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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Donovan named head coach of USA Basketball

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan has been selected to lead USA Basketball during the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship from June 16-20 in Brazil.

Donovan, a court coach during the 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U19 National Team Training Camp last summer, will represent his country as a head coach in international competition for the first time in his career. He chose Virginia Commonwealth head coach Shaka Smart (a former Florida assistant) and Gonzaga head coach Mark Few as assistants for his coaching staff.

“It’s always an honor to be selected to represent your country, and I’m incredibly thankful for this opportunity to be a part of USA Basketball,” he said in a statement released by the school. “I have great respect for Shaka Smart and Mark Few, and I’m looking forward to working alongside them.”

Donovan will begin coaching the team on June 5 in Colorado as training camp opens before narrowing the roster down to 12 prior to getting on a plane for Brazil.

It will be interesting to see if any of the Gators’ 2012 commitments join USA Basketball for training camp or make final cuts for the team.

Florida sophomores center Patric Young and point guard Scottie Wilbekin tried out for the U19 team in 2011 though only Young made the final cut.

The United States will go up against seven other teams (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands) in an attempt to win the tournament and qualify for the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship in June of next year. Donovan is not guaranteed to be the head coach of that team should USA Basketball advance.

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FOUR BITS: Young going for gold, Pagan thinking, Gilbert leading, Bullard eliminated from WWE

1 » Competing with the USA Basketball Men’s U-18 National Team in the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Men, Florida Gators four-star power forward commitment Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) already wow’ed his coaches and is now impressing his opponents, too. Below are his stat lines thus far:

- June 26 vs. Virgin Islands – 5/7 for 11 points, nine rebounds in 10 minutes
- June 27 vs. Mexico – 2/4 for four points, eight rebounds, two blocks in 20 minutes
- June 28 vs. Argentina – 4/5 for 11 points, five rebounds in 16 minutes
- June 29 vs. Canada – 1/2 for two points, one rebound, one block in 10 minutes

Young will join his team in the tournament gold medal game on Wednesday at Bill Greehey Arena in San Antoinio, TX, against Brazil. Also of note is former Gators five-star guard commit Austin Rivers (Winter Park, FL), who set a FIBA record with nine consecutive three-pointers in the USA’s defeat of Canada. Rivers went 3/6 from the field and 9/12 from beyond the arc while posting a tournament-high 35 points.

2 » Almost immediately after committing to Florida, there were rumors that four-star defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan (Asheville, NC) may change his mind. The Gators’ second-best 2011 recruit overall behind quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL), Pagan committed back in April, telling Rivals that head coach Urban Meyer “stood up, did a little dance and gave me a hug” when he accepted the scholarship offer. “I decided that I definitely wanted to lock in my spot with the Gators and be part of this team,” he said in April. “I think I’m firm [with my decision]. I don’t plan on taking any more visits or seeing anywhere else. I’m sure people say it all the time, but this feels like home. Florida makes me feel like I am at home.” Now Pagan calls himself “about 50 percent on Florida, but the commitment is still there. It’s strong,” adding that he will “announce whether I’m going to Florida or look elsewhere before the season starts” on Aug. 27.

3 » Florida Today caught up with Florida redshirt senior offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert and picked his brain about a few topics including what happened at the end of last season. “We had guys thinking they were better than they were and weren’t playing up to their potential,” Gilbert said. “We’ve got this saying, ‘No primos and no rock stars. Go out and do your job.’ Everybody is going to work the same amount, and there aren’t going to be any superstars on the team. I think everybody – especially after watching that SEC game in Atlanta – everybody has fire and desire to handle things in a different way because my feeling is, I didn’t think we were that ready. We had a good game plan in and we had the players to beat Alabama, but we weren’t ready to go out there and get the job done because I guess we had been there before. That’s what it seemed like to me. We weren’t as focused. That week of practice wasn’t as it usually had been. It was different.” As for this year? “It’s our time. It’s our team,” he said. “That’s what [the seniors] go by. So anything that goes on, they say this is your team; you have to make the decision; you have to be the leaders; you have to step up. It’s our responsibility. I think we have the guys still who can do the same thing — get back there — because we have a talented group coming back. I think we can be better.”

4 » Former Gators defensive end Thaddeus Bullard‘s (ring name Titus O’Neil) mission to become World Wrestling Entertainment’s next breakout star ended on Tuesday as he was eliminated from the WWE NXT television program. O’Neil, whose background as a football player and master’s degree recipient from the University of Florida was played up heavily by the producers/announcers, did a Gator Chomp when at the top of the entrance rap and was quite powerful in the ring. However, as some might agree, he was one of the least dynamic personalities on the show and was scripted to both lose matches and make mistakes throughout his short time on WWE television.

Photo Credit: Asheville Citizen-Times

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TWO BITS: Young, Gardner, eye black, Henderson

1 » Florida Gators four-star power forward commitment Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) is drawing rave reviews from coaches and fellow players as he works with the USA Basketball Men’s U-18 National Team in preparation for the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Men from June 26-30. “He’s playing really, really well,” team assistant and Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt told ESPN‘s Andy Katz earlier this week. “He’s making plays, rebounding and running the floor well. Offensively, he’s looking good. He gives tremendous effort every time – great effort –and he’ll help Florida even if he doesn’t score a ton of buckets. He’s going to help them. He’ll defend, set screens and do all those things without scoring points.”

2 » After a career including 13 NCAA Tournament berths coming as a player, graduate assistant and coach, Gators women’s basketball assistant Susie Gardner is expected to be named the head coach of the Mercer Bears at a 3 p.m. press conference Thursday. Gardner, who has spent the last three seasons with Florida, has been in the Southeastern Conference for 13 years of her 24-year coaching career including stints as head coach at Arkansas and as an assistant and player at Georgia.

3 » With the statues of former Gators quarterback and Heisman Trophy winners Tim Tebow, Danny Wuerffel and Steve Spurrier going up outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium next year, fans have been asking one relatively interesting question: Will Tebow’s statue feature a signature eye black message? The Gainesville Sun attempted to get this question definitively answered but found a non-committal response instead. The statue’s artist, W. Stanley “Sandy” Proctor, has already completed Tebow’s statue – which includes blank eye black. However, his business manager said that he would be happy to add a message if the University of Florida requested it. Associate athletics director Chip Howard was a bit more clear, saying he was “not sure if [a message] will show up well so you can read [it], but we continue to work on the statue […] to make [it] as real as possible.”

4 » Five-star offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson (Minneapolis, MN), the top recruit in the country in 2010 who committed to the USC Trojans on National Signing Day, is apparently mulling his future with the team, according to reports. Henderson, who chose USC over Miami, Ohio State, Florida and Minnesota, was allegedly promised by Kiffin that the Trojans would not suffer any major sanctions from the NCAA. USC coaches (including Kiffin) flew out in a private jet to visit Henderson last week with hopes to keep his commitment, but he recently told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he didn’t “want to talk about that,” when asked whether or not he was remaining with the program.

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FOUR BITS: Young, Wright, K. Moore, Dorsey

1 » USA Basketball has released a profile piece on Florida Gators four-star power forward commitment Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) completed as he joined the Men’s U-18 National Team for the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Men from June 26-40. Among the topics covered, Young says that Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel is working him and the rest of the team hard, the experience will do him well for his freshman year at Florida, he has plans to study sports medicine, his family is huge Gators fans and he wants to do what he can to help end the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. “My parents put [giving back] into my head, I grew up with my own morals that I learned from them,” Young said. “I just applied it to my life and that’s just me.”

2 » Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo discussed how former Florida safety Major Wright has been progressing with his team thus far through mini camp; suffice to say, he is coming away impressed. “He’s billed as advertised. He’s a great kid who’s very competitive,” Angelo said. “He brings a lot of emotion and energy to the [secondary], which is great to see. He’s getting better with each practice. There’s going to be a learning curve at all positions for rookies, probably more so in the secondary because there’s much more going on at the safety position. But he’s doing a fine job. The coaches are very pleased with the way he’s progressing, particularly with his work habits. In terms of whether he’ll start this season, the players and coaches will determine that, but we’re very excited about seeing him in pads.”

3 » While some of the Gators’ more prominent stars over the years were unable to make a career for themselves in the NFL (see: quarterback Leak, Chris of the Montreal Alouettes), others have found slots on practice teams and in the back of rosters. Picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 9, 2009, as an insurance policy against a dwindling backfield, former Florida running back Kestahn Moore caught on and signed a deal with the team on Jan. 5. This offseason, Moore has been getting a lot of work in during practice – he has taken Wildcat formation snaps behind rookie wide receiver Dexter McCluster, run the ball as what many believe is the team’s third or fourth back and impressed coaches with what Chiefs writer Bob Gretz calls “a nice wiggle and burst.” As camp wrapped up on June 14, Gertz had this to say about Moore: “The first-year back out of Florida got a lot of opportunities with Jamaal Charles on the sidelines because of his shoulder surgery/recovery. There is no live action in these practices, so running backs can be hard to judge. But in every practice, Moore ripped off at least one impressive run with a burst of speed or moves. Moore has become a shadow of Thomas Jones and he’s trying to learn how to stay in the NFL from the 11-year veteran.”

4 » Safety Demar Dorsey, a five-star recruit who was previously committed to Florida before being forced to find a fit elsewhere, was released from his letter of intent with the Michigan Wolverines in early June for undisclosed reasons most likely relating to his past legal issues and was hoping to catch on with another program. As previously rumored and projected by OGGOA, he has officially landed with the Louisville Cardinals and two former Florida coaches – head coach Charlie Strong, and defensive coordinator and secondary coach Vance Bedford.

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BREAKING NEWS: Five-star SG Bradley Beal commits to Florida Gators basketball

Five-star shooting guard Bradley Beal (St. Louis, MO), the No. 7 overall recruit in the nation according to Rivals, announced Monday afternoon that he has decided to attend the University of Florida and commit to play college basketball for the Florida Gators in 2011. Beal (6’3”, 180 lbs.) chose the Gators over the Kansas Jayhawks, Duke Blue Devils, Missouri Tigers, Illinois Illini, Ohio State Buckeyes and St. Louis University.

Averaging 23.5 points per game during his sophomore season, Beal shined as he led the U.S. under-16 team to a gold medal in the FIBA Americas Championship in Argentina last summer. He joins a 2011 recruiting class that already includes fellow five-star SG Austin Rivers (Winter Park, FL) and three-star point guard De’Ante Saunders (Deland, FL).

“Really, it’s the whole coaching staff from Coach [Billy] Donovan to Coach [Rob] Lanier to Coach [Richard] Pitino and Coach [Larry] Shyatt that makes Florida so attractive,” Beal said. “They have a real passion for winning and I like the way they work hard together. They really wanted me and want me to be a key factor to the team in the future. I really like the way Coach Donovan brings out the best in you. I think he really wants you to succeed and I think he really cares about his players.”

Beal’s ability to play up-tempo basketball and get open in transition makes him an attractive addition to the 2011 class. Donovan got an early look at Beal after the shooter attended his Elite Camp last year. If nothing changes, Beal will sign his National Letter of Intent with the Gators in November 2010.

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