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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Pictures, tweets, videos: Florida Gators former and current discuss the Final Four

Support for the (1) Florida Gators (36-3) was riding high on Saturday as the team prepared to play in the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the AT&T Center in Arlington, TX. There was so much written about the team by former and current student-athletes, in fact, that this post had to be limited to those either with ties to the basketball program or in attendance at the game.

Though the (7) UConn Huskies (31-8) were victorious and eliminated Florida from the event, there was still plenty of well-wishers after the contest. Check out the pictures, tweets and videos below for a comprehensive look at what former and current Gators had to say before, during and after the game.

PRE-GAME

Continue Reading » Pictures, tweets, videos: Florida Gators former and current discuss the Final Four

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Final Four Fastbreak: (7) UConn Huskies end (1) Florida Gators magical season with thud

The historic season put together by the (1) Florida Gators (36-3) ended with a thud on Saturday evening at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX as the (7) UConn Huskies (31-8) responded from early adversity to dominate the No. 1 overall seed for the majority of the contest and eliminate Florida in the Final Four round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament with a stunning 63-53 victory.

The Gators saw their 30-game winning streak, the 10th longest in college basketball history, snapped as they ended their season short of a national title for the seventh-straight season. It was head coach Billy Donovan‘s first ever loss in the semifinal round.

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

It was over when: A personal 6-2 run by senior center Patric Young got Florida within six points with four minutes to play, but two free throws made by Shabazz Napier put UConn back up eight and kick-started an 8-2 run that gave it a 12-point lead with 1:46 to play. It was never close again.

Prominent players: Young came up big for the Gators, especially in the second half, and finished with a team-high 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. For the Huskies, DeAndre Daniels was outstanding, hitting 9-of-14 attempts for a game-high 20 points with a game-high 10 boards as well. Young added five rebounds and a block to his line.

Disappearing act: Known as Florida’s closer most of the season, senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin was a non-factor – and at times a detriment – for the Gators on Saturday. He went 2-for-9 from the field, missed three attempts from beyond the arc, only dished one assist, gave up three turnovers and committed four fouls. It was his worst performance of the season and just the second time this year he scored fewer than seven points in a game.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Continue Reading » Final Four Fastbreak: (7) UConn Huskies end (1) Florida Gators magical season with thud

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Donovan prepares (1) Florida for Final Four as themes surround showdown with (7) UConn

Head coach Billy Donovan and a couple players spoke with the media on Monday, two days before the (1) Florida Gators (36-2) left for Arlington, TX to prepare for their Final Four game against the (7) Connecticut Huskies (30-8). The 2014 NCAA Tournament semifinal is set for 6:09 p.m. on Saturday and scheduled to air live on TBS and TNT.

REMATCH

It’s not often a team goes 36-2 heading into the Final Four, let alone with that program being on a 30-game winning streak and somehow being provided with the opportunity to avenge one of those two losses on its way to a potential national title game.

That is the chance Florida has ahead of it Saturday, though Donovan does not necessarily believe that the two teams having squared off earlier this season does anything more than help both coaching staffs with scouting and preparation.

“It gives you at least a reference point of what you’re dealing with there,” he said. “I think that that from a preparation standpoint for both teams, both teams kind of know each other. We’re not in the same league. We’ve played each other once. It was a long time ago, early December, but the game was played, and both teams were out there competing, and both teams have an idea of size, length, speed, quickness.”

Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin concurred.

“The game was such a long time ago. It feels like it was forever,” he said. “They’re playing their best basketball now, and I feel like we’re doing the same. That’s what you have to be in this position, to be in the Final Four. I don’t expect anything less than for them to play their best game.”

Perhaps the most important thing coming from that Dec. 2, 2013 game was that both teams were able to learn from the contest. UF has used its loss to improve its teamwork and basketball IQ, while UConn has referred to its victory during the latter portion of the season, building confidence from the big win.

Continue Reading » Donovan prepares (1) Florida for Final Four as themes surround showdown with (7) UConn

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Often overlooked, freshman PG Kasey Hill coming on at perfect time for (1) Florida Gators

For as successful as the (1) Florida Gators have been this season – holding a 36-2 record, sweeping the Southeastern Conference titles, winning 30-straight games, not losing a game in four full months (as of Wednesday) – nearly all of the credit has gone to head coach Billy Donovan and the team’s four-member senior class.

Yet while those five men are certainly the catalysts for Florida’s fantastic season, which to this point has been the best in program history, they are not the only ones making major contributions to the Gators’ success.

Consider for a moment that freshman point guard Kasey Hill, who has played two fewer games and been on the court 431 fewer minutes than senior Scottie Wilbekin, has accumulated 100 assists on the season, just 22 less than the veteran starter.

He averages a half of an assist less per game (3.7-3.2) in 11.7 fewer minutes and leads Florida in assists per 40 minutes (5.8-4.4). While on the floor, Hill assists on 27.6 percent of made field goals, while Wilbekin only participates in 22.5 percent of his teammates.

While Wilbekin’s clutch shooting, stellar defense and ball protection are differentiators that speak to how important he has been for the Gators all season, Hill’s ability to share the ball and speed up tempo with his blazing speed are often overlooked factors when it comes to UF’s success.

“I think he adds a lot to us, especially now at the end of the year. He’s just gotten better as the year’s went on,” said Wilbekin of Hill when discussing the freshman on Monday. “He’s really playing at his best right now, getting in the lane, playing better defense, finding guys. It just adds a lot to our team.”

Continue Reading » Often overlooked, freshman PG Kasey Hill coming on at perfect time for (1) Florida Gators

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Florida-UCLA post-game: Scottie too hottie, bench bonanza, Frazier sets Gators threes record

The (1) Florida Gators (35-2) pulled away late in the second half to take down the (4) UCLA Bruins (28-9) with a 79-68 victory in the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some players met with the media to discuss the win.

SCOTTIE TOO HOTTIE

It would be unfair and inaccurate to say senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin is the main reason the Gators won but there is no question that his late-game heroics shut the door on the Bruins and were a catalyst that sent Florida to its fourth Elite Eight in as many seasons.

Starting 2-for-10 from the field and 1-for-7 from beyond the arc, Wilbekin hit his last three shots (one three), scored six-straight points and somehow finished with 13 points, the second-most posted by a UF player on Thursday.

“I just tried to keep attacking, stay aggressive and take what they gave me,” he said. “My shots weren’t falling in the first half, even in the beginning of the second half. So, I just tried to stay the course and keep playing my game.”

Wilbekin’s three makes were not only clutch, each was impressive. First, despite being way off from downtown most of the night, he drained a pull-up three to push Florida ahead by eight. On the very next possession, he took the ball to the rack and was fouled on the way, converting an old-fashioned three-point play that gave the Gators a game-high 11-point lead.

Continue Reading » Florida-UCLA post-game: Scottie too hottie, bench bonanza, Frazier sets Gators threes record

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Fastbreak: (1) Florida blows past (4) UCLA 79-68 in Sweet 16, advances to fourth-straight Elite Eight

The (1) Florida Gators (35-2) advanced to the Elite Eight for the fourth-straight season with a 79-68 victory Thursday over the (4) UCLA Bruins (28-9) in the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN.

Florida improved to 7-1 in Sweet 16 games under head coach Billy Donovan with seven-straight victories that advanced the program to the Elite Eight (2000, 2006-07, 2011-14). The Gators also extended their winning streak to a school-record 29 games and have now claimed victories in 34 of its last 35 contests.

UF is now 4-0 all-time against UCLA (all in NCAA Tournament play).

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

It was over when: Freshman point guard Kasey Hill hustled hard for an offensive rebound with 1:35 to play and got fouled as soon as he grabbed it. Hill converted the ensuing free throws to push Florida ahead by nine. Less than 20 seconds later, after the Gators gave up a jumper, senior forward Casey Prather got fed on the fastbreak and slammed home an exclamation point dunk to put the icing on the cake. Hill had a career-high 10 assists to go along with six points and six boards, while Prather chipped in 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the free throw line with three rebounds and two blocks.

Prominent players: Sophomore guard Michael Frazier II carried the scoring burden most of the evening, posting a team-high 19 points on 5-of-8 shooting from downtown with six boards, three assists and a steal. His five triples also set a new school record for most in a single-season as he has now accumulated 115 in the 2013-14 campaign.

However, it was senior PG Scottie Wilbekin who took over late in the second half. Wilbekin scored eight points in less than four minutes, shaking off his 2-for-10 start from the field. Wilbekin wound up with 13 points (second-most on the team) and three dimes despite going 2-for-8 from three. He did not turn the ball over despite playing 35 minutes.

Significant stretch: Leading by one midway through the second half with Prather and senior center Patric Young both on the bench with four fouls, Florida responded to a 7-0 UCLA run with a 10-0 stretch to take a 66-55 lead with 5:34 remaining. Wilbekin, who started 1-for-7 from three, drained a timely triple and converted a And1 attempt on a heavily contested layup for six-straight points to push UF up a game-high 11 points.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: (1) Florida blows past (4) UCLA 79-68 in Sweet 16, advances to fourth-straight Elite Eight

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