2011 PG recruit Scottie Wilbekin to join Gators

Florida Gators basketball has added the final piece to its 2010 recruiting class, one which will give the team and head coach Billy Donovan a drastically different look next season. Confirming a story OGGOA first posted on April 21, the Orlando Sentinel and The Gainesville Sun are reporting that three-star 2011 point guard recruit Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL) has committed and will officially sign with the University of Florida next week.

Though Wilbekin is only a high school junior, he has excellent grades and enough credits to graduate early in order to be eligible for admission to UF as a member of the basketball team’s 2010 recruiting class. He has already completed his standardized tests, is set to receive clearance from the NCAA and plans to sign his National Letter of Intent at The Rock School on Tuesday.

“At first I was hesitant to give up my senior year,” Wilbekin told Florida Today. “[My coaches and parents] reassured me and I’m looking forward to being a Gator next year.”

Now the sixth scholarship player brought in for 2010, Wilbekin will join four-star forwards Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) and Casey Prather (Jackson, TN), three-stars Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD) and Will Yeguete (Melbourne, FL) and Rutgers transfer guard Mike Rosario (Jersey City, NJ), who will not be eligible to play until 2011-12.

In order to sign six recruits to scholarships, further changes must be made inside the Florida program – especially after junior forward Alex Tyus removed his name from the 2010 NBA Draft and decided to return to school for his senior season.

Jim McKenzie, The Rock’s vice president, told the Sentinel that UF has already set aside a scholarship for Wilbekin, meaning the future of two players has already been decided.

Sophomore guard Ray Shipman has chosen to transfer, but the Gators still must clear two more scholarships to get them to the NCAA-mandated maximum of 13. The most likely candidates to be taken off scholarship are freshman point guard Rod Tisman (who would remain in Irasel or transfer) and redshirt sophomore forward Adam Allen (who would retire and be granted a medical hardship or transfer).

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Florida basketball really a top 10 team in 2010-11?

All five starters are returning for the first time since the Florida Gators back-to-back National Championship seasons, head coach Billy Donovan has a much-needed deep and talented recruiting class coming in and not a single player declared for the NBA Draft for the first time in years. With all of these factors taken into consideration, three college basketball analysts have already declared Florida basketball to be a top 10 team going into the 2010-11 season.

ESPN‘s Andy Katz and Pat Forde and CBS SportsGary Parrish have given the Gators this distinction. But the question is: Do they deserve the love?

See what the experts and OGGOA have to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » Florida basketball really a top 10 team in 2010-11?

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FOUR BITS: Dunlap, Tyus & Donovan, Pierre-Louis

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive end Carlos Dunlap has decided to make it his mission to silence his doubters and do whatever it takes to help his new team, the Cincinnati Bengals, improve on defense this year. “My plan is to help contribute in the pass-rushing game,” Dunlap told the Dayton Daily News. “That’s one of the things I heard coach [Marvin Lewis] say the team lacked last year. Although I feel rushing the passer is one of the things I do well, it’s certainly not my best attribute. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get on the field and help the team win games. […] I want to go after defensive rookie of the year honors. People’s negative comments help motivate me. They say I should have been a first-rounder but I’m not. So all I can do now is make everyone who passed on me pay.”

2 » Though Dunlap is confident in what he can do this year, his team’s owner, Mike Brown, may see his selection with the No. 54 overall pick in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft as just another risky decision by Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. As Cincinnati was in the process cleaning up its image as a franchise accepting of bad behavior, they have recently signed or drafted players charged with drug possession (wide receiver Matt Jones), DUI (Dunlap and WR Chris Davis) and numerous arrests (defensive back Adam “Pacman” Jones). How Dunlap turns out – and whether or not he gets into further trouble – could be a strong indictment on Lewis’ job security.

3 » Florida junior forward Alex Tyus, who has kept relatively quiet throughout the entire process of deciding to return to school, has accepted that he will not start at small forward for the Gators, according to his fiancée Alli Cecchini. “He understands Chandler [Parsons] has won that position,” she told the Orlando Sentinel. “He hasn’t proven himself to be a 3 here. His chance to show he can play the 3 is at the professional level, but for now he respects where the team is coming from.” Cecchini also said that, contrary to what some may believe, Tyus remains close with head coach Billy Donovan. “We have a great relationship with Donovan, we talk to him all the time,” she added. “It’s not like a strained relationship at all.”

4 » Though some are discounting any chance he might have in making a team, former Gators cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis has already worked out for his second in a week, visiting the Baltimore Ravens after being dismissed by the New York Giants a few days ago. Pro Football Talk reports that Pierre-Louis “will be sent packing by the Ravens,” but The News-Press believes Baltimore has legitimate interest in him for a special teams position. “It’s not really that much different [than college],” Pierre-Louis said. “It’s a little bit faster because everybody knows what to do and where to go.”

Extra Bit » Florida junior Alexandre Lacroix and redshirt senior Antoine Benneteau have each been named to the 2010 Intercollegiate Tennis Association Division I Men’s All-American Team, according to a release from the University of Florida. Lacroix, who posted a 32-9 record this season as a singles competitor, earned recognition in both categories (singles and doubles); Benneteau, however, only earned the doubles honor (Lacroix is his teammate and the duo holds a 17-5 record).

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FOUR BITS: Peterson, Orton vs. Tebow, FSU wins

1 » Former Florida Gators linebacker Mike Peterson – now a veteran with the Atlanta Falcons, has taken on the roll of mentor with the team’s first-round choice in the 2010 NFL Draft, Sean Weatherspoon. Now 34, Peterson had a solid 2009-10 season (140 tackles) and hopes to continue to help both on the field and in the locker room. “I understand the business,” he said. “I want to help the team out. That’s what I’m all about. I didn’t come here to try and play 2,000 plays. I came here to try to win the Super Bowl. Whatever my role will be, I’m ready for it.”

2 » The Denver Post is apparently the “Kyle Orton needs to get out of here on way or another” angle now that former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow has joined the Denver Broncos. Columnist Woody Paige insists the team needs to pull the trigger on a trade involving Orton because he is “not a short-term fix or a long-range fit for the Broncos,” noting that he is “an average quarterback who couldn’t start for 21 other teams in the league.” Better to see what they have in former Notre Dame star Brady Quinn and first-round pick Tebow, Page believes. Paper-mate mark Kiszla takes a similar angle on the topic, noting that Orton needs to get himself out of Denver as fast as possible. “[He] would have rocks for brains to start another game as quarterback of the Broncos,” Kiszla wrote. “He would be playing the fool for Denver coach Josh McDaniels. If Orton owns a penny’s worth of common sense, he has already quietly, politely and firmly asked for a trade to grant his freedom.”

3 » EA SportsNCAA Football 11, which will feature Tebow as its cover athlete, is undergoing more changes than just deciding to use one former player on its cover instead of many. According to Jon Robinson of ESPN, the gaming company has decided to further embed ESPN branding into the game, letting each contest play like it is a live network broadcast. Read more about some of the game’s brand new features.

4 » Speaking of ESPN, the worldwide leader has decided to create a bracket system in order to devise which college program has been the best pipeline for the NFL over the last 30 years. Not surprisingly, No. 13-seed Florida lost its opening-round match-up. Unfortunately for some fans, it was to the No. 4-seed Florida State Seminoles. Though writer Matt Williamson noted that the recent influx of Gators gives the team a chance to claim the title in the future, the past’s top five notable players (Derrick Brooks, Deion Sanders, Walter Jones, Rohn Stark, LeRoy Butler VS. Emmitt Smith, Lomas Brown, Cris Collinsworth, Wilber Marshall, Neal Anderson) allows FSU to earn the edge. Check out the entire head-to-head match-up at the link above including summaries by Heather Dinich and Mark Schlabach.

Photo Credit: Jon Robinson/ESPN

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Alex Tyus withdraws name from 2010 NBA Draft, sticks with Florida Gators for senior season

Likely against the wishes of much of his family who had been outspoken about his future, Florida Gators junior forward Alex Tyus has decided to remain with the team for his senior season, withdrawing his name from the 2010 NBA Draft.

After being evaluated by experts and working out for NBA teams (including the Portland Trailblazers on Friday), Tyus chose to stick around the University of Florida for one more season in an attempt to hone his skills and improve his stock before entering next year’s draft.

“When I began this process it was with the intent of gathering information to see what I needed to work on to one day compete at the next level, and I believe I have been successful in doing just that,” Tyus said. “I have withdrawn my name from the NBA Draft and look forward to completing my senior year at the University of Florida. We made tremendous strides as a team a year ago that I look forward to continuing to build upon.

NBA analysts projected Tyus to go undrafted this year should he have kept his name in the draft and hired and agent. Nevertheless, that is the path his father and uncle hoped he would take; both criticized head coach Billy Donovan for incorrectly utilizing Tyus, claiming he could be an “unbelievable small forward.”

Tyus will begin next season as the Gators’ starting power forward. Fellow senior Chandler Parsons will hold down the small forward job. The Florida basketball team will be returning all five starters for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

“I will be returning to Gator Nation! Let’s get ready to make a run boys!” he wrote on his personal Twitter account.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandin/Associated Press

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TWO BITS: LaPorta struggling, Harrison caught

1 » Former Florida Gators baseball star Matt LaPorta, now a starter with the Cleveland Indians, is struggling mightily in his first full season in MLB. The two-time Southeastern Conference Player of the Year (2005, 2007) batted .254 with seven home runs and 21 RBI in 52 games his rookie season (2009) but is not coming close to that pace this year. In 20 appearances, LaPorta is hitting .214 with no homers and only a single RBI to his name. The No. 7 overall pick in the 2007 MLB Draft was expected to be a source of power in the major leagues but has yet to live up to the expectations he had garnered. Cleveland acquired LaPorta as part of the trade that sent now-New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers two years ago.

2 » Fellow former Florida baseball player Ben Harrison is also struggling, but he is facing a very different type of conflict. On Friday, Harrison – who is currently a free agent in the minor leagues – was suspended 100 games for violating MiLB’s drug program. He was caught buying and using amphetamines, which were outlawed in MLB beginning in 2006. During his University of Florida career, Harrison hit 40 home runs and 192 RBI, ranking him second all-time in both categories behind arguably the best player in school history, the now-retired Brad Wilkerson.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow has “it,” Lewis, TPC, lacrosse

1 » Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels continued his praise of former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow to the Denver Post Thursday, citing that his first-round pick has the “it” factor. “There are people with a great deal of God-given ability who are fun to watch, and it’s really interesting to see what kind of seasons they’ll put together,” McDaniels said. “Then there are guys who will say they won’t fail, our team’s not going to fail, and they have a ‘I’m not going to let you down’ attitude. And that’s what you notice with Tim.”

The coach also said Tebow has a good chance to get on the field early – not years down the line like all the NFL Draft experts and other scouts project. “To me, (his football IQ) gives him an advantage, an opportunity to play earlier than other people have played,” he continued. “Everybody keeps talking about it will be two, three years before he can play, and I think they don’t know this guy. His mental capacity, and the way he works, and the fact that he’s on such a fast pace, will give him the chance to compete apples-to-apples. It’s all going to be about his production and performance. There are a lot of rookies who can’t run plays because they can’t figure it out yet. That’s not going to be the case with Tim. He’ll be able to do the things [veterans] do. […] You know what Tim doesn’t know about our playbook? Only what we haven’t told him yet.”

2 » Baltimore Ravens veteran linebacker Ray Lewis spoke out about Tebow’s progression into the NFL to ESPN’s Colin Cowherd on Thursday. Needless to say, the future Hall of Famer champion feels Tebow has received much more help than other players have coming into the league. “The thing I was more shocked by, is you see all the people who were willing to help him,” Lewis said. “I don’t know many people who were willing to help other athletes like that. Jon Gruden loved him to death. You see all these people who took out their personal time to really work with him and make this big issue, big issue, big issue. I don’t know why he was any different than anyone else. Every young child has that dream, that same dream that Tebow had. So I don’t know why he was bigger […] than any of the other guys. He went to a big program, and, yes, he might be a favorable person, but nobody else in the league, definitely not veteran players, see themselves differently than any other player.”

3 » Four former Gators golfers are currently competing in The PLAYERS Championship in Ponta Vedra Beach, FL, each hoping to take home a PGA Tour title. After a full day of action, Camilo Villegas and Brian Gay (-2) were tied for 47th with Mark Calcavecchia (+1) and Chris Couch (+2) bringing up the rear in the 100s. Each player will tee off for their second round from 1-2 p.m. on Friday.

4 » Florida lacrosse (10-7) stunned the crowd watching the quarterfinals of the American Lacrosse Conference Tournament in Columbus, OH, Thursday night by rocking the No. 20 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (10-7) 14-3. Freshman goalie Cara Canington made a school-record 14 saves on 15 shots as classmates midfielder Kitty Cullen and attacker Ashley Bruns led the way with six and three goals, respectively. The ladies will advance to face No. 11 Vanderbilt at 5:30 p.m. on Friday in the semifinals. The Gators lost to the Commodores 12-7 in Gainesville, FL, earlier in the season.

Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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Citing position concerns, family says Tyus gone

With just about 24 hours until he has to make a decision regarding his basketball future (May 8), Florida Gators junior forward Alex Tyus is currently in Portland, OR, getting ready for a workout with the NBA‘s Portland Trailblazers after spending some time preparing at IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL.

At some point after his workout, Tyus will decide whether to return to Florida for his senior season or hire an agent keep himself eligible for the 2010 NBA Draft.

If the majority of his family has anything to say about it, Tyus will not be donning the orange and blue next year – at least that is the impression one receives according to interviews conducted by the Orlando Sentinel and Gainesville Sun.

The Sentinel spoke with his father, Thomas Tyus, who has suggested that his son leave the Gators because, in his opinion, head basketball coach Billy Donovan has been utilizing his son incorrectly since he arrived on campus.

“I don’t think he has anything to gain by returning to the University of Florida basketball-wise,” Thomas said. “I just feel he has not developed his full potential. [...] He can go back and get his degree at any time.”

Thomas believes his son could be an “unbelievable small forward” and blames Donovan for playing him exclusively at power forward and center over the last two years.

“He’s certainly capable of playing the small forward position, and he was the moment he stepped on campus,” Thomas said. “He’s never gotten the opportunity to do that. All the kid wants is an opportunity to be the best possible player he can be. [...] He tries to do everything the coach asks him to do. He also feels that, at some point, the coach should try to help him as well.”

His uncle, Charles Tyus, told the Sun that there is “no chance” Tyus plays for Florida next year, also citing issues with his nephew’s position. According to Charles, Tyus and Donovan have met extensively over the last month, with the coach explaining that fellow junior Chandler Parsons will start at small forward once again in 2010-11.

“I think right then and there, Alex made up his mind that he wasn’t coming back,” Charles said. “He’ll take his chances and go overseas if he’s not drafted.”

The only one denying that a decision has already been made is Alli Cecchini, Tyus’ finance, who also spoke with the Sun.

“We’ll sit down Friday and really, really talk it through,” she said. “He’s gotten a lot of feedback saying he should come back. […] We even talked last week quite a bit about him coming back.”

Upon entering his name in the draft, Tyus told the Sun that he would only keep himself eligible for selection if he was projected to be a first-round pick. Most NBA draft analysts have Tyus with a “second round or undrafted” grade as of press time.

However, as OGGOA noted early Thursday, it does appear that Tyus’ decision will hinge on “more than just his draft projection.”

PREVIOUS STORY: Will he stay or will he go? Tyus nears decision

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