Billy D pleased with Hill’s humility, Walker’s effort

Five-star prospects point guard Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL) and power forward Chris Walker (Bonifay, FL) may have committed seven months apart, but the AAU teammates knew for quite some time that they would be playing together in Gainesville, FL, for head coach Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators.

Hill, unanimously ranked as the 10th best player in the 2013 recruiting class, has already fulfilled his end of the bargain. He enrolled at Florida in late June for the Summer B session and has already pleased the coaching staff and trainers with his attitude and ability both on and off the court.

“I spent some time with him [Tuesday],” said Donovan on Wednesday after returning from leading USA Basketball to gold the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship. “He’s doing fine. He’s done well. All the reports I’ve gotten from the strength coach and coaches working with him, he’s been great. His attitude has been really good.”

With senior PG Scottie Wilbekin likely to be suspended for the start of the season after violating team rules – and the Gators without another true floor general on the roster at this time – Hill’s work ethic during the summer and fall will go a long way to earning him a starting role (whether temporary or permanent).

Donovan is pleased with he has seen thus far from Hill, who he compared to 2011 five-star guard Bradley Beal in terms of how the young man has flipped the switch from high school star to college underclassman.

Continue Reading » Billy D pleased with Hill’s humility, Walker’s effort

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FOURth of July BITS: Noah, Bullard, Delić

1 » As first reported by L’Equipe in France, Chicago Bulls and former Florida Gators center Joakim Noah is officially out of the 2012 London Olympics because his severely sprained left ankle (which he injured back on March 4) is not yet recovered. The injury, which occurred during Game 3 of the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs, was supposed to keep Noah out 1-2 months but is apparently still affecting him two full months later. “I’m absolutely not ready, not ready to return, not ready to jump,” Noah told L’Equipe (originally in French). “And even less to play. I need more time and work. I’m not in form for someone who wants to compete in the Olympics. And given the problems that I have with my ankles, not going to the Games seemed to be the most reasonable decision.” L’Equipe also reports that Noah originally forfeited his spot on the team on June 23 but that head coach Patrick Beesley initially refused his decision and wanted to give him two additional weeks to rehab and recover.

2 » Tuesday came and went and nothing further was learned about the status of five-star incoming defensive end Jonathan Bullard (Shelby, NC) in regards to the NCAA Clearinghouse and the University of Florida. The deadline to enroll in Summer B classes was 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, which means that if Bullard was not cleared by that time then he will not be able to become a student – or officially join the football team – until the fall. According to The Gainesville Sun, Bullard is expected to be eventually cleared by both parties and should be able to start practicing with the team on Aug. 22, when the fall semester starts. He would miss Summer B practices and the first two weeks of preseason camp, according to the paper. Bullard is expected to see the field for the Gators this season and may very well earn major playing time at defensive end. Missing so much practice as a freshman may put him severely behind the proverbial eight ball and could impact how Florida lines up the front four early in the season.

3 » New Gators head men’s tennis coach Bryan Shelton hired Amer Delić as his new assistant, Florida announced on Monday. A former Illinois standout who won the NCAA Singles Championship in 2003, Derlic is Bosnian in descent and has previously represented his country in the Davis Cup. He posted a 33-56 career singles record and 21-34 career doubles record, participated in eight Grand Slam events (never lasting past the third round) and won eight total singles titles over his career in Challengers (six) and Futures (two) events. “When I came down to Gainesville and sat down for an interview with [Coach Shelton], discussing the opportunities and possibilities with this team and with the support from the University of Florida and the athletic department, I knew that this was the right fit for me,” Delic said in a statement. “Especially growing up in Jacksonville, I absolutely know what it means to be a part of the Gator Nation.”

4 » Happy Fourth of July everyone!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

…from the Declaration of Independence

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Phillips denied, Fowler accepted, Bullard in limbo

Four-star incoming defensive tackle Dante Phillips (Venice, FL), a prominent member of the Florida Gators 2012 signing class, has been denied admission to the University of Florida and will no longer join the team.

The Gainesville Sun’s Robbie Andreu, who first reported the story Monday after speaking with Phillips’s stepfather Damon Wilson, notes that the decision is being appealed but Phillips does not expect to win and is now looking to play elsewhere.

“We were kind of blindsided,” Wilson told the Sun. “He did everything he needed to do to be cleared by the [NCAA] Clearinghouse, but now he’s been told he doesn’t have a scholarship to Florida. He’s been cleared by the NCAA. He’s academically eligible. But the admissions office says he can’t enroll at Florida.”

InsidetheGators.com’s Bryan Holt spoke with Phillips, who said both Miami and Ole Miss believe they can get him admitted since he has been cleared by the NCAA but did not meet UF’s admission standards.

Phillips, who committed to the Gators back on Oct. 25, 2010, was ranked as the No. 120 player in the nation and No. 9 at his position by Rivals as well as the No. 110 player in the country and No. 12 at his position by ESPNU.

UPDATED (5 p.m.): Unfortunately for Florida, he is not the only 2012 commitment whose academic standing is currently in question. Five-stars Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr. (St. Petersburg, FL) and defensive end Jonathan Bullard (Shelby, NC) – two of the team’s three top-ranked recruits in the last cycle – are also having admissions issues though one of those was officially resolved on Monday.

Fowler was told that he would be admitted to UF as soon as official word came down from the NCAA that he had qualified. He had achieved the grades he needed to and learned Monday via a phone call from head coach Will Muschamp that he is good to go, according to Holt. Fowler will be on campus to enroll Tuesday.

Bullard’s situation remains in question and his status is not public at this time.

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SIX BITS: Haden, Cunningham, Rosario, Horford, Finney-Smith, Larson, Pigott, Bullard

1 » The NFL’s Around the Legaue blog highlighted cornerback Joe Haden as the most likely player from the Cleveland Browns “set for a breakout campaign in 2012.” Despite mentioning that he is “already one of the ten best cornerbacks in football,” a proclamation that would not be doubted by anyone who actually watched Haden play throughout the 2011 season, Gregg Rosenthal notes that Haden is not getting his due because after picking off six passes as a rookie he did not have a single interception in his sophomore campaign. However, he has been fantastic at limiting the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver and is “just hitting his stride” two years removed from playing as a junior for the Florida Gators and going No. 7 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Though Haden can lock down receivers, his reading comprehension (when it comes to the instructions on bottles of bubble bath) probably needs some improvement.

2 » Even though head coach Bill Belichick said New England Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham had a “great offseason” and looked like a chance man at the start of mandatory minicamp, ESPN Boston only gives him a 35 percent chance of making the 53-man roster. “Last season, the Patriots kept Cunningham on the roster but he rarely saw the field, not having a special teams role in what turned out to be an injury-shortened season for the former second-round pick,” writes Mike Rodak. “Cunningham missed time in minicamp with another injury, an issue to monitor heading into training camp. If he cannot secure a role on defense during the preseason, he will face an uphill battle to make the roster.”

Read four more BITS in this post…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Haden, Cunningham, Rosario, Horford, Finney-Smith, Larson, Pigott, Bullard

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5/10: Donovan introduces his new assistants

Having now filled his depleted coaching staff following the departure of all three of his assistants, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Tuesday to introduce new coaches John Pelphrey, Norm Roberts and Matt McCall. Below are some choice notes and quotes from the press conference and media availabilities.

BILLY DONOVAN

» Forwards sophomore Erik Murphy and freshman Cody Larson remain indefinitely suspended from the team after being (at the time) arrested for third-degree burglary. “[I want] to wait to see what actually happens. There’s a lot of things they’ve got to go through. Them getting through this and finding out exactly what they’re being charged with and what’s going to happen. Once it happens, then me stepping in to react here, I’ll do. I’m disappointed with what’s happened. Once it gets resolved and once I find out what the resolution is, I can react from there.”

» Team manager Josh Adel was not involved in the activities as initially cited by police. “There was a perception that Josh Adel was ‘the lookout.’ That wasn’t the case.”

» Florida will not be going to another country to play as initially planned during the summer. Donovan said freshman center Patric Young and signee guard Brad Beal have invitations to tryout for USA Basketball in June and July. Additionally, signee forward Walter Pitchford has to go through the NCAA Clearinghouse, the legal situation has to be resolved and the July recruiting period is important.

» On the dedication of McCall: “You want to have guys that bleed orange and blue. [John] is a Gator. Matt McCall more so than anybody else out there [is a Gator]. The University of Florida really means something to him. When you look at great programs across the country, it is the pride that somebody has inside their program that really matters. For Matt being a young guy, he lives and breathes the profession, recruiting and what goes into it.”

JOHN PELPHREY

» On returning to Florida: “It’s a blessing to have a chance [to come back here]. He’s been such a big part of my life. My focus right now is on my faith, on my family and on my Florida. If I can focus on those things, then I have a chance to be at my best and be a part of a coaching team that has a chance to bring out the best in Billy and hopefully our players.”

» On Donovan bringing out the best in others: “Everybody understands how great a coach he is, how good at recruiting he is, but when you get a chance to be around him over an extended period of time, you understand he’s just a great human being. He’s hardworking. He’s a normal guy. He has no idea he’s a hall of fame coach. He does not know that and that’s pretty cool. In life, success changes people. It doesn’t for Billy. One season ends, he starts over evaluating, looking and trying to figure out a way to be better the next day. When you get a chance to spend time with him, you see it’s real, you see it’s genuine because that’s the way he is every single day.”

» On the unique opportunity to return to Gainesville, FL: “I don’t see myself having taken this opportunity anywhere else. You’re talking about a guy that there’s only one place in America that, after two and a half weeks, he would have gone back to work. I’m pretty fortunate. [Knocks on the table] You don’t have a job and then two and a half weeks later you get the only one you would take? I think it’s a miracle. I think the good lord had his hand on it.”

» On if this is a temporary job for him: “I was here before the renovations to the O’Dome. I was here before the practice facility was built. I was here before the first run to the national championship game. I’m a little bit invested. Any leader wants the guys in the organization to be invested. For me, this is not just another place. This is a special place. […] I knew this was right.”

NORM ROBERTS

» On why he chose the Gators: “There were three things that were really important to me about the next job I would take. I had opportunities to take some Division I jobs, but they were jobs I would say would not lead to much afterwards. I wanted to coach at a high level, recruit at a high level and, for my family, try to go somewhere where we would enjoy living. […] I wanted to work for a guy I really respected. Especially when you’re a head coach and you’re coming back in, that’s what you really want to do. I’ve respected what Coach Donovan has done for quite some time.”

» On why Donovan is such a good coach: “He is a tireless recruiter. He’s done a great job in recruiting and the different players that he’s recruited all over the country. The other thing Coach Donovan does that is paramount is he does a great job recruiting players. That player may have a specific skill set that he’s really good at. And then what he does is, he allows that player to play to his strengths and then encompasses that into the team as well as developing his weaknesses. That’s very unique.”

» On the players he will be coaching: “A lot of the guys I knew already [from recruiting], so it made it a little bit more comfortable.”

» On going from head coach to assistant: “Both me and Pel understand the business; this is a new opportunity for us, an exciting opportunity for us. The one thing you try to do in this business is build great relationships and have people respect what you do. We left both those places [St. John’s, Arkansas] in a lot better shape than they were when we got there.”

MATT McCALL

» On his responsibilities right now: “From a recruiting standpoint, Coach Pelphrey and Coach Roberts have really honed in on the 2012 guys. For me, I’m trying to cast a huge net out there for 2013 and 2014.”

» McCall said he has a lot of in-state connections and will help the other assistants recruit for 2012 while also looking ahead toward the future as it is important to develop relationships as young as possible.

» On what returning to UF means to him: “To be able to say ‘Matt McCall, assistant coach at the University of Florida’ is exciting. I bleed orange and blue, like Coach Donovan told you. I grew up here coming to games, always wanted to be a ball boy when I was little. This is the profession I chose. For me, it’s more than just the University of Florida. It’s Coach Donovan, one of the best coaches in the game.”

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Florida recruits appear in questionable pictures

OGGOA UPDATE: Leon Orr clears up story behind troubling pictures
OGGOA UPDATE II: Lynden Trail also speaks on MySpace pictures

As if the Florida Gators needed any more distractions or additional bad press, two pictures in particular are making their way around the Internet allegedly featuring UF four-star commitments defensive tackle Leon Orr (New Port Richey, FL) and defensive end Lynden Trail (Miami, FL) in compromising positions. In the first picture, Orr is wielding a gun and some cash; the second pieced-together photo shows both players seemingly flashing gang signs. Deadspin picked up the story and pictures from 13psi, a site that seems to be on somewhat of a Gators witch hunt (at least with its last three postings).

Nevertheless, these pictures raise legitimate concerns not only about the players who are recruited by and committing to the Gators, but also the lack of due diligence being done by the recruiting staff. It is not difficult to gain access to and view MySpace and facebook pictures, so why have Florida’s recruiters and coaches not seen these already and in the very least instructed the recruits to remove them in the first place?

» The St. Petersburg Times reported Wednesday that Orr is trying to graduate early in order to join other Gators 2010 commitments on campus for spring practice. Even if he is not granted early admission by the NCAA Clearinghouse, Orr will wait to attend Florida next fall. “I know for sure I’m going to UF,” Orr said. “If I don’t go there in January, I’ll wait.”

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