Florida Gators G/F DeVon Walker tears ACL, likely to miss 2014-15 season

Florida Gators junior guard/forward DeVon Walker “is expected to miss the 2014-15 season” after tearing his ACL, according to CBSSports.com’s Jeff Borzello.

A spokesman for the team confirmed Walker’s injury to OnlyGators.com early Monday morning.

Walker, who transferred from Florida last offseason over play time concerns but eventually decided to return to the Gators in a reserve role, wound up making seven starts and playing in 35 games in 2013-14.

Though he averaged 2.4 points and 1.2 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per game last season, Walker came up big for Florida in some tough circumstances in Southeastern Conference play when he drained 8-of-14 threes over a five-game stretch. He also played solid defense throughout the year. Additionally, there were three separate five-game stretches during the season in which he averaged 20 minutes or more per game.

Walker being out of commission does not spell doom for the Gators though he was expected to be part of Florida’s regular rotation as a reserve at the two and three. Junior Michael Frazier II returns as the starting shooting guard for UF.

The Gators hope to have redshirt sophomore G Dillon Graham back in the fold after he underwent season-ending surgery to repair bone spurs in his hips. Redshirt junior G Eli Carter should also be available for Florida now more than a year removed from a broken leg suffered during the 2012-13 campaign that sidelined him for most of last year.

UF’s three-member 2014 recruiting class also includes a pair of wing players in five-star F Devin Robinson (Christchurch, VA) and four-star G Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, FL). Though both were expected to get run next season, there are now even more minutes to go around.

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Donovan talks Harris, Horford, Egbunu, NBA

With the Florida Gators making plenty of news this offseason, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Thursday to discuss his program’s incoming transfers and exiting players. He also touched on whether professional teams have contacted him about his services and explained how he responded to those inquiries.

THREE STRIKES AND YOU’RE OUT

Donovan does the best he can to get players to buy in but some simply cannot get out of their own way. Such is the case with center Damontre Harris, who Donovan has dismissed from the team for the second time in six months – this time for good.

Harris was granted the opportunity to return to the Gators after Donovan dismissed him in December 2013 but failed to live up to his promises – dedication to the program, attendance at all team events, communication with the coaching staff and teammates. Having already suspended Harris for a violation of team rules at the start of the 2013-14 season and dismissed him at the end of the fall semester, Donovan finally decided to give up on his reclamation projection after Harris proved no better this time around.

“Damontre is not a bad kid. He’s a good kid but really undisciplined and unreliable in a lot of ways, and [he was] really selling me on the fact that he’s going to be [improved in] that way,” Donovan explained on Thursday. “And then what we basically did was not allow him to play, even though he was eligible to play, and I told him he had to earn his way back on the team, very similar to the way Scottie [Wilbekin] had to do it. …

“He had every opportunity to do that. He had a whole semester to do that and just could not do the things he needed to do, we expected him to do. … This guy was in practice; he was used on the scout team. The things we were talking about is like going to class, being on time, being in the weight room, lifting, showing up to practice, those kind of things.

“Basically, we evaluated him over that two-and-a-half, three month [span] over that second semester and clearly nothing had changed at all. And I was just not going to have him come back in this kind of situation.”

Continue Reading » Donovan talks Harris, Horford, Egbunu, NBA

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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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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.

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

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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.

Continue Reading » Next for Chris Walker: NBA or Donovan process?

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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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Donovan speaks as Florida’s preps for UConn

No. 12/15 Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Sunday, one days before his team was set to visit the No. 14/12 UConn Huskies on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. in Stoors, CT at the Gampel Pavilion.

SECOND IN A STRETCH

Florida has already been tested early this season, dropping a close game at now-No. 8 Wisconsin and emerging victorious with a one-point victory against should-have-been-ranked Florida State on Friday in Gainesville, FL. Perhaps most impressive of all is the fact that the Gators have been competitive in these games despite dealing with a throng of injuries and disciplinary issues.

Next up for UF in a series of four tough games spread out over 16 days is a Monday night battle at UConn. Donovan believes his team will be prepared for the challenge.

“The one thing about playing Wisconsin on the road was a very good game. It was a great challenge for us,” he said. “Not having Dorian [Finney-Smith] there, not having Scottie there, having other guys on our team out, we went into that game with a lack of depth. We’ve got some new guys back, Dorian and Scottie [Wilbekin], but Kasey Hill and DeVon Walker could be out again.

“It’s been one of these things where we’ve had to go game from game. But I do think when you play big games like this, and even the Florida State game, you’re going to find out more about your team. You’re going to find out more where you need to get better. There’s certain things that will get exposed this time of year that we need to correct and get better. So I think this stretch of games, although very challenging against very good teams – two of the four are away from home – we’re going to get a chance to find out more about our team, which I think is always good.”

Continue Reading » Donovan speaks as Florida’s preps for UConn

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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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