The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 20

Couple thousand student season tickets remain unsold

Attendance at sporting events is a growing problem across the nation, and the Florida Gators have been attempting to do whatever they can to try and address the issue in order to reach full capacity at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium each week.

Florida has wired the stadium to drastically improve cellular phone reception (though high-speed wireless internet, at a cost of about $3 million, has not yet been implemented throughout the stadium), begun offering more affordable tickets to recent graduates, opened spring and fall practices to all comers and even formed a council of boosters and students to ensure the program is doing everything it can to get its tickets sold.

UF also worked with the Southeastern Conference and its television partners to ensure that its early-season games were played in the late afternoon or evening, rather than the grueling early-afternoon heat.

Unfortunately for the Gators, the problem has only continued to grow. What was once limited to declining season ticket sales from boosters, those unwilling to spend thousands of dollars to get a couple of seats in The Swamp on Sunday, has now jumped across the field to the student section.

A Florida spokesman told OnlyGators.com last week that the school had “a couple thousand” student season tickets unsold with just two weeks to go before the start of the season. Pressed for a more specific number with 10 days left, the spokesman divulged this week that there are approximately 2,000 student season tickets available (as of press time) with that number shrinking minimally each day.

Continue Reading » The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 20

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PF Noah Dickerson commits to Florida, Donovan

Updated at 5:30 p.m.

Going back to the Montverde Academy pipeline for the third time in the last four recruiting cycles, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan landed a big verbal commitment on Sunday when four-star power forward Noah Dickerson (Montverde, FL) announced his intention to join the program next season.

At 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds, Dickerson is rated as the No. 56 overall player in the Class of 2015 by Rivals. A one-time Georgetown commitment, he changed his mind in June and reopened his recruitment, listening to pitches from a number of schools including Florida.

In the end, Dickerson decided to play for Donovan and the Gators.

Continue Reading » PF Noah Dickerson commits to Florida, Donovan

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FOUR BITS: NBA Draft, Haslem, Parsons, Noah

1 » ESPN.com’s Chad Ford took an early look at the prospects potentially available in the 2015 NBA Draft and had a number of Florida Gators on his top-100 list. Leading the way at No. 13 overall is forward/center Chris Walker, who is projected to be a lottery selection. He is followed by sophomore point guard Kasey Hill (No. 29), junior guard Michael Frazier II (No. 65) and redshirt junior F Dorian Finney-Smith (No. 67). Walker has already decided to turn pro after the 2014-15 season, though Hill will need to take a major step forward if he hopes to leave after his second campaign. Frazier and Finney-Smith will likely remain at Florida for their senior seasons.

2 » Power forward Udonis Haslem chose not to exercise his player option of $4.6 million with the Miami Heat, the second time in his career that he has left money on the table to help the club have increased flexibility in free agency. The last time Haslem made a similar maneuver, he gave up $10 million in salary to re-sign with Miami instead of take a free agent contract with the Dallas Mavericks. Halsem, now 34, is near the end of his NBA career. He averaged a career-low 14.2 minutes per game during the regular season and played less than 11 minutes on average in the 2013-14 postseason. Rather than take the chunk salary of $4.6 million he is due as an option, he is expected to sign a multi-year deal for a larger amount (but lower annual salary) that will be paid out over three or four seasons. Chances are Haslem will retire before seeing the end of his contract and be given a role in the Heat organization while still being paid by the franchise. He will be entering his 12th season in 2014-15.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: NBA Draft, Haslem, Parsons, Noah

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FOUR BITS: MLB Draft, revenue, Walker, Spikes

1 » The 2014 MLB Draft begins Thursday night and unlike years past, members of the Florida Gators baseball team will not have their attention diverted from postseason competition due to the program being eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Also unlike previous years, Florida does not have anyone projected to go in the early rounds of the draft, though that does not mean that draft-eligible Gators will not leave the program early (there were no seniors on the roster).

Junior catcher Taylor Gushue should be the first Florida player off the board at some point during the second day of the draft on Friday (Rounds 3-10). Juniors right-handed pitcher Ryan Harris, first baseman Zack Powers (previously drafted), left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner, outfielder/RHP Justin Shafer, third baseman Josh Tobias (previously drafted) and second baseman Casey Turgeon (previously drafted) could all be selected. Redshirt junior RHP Karsten Whitson, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, is expected to be picked and choose to a professional after dealing with injuries throughout his Gators career. Florida will also have a number of players from its 14-member 2015 recruiting class drafted.

2 » USA Today on Thursday released its college athletic department financial database, and Florida checked in sixth nationally in total revenue by bringing in more than $130 million last year. Weighed against its $107 million in expenses, UF netted over $23 million (second to Alabama’s $27 million) in 2013. Florida brought in $1 million more in ticket sales ($24.6 million) and $2 million more in contributions ($48.4 million) compared to 2012, figures that increased for the third-straight year (2011-13) after dipping in consecutive years (2009-10). The Gators also spent $1 million more on coaching and staff ($41.9 million) compared to 2012 but were nearly $2 million below its nine-year maximum of $43.7 million in 2011.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: MLB Draft, revenue, Walker, Spikes

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Florida Gators add transfer C John Egbunu

The Florida Gators on Thursday landed their third transfer in the last six months, adding South Florida Bulls center John Egbunu to a stacked roster.

Egbunu’s decision was first reported by CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Borzello.

A four-star prospect and the No. 83 overall player in the Class of 2013, Egbunu (6-foot-10, 245 pounds), joins the Gators this summer but will be unable to play at Florida until the 2015-16 season when he will be listed as a redshirt sophomore after sitting out the 2014-15 campaign due to NCAA transfer rules.

He will have three years of collegiate eligibility remaining when he suits up for UF.

Egbunu made 31 starts in 32 games for the Bulls, setting a school record for rebounds by a freshman (198) while averaging 7.4 points, 6.2 boards and 1.3 blocks per contest.

He is one of five South Florida players that transferred after the school fired head coach Stan Health, choosing Florida over Michigan State, Georgetown and Virginia Tech.

Egbunu, a native of Bauchi, Nigeria, had his eligibility reviewed by the NCAA during the 2013-14 season but did not miss any games.

Continue Reading » Florida Gators add transfer C John Egbunu

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Michigan F Jon Horford transfers to Florida

Updated on Tuesday, May 13 at 5 p.m.

Forward Jon Horford, a Michigan Wolverines transfer and the brother of former Florida Gators standout Al Horford, has decided to play out his final year of eligibility in Gainesville, Florida, according to ESPN.com‘s Jeff Goodman.

Entering his redshirt senior campaign, Jon Horford (6-foot-10, 250 pounds) will be eligible to play immediately due to the NCAA’s graduate transfer exemption after receiving his undergraduate degree from Michigan in May.

The school announced his transfer on May 13, noting that he started graduate-level classes when the Summer A semester began on May 12.

Florida has a crowded frontcourt in 2014-15 but should be able to find a fair amount of playing time for Horford. He averaged 3.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per contest last season and originally decided to transfer to see more time on the court.

That may not be possible with the Gators, which will have sophomore Chris Walker, redshirt senior Damontre Harris, redshirt juniors Dorian Finney-Smith and Alex Murphy, and five-star incoming freshman Devin Robinson in the frontcourt.

Walker is likely to start at power forward or center next to either Harris or Murphy with Finney-Smith playing small forward. Horford will give Florida a big body and great energy off the bench to spell Walker and Harris but could see an uptick in playing time should Harris once again fall out of favor with the program.

With Horford’s transfer, UF has filled its final scholarship for the 2014-15 campaign.

Four-star guard Brandone Francis and four-star point guard Chris Chiozza are the other two incoming freshman aside from Robinson. All three first-year players are ranked among the top 42 prospects in the nation for 2014, according to Rivals.com.

Murphy will not be eligible until the spring semester after transferring in the middle of the 2013-14 season; however, the Gators plan to petition the NCAA for a waiver that would allow the legacy to play at the start of the campaign.

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TWO BITS: Horford transfer, Easley Pro Day

1 » According to ESPN.com‘s Jeff Goodman, redshirt junior forward Jon Horford, a Michigan Wolverines transfer and the brother of former Florida Gators F Al Horford, is heavily considering choosing to play the final year of his collegiate career in Gainesville, FL. Jon Horford (6-foot-10, 250 pounds) will be a redshirt senior in 2014-15 and cleared to play without having to sit out a season. He registered 3.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game for Michigan last season and decided to transfer in order to get more playing time. That is one reason why a move to Florida was not believed to be on the table previously. Though the Gators are in need of frontcourt players, they do have freshman Chris Walker and redshirt junior Damontre Harris at center next season. Florida will also play redshirt juniors Alex Murphy (currently not scheduled to be eligible until the spring), redshirt junior Dorian Finney-Smith and incoming freshman Devin Robinson, though the latter two players will likely play small forward. Horford’s addition would fill UF’s remaining 2014-15 scholarship but not affect the allotment for 2015-16.

2 » Gators defensive tackle Dominique Easley has spent the last seven months rehabilitating his torn ACL but is finally getting the chance to show NFL teams what he can do on Thursday as he is participating in a private Pro Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville. Joining Easley for the workout are outside linebackers Ronald Powell and Darrin Kitchens, who also participated in Florida’s first Pro Day one month earlier on March 17. Easley recently completed a visit with the Dallas Cowboys, his first private trip, and is expected to go on many more after his Pro Day workout is complete. Projections for Easley range from the second to fifth round, but he is likely to be taken on the second day of the 2014 NFL Draft as long as he can prove he’s healthy.

Continue Reading » TWO BITS: Horford transfer, Easley Pro Day

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Freshman PF Chris Walker announces return to Florida Gators for sophomore season

Freshman power forward Chris Walker announced Wednesday that he intends to skip the 2014 NBA Draft, continue playing college basketball and return to the Florida Gators as a sophomore for the 2014-15 season.

“This year has been a great one, and I’m happy to say I will be joining the gatornation again for one more year!” he wrote Wednesday afternoon on Twitter.

Walker, an athletic frontcourt player who joined the team in mid-December after being declared academically ineligible for the fall semester, did not play his first game until Feb. 4 while serving an NCAA suspension for accepting impermissible benefits.

He averaged 4.8 minutes over the 18 games he did play, amassing a grand total of 34 points, 24 rebounds and eight blocks on the season.

As he neither went through the offseason strength and conditioning program nor spent the summer and fall practicing with the team, Walker was far behind when he eventually became eligible for the Gators.

His length and athleticism were apparent in his rebounding and shot blocking, but he often rushed shots when getting post touches and was considered a liability on defense.

Continue Reading » Freshman PF Chris Walker announces return to Florida Gators for sophomore season

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