Larson now a walk-on; Donovan joins Gators

Redshirt sophomore forward Cody Larson was far from surprised at the decision he was faced with this summer and that acknowledgement, combined with the mature choice he made, could be the first steps on the road to his turnaround with the Florida Gators.

Florida head coach Billy Donovan announced Wednesday during the team’s annual media day that Larson is no longer on scholarship but will pay his own way and remain with the Gators as a walk-on player.

Donovan did not come to this decision based on what Larson has done as a player during games (which has not been much to this point) but rather due to off-the-court issues both basketball related and not.

“Cody has had some responsibility issues over last year and I think certainly some of the things with Cody’s past [were] well documented. It had nothing to do with those things but had more to do with his level of responsibility here,” Donovan explained. “There were some things I wanted him to do during the course of the year that he knew there was a possibility [if] he didn’t do these things there was a chance he may not be back and he came up short on those things.”

He continued, “I think everyone’s scholarship is very valuable and you want guys to have a responsibility to take care of things they need to take care of and for Cody, those things were not happening. So, we got his family involved. Basically informed his family we were not going to renew his scholarship until he took care of these things. [We] gave Cody the option to transfer if he wanted to leave to find another school and also gave him the option to come back, try to earn his scholarship back. To his credit, this is where he wanted to be.”

Larson’s difficult decision, the first on a long list of things he must do in order to prove his commitment to the program, was a big step in the right direction for Donovan, who said he is pleased with what he has seen from him so far this offseason.

Read the rest of this story on Larson and Donovan…after the break!
Continue Reading » Larson now a walk-on; Donovan joins Gators

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FOUR BITS: Donovan, Spikes, volleyball, soccer

1 » The Florida Gators announced on Tuesday that head coach Billy Donovan’s son of the same name has decided to transfer to Florida and walk on to the team to play for and learn from his father. Billy Donovan , who spent his last two years playing for the Catholic Cardinals (Division III) in Washington, D.C., has already joined the team and will don the No. 42 though fans will not see him on the court this year as he will be forced to ride the bench during games due to NCAA transfer rules. As was noted a year ago when Catholic traveled to Gainesville, FL to play the Gators in an exhibition game, the younger Donovan originally chose to attend that university in order to further his passion for politics. A change of career path – he is now interested in a coaching or administrative role in a basketball organization – led him right back to where he grew up. “I never wanted it to be like I was telling him what to do career-wise,” Donovan told UF’s GatorZone.com. “I think he needs to figure that out on his own. My job, my wife’s job, is to be supportive and help put him in the best situation for him to pursue what he wants to pursue.” There is probably no better spot for the younger Donovan to learn how to coach or run a basketball team than under the wing of a future hall of fame coach.

2 » New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes received some bad news on Friday when he learned that the NFL decided to fine him $21,000 for an illegal blindside block he threw in a game on Sept. 30. Spikes, who leveled Buffalo tight end Scott Chandler during an interception return for his team, told the team’s website earlier in the week that he did not believe that he did anything wrong. “A lot of guys, they know the new rules. I don’t think I’ve done anything illegal,” he said. “I’ve tried to keep it legal, but I just want to kind of try to make a point – when I hit a guy, I want him [to say], ‘Oh, that was Spikes that hit me. I know that already.”

3 » No. 11 Florida volleyball (13-2, 7-0 SEC) has been on a roll as of late, wrapping up their ninth- and 10th-straight regular season wins over the weekend while hosting a pair of Southeastern Conference opponents in Gainesville. UF registered a 3-0 sweep (25-23, 25-18, 25-15) the Arkansas Razorbacks (13-4, 4-2 SEC) on Friday before coming from two sets down to win 3-2 (22-25, 20-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-8) against the Kentucky Wildcats (10-7, 4-3 SEC) on Sunday. Freshman outside hitter Ziva Recek of Slovenia was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday for her efforts over the weekend. She registered a total of 32 kills and 14 digs combined over the two matches. Impressive in her own right was junior middle back Chloe Mann, who notched a combined 22 kills and 30.0 points on the weekend.

4 » No. 12 Gators soccer (10-3-1, 7-1 SEC) is on a roll of their own, shaking off early season disappointment to rebound with a seven-match winning streak including two big road victories over the last weekend. Florida won 2-0 over the LSU Tigers (5-5-4, 1-4-2 SEC) on Friday before, like volleyball, coming back from a deficit to take down the No. 5 Texas A&M Aggies (12-2-1, 6-1-1 SEC) 2-1 on Sunday. Four different players scored goals for the Gators over the weekend with senior midfielder/forward Erika Tymrak and sophomore MF Havana Solaun finding the back of the net on Friday and senior defender Jo Dragotta and junior F Adriana Leon scoring on Sunday. Tymrak, who garnered SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors on Monday, also notched an assist on Leon’s game-winning goal.

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11/3: Florda vs. Catholic post-game notes

The No. 8/10 Florida Gators soundly defeated the Catholic Cardinals Thursday evening in an exhibition match at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some Florida players discussed the contest as well as their outlook for the upcoming season.

GUARD PLAY A BIG HIGHLIGHT

Considering every Gators starter scored in double figures and the backcourt was raining threes all night long, Donovan had little to criticize after the game when it came to how his most talked about unit played. He was mostly impressed with their effort, especially how many resists the team recorded over the course of the game.

“There has been so much talk about our backcourt and how all of that is going to work. The thing I’ve said all along is that I really felt like in practice for the last two-and-a-half-to-three weeks, they have really played unselfishly, shared the ball and worked well together. Today kind of displayed that,” he said. “With the way they’ve been unselfish passing the ball, it was really what I’ve seen for the last two-and-a-half weeks of practice.

“I made the comment that I think we’re explosive offensively. Certainly we got it going in the first half there. I was really pleased with the unselfishness of 31 assists, the ball movement, those guys playing together, them looking for each other. I thought we got a lot of great looks. We shot 57 percent from the field and shot a really high percentage in our scrimmage.”

Even though Florida shot 40 treys in the contest, Donovan said that because they were open shots created by ball rotation, he was perfectly fine with that figure and result (the team shot 50 percent from beyond the arc).

“The one thing that was kind of interesting in the first half was I think we took 37 shots in the first half, and I think we took maybe 23-24 three-point shots. I didn’t like the balance there, but I can honestly say I don’t know if we took one bad three-point shot in the first half,” he said.

“I can’t remember a game since I’ve been here that we took 40 three-point shots. We took 40 three-point shots and made 20. There were a few bad ones there in the second half, but for the most part in the first half with the way the ball was being moved around we got some good looks. We made some adjustments in the press; we were disruptive. I thought we did a lot of good things.”

BEAL AND ROSARIO INTRODUCED TO GATOR NATION

Though Thursday was not an official game, it was the first time that Gators fans got to see guards freshman Brad Beal and redshirt junior transfer Mike Rosario active for Florida. Beal was explosive with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting (4-for-7 from downtown) and added five dimes to his line.

“What you saw tonight is what I’ve seen since he stepped foot on campus. He’s very advanced. He’s got a really high basketball IQ. He lets the game come to him. He’s really an efficient scorer. He does a lot of different things,” Donovan said after the game. “What you saw tonight is what I watch every day in practice. He’s that kind of player. He gets the team; he gets the chemistry. They all understand that when you have a self-awareness of yourself in terms of you care about trying to play the right way because you care about the guys on your team, that’s a good thing. I think Brad has that and embodies a lot of those things.”

Rosario was also quite effective, posting 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting (4-for-7 from downtown) with six assists and two steals. As the Gators’ sixth man, Rosario saw more court time than three starters did (24 minutes). Donovan believes both Beal and Rosario will go a long way to helping senior point guard Erving Walker and junior G Kenny Boynton play even better this year.

“They’re going to relieve some pressure off those guys in a positive way,” he said. “Those two guys are warriors. They’ve played a lot of minutes and there has been a lot on their shoulders. I have the utmost respect for both of those two guys. What you’re seeing now is Erving [and Kenny] not having that scoring power around him, how much has fallen on both those guys shoulders, and they have still tried to go out and do what they can at a high level. They got help now.”

MUST HIT THE GLASS HARDER

Florida outrebounded Catholic 36-31 on Thursday but that is not saying much considering how much more athletic and talented the Gators are than the Cardinals. Donovan realizes that rebounding will be a work in progress for UF this season, calling it the team’s biggest challenge going forward.

“We need to rebound the ball because we’re so explosive offensively, and it’s so hard when we’re coming down to floor to match-up with us. We eliminate a huge strength of our team in broken floor situations if we get dominated on the glass and we have to constantly inbound the ball,” he explained.

“Part of the reason we went on that huge run and the score just exploded was we got stops and steals and we got out of transition. All of a sudden the floor is spaced, the ball is moving around like it is, and it’s finding guys who are getting pretty high percentage shots for good shooters. My thing for the rebounding for us is not so much that we have to do it, but it takes away a huge strength for our team if we get annihilated in the backcourt. We got to get better there.”

No Florida player posted double-digit boards on Thursday with sophomores center Patric Young and guard/forward Casey Prather each registering a team-high seven rebounds.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on how his son Billy Donovan, Jr. performed for Catholic: “I was really proud of him. I thought he played aggressive. It was a hard situation for him to walk into. I did not know what to expect. The thing that I was the most pleased with was that he really was not overwhelmed in the situation. He just tried to do what the coaches and his team asked him to do. I thought he really played well and did a good job. He’s got a great opportunity to have a great career there. […] To be able to come back here and – their whole team – they really competed hard. Certainly they were overwhelmed talent-wise, but they really played hard and competed and I was happy for him.”

» Donovan on how Young has been cutting down the fouls: “He’s been pretty good. In our scrimmage against UCF he had two fouls in 40 minutes. He did a really nice job. He was effective and physical. It’s going to be a learning process for Patric. The biggest thing I’m trying to get him to eliminate is the silly fouls.”

» Donovan on the press: “What we can’t do is put our defense and Patric in a bad position in the back end of the press for fouls.”

» Donovan on what else Florida has to do offensively: “When you have a level of awareness of people around you, you’re inclined to make the extra pass. We got to have more of a presence in the paint. That’s not meaning Patric, because Patric provides a presence for us. We have to have a presence in terms of driving and penetrating.”

» Beal on playing his first game in the O’Dome: “With it being my first game, [I was happy with] just how unselfish we are. Everybody got a chance to play. Everybody got to touch the ball. Everybody scored. With the type of team we are, I’m realizing we can be a pretty good team.”

» Beal what it felt like to finally play college ball: “It was real important. I’ve been waiting on this for a long time. The nerves were kicking in at first, but once the game started, everything was going, I had fun and just relaxed.”

» Beal on how Donovan felt about playing his son: “He wanted to beat him but at the same time he wanted him to do good. He was talking to him a little bit on the floor.”

» Beal on if it is easier playing off the ball and with veterans: “It makes it easier for everybody. Last year obviously they had a lot of trouble with that. Now we have a huge backcourt as well as we have power inside. It’s going to be hard to defend us both inside and outside.”

» Beal on how he thought the press worked: “Up front we did real good in the press. We did exactly what Coach Donovan wanted us to. We have to get better at our defense and rebounding. Those are the two main keys coach Donovan always points out to us.”

» Rosario on sharing the ball: “That’s a big thing because a lot of people in the nation think that by us having Kenny, Erving Walker, myself and Brad Beal, how are we going to share the ball? Right now we’re just putting our focus on the defensive end, moving the ball around and making each other better.”

» Rosario on playing off the ball: “I love playing off the ball here, and I love the role I have to play. It take sa lot of pressure off of me because I’m surrounded by a lot of good players.“

» Rosario on the defensive effort: “We did a good job on the defensive end. we got a lot of things to clear up and to get better at in practice. I’m sure coach is going to go over those things in practice and watch film.”

» Boynton on how Beal played: “Even in the scrimmage that we played, Brad played the same exact way. He’s a smooth player. He doesn’t force anything and has a great basketball IQ. I think he’s going to continue that throughout the season.”

» Walker on team defense: “We got to continue focus defensively because that can be our Achilles heel. We have to gang rebound as guards, get in there and it’s not going to come pretty every night.”

» Walker on Donovan watching his son: “I think it was a good moment for him. I think he enjoyed it. I actually thought he is son played really well and made some shots. I thought he played hard.”

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Three-pointer crusade leads Florida past Catholic

No. 8/10 Florida Gators basketball had the perfect tune up on Thursday evening, defeating the Division-III Catholic Cardinals 114-57 in an exhibition match at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Sporting new uniforms and playing on a redesigned home court, Florida had six players score in double figures in the contest, which saw them lead from start to finish.

Gators junior guard Kenny Boynton posted a double-double and led all players with 21 points and 10 rebounds while hitting 6-of-11 attempts from downtown.

Freshman G Brad Beal (20 points, five assists), redshirt junior transfer G Mike Rosario (18 points, six assists) and senior point guard Erving Walker (15 points, four assists) also shot well from beyond the arc, combining to go 11-for-20.

Sophomores center Patric Young and guard/forward Casey Prather each grabbed a game-high seven rebounds; Young added 10 points and three steals.

Junior F Erik Murphy was 6-of-9 from the field and 3-for-4 from downtown for 17 points, and sophomore F Will Yeguete added nine points on 5-of-6 shooting from the charity stripe. Redshirt freshman F Cody Larson and freshman F Walter Pitchford were the only Florida players unable to score in a combined 22 minutes.

As a team, the Gators shot 57.1 percent from the field (40-of-70), 50 percent from three (20-of-40) and 70 percent from the free throw line (14-of-20). Florida outrebounded Catholic 36-31, led their opponent in steals 16-3 and scored 50 points off turnovers.

Cardinals G Billy Donovan, Jr., Gators head coach Billy Donovan’s son, led Catholic in points (13) and minutes played (27). He received a friendly ovation before the game and when being pulled from the game at the end of the second half.

The Gators will have a week off before officially beginning the 2011-12 season. Florida takes on Jackson State in their regular season opener on Friday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. in the O’Connell Center. The game will air live on FOX Sports Florida (check your local listings).

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