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

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Pictures, tweets, videos: Florida Gators former and current celebrate advancing to Final Four

Support for the (1) Florida Gators (36-2) has been strong throughout the season and especially the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

It continued on Saturday after the team advanced to the Final Four for the fifth time in school history and first time since 2007 with a 62-52 Elite Eight win over the (11) Dayton Flyers (26-11) at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN.

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. OnlyGators.com has also added a few other choice contributions that fit in with the overall theme.

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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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High-ankle sprain for Florida PG Scottie Wilbekin

The Florida Gators announced Tuesday that while X-rays on his injured right ankle came back negative, senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin will be sidelined indefinitely with a high-ankle sprain he suffered in the closing minutes of Florida’s 65-64 loss to UConn on Monday night in Storrs, CT.

Wilbekin, who missed the first five games of the regular season due to suspension, has only played in three contests this season but nevertheless led the Gators with averages of 35.7 minutes and 5.7 assists per game, both career-highs. He was also averaging a career-best 11.3 points per contest despite shooting just 37.1 percent from the field.

This latest injury leaves Florida without a healthy point guard on its roster. Freshman sensation Kasey Hill, who started the Gators’ first four games, suffered a high-ankle sprain of his own on Nov. 18 against Southern and was ruled out for a month.

Wilbekin was not given a timetable for his injury, and it certainly did not look as serious on film as Hill’s appeared to be two weeks ago. The school also announced after Monday’s game that Wilbekin left the arena without the use of a boot or crutches, while Hill had a boot on his foot for an entire week following his injury.

With Florida not playing for seven more days – No. 6 Kansas comes to town on Dec. 10 – it would be unwise to rule out either Wilbekin or Hill for the Gators’ next contest.

Head coach Billy Donovan and Florida’s trainers are notorious for exaggerating the severity of injuries – or at least placing extra-long timetables on recovery.

Wilbekin was also seen at his brother’s high school basketball game walking without a limp. Hill is set to begin participating in individual drills this week.

Should neither Wilbekin nor Hill suit up next Tuesday, the Gators will only have six scholarship players healthy enough to see the court assuming sophomore guard DeVon Walker (sprained foot) is recovered in time.

Junior G Eli Carter is still recovering from a broken fibula he suffered last February and has been designated as a redshirt candidate. Sophomore G Dillon Grahahm underwent season-ending surgery to alleviate pain due to bone spurs in his hips and will also take a redshirt. Redshirt junior center Damontre Harris is currently off the team and trying to work his way back from a variety of issues.

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11/18: Florida PG Kasey Hill out a month, G Dillon Graham done for season; Southern post-game

Updated at 11:35 p.m.

No. 14/16 Florida Gators basketball (3-1), still short-handed due to injuries and suspensions, beat the Southern Jaguars (1-4) on Monday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. After the 67-53 victory, Florida head coach Billy Donovan met with the media to provide some of his thoughts on the victory.

HIGH-ANKLE SPRAIN SIDELINES KASEY HILL

Driving the lane with 18:04 left in the game, star freshman point guard Kasey Hill badly rolled his left ankle and crashed to the hardwood with an audible scream. After being helped off while barely able to put any pressure on the ankle, Hill was diagnosed with a high-ankle sprain that will sideline him for at least a month, according to Donovan.

“It’s one of those sprains where it’s certainly a longer healing process. I know when you try to rush guys back too soon, it really complicates things,” Donovan said. “Minimum right now they’re looking at a month before we’d even consider getting him back on the floor. It’s unfortunate. It’s part of the game. We’ll have to find some different ways to compensate for his absence.”

Senior forward Casey Prather suffered a high-ankle sprain last season and missed four games over 18 days. Hill’s injury could be more severe, but it is important to know that the four-week timetable is simply an estimate at this time.

He will have precautionary X-rays on Tuesday to rule out any potential fractures or torn ligaments before beginning rehabilitation.

With senior PG Scottie Wilbekin still serving a suspension, Florida does not have another true point guard on the roster capable of replacing Hill immediately.

Luckily for the Gators, Wilbekin’s six-game suspension – first reported by OnlyGators.com in September – concludes on Thursday and he should be in uniform next Monday when UF faces Jacksonville on the road. Florida has neither announced the length of Wilbekin’s suspension nor his return date as of press time.

Sophomores Michael Frazier II and DeVon Walker will fill in for Hill in the interim. Multiple adjustments will need to be made to the offense at least ahead of the next game.

“It really eliminates a real opportunity to get creative on offense because you really have to shorten up the play calls. Because for a guy like DeVon and Michael Frazier to know the two and the three and the point, their head would explode and it’s not fair to them,” Donovan explained. “There’s some concepts and some things we can get into and we can run and we can do and execute that puts them in a position where they know exactly what’s going on.”

Continue Reading » 11/18: Florida PG Kasey Hill out a month, G Dillon Graham done for season; Southern post-game

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11/16: Florida vs. Arkansas-Little Rock post-game; two shine, two others headed for redshirts?

No. 10/11 Florida Gators basketball (2-1), still short-handed due to injuries and suspensions, pulled away in the second half for a dominant 86-56 victory over the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans (0-2) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. After the victory, Florida head coach Billy Donovan met with the media to provide some of his thoughts on the defeat.

OPENING STATEMENT

Donovan discussed how the emergence of redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney Smith and insertion of redshirt junior walk-on F Jacob Kurtz led the Gators to a second-half blowout.

“In the second half, DoeDoe and Jake, those two guys did an unbelievable job offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding, loose balls. That’s where the game really changed and opened up. When we eliminated those opportunities for them, it enabled us to get on the fastbreak, and that was the difference in the first half – eight points left at the free throw line and giving them nine points on loose balls. … That’s double-figure points you’re giving up in a half. I was happy it was tied the way we were playing.

“But we did a much better job on the glass, offense, everything else there in the second half. I was really, really pleased with the way we played, and more importantly, we finally got our assists back up to a number that I like instead of averaging seven a game.”

Florida finished the game with 16 assists to just nine turnovers. Freshman point guard Kasey Hill posted a 6.0 assist-to-turnover ratio with six dimes and no miscues.

A NEW TWO-MAN GANG

Unlike last season, the Gators have put up most of their points through the first three games with two players doing most of the heavy lifting. In the first two contests, it was senior forward Casey Prather and sophomore guard Michael Frazier II.

On Saturday, Prather continued his dominance for Florida, but Frazier saw a good amount of time on the bench due to a number of defensive miscues that infuriated Donovan. Replacing him as part of the two-man gang with Prather was Finney-Smith, who showed out big-time despite being under the weather with a viral infection.

Finney-Smith finished with 17 points (hitting 3-of-4 triples) and a team-high nine rebounds off the bench despite playing just 16 minutes. Donovan was impressed with what he saw overall.

“DoeDoe’s skill level opened up things for our team. He really opened up a lot of things for us,” he said. “Obviously he doesn’t feel great. He has a really bad sore throat. He doesn’t feel great. He feels better than he did on Wednesday, but he still doesn’t feel great. We’re hopeful that if he can maybe get some rest and fluids that he can start to kind of recover a little bit.”

Prather led the Gators in scoring for the second time in three games, posting a game-high 27 points (one shy of matching his career-high) on near-perfect 10-of-11 shooting. He also added five boards and five assists on the afternoon.

“I think it’s a testament to finally his awareness of himself. He has an awareness of himself, he does now what he’s capable of doing, where I thought earlier on in his career he did what he would love to do,” Donovan explained. “I think he’s playing with a really clear head, a great awareness of himself. He’s not doing things that he’s incapable of doing. He took one three tonight that was dead wide open and otherwise he’s been driving the ball, putting it on the floor, taking mid-range pull-up jump shots, getting fouled. He’s been doing a lot of different things. He’s really grown in a lot of ways.”

Continue Reading » 11/16: Florida vs. Arkansas-Little Rock post-game; two shine, two others headed for redshirts?

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No. 11 Florida vs. Arkansas-Little Rock preview

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 4:30 p.m. EST

(11) FLORIDA GATORS ARK-LITTLE ROCK TROJANS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Steve Shields
Record: 1-1 Record: 0-1
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Sun Belt
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

TV: FOX Sports Florida (Larry Vettel, Bill Koss) [Channel Finder]
SiriusXM: 112/199 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: ESPN3.com [Blackout Map] | Mobile Video: None
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

Odds: -20

PRE-GAME READING MATERIAL

» Story: Florida F Dorian Finney-Smith reinstated but ill; Scottie Wilbekin still suspended, Damontre Harris off team

HISTORY / STATS / STREAKS

» Florida and Arkansas-Little Rock have never gone head-to-head in men’s basketball, but UF is 5-1 against current Sun Belt problems under Donovan.
» The Gators have won 16-straight games in the O’Dome dating back to the 2011-12 season. UF has also won 17 consecutive non-conference home games.
» Florida is 55-8 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» The Gators are 0-7 dating back to the 2012-13 season in single-digit decisions.
» Donovan (414) enters the game 32 wins behind Dale Brown (448) for second-most in SEC history. He is currently the longest-tenured head coach in the league.

TWO-MAN GANG

» Senior forward Casey Prather scored a career-high 28 points in the season opener, the most points scored by a player in the first game of the season for UF since 1985 (Vernon Maxwell, 28).
» Sophomore guard Michael Frazier II scored a career-high 20 points in the Florida’s second game of the season at Wisconsin.
» Prather and Frazier (79 points) have combined to score 60.8 percent of the Gators’ points this season. Each player is averaging more than 19.5 points per game. The next leading scorer on the team has 19 points combined on the season. Prather and Frazier are also just two of three players on the team to grab double-digit rebounds on the season. The other is redshirt junior walk-on F Jacob Kurtz

TWO GATORS DRESS FOR THE FIRST TIME

It looks like redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith had a “miraculous recovery,” which Donovan said Friday is what it would take for him to play in Saturday’s game. Florida announced Saturday morning that Finney-Smith will play his first game of the season (and first career game in a Gators uniform) despite battling an unspecified viral illness for the last three days.

The Gators also announced the addition of a third walk-on in G Lexx Edwards. The brother of former Florida linebacker Lorenzo Edwards, Lexx was also a walk-on in 2011-12 and spent last season working with the scout team.

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The Countdown: Florida basketball (42-12)

With just one day until the Florida Gators‘ 2013-14 basketball season gets underway, the first half of OGGOA‘s series – The Countdown – takes a look at those players on the roster wearing jerseys ranging from No. 42-12.

42 – Billy Donovan (Gainesville, FL)
Redshirt junior guard
6’2” 195 lbs.

Quick Bio: The son of Florida’s head coach, Donovan grew up in Gainesville but started his college playing career in Washington, D.C. with Catholic University. After deciding to go into coaching rather than politics, Donovan transferred to UF to play and learn the game under his father’s watchful eye. He was second at Catholic in assists in 2011-12 with 49 and averaged 5.9 points per game while starting 19 contests.

2012-13 Season: Donovan was forced to redshirt due to NCAA transfer rules.

2013-14 Outlook: One of two walk-ons officially on the roster, Donovan will see the least playing time out of anyone on the team over the course of the season but could play a role for the Gators early on as a back-up point guard. “I think it’s a really good opportunity but then again I’m just here to help the team out so whatever they need me to do, I’ll do,” he said. “I feel really blessed and honored to be putting this jersey on.”

30 – Jacob Kurtz (Oviedo, FL)
Junior forward
6’6” 210 lbs.

Quick Bio: Starting out as a locker room assistant, Kurtz worked his way up to team manager, started working as a scout team member and later joined the program as a walk-on in 2011-12. He saw four games of action that season but did not become a well-known name among Florida fans until his sophomore season.

2012-13 Season: With the Gators taking down opponents by large margins, Kurtz saw action in 20 games, totaling 12 points and 11 rebounds in 40 minutes of action. He quickly became a fan favorite both because his presence on the court indicated Florida was comfortably ahead and due to the fact that he gave tremendous effort when he stepped on the court.

2013-14 Outlook: Due to injuries and the fact that he has proven to have a high basketball IQ, Kurtz may actually start Florida’s season opener on Friday and see some legitimate court time – at least early in the season. Once the Gators get their full complement of scholarship players back in the fold, Kurtz will likely be limited to a few minutes a game, if any. “It’s a dream come true,” he explained. “You get to play basketball every day at the University of Florida, one of the best universities in the country, play for the best coach in the country in Coach Donovan, play with the best players. It’s a dream come true. I love it.”

Read about FIVE more players in this edition of The Countdown…after the break!

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