Florida’s Chris Walker declares for NBA Draft

Sophomore center Chris Walker, a highly-touted five-star prospect who struggled to make an impact in two years with the Florida Gators, has decided to leave the team to try his hand at becoming a professional basketball player.

Walker has officially declared for the 2015 NBA Draft, joining junior guard Michael Frazier II, who left the program weeks ago. Walker’s declaration comes two days before the NBA’s Sunday draft declaration deadline.

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Report: Chris Walker not expected back at Florida

Florida Gators sophomore center Chris Walker, a highly-touted five-star prospect that has struggled to make an impact in the college ranks, is not expected to return to the team next season, multiple sources told Scout.com‘s Evan Daniels.

According to Daniels, Walker has not decided whether to transfer to another program or play professionally, but the end result will be the termination of his career at Florida.

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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 whips Tennessee 66-49, earns Gators coach Billy Donovan career win No. 500

Just days after turning in an embarrassing performance on the road, the Florida Gators picked themselves up and came through for head coach Billy Donovan with a dominant 66-49 win over the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

The victory gave Donovan an even 500 wins for his career, making him the second-youngest coach in Division I college basketball history to reach the mark.

Florida (14-15, 7-9 SEC) had one of its best showings of the season against Tennessee (14-14, 6-10 SEC), due in large part to the return of one of the Gators’ best players.

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

It was over when: With less than four minutes to play, sophomore point guard Kasey Hill took off on a fastbreak, driving the lane and laying in a basket to put Florida back on top by 19 points. Hill, who finished with seven points (three layups) and seven assists to just two turnovers, played a composed game and helped lead UF to victory. “He takes responsibility. He knows he has not played great. … He does try to come back. The biggest thing with him that I’d like to see more is he’s just got to get more fire and passion and competitive spirit,” Donovan said. “He gets down on himself. I keep trying to explain to him, ‘If you’re competing, you’ve got to be able to move past that.’”

Significant stretch: Soon after redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith rose up and drained his fourth trey of the evening (on four attempts), pushing Florida’s lead to a game-high 23 points, Tennessee went off on a shot 8-2 run to cut its deficit to 15 points with just over seven minutes to play. UT was unable to progress from there.

Prominent player: Finney-Smith’s return cannot be overlooked. Though other Gators played well, he led the way with a game-high 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting, draining his first four treys (4-of-5 overall) and grabbing a game-high 10 boards with one block.

“When you’re coming off a suspension and all of a sudden you got to go out there on the court, there can be this level of remorse,” Donovan said. “He’s got to be able to move past it. He served his time. He paid his penalty. It’s over with. He needs to move forward and how he moves forward is really important. I thought he was really locked in and ready to play. I thought he wanted to play well because of what had happened, him missing three games and being out of practice a little bit.”

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Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Vanderbilt ‘Dores – Inconsistency hampering improvement

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 12,989]
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST

TV: SEC Network (Mike Morgan, Barry Booker)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

SiriusXM: 134/190 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS VANDERBILT COMMODORES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kevin Stallings
Record: 12-13 (5-7 SEC) Record: 14-11 (4-8 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -5 | O/U 124.5

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The Silver Lining for February 16: Failings of Florida Gators basketball not an easy fix

After a two-week break, The Silver Lining is back to its weekly publishing schedule. This edition is dedicated to taking a closer look at the Florida Gators men’s basketball team, which at 12-13 overall and 5-7 in SEC play is floundering with its leading scorer – junior guard Michael Frazier II (high-ankle sprain) – out for an undetermined amount of time.

It’s simple, really…

To anyone who has watched the Gators this season – whether a fan, journalist, analyst, player or coach – it is quite apparent that Florida is, shall we say, a flawed basketball team. Some may chalk many of the Gators’ ills up to bad luck; UF, after all, is KenPom.com’s least-lucky team in the nation by a wide margin at -.162. But its head coach, Billy Donovan, knows that’s ultimately an easy excuse and one that tries to hide a much bigger problem.

Yes, Florida has certainly had its fair share of bad luck – late-game officiating, last-second baskets made by opponents, Jacob Kurtz’s accidental own goal tip-in at the buzzer against Florida State – but its 2-6 record in games decided by two points or fewer (and 12-13 record overall) are true representations of its play to this point.

As Donovan said after Saturday’s loss, “Life, to me, is always about getting to the truth.” So let’s do just that.

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Fastbreak: Texas A&M breaks Florida’s heart in final seconds on Valentine’s Day

The Florida Gators lost a game by a single point for the second time in three days as the Texas A&M Aggies, which led for nearly the entire contest, fought off a late surge to pick up a 63-62 win on Saturday night at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas.

Florida (12-13, 5-7 SEC) fell below .500 through 25 games for the first time since head coach Billy Donovan‘s intial season with the team in 1996-97 with its defeat at the hands of Texas A&M (17-7, 8-4 SEC), giving the Gators four-straight losses – their first such streak since 2007-08.

OnlyGators.com breaks down Saturday’s action with eight quick-hitters:

It was over when: Florida trailed for 37:33 before taking its first lead, using a 6-0 run including a step-back jumper by redshirt junior guard Eli Carter and fastbreak layup tip-in from sophomore center Chris Walker to jump ahead 62-61 with 1:45 to play. A careless turnover by sophomore point guard Kasey Hill – following a big defensive stop – put Texas A&M back on top by one. The Gators touched the ball last, calling a timeout with 5.3 seconds remaining but nevertheless failing to get off a shot, passing the ball twice with redshirt junior forward Alex Murphy attempting a three after the buzzer.

“A&M really had control of the game from start to finish. They were probably a little bit surprised – as most everybody else was – when we went up by one,” said Donovan. “We got a good stop and then we turned the ball over, which we fouled [on the play]. … I thought we had a chance [at the end]. Dorian probably should’ve made a play on that, but he’s very unselfish and it was an unselfish play by him … but there wasn’t enough time to do that. He probably needed to be more selfish in that situation.”

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