TWO BITS: Donovan meets Carter, Floyd speaks

1 » Rutgers Scarlet Knights sophomore guard Eli Carter, who received his release from the school last week and plans to transfer, met with Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan in his home on Monday, reports Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv. Carter has a number of teams interested in receiving him as a transfer including Duke, Maryland and Texas, but Florida has a lot going for it in this particular situation. Like former Gators guard Mike Rosario and current assistant coach Rashon Burno, Carter spent his youth playing at St. Anthony’s High School in New Jersey under head coach Bob Hurley. The relationship between Donovan and Hurley goes back a ways and having Burno in the fold certainly does not hurt. “I think with Rashon Burno there and two guards leaving, one guard signed, [Kasey] Hill is the only guard coming in, they can I think talk to him about playing time,” Hurley told Zagoria. “When you transfer you have to go someplace where you’re gonna play. You can’t go someplace and play less than you did where you were before.”

Carter averaged 14.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists as a true sophomore but shot just 38.4 percent from the field and 32 percent from downtown. As a freshman against Florida in 2011, he scored 31 points on 12-of-24 shooting with seven rebounds and seven dimes (in double overtime). The Gators have one open scholarship for the 2013-14 season, which Carter would take if he transferred to Florida, even though he would have to sit out the season due to NCAA rules.

2 » It took a while for criticisms about Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd to pop up, but it did not take the potential top-five overall pick much time to respond to them. “In my eyes there is no road-block that is going to stop me,” Floyd said on NFL AM on Tuesday. “A lot of people ask me, ‘Do you feel as though your arms are short?” and I say, ‘I don’t play like my arms are short.’ So my tape speaks for itself and the type of person I am speaks for itself.” Check out this three-minute interview with Floyd, which was aired Monday on ESPN.

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Meet Florida basketball assistant Rashon Burno

For the first time since being announced as the Florida Gators new assistant basketball coach on April 12, Rashon Burno met with the media on Thursday to discuss what brought him to Florida and how he plans to fit in with the Gators.

ADJUSTING TO A NEW HOME

A lifelong Northerner, Burno has spent most of his playing and coaching career in New York and Illinois. Though a move to Florida was undoubtedly a change of lifestyle for him and his family, he knew it was something he wanted from the moment he was offered an interview by head coach Billy Donovan. “I got on a plane with the intention of taking the job if offered. I was more nervous that I was not going to get an offer,” he said.

Burno got that offer and accepted the job immediately. He is already comfortable in Gainesville, FL but is being tested by two things in particular about the adjustment: the temperature and… “The most challenging part, obviously, is when you leave for your family,” he said, “but basketball-wise, you’re still doing the same thing. You’re still on the grind, still trying to evaluate talent. You may be looking at a little bit better talent than Manhattan, which is obviously an adjustment, but so far so good.”

Now that he’s adjusted, Burno expects the rest of his family to join him in approximately six weeks and knows that his children especially will love going to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. “They’re excited to because they’re of age where they know basketball,” he said. “I have twin boys who are age 11. They love basketball. They love Erving Walker. They thought he could do no wrong – small guy who could shoot it, offensive threat, they love that guy. At their age all they want to do is shoot, shoot, shoot. Not that Erv shot a lot. Not saying that. Not saying that. [Laughing] It’s good for those guys. They’re eager to get down here and make new friends and get in the community.”

He also has no expectation of being part of the seemingly endless rotation of Gators basketball assistants and expects to be wearing orange and blue for quite some time. “In this business I think, for me, I wanted to get with people who I respect. My prior relationship with Billy was built on mutual respect,” Burno said. “This is something that obviously I want to be a long-term fix or me. I’m not looking to go anywhere. I’m happy for the opportunity.”

THE RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB

As in many professions, moving up the ladder in the industry of college basketball is all about who you know. Luckily for Burno, a star player for St. Anthony’s High School in Jersey City, NJ under head coach Bob Hurley (a close friend of Donovan’s) and assistant under Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello (a friend and former assistant of Rick Pitino), he had the relationships and experience to get him his new gig.

“I think it goes back to working for a Pitino guy in Coach Masiello. You do a good job for someone in the family and the word travels. So I hope,” he said of how he got in touch with Donovan. “It was over a four-five year span of really picking [Donovan’s] brain about how to be a productive coach. I think that helped in the process because he got to know me off the floor. I think it paid dividends obviously with the opportunity to work for him.”

Though he did not know Donovan personally until a few years ago, Burno explained that he always admired his work from afar. “Just anybody that wins two national titles as a coach you’ve got to take your hat off to them and just respect what he does and what he stands for,” he said. “For me, from a coaching standpoint, he’s somebody that I looked up to and reached out to and was looking to build a relationship with.”

Burno added, “Just I think his offense was ahead of the game – pick and roll now you see pretty much throughout college basketball. I’m a big basketball fan so I was always a fan of his. It was just a matter of trying to build a relationship. [...] It just so happened this thing comes full circle that I can work for a guy like that.”

A TENACIOUS RECRUITER

One of Burno’s strong suits is his recruiting acumen and ability to relate to players. He described himself as “tenacious” in regards to bringing in players and explained that having a rough background can help relate to guys going through similar situations.

“I try to wear many hats because every kid is different. I try to adapt to a particular kid. But I’m just consistent with my message as far as talking to kids. Definitely one of aggression – just trying to make sure they understand where they stand with us,” he said. “You just try to use your own experience to try and help educate a kid on why this is a good opportunity for them. Having similar backgrounds with the kids I’m currently recruiting helps as well.”

One player Burno does not have to recruit is redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario, a fellow St. Anthony’s player who he will get to coach in his first year at Florida. Needless to say he is excited for the opportunity. “We are a fraternity. It’s really odd that I ended up coaching Mike his last year of college. I’ve known Mike for a long time and watched him for afar. He’s a talented kid. I think this is the first time in the history of St. Anthony’s that a former player is coaching [another] former player from St. Anthony’s,” he said.

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FOUR BITS: Quinn, Black, Strong, Rosario

1 » Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who has mostly been out on the road recruiting since the Seattle Seahawks were eliminated from the NFL Playoffs, has been assigned the Jacksonville, FL area as his primary recruiting grounds, according to The Florida Times-Union. The Times-Union’s Hays Carlyon reports that Quinn visited a number of area high schools on Friday and notes that Florida could be interested in two Yulee High School players over the next two seasons – tight end/linebacker Kelvin Rainey in 2012 and running back Derrick Henry in 2013.

2 » When former Gators safety Ahmad Black presented the game ball from the 2011 Outback Bowl to Ian Lockwood, it was obvious the two (and then-head coach Urban Meyer) had formed a special bond. In Mobile, AL for the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl, Black spoke with the Pensacola News Journal about his friendship with Lockwood and how the two became so close so quickly. “He opened the door to the Florida football program,” said Lockwood’s high school football coach Chad Lashley. “That has meant the world to Ian. It just shows the unbelievable character of Ahmad and his concern for other people. With him getting that interception, it was just the perfect ending.” You can read more thoughts from Black and Lashley by clicking here.

3 » Taking the Louisville Cardinals to a 7-6 record and earning Big East Co-Coach of the Year honors in 2010, head coach Charlie Strong appears to be in line for a new contract with a substantial raise, according to The Louisville Courier-Journal, which spoke with athletic director Tom Jurich. “We want to do [give him a raise], but this staff has been busy and they’re doing a great job, so when signing day is over and we get some time, we’re definitely going to address that,” Jurich said. “It’s been great that he’s been able to keep his staff together to this point, and I can tell you those guys are really getting after it and they’re having a great time. They’re on a rocket ship right now, and it’s fun to watch.” Louisville doing what it can to keep Strong now may prevent him leaving until a significantly better job is available a few years down the road. He currently earns $1.6 million per season.

4 » Redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario is biding his time helping Florida improve during practice while he waits out a NCAA-mandated transfer season. An article written for CNN profiling Rosario’s hall of fame high school head coach Bob Hurley, Sr. notes that the player once the star of one of Hurley’s teams and describes him as a “hot-tempered kid who used basketball as a refuge from the life in a housing project.” Rosario recounted his time playing for Hurley. “He started disciplining me like I was one of his sons,” he said. “It was to the point where I was like, ‘Wow, I had never been pushed like this in my life.’ I learned how to be a man and not a boy.”

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