Erving Walker set to begin career in Italy

Societa Veroli Basket announced over the weekend that it has signed former Florida Gators point guard Erving Walker to play for the team this season. Known more commonly as Prima Veroli, the team plays in Legadue Basket (Lega2 Basket), which is the second-highest division of professional basketball in Italy.

In the release (translated), Prima Veroli says the head coach “has decided to again focus on a rookie for the direction of the team” and that acquiring Walker “scored a major hit against the competition of different teams that were [in] on the American talent.”

The team added that working with Walker’s Italian agent Matteo Comellini on a contract was a breeze (it has already been signed) and that it hopes Walker is in uniform by Aug. 20 after he completes the necessary visa paperwork.

Walker, who played more minutes than anyone in the history of Florida basketball, set the program’s career assist mark (547) before graduating and left the team ranked second in three-pointers made (285) and fourth on the all-time scoring list (1,777 points).

It is the second-straight year that a former Gators player has signed to play overseas after forward Alex Tyus played professionally for Maccabi Ashdod of Israel’s second league during the 2011-12 season. He averaged 12 points and 8.5 rebounds over the course of the season and was named the league’s Sixth Man of the Year.

Tyus will join Walker in Italy this season after signing a two-year, $525,000 deal to play for Pallacanestro Cantu of the Euroleague, which is known as the highest tier of international club basketball in Europe. He also received his Israeli passport and has begun training with Israel’s national team.

Houston Rockets F Chandler Parsons, after being selected in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft, also played for Cholet Basket of the French Pro A League last season during the NBA lockout.

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Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2011 (check out Saturday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players ending their accomplished careers to coaches and current players being part of some of the biggest news stories this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2011. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 11 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

11 » LEGAL ISSUES/EMBARRASSMENTS HANG OVER PROGRAM
Like 2009 and 2010, Florida could not escape its share of unfortunate arrests and embarrassing incidents in 2011. It started simply enough early in February when a pair of Gators swimmers – Lily Ramirez and Daniela Victoria – were arrested and indefinitely suspended from the team after being accused of shoplifting from Nordstrom at the Orlando Mall. Next up was Florida senior outfielder Bryson Smith, who was picked up on March 13 for driving under the influence. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy was arrested in Gainesville, FL three weeks later and charged with a trio of misdemeanors for failing to obey a police officer, possession of a drug (Viagra) without a valid prescription and resisting arrest without violence. The month of April was a tough one for the basketball team. Forwards Erik Murphy and Cody Larson were arrested in St. Augustine, FL and charged with third-degree felony burglary charges after allegedly breaking into a car, and team manager Josh Adel was also arrested for principal to burglary for allegedly serving as a lookout. Charges against the players were eventually reduced and each settled their respective case, while Adel had all charges against him dropped. Additionally, former Florida F Dan Wener was charged with a DUI even though he blew below the legal limit (0.08) on the Breathalyzer twice. The State Attorney’s Office eventually dropped his charges due to insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.

Unfortunately the year of brushes with the law was just getting started for the Gators. It surfaced on April 24 via a news report that both linebacker Chris Martin and defensive end Kendric Johnson were cited with misdemeanors for possessing approximately two grams of marijuana each in their respective vehicles on separate occasions. Former Florida WR Reche Caldwell was arrested one month later for possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license. Gators runner Andries Dumisane Hlaselo had the darkest arrest of the year, being picked up in June after being accused of rape and sexual assault. He was immediately dismissed from the team. The Florida football team had the remainder of the year’s arrests. Sophomore safety Matt Elam was cited for underage drinking for the second time in as many years in July, and an August report noted that freshman defensive back De’Ante Saunders was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in May. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finely was arrested on Sept. 13 on a first-degree misdemeanor for driving a scooter with a suspended license as well as a third-degree felony for resisting arrest without violence, and freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson was served with a written arrest for underage drinking just one day later. Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley had the last brush with the law of 2011 as he was accused of attacking a former Alabama player early in October but was cleared of the charges one month later. All-in-all, for every positive thing accomplished by the Gators in 2011, there always seemed to be something negative about the program just around the corner.

10 » SIX BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY; THREE SUFFER SERIOUS MEDICAL ISSUES DURING THE YEAR
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2011 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place or suffered through serious medical issues in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon or had plenty to deal with as the year went on. Jimmy Carnes (76), a former Gators track and field coach, passed away in March after losing a four-year battle with prostate cancer. Former linebacker/safety and three-time Super Bowl winner Godfrey Myles (42) suffered a massive heart attack in June and, while in the hospital on life support, had a stroke that took his life. Former punter and 12-year NFL veteran Don Chandler (76) also lost a long battle with cancer in August. Mike Heimerdinger (58), who was diagnosed with cancer early in the year, passed away in October. He was a former graduate assistant and wide receivers coach at Florida and won consecutive SEC titles with the team from 1984-85. Ending the year on a sad note, beloved Gainesville, FL businessman and former Gators long snapper Harold Monk III (42) died suddenly in December. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

Florida freshman linebacker Neiron Ball was the first of three members of the Gators family to suffer serious health issues during the year. He was rushed to the hospital in February after a blood vessel in his brain ruptured as part of a congenital vascular condition. The doctors were able to stop the bleeding and Ball was released from the hospital four days later, but he was forced to miss the entire season for recovery purposes. In the middle of the year, Miami Heat guard/forward Mike Miller was lucky enough to have his wife give birth to a daughter named Jaylen. Unfortunately for the family, she was forced to spend two weeks in a pediatric intensive care unit after doctors found that she had five holes in her heart upon being born. The Millers eventually brought Jaylen home with them in a bit of a coincidence considering they actually donated $1 million to a pediatric intensive care unit at children’s hospital in his home town in 2007. Later that month, former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which he is currently still recovering from and will continue to do so over the next few months.

Continue Reading » Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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NBA season begins with 10 Gators on rosters

The shortened 2011-12 NBA season is set to tip-off on Sunday with 10 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
- 2010-11: Averaging career highs in points (15.3), field goal percentage (.557), assists (3.5) and minutes (35.1), Horford also contributed 9.3 rebounds and 1.0 block per game last year. He led his team to the second round of the playoffs for the third-straight season; nlike the previous two years, the Hawks were not swept but rather fell 4-2.
- 2011-12: The Godfather was named a captain in Atlanta one year ago and wound up earning his second-straight NBA All-Star nod as a reserve. The Hawks resigned him to a five-year, $60 million extension in Nov. 2010, and he enters this season as one of the team’s two best and most popular players.

Joakim Noah, C, Chicago Bulls
- 2010-11: Averaging a double-double with career highs in points (11.7), field goal percentage (.525), assists (2.2) and minutes (32.8), Noah was also good for 10.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steal per game. He only played in 48 games due to having two surgeries for ligament damage in his hand and a right thumb injury but helped lead Chicago to the conference finals where the Bulls lost 4-1 in five games.
- 2011-12: Noah was rewarded by Chicago for his hard work with a five-year, $60 million extension last offseason. His defense and shot blocking makes him an elite big man in the league and he will be a key piece for the Bulls this season as they hope to earn a spot in the NBA Finals.

David Lee, F/C, Golden State Warriors
- 2010-11: Falling just short of a double-double average aver accomplishing that feat in consecutive seasons with the New York Knicks, Lee contributed 16.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.0 steal per game in 36.1 minutes on average last season. He shot 50.7 percent from the floor and 78.7 percent from the line in 73 games after missing nine due to an elbow injury that got infected.
- 2011-12: Lee agreed to a six-year, $80 million contract with Golden State after being traded from New York before last season and shined as a efficient big man in an up-tempo offense. His numbers fell because he was not relied upon as heavily with the Warriors, but he should have ample opportunities to showcase his talent.

Read the rest of OGGOA’s 2011-12 NBA Preview…after the break!
Continue Reading » NBA season begins with 10 Gators on rosters

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Chandler Parsons talks Gators basketball

With Florida Gators basketball season approaching, OGGOA sat down with forward Chandler Parsons to discuss the team heading into the 2011-12 season. We spoke with Parsons while he was overseas in France playing with Cholet Basket of the Ligue Nationale de Basketball – the top men’s French professional basketball league.

Parsons was signed through Oct. 31 and has since returned to the United States as he waits for the NBA lockout to come to a conclusion. When it does, he will suit up for the Houston Rockets, which selected him with the No. 38 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Fans have not gotten the chance to see Mike Rosario play in a Gators uniform yet. What was it like to go against Rosario in practice, how talented do you think he is and how will he fit in with Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker?
CHANDLER PARSONS: “Mike Rosario is going to be a fun player for fans to watch. Last year in practice he really pushed the starting five and can really shoot the ball. He’s one of the best shooters I’ve seen and will play well off Erv and K.B. He’ll ensure that his defender doesn’t help because the way he can shoot the ball gives Florida more ability to get in the lane and create. If his defender helps, he will knock down the open shot and give them many assist possibilities.

AS: Same question in regards to Cody Larson. What did you see from him in practice and what can he bring to the team?
CP: “Cody is a big body who can rebound and run the floor and step out and knock down jumpers. He just has to bring it every night and provide energy and whatever else the team needs. He could really help out down low this year if he earns the opportunity.

AS: With yourself, Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin all having graduated, Florida is obviously lacking the experience inside that the team has had for the last few years. In what areas do you think Patric Young needs to improve in from the start in order to step up and be a consistent presence for the team?
CP: “Pat is an absolute monster. Watching him work out this summer, he really impressed me. He competes and plays so hard and has a great motor and is all about the team and winning. He’s going to have to play big all year long and lead the way rebounding with me, Alex and Vernon gone. He’ll also have to step up and block shots as well as finish everything around the rim. I believe in him and think he has the potential to be one of the best centers in the conference.”

AS: Obviously Erik Murphy is going to start as a forward, but he was also working on his perimeter game a bit last year. Who do you see stepping up and being the No. 2 “big man” presence for the Gators?
CP: “All the other bigs have potential and can help them out in different ways. I heard Erik had a great summer and looked a lot bigger than the last time I saw him. He can really shoot it for his size and can space the floor, too. The same goes for Walter [Pitchford]. With those guys having the ability to shoot the three, they could really cause problems. Will [Yeguete] and Cody can also help out rebounding and providing us with another big body to throw at you. Everyone knows our guards can score, so our bigs have to rebound, block shots and just play physical for however long there in the game.”

AS: Knowing Billy Donovan as you do, how often do you think Florida might play with four guards? Do you think he’ll be using any different offensive/defensive principles with a smaller lineup?
CP: “I could definitely see them going four guards depending on who they’re playing, but I don’t see them starting that way. Our guards are going to have to really help out rebounding when we go small, especially Brad [Beal] and Casey [Prather]. Whatever coach does, the guys just have the understand it doesn’t matter who starts, it matters whose on the floor at the end of the game. With this team, it could be anybody’s night on any given night. As long as they stay together and play unselfish, they could be special.”

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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Parsons heads to France to play for Cholet

With the NBA lockout ongoing and potentially not ending any time soon, former Florida Gators forward Chandler Parsons decided to take advantage of another opportunity and will play for two months across the Atlantic Ocean in France.

Parsons signed a two-month deal with Cholet Basket, one of 16 teams in Pro A of the Ligue Nationale de Basketball, the top men’s French professional basketball league. He is signed through Oct. 31 but has an out clause on Oct. 3 – the day the NBA is supposed to open training camp – in case the league does start on time.

“It’s a great opportunity. Cholet is one of the better teams in France and they have a great history,” Parsons told OGGOA Friday evening. “It’s really prestigious team. I’m just happy they were flexible enough to allow me to come over there and play with a NBA out to return to Houston whenever [the lockout] ends.”

Though he has never been to France, Parsons is excited about the opportunity and feels some comfort knowing that a long-time friend, guard Taylor Battle formerly of Penn State, is currently playing for Cholet.

“It will be nice to have him there and know somebody,” he said. “I think it’s good just to keep competing and playing, and they have a high level of talent over there, so I think I’m better off going there, competing and practicing every day and getting better as a player.”

After his two-month deal is over, if the NBA has not begun playing, Parsons has the option to re-sign with Cholet, return to the United States or play for any other team.

“There were other teams in a few other countries [that offered],” he said. “If you look, not a lot of guys are getting the option to go overseas with an out [clause]. I’m real fortunate. My agent [Mark Bartelstein] did a great job, and I’m just excited to go do it and be able to compete instead of just being around home and working out here.”

The No. 38 overall pick in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft, Parsons was selected by the Houston Rockets, who had originally traded the pick but bought it back for $1.5 million. He is expected to sign a guaranteed contract when the 2011-12 season begins.

Photo Credit: US Presswire

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