Next for Chris Walker: NBA or Donovan process?

One way or another, the 2014 NCAA Tournament comes to an end in less than two weeks and a number of Florida Gators will need to sit down and evaluate their basketball-playing careers at that time.

That future remains somewhat decided for Florida’s four seniors, all of whom will first look to the NBA but almost certainly play professional basketball somewhere next season.

A number of other Gators will have a variety of options on the table.

Junior guard Eli Carter must determine whether he believes he will physically be able to play next season when he will be 19 months removed from a broken leg. Sophomore G Dillon Graham, coming off surgery for bone spurs in his hips, will also have to reevaluate his situation at Florida. Even if completely healthy, will he see much playing time in 2014-15 after an infusion of talent arrives at UF in the fall?

Then there’s the five-star freshmen. Though it was point guard Kasey Hill who opened the season as a starter and has seen extensive playing time throughout the campaign, leaving early for the NBA does not appear to be in his cards at this time.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is power forward Chris Walker, who has averaged 1.8 points and 1.4 rebounds in just 5.1 minutes over the 15 games he has played since joining the team late and first taking the court on Feb. 4.

Once considered a sure-fire lottery selection, Walker’s sometimes-haphazard play and lack of collegiate practice time (just over three months) has exposed holes in his game.

Scouts now have questions about whether he could even be a productive rookie – and therefore a worthwhile first-round selection – which has most projecting the draft mocking him in the 20-30 range based purely on athleticism and upside.

As it turns out, Gators head coach Billy Donovan feels the same way.

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Donovan talks one-seed, free throws, distractions

Head coach Billy Donovan spoke with the media on Monday, less than a day after his Florida Gators (32-2) were rewarded for their tremendous season up to this point with the No. 1 overall seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

Florida will play its first game in second-round action on Thursday at 4:10 p.m. on TBS from the Amway Center in Orlando, FL against a 16-seed play-in team. Albany and Mount Saint Marys square off on Tuesday at 6:40 p.m. in Dayton, OH in a First Four game that will air live nationally on truTV.

OVERALL NO. 1 FOR THE SECOND TIME

Most statistics about the 2013 Florida football team ended in a negative fashion with “since 1979;” Gators basketball is experiencing the opposite phenomenon with all of its positive records concluding with “since 2007.” The latest has to do with UF earning the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time…since 2007, which is also the last year Florida swept the Southeastern Conference Championships, advanced to the Final Four and won a national title.

“That’s probably a reflection of what’s happened from November all the way to here in March,” said Donovan about the seed. “Once the brackets are out and you’re playing, seedings and things like that, players aren’t thinking about that. They’re thinking about playing and competing and playing to the best of their ability.”

The difference between 2007 and 2014 is that the Gators knew their first opponent seven years ago, when they faced Jackson State. This time, Florida has to deal with the expanded 68-team field and will not learn about the victor of the play-in game set to be held on Tuesday night.

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SEC Tournament Championship in words: Florida Gators past and present talk UF’s fourth title

No. 1 Florida Gators basketball on Sunday became the first team in Southeastern Conference history to go 21-0 in its league games, wrapping up sole possession of the conference crowns with a 61-60 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats for the 2014 SEC Tournament Championship.

Gators past and present had plenty to say about Florida’s effort on Sunday, which clinched the fourth SEC Tournament title in program history and the first since UF won three-straight from 2005-07.

OnlyGators.com takes a look at everything that was said before, during and after the contest through the eyes of some of the people that know the team the best.

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Fastbreak: No. 1 Florida routs South Carolina 72-46 as Michael Frazier sets Gators threes record

Sophomore guard Michael Frazier II scored a career-high 37 points and set a new school record with 11 three-pointers in a single game as the No. 1 Florida Gators (28-2, 17-0 SEC) dismantled the South Carolina Gamecocks (11-19, 4-13 SEC) in the second half and ended the game on a 33-11 run on the way to a 72-46 win at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC on Tuesday night.

Florida extended its school-record winning streak to 22 games and continued a number of other program-best marks including winning 17 SEC games in a single season.

OnlyGators.com breaks it all down with seven quick-hitters:

It was over when: After draining five three-pointers in the first half, Frazier was held without one for the first nine minutes of the second period. Suddenly, with his team leading by just four points, Frazier exploded with four made triples in a span of 3:27 to extend Florida’s advantage to 22 points with 7:36 to play.

Prominent player: He eventually finished with 11 threes, breaking a 17-year school school mark for most in a single game (Joe Lawrence, nine, 1986). Those 11 treys were also the third-most made in a single game by an SEC player and the most ever in an SEC league game. Frazier’s 37 points were a career-high, matching Joakim Noah (March 1, 2006) for most in a single game under head coach Billy Donovan. He finished 11-for-18 from beyond the arc on the evening, also becoming the first UF player since Anthony Roberson (2005) to attempt that many threes in a single contest.

“The ball felt good in warm-ups. My shot looked good, felt good. And then in the game, my teammates did a great job finding me. I was able to get in the zone there but I didn’t really feel anything, I was just there and the ball went in,” he said after the game. “It was a total team effort. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them finding me. It was a total team effort. We defended as a team, rebounded the ball as a team in the second half, and we were connected. The ball was just able to go into the hoop for me tonight, but it was a total team effort winning.”

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: No. 1 Florida routs South Carolina 72-46 as Michael Frazier sets Gators threes record

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2/17: Wilbekin and Young step up, Hill hurt, Gators taking things game-by-game

No. 2 Florida Gators basketball (23-2, 12-0 SEC) takes a break from its long road stretch with a home game Wednesday against the Auburn Tigers (12-11, 4-8 SEC). Before the first practice of the week, Florida head coach Billy Donovan met with the media to discuss the upcoming contest and difficult road ahead.

INJURY UPDATE

Freshman point guard Kasey Hill played only 14 minutes off the bench on Saturday after injuring his groin during the game and being sidelined for the duration of the contest. On Monday, Donovan announced that Hill would miss practice and deemed him “doubtful and not going to play on Wednesday.”

Hill’s absence means senior PG Scottie Wilbekin will see an extended stay on the court, but the Gators will also need others to handle the ball when Wilbekin does take a seat. Donovan plans to go with a committee of redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith, sophomore guard Michael Frazier II and sophomore G/F DeVon Walker, all of whom handled the ball earlier this season when both Wilbekin and Hill missed games.

Donovan also noted that neither DeVon Walker nor freshman F Chris Walker were injured on Saturday but neither saw much action (seven minutes combined) due to a variety of factors including Florida’s frontcourt not being in foul trouble and the seniors not getting winded during the second half.

Continue Reading » 2/17: Wilbekin and Young step up, Hill hurt, Gators taking things game-by-game

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Donovan on injuries, senior leaders, Walker

No. 3 Florida Gators basketball (21-2, 10-0 SEC) is already in Knoxville, TN getting prepared to take on the Tennessee Volunteers (15-8, 6-4 SEC) on Tuesday evening. Before the team left, Florida head coach Billy Donovan met with the media to discuss the upcoming contest and difficult road ahead.

INJURY UPDATE

Senior forward Casey Prather continues to rehabilitate from an ankle injury he suffered a few weeks ago, but it has not stopped him from playing or participating in practice (though he has missed a couple over the last few weeks).

Donovan said Monday that Prather did not practice on Sunday because the “trainer wanted to give him an extra day of rest.” However, the expectation was that Prather would return to the court before Florida left for Tennessee later in the evening.

After scoring in double digits for the first 18 games he played this season, Prather failed to do so in consecutive contests to star the month of February (he was on the court for 21 minutes in each game). That was not the case on Saturday when Prather appeared to be back to his normal self, seeing 33 minutes of action and posting 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting with six boards and three assists.

LEADERSHIP WILL PROVE KEY

With four of Florida’s next five games on the road and each of thoses contest posing a threat to the Gators’ strong Southeastern Conference record, Donovan said he has done what he could to prepare his squad for the difficult sledding ahead.

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Florida vs. Alabama post-game: Prather surges, defense struggles, Donovan tempers excitement

No. 3 Florida Gators basketball (21-2, 10-0 SEC) found an offensive surge in the second half on Saturday afternoon to take down the Alabama Crimson Tide (9-14, 3-7 SEC) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. Following the Gators’ 78-69 victory, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media to discuss the contest and his team’s difficult upcoming schedule.

GETTING HIS GROOVE BACK

Senior forward Casey Prather has been dealing with an injured ankle for a couple of weeks, but it seemed to truly start bothering him over the last two games – the first in which he failed to score double-digit points this season. In fact, Prather has looked nothing like the player that has been Florida’s leading scorer all season, combining for just 12 points and four rebounds in those two contests.

Saturday was a much-needed step in the right direction for the Gators’ most improved player, who efficiently scored 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, grabbed six boards and dished three assists. According to Donovan, Prather was a simple decision away from not even stepping foot on the court.

“[Saturday] morning at about 8:30, I didn’t know if we were going to play him,” he explained. “I really left it up to him. He didn’t feel 100 percent. We had talked about just resting him, maybe just giving him time and see what would happen for our next game. He made the decision that he wanted to play and try it.”

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Florida-Alabama preview: Prather still hobbled

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 12:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN (Mark Jones, Dick Vitale)
SiriusXM: 85 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(3) FLORIDA GATORS ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Record: 20-2 (9-0 SEC) Record: 9-13 (3-6 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -15 | O/U: 123.5

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Alabama actually leads Florida 73-63 in the all-time series, but the Gators hold a 39-19 advantage over the Tide in games played in the O’Dome and have won eight-straight in the series. Under Donovan, UF is 20-5 against UA (9-0 at home).
» Donovan is 13-2 against his former assistants, 7-0 going head-to-head with Grant.
» Florida and Alabama are squaring off for the second time this season after the Gators earned a 68-62 victory over the Crimson Tide on the road in Tuscaloosa, AL two weeks ago on Jan. 23.
» Florida is currently riding a school-record 28-game home winning streak (third longest in the nation). UF set a program record Tuesday by recording its 14th consecutive home win against league opponents.
» The Gators have opened league play with a 9-0 record for just the second time under Donovan. The school record for best SEC start is 11-0, set in 2007.
» Florida is on a 14-game winning streak and has won 19 of its last 20 games.
» The Gators are 72-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» UF has started 20-2 through 22 games for the third time in school history. The first two times the Gators achieved that mark, they won the national title (2005-06, 2006-07).
» Florida is 8-2 this season in single-digit decisions after going 0-6 in such contests during the 2012-13 campaign. UF is also 1-0 in overtime games.
» The Gators defeated top-15 teams in consecutive games for the fourth time in program history and first time ever in non-conference regular season play.
» Florida is 2-2 against ranked opponents this season with both losses coming in true road games and the victories occurring in a home contest and neutral-site game.
» The Gators are 5-2 in true road games this season.

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