Media Day: New challenges ahead for Florida Gators basketball in 2014-15

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan held a press conference last week as part of his team’s media day and discussed a number of pressing topics facing his team as it began fall practice. Below are some links to stories published here on OnlyGators.com last week as well as a wrap-up of everything else Donovan had to say.

Story: Chris Walker suspended three games, Brandone Francis will not play
Story: Billy Donovan stands behind embattled Will Muschamp
Story: Michael Frazier II must step up game, leadership for Gators

NEW CHALLENGES

The 2014-15 Gators basketball team will be a vastly different group…because that’s what happens when you lose four true-senior starters that amassed the vast majority of your points and logged tons of minutes. Florida was so successful last season not just because of those players’ experience but also due to the fact that they had faced so much adversity that they were motivated to overcome any they encountered during their final year in orange and blue.

This year’s team, well, it’s filled with freshman and sophomores that are used to seeing the Gators as one of the best teams in the nation, coming off a season in which the program only lost three games.

“They haven’t faced any adversity,” said Donovan. “That’s going to be, I think, a challenge that these guys have not been tested in. They can go out there, work really, really hard and may not get the results [they want]. …

“There are a couple of concerns for me. There was no level of consistency at all from our returning players outside of Michael Frazier. There were moments that he played exceptionally well, there were moments that they really did a great job, but there was a discipline issue on the court in terms of being reliable guys game in and game out. That is going to be a challenge.”

It’s not that Donovan thinks this group of players is entitled. Rather, “it’s a lack of not living in the real world” for these players, which likely expect Florida to continue or even improve on its impressive showing from last season.

Continue Reading » Media Day: New challenges ahead for Florida Gators basketball in 2014-15

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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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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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The Silver Lining: 2013-14 Florida Gators were tough to beat but easily defined

Some may say they can’t or won’t, but you can be sure Florida’s players and coaches will tune in to the national championship game on Monday.

And when they turn on the television or stream the game from another device, the Gators will be sitting in Gainesville, FL watching a team they beat three times, an eight-seed that entered the tournament unranked in the Associated Press top 25 poll, compete against a seven-seed that bookended UF’s school-record 30-game winning streak with a pair of losses and was one of just two opponents to hand them a defeat this season.

Florida was supposed to earn itself a storybook ending to a near-perfect season by getting revenge on UConn and moving on to either do the same against Wisconsin or defeat Kentucky for the fourth time in one season.

Not anymore.

Continue Reading » The Silver Lining: 2013-14 Florida Gators were tough to beat but easily defined

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Final Four Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Arlington, TX: (1) Florida Gators vs. (7) UConn

Location: AT&T Stadium – Arlington, TX [Capacity: 77,122]
Time: 6:09 p.m. EDT

National TV: TBS (Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony, Steve Kerr, Tracy Wolfson)
Florida-centric TV: TNT (David Steele, Mark Wise, James Bates) [Read More]

SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: [Westwood One]
Online Video: March Madness Live | Mobile Video: March Madness Live app

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

See the Game in Person: Final Four Tickets

(1) FLORIDA GATORS (7) CONNECTICUT HUSKIES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kevin Ollie
Record: 36-2 Record: 30-8
Conference: Southeastern Conference: American
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -6 | O/U: 127

HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS

» Florida is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history, holding a 10-0 record overall with that seed winning the national title the previous time it held the ranking entering the tournament (2007).
» The Gators won the outright 2014 SEC regular-season title for the second-straight year and third time in the last four seasons. UF then went on to win the 2014 SEC Tournament Championship for the first time since 2007.
» The Huskies earned the right to play in the Final Four by defeating (4) Michigan State 60-54 in the Elite Eight on Sunday.
» Florida has played 58 games in 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, holding a 42-16 all-time in the event. The Gators have played 46 of those 58 games under Donovan, going 35-11 in those contests over 15 NCAA Tournaments.
» UF is 3-1 in Final Four games all-time, 3-0 under Donovan with national title game appearances in 2000, 2006-07. The Gators, which are making their first appearance in the Final Four since 2007, have not played for the national championship since.
» Florida is 1-1 all-time against UConn, 1-0 in the NCAA Tournament (1994) and 0-1 under Donovan. The Gators fell to the Huskies 65-64 earlier this season, dropping a road contest in Stoors, CT on Dec. 2, 2013.
» UF has not lost since that defeat and enters Saturday’s Final Four on a program-record 30-game winning streak with victories in 35 of its last 36 games.
» Florida is the fourth team since 1979 to enter the Final Four with a win streak of 30+ games. None of the previous three teams went on to win the national title (via ESPN).
» UConn could become just the eighth team to beat the No. 1 overall seed in the Final Four. Five of the previous seven teams to accomplish that feat went on to win the national championship (via ESPN).
» UF is the third team in NCAA Tournament history to enter the Final Four with four tournament wins by double figures while simultaneously holding its opponents under 70 points per game.
» The Gators are 86-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» UF is 15-2 this season in single-digit decisions after going 0-6 in such contests during the 2012-13 campaign. Florida is also 1-0 in overtime games.
» The Gators are 9-0 in neutral-site games this season.
» Florida is 25-5 playing as the top team in the country.
» The Gators won 30+ games prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history and set a school record for most wins in a single season by defeating Dayton in the Elite Eight and advancing to the Final Four (36).

Continue Reading » Final Four Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Arlington, TX: (1) Florida Gators vs. (7) UConn

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Fastbreak: (1) Florida Gators advance to Final Four with 62-52 win over (11) Dayton in Elite Eight

The (1) Florida Gators (36-2) advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 2007 with a 62-52 victory Saturday evening over the (11) Dayton Flyers (26-11) in the Elite Eight of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN.

After three-straight losses in this round over the last three seasons, Florida advanced to the Final Four for the fifth time in school history and extended their winning streak to a school-record 30 games with victories in 35 of its last 36 contests. The Gators’ 36 wins also set a school record for most in a single season.

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

It was over when: The buzzer sounded. A tremendous effort from Dayton took Florida to the limit despite the fact that the Gators never led by fewer than eight points in the second half. The Flyers kept the game close by hitting 8-of-18 three pointers and taking the ball to the hoop in the second half when UF shut down UD from beyond the arc.

Prominent players: Seniors point guard Scottie Wilbekin and center Patric Young each had phenomenal games for the Gators. Wilbekin finished just 6-for-14 but hit 3-of-5 threes and 8-of-10 free throws on his way to a game-high and career-high-tying 23 points. Young was equally as dominant, scoring 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, hitting 2-of-3 attempts from the charity stripe and grabbing six boards, four blocks and two steals.

Significant stretch: A couple minutes after seeing its lead cut to eight points following back-to-back three-pointers for Dayton in the first 51 seconds of the second half, Florida went off on a 13-4 scoring stretch to increase its advantage to a game-high 17 points with 11:27 left to play. UF never lost a double-digit lead over the duration of the contest.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: (1) Florida Gators advance to Final Four with 62-52 win over (11) Dayton in Elite Eight

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