6/25: Billy Donovan on SEC teleconference

Back from Brazil with a gold medal, Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan shared his thoughts on the upcoming season as part of the Southeastern Conference‘s summer teleconference on Monday.


Doing a 180 from last season, which saw the team run through the veteran backcourt and extremely talented freshman Bradley Beal, Donovan admitted Monday that he may very well lean on his experienced frontcourt to lead the way for the Gators this season.

“I do think with Erik Murphy being a senior, Will Yeguete played a lot as a sophomore before he got injured, Patric Young a year older, Cody Larson a year older…I think clearly depth-wise we have some really good experience,” he said. “Any time you lose a starting point guard like we are with Erving Walker, and then you obviously lose a top-five pick in Brad Beal, that certainly changes the complexion of your backcourt. For Scottie Wilbekin and Braxton Ogbueze as a freshman and Kenny Boynton, we’ll have to create an identity back there. That’s something I’ve given some thought about.

“Defensively, because of Erving at times with his size, defensively we struggled at times against bigger guards. Scottie is a bigger, stronger guard. Braxton is a strong guard as well. I feel pretty confident in terms of our frontcourt and what’s returning but any time you take a point guard off of a team that has been a starter for three years, there’s a different element and dynamic that you have to deal with as you go into the season.”

That is why Donovan could lean on Boynton to run some point this year; he can help the team win while simultaneously improving his skill set for NBA evaluators. He will also utilize redshirt senior Mike Rosario plenty and get contributions from junior Casey Prather, who came on strong in the postseason.


Though Ogbueze will be in the best position to see immediate playing time, Florida also has three other freshmen waiting in the wings including Michael Frazier, Dillon Graham and DeVon Walker. Donovan explained why the Gators concentrated to heavily on recruiting guards in the 2012 cycle.

“My biggest concern going into last year’s recruiting was Erving was going to be a senior, Kenny Boynton would have the opportunity to at least look at putting his name in early, Mike Rosario was a 1,000-point scorer in two years at Rutgers and Brad Beal I thought had the opportunity [to go pro]. I was really worried if we lost Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker and Brad Beal that we need to make sure from a recruiting standpoint that we had some depth back there,” he said.

“That was kind of our focus, and I think because we had some young frontcourt players returning at that point in time, a lot of kids probably looked at what kind of room is there for me to play. We didn’t really add a lot of frontcourt pieces in the incoming freshman class but more than anything I was concerned going into this season if we really would have lost all of those guys to the draft, to graduation, what kind of situation we’d be in.”

Donovan has yet to determine how much time each freshman may or may not see on the court but is excited to evaluate them all during the limited time they have together over the summer.

“I think the kids that are coming in understand that there’s the possibility that there’s going to be some experience and some depth with Rosario and Scottie Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton,” he said. “But they also know after a year or so that things will really open up. The kids coming in seem like very good team guys. I’ll get a lot better feel now in July because we can work these guys out and be on the floor with them, and I’ll probably know more before we get started in the fall.”


Donovan pointed out Monday that college basketball players have been transferring at an alarming rate over the last few years, and he believes that the new NCAA rule allowing coaches and recruits unlimited contact via phone calls and text messages may help aid that issue.

“From a social media, electronic standpoint now, the communication that you are able to do now is totally different than it was 10 years ago. If you look at the last 3-4-5 years in college basketball, there has been a monumental transfer rate every year. It seems to get higher and higher. I think a lot of that has to do with some of the recruiting model, with the limitations on what we have been able to do contact-wise with players,” he explained.

“I have never felt like, as a coach, I’ve really been able to get the chance to know a prospect or that a prospect has not really got the chance to know you [with the old communications rules]. If you’ve got a player that you’re recruiting geographically that’s close to your campus that has the ability to come on campus and develop that kind of relationship, it is kind of a better feel of the player. The player has a better feel of your program. But I think once you’re recruiting away from your area so to speak and you’re limited to what we’re limited with…even in July you can’t make any phone calls and do those things. I thought it was a process that really promoted everybody making bad decisions and choices.

“Now between caller ID and e-mail and text messaging…these guys have the ability to communicate with who they want to communicate with and not communicate with people they don’t want to communicate with. If anything, if a kid is being inundated with a lot of messages by a lot of different schools, I think what it does is it allows that player to get a lot more serious earlier about who does he really want to look at. Who are the schools he is most interested in. Any time you open up the lines of communication between two parties, I think that’s the healthiest and best way to get to know each other.”

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Meet Florida basketball assistant Rashon Burno

For the first time since being announced as the Florida Gators new assistant basketball coach on April 12, Rashon Burno met with the media on Thursday to discuss what brought him to Florida and how he plans to fit in with the Gators.


A lifelong Northerner, Burno has spent most of his playing and coaching career in New York and Illinois. Though a move to Florida was undoubtedly a change of lifestyle for him and his family, he knew it was something he wanted from the moment he was offered an interview by head coach Billy Donovan. “I got on a plane with the intention of taking the job if offered. I was more nervous that I was not going to get an offer,” he said.

Burno got that offer and accepted the job immediately. He is already comfortable in Gainesville, FL but is being tested by two things in particular about the adjustment: the temperature and… “The most challenging part, obviously, is when you leave for your family,” he said, “but basketball-wise, you’re still doing the same thing. You’re still on the grind, still trying to evaluate talent. You may be looking at a little bit better talent than Manhattan, which is obviously an adjustment, but so far so good.”

Now that he’s adjusted, Burno expects the rest of his family to join him in approximately six weeks and knows that his children especially will love going to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. “They’re excited to because they’re of age where they know basketball,” he said. “I have twin boys who are age 11. They love basketball. They love Erving Walker. They thought he could do no wrong – small guy who could shoot it, offensive threat, they love that guy. At their age all they want to do is shoot, shoot, shoot. Not that Erv shot a lot. Not saying that. Not saying that. [Laughing] It’s good for those guys. They’re eager to get down here and make new friends and get in the community.”

He also has no expectation of being part of the seemingly endless rotation of Gators basketball assistants and expects to be wearing orange and blue for quite some time. “In this business I think, for me, I wanted to get with people who I respect. My prior relationship with Billy was built on mutual respect,” Burno said. “This is something that obviously I want to be a long-term fix or me. I’m not looking to go anywhere. I’m happy for the opportunity.”


As in many professions, moving up the ladder in the industry of college basketball is all about who you know. Luckily for Burno, a star player for St. Anthony’s High School in Jersey City, NJ under head coach Bob Hurley (a close friend of Donovan’s) and assistant under Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello (a friend and former assistant of Rick Pitino), he had the relationships and experience to get him his new gig.

“I think it goes back to working for a Pitino guy in Coach Masiello. You do a good job for someone in the family and the word travels. So I hope,” he said of how he got in touch with Donovan. “It was over a four-five year span of really picking [Donovan’s] brain about how to be a productive coach. I think that helped in the process because he got to know me off the floor. I think it paid dividends obviously with the opportunity to work for him.”

Though he did not know Donovan personally until a few years ago, Burno explained that he always admired his work from afar. “Just anybody that wins two national titles as a coach you’ve got to take your hat off to them and just respect what he does and what he stands for,” he said. “For me, from a coaching standpoint, he’s somebody that I looked up to and reached out to and was looking to build a relationship with.”

Burno added, “Just I think his offense was ahead of the game – pick and roll now you see pretty much throughout college basketball. I’m a big basketball fan so I was always a fan of his. It was just a matter of trying to build a relationship. […] It just so happened this thing comes full circle that I can work for a guy like that.”


One of Burno’s strong suits is his recruiting acumen and ability to relate to players. He described himself as “tenacious” in regards to bringing in players and explained that having a rough background can help relate to guys going through similar situations.

“I try to wear many hats because every kid is different. I try to adapt to a particular kid. But I’m just consistent with my message as far as talking to kids. Definitely one of aggression – just trying to make sure they understand where they stand with us,” he said. “You just try to use your own experience to try and help educate a kid on why this is a good opportunity for them. Having similar backgrounds with the kids I’m currently recruiting helps as well.”

One player Burno does not have to recruit is redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario, a fellow St. Anthony’s player who he will get to coach in his first year at Florida. Needless to say he is excited for the opportunity. “We are a fraternity. It’s really odd that I ended up coaching Mike his last year of college. I’ve known Mike for a long time and watched him for afar. He’s a talented kid. I think this is the first time in the history of St. Anthony’s that a former player is coaching [another] former player from St. Anthony’s,” he said.

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Gator Bites for Monday, June 18

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» A rough senior season at the center position made many Florida Gators fans skeptical that Mike Pouncey could play the position as well as his twin brother. But after one year as the starting center for the Miami Dolphins, those questions no longer exist as Pouncey has proven that he can perform at a Pro Bowl level (though he did not make it to the game in 2011). Now he is focused on getting even better and told the Sun-Sentinel it all starts with eating better. “I can get away with [eating fast food], but I changed it up this year just trying to eat more leaner stuff,” he said. “I hired a chef, so it’s been working well for me.” Pouncey also feels the zone blocking scheme the Dolphins will be employing in 2012 and beyond will benefit him and the offense; he expects a breakout season for himself. “They say your second year is supposed to be your best year,” he said. “I’m hoping for big things. I’m coming out as hard as I can. I want to take on more of a leadership role this year.”

» Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan has been working with the United States U18 National Team over the last few weeks and began action in the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship with his squad on Saturday. Donovan’s young squad is already 2-0 in international competition with a 105-42 victory over the Virgin Islands on Saturday and a 110-59 win over Mexico on Sunday. The U.S. will take on Brazil on Monday to conclude first-round action with the semifinals taking place Tuesday and the championship being held on Wednesday. Donovan’s squad needs to place in the top four teams at the end of the event in order to advance to the 2013 FIBA World Championship next summer. “I told them there are three things we want to accomplish. First and foremost, win a gold medal. Second, we’ve got a lot of guys on our team going into college and we want them to get maybe a bit more prepared than some other incoming freshmen for what they’re going to face in college. And third, we want to help them get better as players,” Donovan told the Sporting News before leaving for Brazil.

» Gators linebacker Neiron Ball, who missed the entire 2011 season after a blood vessel burst in his brain and he was diagnosed with a hereditary vascular condition, was officially cleared to participate in all football activities by team doctors on Friday. Ball had previously announced on March 1 that he had medical clearance from doctors to return to action, but head coach Will Muschamp cautioned in April and May that while he had returned to work out with the team that he was not a full participant and was still awaiting an additional clearance. Now that Ball is good to go, he will compete for immediate playing time at Buck linebacker, a position with a major depth issue now that junior Ronald Powell is out until at least mid-October with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

» Florida track & field coach Mike Holloway was awarded his first Coach of the Year honor for the outdoor season by the USTFCCCA on Thursday. He had previously won the award in consecutive years for the indoor season (2010-11). Holloway’s men’s team swept the 2012 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships this season.

Read six more Gator Bites…after the break!

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Monday, June 18

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Mike Rosario makes Puerto Rico National Team

Faced with an opportunity to continue turning the corner on his career while simultaneously becoming more mature and polished as a player, Florida Gators redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario succeeded in his mission and was officially placed on the 12-man roster for the Puerto Rico National Team on Saturday.

In Puerto Rico trying out for the team with head coach Billy Donovan’s blessing since late May, Rosario always had a legitimate shot to make the squad but had to prove to his coaches that he was ready for the responsibility, something that has not always been the case throughout his career.

He will now compete for Puerto Rico in the 2012 Centrobasket Championship beginning on Monday, an event in which a strong performance can go a long way to helping his team qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.

“I’m lost for words right now,” Rosario told SNY.tv after announcing his accomplishment on Twitter. “I came down to Puerto Rico knowing that the challenge to make this National Team was going to take a lot of hard work and being professional at all times.

“I’m so happy because I’m representing Florida, my family and my character. I’m also thankful for [Donovan] giving me the opportunity to come down here to get better. Not only that but just to go for a dream that I’ve been waiting to come true. I’m humble and hungry right now and I’m not satisfied. I want more and more going into my senior year at Florida. I’m going to keep working hard and keep thanking the man above for giving me the talent that I have. I’m thankful for every last bit of it.”

Rosario averaged 6.6 points, 1.4 rebounds and an assist in 14.4 minutes per game while shooting career-best percentages from the field and downtown with the Gators during the 2011-12 season. With G Bradley Beal leaving to play professionally and point guard Erving Walker having graduated, he is in prime position to return to a starting role for the first time in two seasons when he averaged team-highs of 16.7 points and 33.7 minutes per game for Rutgers in 2009-10.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Siler, Starks, Cunningham, Boynton

1 » Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Brandon Siler participated in a team practice for the first time since tearing his Achilles during the last play of a practice last August and missing the entire 2011 season. According to the team website, Siler only worked during individual drills but said it was good to be back in a helmet for the first time in nine months. “It was a lot of fun and it was football again,” he said. “All the [rehab] stuff that you do is meant to get you back playing football. When you get out there and put your helmet on – and I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve had my helmet on – it feels really good.” He continued, “I’ve wanted to light somebody up since I went down.” Siler did not get that chance on Tuesday as it was a non-contact, non-padded practice but will have that opportunity soon enough.

2 » For the second time in as many offseasons the Pittsburgh Steelers have begun organized team activities and minicamp without offensive tackle Max Starks. Also for the second time in as many offseasons, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has begun minicamp wearing Starks’s No. 78 practice jersey instead of his own No. 7. Roethlisberger entered the NFL along with Starks in the 2004 draft and the two have been extremely close friends ever since. Starks was unsigned heading into the 2011 season due to a neck injury he suffered late in 2010; however, after injuries plagued nearly the entire offensive line he was brought back and started almost immediately for the remaining half of the season. Last year Starks tore his ACL in the last game of the season – a playoff loss to Denver; he remains at least two months away from returning to action but is not under contract. Some have deemed it unlikely that he return to the Steelers, which is what was said last offseason as well, but Roethlisberger will undoubtedly pine for him to come back and protect him even if it is in a reserve role. (h/t Justin C.)

3 » New England Patriots outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham barely played in 2011…and it had nothing to do with his health. A notable absence from the field for the vast majority of the season (ESPNBoston.com notes that he only played 3.6 percent of the snaps in 2011 compared to 50.9 percent as a rookie in 2010), Cunningham reportedly had problems adjusting to the team’s switch to a 4-3 defense (he was a defensive end in college but was moved to linebacker upon being drafted) and may have been hurt a bit towards the end of the season though that was not the reason he missed so much time up front. According to head coach Bill Belichick, things have turned around for Cunningham and his playing time should be on the rise if he stays on the right track. “Jermaine’s had a great offseason,” Belichick said on Tuesday, noting that includes “physical improvement,” “overall mental grasp of what we’re doing,” and improvements to his “reactions and technique.” He continued, “He’s really worked hard. He looks good.” As for how much playing time he could see? “It will be up to him, and how he performs, relative to the other players at his position.”

4 » Florida Gators junior guard Kenny Boynton has needed to learn how to be a true point guard for at least two years now. If he has a future in the NBA, he is going to have to learn how to handle the ball and create both for himself and his teammates rather than just spotting up on the three-point line and taking shots. However, due to the presence of Erving Walker and the decision-making of head coach Billy Donovan, Boynton had been relegated to a shooting guard role even though giving him time at point had been a topic of discussion and consideration over the last two seasons. This time it appears that Donovan is ready to make sure Boynton gets that opportunity. “The three years he’s been here, he’s played some point,” Donovan told The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway. “I think we’re going to need him to play some point. I think Scottie [Wilbekin] is the next logical guy in line. We signed Braxton Ogbueze who is a freshman. Kenny is a senior, so I don’t think there’s any question that Kenny is going to have to play some extra point because I think that’s best for our team.”

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Gator Bites for Wednesday, May 23

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Former Florida Gators forward Chandler Parsons of the Houston Rockets was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie second team on Tuesday, falling just seven points short of earning a first-team nod. Parsons averaged 9.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals while starting 57 of 63 games for Houston in his rookie season.

» Hoping to achieve a similar feat in his rookie season, Florida freshman guard Bradley Beal is currently getting ready to work out for teams as he prepares for the 2012 NBA Draft. He will have some help towards that goal thanks to the league, which invited him to be one of 60 players who will compete at the 2012 NBA Combine in Chicago, IL. Gators senior point guard Erving Walker was not included on the list.

» Florida head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease made it a point to note that they plan to bring on a quarterback commitment each and every year. To that end a pair of three-star 2013 signal callers, Ryan Buchanan (Jackson, MS) and Tim Boyle (Middleton, CT), will be visiting Gainesville, FL over the weekend. Though UF has struck out with some big name quarterbacks this recruiting cycle and has four signal callers that will be on the roster for at least the next two years, the coaches have not changed their minds about brining another one into the fold. “It’s a very difficult position to evaluate and then take the right guy,” Muschamp said at a Gator Gathering on Tuesday, according to InsidetheGators.com. “Guys that worry about depth charts, we don’t want them. You hit it with them one time, if they ask you to go over it a second time. If they ask a third time, you need to move on.” If the Gators have their way, either Buchanan or Boyle will put an end to their search for a 2013 quarterback.

» Speaking of recruiting, things are getting interesting (or aggravating, if you prefer) for Florida basketball as the team looks to add at least one more player before heading into the 2012-13 season. South Carolina transfer power forward Damontre Harris, a former four-star recruit who averaged 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while playing 25.9 minutes per game last season, was supposed to make his decision between UF, Kansas or staying at USC last week but has yet to make a call. The Gators are also under consideration by Virginia Tech transfer F Dorian Finney-Smith, another former four-star recruit who averaged 6.3 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 36.6 percent from three last season. Finney-Smith has only “narrowed” his list to Florida, Georgetown, Iowa State, Louisville, Marquette, Ohio State and Texas. He will take visits and speak to coaches before making his decision.

» Joining the undecided party is 2012 four-star PF Montrezl Harrell (Tarboro, VA). Formerly a VT signee, Harrell decided to pursue other opportunities after the team fired head coach Seth Greenberg and is heavily considering playing for UF, which is one of a handful of schools on his short list (Alabama, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, South Carolina are the others). The Gators may have an inside track on Harrell due to head coach Billy Donovan being the head coach for the USA Basketball U18 National Team during training camp from June 5-12 in Colorado Springs, CO. Harrell will be playing on the team and have the opportunity to see first-hand what it would be like to practice and play for Donovan. Some are of the opinion that Louisville, a team he did not list when mentioning his top five, has an opportunity to be his eventual destination.

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Wednesday, May 23

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TWO BITS: Walker’s taco, Bennett’s list, Swamp

1 » Former Florida Gators point guard Erving Walker pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor petit theft and was ordered to pay a $301 fine on Thursday after the State Attorney’s Office agreed to drop all charges against him. According to The Gainesville Sun the judge also withheld adjudication for Walker meaning he was not officially convicted of the crime. Walker was arrested and charged after allegedly stealing a taco worth $3 from a street vendor in downtown Gainesville, FL. “It was just a silly mistake,” he said, according to ESPN.com. “I apologize to everybody. I’m embarrassed about it. That’s not me. I’m just trying to put it behind me and move on.”

2 » Five-star power forward Anthony Bennett (Henderson, NV) is down to four. According to SNY.tv, Bennett has eliminated Washington from his finalists and is now down to Florida, Kentucky, Oregon and UNLV. He plans to cut one more school by next week and pay visits to the three finalists before sitting down and making a decision in early May. Ryan Greene of RunRebs.com adds that Bennett and Gators head coach Billy Donovan had “a lengthy sit-down” on Wednesday. Florida is believed to be Bennett’s leader but has a back-up plan in center Bradley Hayes should the former player not commit. UF has not offered Hayes a scholarship yet as the school is first waiting on a decision from Bennett.

Extra BIT » Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is currently undergoing yet another face lift as the West Concourse is being renovated and improved. The project should be completed in July 2012 but GatorVision.tv provided a video update this week which includes some renderings of and more information on the project.

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FOUR BITS: Ferris, Walker, Parsons, Boynton

1 » There was plenty of good news to go around the Florida Gators football program over the weekend but one player in particular – junior long snapper Drew Ferris – may have received the best news of all when head coach Will Muschamp told him that he would be put on scholarship for his final two years with the team. Ferris, who walked on to the Gators in 2010 as a five-star long snapper (a designation given by Chris Rubio Long Snapping), played the position full-time on field goals and punts in 2011 and returns to that role this season.

2 » Florida point guard Erving Walker is unlikely to be selected in the 2012 NBA Draft later this year but is still doing his best to raise his stock by participating in the 2012 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament from April 11-14. It is the second-straight year that a former Gators player will be in the event as forward/center Vernon Macklin was a standout performer in 2011 and wound up being picked in the second round of the draft by the Detroit Pistons due in part to how impressive he was in the PIT.

3 » Houston Rockets F Chandler Parsons was credited for his defense on Kobe Bryant last time his team faced the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant, asked about him after the game, first joked that he did not know Parsons before saying he thought he had a great future in the league. This past week Parsons and Bryant went head-to-head again with the former producing a highlight Kobe-esque play on the offensive end.

4 » Florida junior guard Kenny Boynton announced on Twitter this week that he will be returning to the team for his senior season. GatorZone.com’s Chris Harry caught up with him following the announcement to inquire about the decision to which Boynton mostly said that his family and head coach Billy Donovan both agreed it would be more beneficial for him to stick around for one more year. Boynton also noted that “coming back and playing more of the point guard position” could help him overall in his quest to play in the NBA. Should freshman G Bradley Beal leave for the draft as many expect him to, Boynton may not have many opportunities to play point with sophomore Scottie Wilbekin returning and frosh Braxton Ogbueze joining the team for 2012-13. Should Beal return, Boynton could be shifted to point guard with redshirt junior Mike Rosario moving into the starting five (or he could split the duties with one of the other two).

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