fifth league regular season title (third outright), Donovan learned Tuesday that he has won his second conference coaching award in the last three seasons as he was chosen as the 2013 SEC Coach of the Year by his peers.
Donovan’s Gators (24-6, 14-4 SEC) opened the SEC slate with eight-straight victories and a 27.75-point margin of victory in those games. Though Florida slid a bit and lost four of its final 10 games in-conference, the Gators still won the league title outright and were the only team in the SEC to remain in the top 25 polls all season long.
UF finished 15-0 at home in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on the season, the second-best home record in school history (18-0 – 2006-07) and fifth time Donovan has led his team to an undefeated record in the O’Dome.
Florida also helped Donovan achieve his 15th-straight 20-win season dating back to 1999. He has the third-longest active streak of 20-win seasons behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (17) and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (16) and fifth-longest all-time.
Donovan is now known as the dean of SEC coaches despite being younger than five of his other 13 peers. In his 17th season with the Gators, he is the longest tenured active head coach in the league and has seen 28 coaches come and go through the SEC while he has remained at Florida.
He also this season became the third coach in SEC history to win 400 games and heads into the 2013 SEC Tournament with 410 wins, just 38 behind LSU’s Dale Brown (448) and many more back of Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp (875).
Florida also had a number of its players honored Tuesday by the league’s coaches:
Senior forward Erik Murphy was chosen for the First Team All-SEC with senior guard Kenny Boynton, redshirt senior G Mike Rosario and junior center Patric Young each earning Second Team nods. (Rosario and Young tied in voting; ties are not broken.)
Young, who was named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year on Monday, and junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin were named to the SEC All-Defensive Team, and freshman G Michael Frazier II won a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team.
Other league awards went to Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SEC Player of the Year), Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel (SEC Freshman of the Year, SEC Defensive Player of the Year) and UK’s Kyle Wiltjer (SEC Sixth Man of the Year).
Photo Credit: Unknown