Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford: “It was a no-brainer for me to represent my country.”

Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford, having recently completed his fourth NBA season, is in his prime and playing the best basketball of his career.

Averaging career highs in points (15.3), field goal percentage (.557) and free throw percentage (.789) while also posting 9.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in 2010-11, he was named a NBA All-Star for the second-straight season just months after Atlanta locked him up long-term with an impressive five-year, $60 million contract extension in November.

OGGOA caught up with the two-time National Champion, two-time NCAA Finals Most Valuable Player and member of the 2008 NBA All-Rookie Team while he was in Lexington, KY practicing with the Dominican Republic National Team. Horford, who is working out in facilities usually occupied by the Kentucky Wildcats due to his team being led by Kentucky head coach John Calipari, has found himself learning a new system in enemy territory. He spoke with us just after completing practice about a variety of topics including his new contract, reminiscing with the Oh Fours, representing his country and performing some Gator Chomps in the near future.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Last time we spoke was a year and a half ago just before you played in your first All-Star game. You went back and posted some career highs this season. To what do you attribute your continued improvement?
AL HORFORD: “There’s really no secret behind that, it’s all about putting in the time in the summer. I always try to focus on something different in the offseason that I want to work on and improve. This past summer I got a chance to work with [veteran skills trainer] Rob McClanaghan, a great basketball trainer who works with a lot of other guys in the league including Derrick Rose. He helped me a lot with my game, but I think at the end of the day it is just all about taking the time and making a commitment to work and keep getting better in the offseason.”

AS: Is there any type of competition between you and Jo[akim Noah]? Obviously you were came out of the same school and were picked high in the 2007 NBA Draft, but you’re also playing the same position and competing in the Eastern Conference, too.
AH: “Nah, not really. Me and Joakim, when we talk, we rarely talk basketball. I’m sure he wants to do good and great for his team, and I do the same, but I think at the end of the day we’re not caught up on so much individual stuff. For us, it’s more about our teams and winning and stuff like that. Obviously he has the upper hand on me because of their team because of the playoffs. I know he was happy about that. We’re not competing individually, it’s [more like] how much we impact our individual teams.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Al Horford after the jump!
Continue Reading » Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford: “It was a no-brainer for me to represent my country.”

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FOUR BITS: Jenkins, MLB, basketball, CWS

1 » Former Florida Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was kicked off the team by head coach Will Muschamp following multiple brushes with the law, has officially signed a scholarship with the North Alabama Lions, where he will play under head coach Terry Bowden. “I talked to everybody that I could possibly talk to at Florida, who had a relationship with him,” Bowden told ESPN.com. “From Urban Meyer to Will Muschamp to Jeremy Foley, they all said he is a guy who made a mistake. But it does not represent his character or his time at Florida. They all thought he deserved a second chance.” North Alabama actually represents Jenkins’s fourth chance.

2 » A pair of former Florida baseball players are in the process of being removed from the disabled list by their respective MLB teams. Oakland Athletics second baseman Mark Ellis (hamstring) came off the 15-day list Wednesday and will continue to serve as a utility player with the squad. Texas Rangers relief pitcher Darren O’Day (hip) has been out much longer after having surgery in late April. He was placed on the 60-day list and will likely rejoin Texas on Tuesday.

3 » With the NCAA recently coming down hard on the Kentucky Wildcats for celebrating head coach John Calipari’s “500th” victory, the Gators have decided to adjust their men’s basketball record books due to sanctions levied against the team for the actions of former head coach Norm Sloan. “According to the NCAA infractions report, Sloan paid child support to keep one of his players out of jail and paid transportation from Gainesville to Boston to allow one of his players to work as a counselor at a summer basketball basketball camp,” The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway explains. The player in question is presumed to be Vernon Maxwell, who has his final two seasons with the team erased from the media guide. Florida has placed asterisks next to NCAA Tournament games and adjusted their books .

4 » Already 4-1 against the No. 6-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores this season (2-1 on the road, 2-0 at neutral sites), No. 2 Gators baseball will once again take on their Southeastern Conference East division rivals in the semifinals of the 2011 College World Series on Friday at 2 p.m. Florida (52-17) is one win away from advancing to the Championship Series, while Vanderbilt (54-11) would need to defeat UF twice in order to move forward. OGGOA will have complete coverage of the upcoming CWS game, including a full preview, throughout the day on Friday.

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FOUR BITS: Whitson, Calipari, Pittman, Schintzius

1 » The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on Monday announced that Florida Gators right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson has been named a first-team Freshman All-American. One of 16 standouts to earn the distinction, Whitson is also in line for the National Freshman Pitcher of the Year award, which will be announced Tuesday. With an 8-0 record, 2.45 ERA and 83 strikeouts on the season, he the only player on the first team representing the Southeastern Conference.

2 » Remember when the Kentucky Wildcats and head basketball coach John Calipari defeated Florida in Lexington, KY and the school held a mini 500th victory celebration? Well, according to the NCAA, that should never have happened, and the organization is now taking steps to ensure that Kentucky does what they can to make that information public. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader

Earlier this month, the chairman of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions sent University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. a letter asking the school to publicly acknowledge it was wrong to recognize John Calipari’s 500th coaching victory this past season. Chairman Dennis E. Thomas, the commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, also told Todd that the wording of UK’s statement “must be approved by the office of the Committee on Infractions prior to its release.”

Because the NCAA forced Massachusetts and Memphis to vacate a total of 42 victories achieved under Calipari due to a variety of transgressions, the governing body insists that his victory total was only 458 on that day and now stands at 467 for his career. For more on the matter, click here.

3 » Speaking with The Gainesville Sun after a recent visit to Gainesville, FL for a football camp, Gators four-star 2012 wide receiver commit LaTroy Pittman (Citra, FL) discussed his experience. “It felt great just getting out there, getting a feel for Coach [Aubrey] Hill, how he coaches and how he sees me,” he said. “As far as hands-on and doing drills, that was the first time I really got to see how he would coach me.” Pittman, Florida’s first commit of the 2012 cycle, plans to return for Friday Night Lights.

4 » Surviving a serious leukemia scare last year, former Gators C Dwayne Schintzius made his first major public appearance during a Florida basketball game on Feb. 24 and was in great spirits. Last week he attended a fundraiser for the Tampa Bay Sports Commission with the belief that he would be supporting his father, Ken, who was going to be handed an award from the Hillsborough County Sherrif’s alumni association. Schintzius was instead surprised to learn that he was being honored with a special award for courage. “He wouldn’t have wanted to come to the dinner but after I told him the award was for me, he said he’d come,” Ken told Joe Henderson of The Tampa Tribune. “It worked. We got him. We played it right to the hilt.” Though he has been praised extensively for his strength in fighting his disease, Schintzius wanted the praise to go where it belongs. “People are giving me an award, I guess, for fighting for my life,” he said. “I don’t deserve the award. The people at Moffitt [Cancer Center] are the ones who are the true heroes. They saved my life.” Click here to read more about Schintzius’s battle and the events of the night.

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Men’s basketball says SEC-ya to divisions

Southeastern Conference men’s basketball coaches recommended to athletic directors and university presidents on Wednesday at the 2011 SEC Spring Meetings that the conference scrap the current East-West division model for their sport and institute a 12-team, single-league format going forward. Wednesday evening the athletic directors agreed, and the changes will take place beginning in the 2011-12 season.

“It’s done,” Florida Gators AD Jeremy Foley told ESPN’s Andy Katz after the meetings concluded for the day. “The presidents don’t have to sign off on this. This is an AD decision. We will be one league effective next year.”

Under the new alignment, the SEC Tournament will be seeded 1-12 based on conference record. No longer will the top two teams in each division (regardless of record) receive byes; the advantage will instead be given to the four best teams overall.

The SEC also plans to adjust the schedule, though it is unknown exactly what changes will be made. There are options for 16-game (currently used), 18-game and 22-game conference schedules on the table that will be discussed at a later date.

SEC teams currently take on opponents in their own division twice (home/away) and teams in the other division once (site determined by rotation). An 18-game schedule would have teams facing their traditional division rivals twice, two “other division” teams twice and four “other division” teams once, while a 22-game schedule would allow every team to square off twice during the regular season.

Because the schedule for the 2011-12 season is already set, no changes will be made until 2012-13 at the earliest. Tournament seedings will be handled by the new rules.

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari said Tuesday that one of the main goals in making these adjustments is to help more SEC teams earn NCAA Tournament berths going forward. The conference believes that the new alignment will help it appear stronger as a whole nationally; no longer will there be one dominant division that makes the other look inferior by comparison.

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2011 SEC Tournament Championship Gameday: No. 12 Florida Gators vs. No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats

Event: 2011 SEC Tournament Championship
Location: Georgia Dome – Atlanta, GA [Capacity: 26,000]
Time: 1:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ABC/ABCHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 12 FLORIDA GATORS No. 16 KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 26-6 Record: 24-8
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Kentucky -2

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Kentucky leads the all-time series against Florida 89-33; the Wildcats swept the Gators last season, but the team’s split their regular season contests in 2011. Florida is 9-5 in their last 14 games against Kentucky and Donovan is 13-19 against them all-time.
» Calipari is 3-1 against Donovan as the Wildcats’ head coach.
» UF and UK have combined to win six of the past eight conference tournament titles. It is only the fourth time both are meeting in the title game, with Kentucky holding a 2-1 advantage in such match-ups.
» Since 2004, Florida has won the most SEC Tournament titles (three – 2005-07) and games (15) in the league. Among the six major conferences, UF ranks only behind Duke and Kansas since 2004 in conference tournament titles and league tournament wins.
» The Gators are 12-2 in their last six trips to the Georgia Dome (18-7 since 1992). They have won two SEC Tournaments (2005, 2007) and a NCAA title (2007) in the stadium. They have also won their last three SEC Tournament final appearances (2005-07).
» Florida has won 18 of their last 21 games (and 10 of their last 11) with 16 victories against RPI top 100 teams.
» UF enters the game having won the 2011 SEC regular season title and as a No. 1-seed in the tournament. UK is a No. 2-seed.
» The current Gators team is the fourth in school history to win 24+ regular season games. They also captured the third outright SEC title in school history (1989, 2007) and are the fifth team in school history to reach 26 wins in a season.
» Florida is 21-1 (10-0 vs. SEC) when holding an opponent under 70 points this year.
» The Gators, struggling all season from the line, are hitting 72.3 percent of their attempts from the charity stripe over the last 10 games.
» Florida is 10-2 when senior forward Chandler Parsons takes 10+ shots from the field. He has moved into the top 20 in school history in scoring (1,393 points) and is one of only two active players in Division I college basketball with over 1,300 points, 800 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 steals. He also became the sixth player in school history with 500+ career field goals after hitting four on Friday.
» Gators junior point guard Erving Walker, hitting a trio of three-pointers on Friday, moved into the top five all time in school history.
» UF has reached 20+ wins for the 13th consecutive season, the longest active streak in the SEC. The Gators have also reached 10 wins in league play for the ninth time in the last 13 years and first time since 2007 (13-3).
» Florida’s +6.2 rebound margin is the best in the SEC.
» The Gators have been averaging 50.2 points in the second half over the last four games, while shooting 61.2 percent from the field and 54.3 percent from downtown. Florida has averaged 81.5 total points over the last for games. In three of those contests, UF scored 49, 56 and 48 points, respectively, in second halves; they outscored opponents by 18.6 points in the second half in those games.
» UF is 7-1 in the SEC this year with three or fewer days to prepare for a game.
» Kentucky bests Florida in two of four major statistical categories including points per game 76.8-71.9 (23rd-87th) and rebounds per game 38.5-37.4 (23rd-58th). However, the Gators hold the advantage in and field goal percentage .463-.460 (47th-62nd) and assists per game 13.8-12.6 (102nd-181st). Florida also holds their opponents to fewer points per game 62.8-64.2, forces more turnovers 12.8-12.3 and grabs more steals 6.0-5.5. UF ranks 7th in RPI (.6395) and fifth in strength of schedule nationally compared to UK being ninth (.6383) and ninth, respectively.

LAST TIME(S) OUT

Florida and Kentucky will square off for the third time this season; the Gators defeated the Wildcats 70-68 in a thriller in Gainesville, FL on Feb. 6, but the Wildcats countered with a significant 76-68 victory in Lexington, KY on Feb. 26. In the first game, Florida fought off a late surge by Kentucky after being up a game-high 13 points with 11:50 remaining. The Gators out-scored the Wildcats 5-2 in the final two minutes of the game to hang on for the win. UK got a measure of revenge in the second game by piling it on UF late in the second half for the decisive victory.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Parsons…the 2011 SEC Player of the Year and a unanimous All-SEC First Team selection…who is averaging double-digit points (11.6) while leading the Gators with 7.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Parsons ranks No. 1 among active SEC players in rebounds (821), No. 3 in points (1,405) and assists (314) and No. 4 steals (125). At one point he notched three-straight double-doubles and now has seven this year.
» Walker…who was marred in a shooting slump but has rebounded and is still leading his team in scoring with 14.6 points per game while also leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.415) and three-point percentage (.379). Walker also tops Florida’s turnover rankings (78) and became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points earlier this season.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but was struggling with consistency shooting the ball. Boynton is hitting 38.2 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second in scoring with 14.3 points per game and makes a team-high 81.7 percent of his free throws. He is also shooting 89.0 percent from the line (73-of-82) in SEC play. Boynton has been stellar from the floor over the last three games, hitting 48.3 percent of his field goals (29-of-60).
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 57.3 percent from the floor as a starter this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.5 points and 5.7 rebounds a game while being a major presence for UF.
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who is averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and field goal percentage as a starter. Tyus became just the fifth player under Donovan to reach 500 career field goals, accomplishing the feat two weeks ago against Vanderbilt.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are Florida’s primary reserves each averaging over 17 minutes per game. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads UF in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.32:1), while Young averages 3.3 points and 3.6 boards.
» Kentucky G Brandon Knight…who plays a team-high 35.8 minutes as a freshman, averages 17.5 points per game and picks up nearly four rebounds and assists per contest, too. Knight and Boynton are friends who grew up and played both against each other and together in South Florida.
» Wildcats F Terrence Jones…who leads his team in rebounding with 9.0 boards per game and nearly matches Knight in points with 16.5 each contest.
» Kentucky G Doron Lamb…who has been on fire for his team since SEC Tournament play began. Lamb is averaging 13.2 points on the season but has combined to score 34 over the last two games.

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Kentucky gets revenge, hands Florida 76-68 loss

A last-minute win on Feb. 6 in Gainesville, FL helped propel the No. 13 Florida Gators over the No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats in the Southeastern Conference standings. Saturday in Lexington, KY, the Wildcats (20-8, 8-6 SEC) got a measure of revenge by defeating the Gators (22-6, 11-3 SEC) 76-68 in Rupp Arena, extending their home winning streak to 33 games and earning head coach John Calipari his 500th victory.

Guard Darius Miller posted a career-high 24 points for Kentucky on 9-of-15 shooting, and the Wildcats piled it on late in the second half to pull away with a decisive victory.

A 7-0 run toward the end of the first half capped by a three-pointer by G Brandon Knight put UK up four with 5:01 to play. UF responded quickly as G Kenny Boynton scored five-straight as part of a 7-2 run to give the Gators a 27-26 lead. The teams went back-and-forth with the Wildcats pulling ahead 34-33 on a free throw by Knight.

Kentucky scored five-straight to start the second half, but an 8-2 run by Florida including two treys from Boynton tied the game at 41. That is when things fell apart for the Gators.

The Wildcats took off on a 10-2 run to go up 58-49 with 9:39 to go. Florida cut their deficit to five on a layup from senior forward Chandler Parsons, but a three from Miller and a 8-2 run gave Kentucky an 11-point lead with 4:13 remaining.

UK went up a game-high 12 points with the clock winding down. Back-to-back field goals from redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and senior F Alex Tyus reduced the Wildcats’ lead to six with 42 seconds left, but the Gators were unable to capitalize.

Complementing Miller’s 24 points was Knight, who scored 16 while adding six assists. G Doron Lamb added 14 more for Kentucky. Fs Josh Harrellson (12) and Terrence Jones (nine) were strong on the glass, combining to grab 21 of the team’s 32 rebounds.

Boynton led the way for the UF with one of his best all-around performances this season. He scored a team-high 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting while nailing 5-of-9 three pointers and dishing four assists. Parsons was an efficient 6-for-11 from the field for 15 points to go along with eight boards and seven dimes. Macklin contributed 10 points and five rebounds, and Tyus scored nine with three offensive rebounds.

Junior point guard Erving Walker struggled all game, finishing 2-of-11 from the field (1-for-6 from downtown). He hit all five of his attempts from the charity stripe but was blocked numerous times, took a few questionable shots and turned the ball over twice.

It was a block party for the Wildcats, who rejected the Gators seven times; former Florida F Eloy Vargas blocked Walker twice in five minutes. Kentucky won the rebounding battle 32-29, coughed up four fewer turnovers (6-10) and was more disciplined defensively by committing seven fewer fouls (14-21).

Luckily for UF, SEC West leader Alabama (19-9, 11-3 SEC) simultaneously fell 68-63 to Ole Miss (18-11, 6-8 SEC) on Saturday; the teams remain tied for the conference lead and will square off in Gainesville on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The game will air live on ESPNU and marks Senior Day for the Gators.
 
 

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No. 13 Florida at No. 22 Kentucky Gameday

Location: Rupp Arena – Lexington, KY [Capacity: 23,000]
Time: 4:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: CBS/CBSHD
Online Video: CBSSports.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 13 FLORIDA GATORS No. 22 KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 22-5 (11-2) Record: 19-8 (7-6)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Kentucky -8

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Kentucky leads the all-time series against Florida 88-33; the Wildcats swept the Gators last season. However, Florida is 9-4 in their last 13 games against Kentucky and Donovan is 13-18 against them all-time.
» Calipari is 2-1 against Donovan as UK’s head coach.
» Florida has won 17 of its last 20 games (and 14 of their last 16) with 12 victories against RPI top 100 teams.
» The Gators are 19-1 (8-0 in SEC play) when holding an opponent under 70 points this season after limiting Georgia to 62 on Thursday.
» Florida is 7-1 in true road games this year and has a chance to notch eight true road wins for the first time ever under Donovan.
» The Wildcats have a 32-game home winning streak in Lexington (13-0 this season).
» Gators junior point guard Erving Walker, with 194 three-pointers, is sixth all-time at Florida. He is four treys away from moving into the top five.
» Florida is 9-1 when senior forward Chandler Parsons takes 10+ shots from the field. Just 11 more points Parsons will move him into the top 20 in school history in scoring.
» Defeating Tennessee two Saturdays ago, UF reached 20+ wins for the 13th consecutive season, the longest active streak in the SEC. They have also reached 10 wins in league play for the ninth time in the last 13 years and first time since 2007 (13-3).
» A win Saturday would give Florida six-straight victories against SEC opponents for the first time since 2007 (11).
» The Gators, struggling all season from the line, are hitting 73.2 percent of their attempts from the charity stripe over the last five games.
» Kentucky bests Florida in three of four major statistical categories including points per game 77.7-70.9 (20th-121st), rebounds per game 38.7-38.0 (23rd-44th) and field goal percentage .463-.57 (51st-77th). However, the Gators dish more assists per contest 13.6-13.0 (124th-167th) than the Wildcats and hold their opponents to fewer points per game 61.7-64.3. UF ranks 10th in RPI (.6438) and sixth in strength of schedule nationally compared to UK being 13th (.6334) and 11th, respectively.

LAST TIME OUT…

Florida and Kentucky will square off for the second time this season; the Gators defeated the Wildcats 70-68 in Gainesville, FL on Feb. 6. Florida fought off a late surge by Kentucky after being up a game-high 13 points with 11:50 remaining. The Gators out-scored the Wildcats 5-2 in the final two minutes of the game to hang on for the win.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Parsons…who is back to averaging double-digit points (11.0) while leading the Gators with 7.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Parsons ranks No. 1 among active SEC players in rebounds (775), No. 3 in points (1,330) and No. 4 in assists (295) and steals (119). At one point he notched three-straight double-doubles and now has six this year.
» Walker…who is leading his team in scoring with 14.8 points per game and leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.424) and three-point percentage (.383). Walker also leads Florida in turnovers (67) and became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points earlier this season.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 57.2 percent from the floor this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.3 points and 6.0 rebounds a game while being a major presence for UF.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but is struggling with consistency shooting the ball. Boynton is only hitting 36.3 percent from the field and 29.8 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second in scoring with 13.3 points per game and makes a team-high 83.1 percent of his free throws. He is also shooting 90.2 percent from the line (46-of-51) in SEC play.
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who is averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and field goal percentage as a starter. Tyus became just the fifth player under Donovan to reach 500 career field goals, accomplishing the feat two weeks ago against Vanderbilt.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are Florida’s primary reserves each averaging over 17 minutes per game. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads UF in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.25:1), while Young averages 3.3 points and 3.4 boards.
» Kentucky G Brandon Knight…who plays a team-high 35.3 minutes as a freshman, averages 17.7 points per game and picks up nearly four rebounds and assists per contest, too. Knight and Boynton are friends who grew up and played both against each other and together in South Florida.
» Wildcats F Terrence Jones…who leads his team in rebounding with 9.1 boards per game and nearly matches Knight in points with 17.6 per contest.
 

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2/5: Parsons leads resilient, battle-tested team

No. 23 Florida Gators (18-5, 7-2 SEC) head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes following his press availability after Saturday’s hard-fought 70-68 win against the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats (16-6, 4-4 SEC), Florida’s second win against a top 25 opponent in one week.

WELCOME TO THE CHANDLER PARSONS SHOW II

Florida played quite well as a team Saturday, but if you had to pick a most valuable player down the stretch it would be no one else than senior forward Chandler Parsons. Notching his fifth double-double of the year while leading his team in points (17), rebounds (12) and assists (five), Parsons also hit a clutch free throw at the end of the game (though he did miss another). He won the SEC Player of the Week award on Monday after scoring 35 points and grabbing 23 boards while posting back-to-back double-doubles this week.

“The one guy I thought offensively was really, really good was Chandler Parsons. He had an incredible game. Kenny Boynton gave us great points in production early in the game in the first half, but Chandler was really a complete game,” Donovan said. “I don’t know since I’ve been here if I’ve ever played a guy 20 minutes in the second half. That may be the first time I’ve done that. I wanted to rest him, I wanted to try to get him out of the game, but he was doing too many things. Defensive rebounding, starting the break… I felt like I needed him to facilitate offense against their zone. He was offensive rebounding. He really had a complete game all the way through.”

Donovan continued heaping the praise on Parsons.

“Visually, the greatest growth I’ve ever seen from a player that I’ve coached here at Florida since Joakim Noah,” he said. “[Noah went] from a total enigma – ‘Who is this guy? He plays eight minutes a game.’ – to potentially being the first player taken in the NBA Draft, winning a National Championship and being the finals MVP. Visually, you can see that. Chandler has made the same kind of jumps and steps in terms of understanding what this all is about.

“He came in with a very poor understanding of competition, work ethic, all that goes into this. Where he was from the first day he arrived on campus to where he is now is as great of a jump I’ve seen from a guy in terms of just changing in every possible way. I’m really, really proud of him because he had some stretches there earlier in the year where he really wasn’t shooting the ball well. He knocked down two free throws against Vanderbilt at a crucial time; he made one out of two tonight – I know he was 3-for-6. There’s a presence there with him where he, as a player, is giving me, as a coach, a confidence of him being very reliable.”

WILBEKIN, TYUS SPLIT THE HALVES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 2/5: Parsons leads resilient, battle-tested team

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