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.


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.”

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

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No. 23 Florida vs. No. 11 Kentucky Gameday

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 12,000]
Time: 9:00 p.m. (ET)

Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 17-5 (6-2) Record: 16-5 (4-3)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Kentucky -1; O/U 134


» Kentucky leads the all-time series against Florida 88-32; the Wildcats swept the Gators last season. However, Florida is 8-4 in their last 12 games against Kentucky and is 8-6 when facing them at home under Donovan.
» Calipari is 2-0 against Donovan as UK’s head coach.
» The Gators have won 12 of its last 15 games with nine victories against RPI top 100 teams. Florida is 10-3 at home this season (3-1 against the SEC).
» UF is 3-1 in overtime this season, 3-0 in SEC games that go to overtime and 7-3 this year in games decided by six points or less (4-0 against SEC opponents). Their four overtime games tie a single-season school record (1978-79).
» Florida improved to 14-1 when holding opponents under 70 points this season after holding No. 24 Vanderbilt to 61 points on Tuesday.
» The Gators have out-rebounded their last five opponents by +8.0 rebounds per game and have averaged 15.4 offensive rebounds per game in that same time frame.
» The Wildcats are winning their games by a SEC-high 15.1 points per contest. Kentucky is also the best-shooting team in the conference from beyond the arc, connecting on almost 40 percent of their attempts.
» Kentucky bests Florida in three of four major statistical categories including points per game 77.5-71.1 (29th-123rd), rebounds per game 39.5-39.2 (23rd-26th) and field goal percentage .459-.454 (77th-104th). However, The Gators dish one more assist per contest 14-13 (107th-175th) than the Wildcats and hold their opponents to fewer points per game 61.6-62.4. UK ranks 10th in RPI (.6488) and 13th in strength of schedule nationally compared to UF being 17th (.6316) and seventh, respectively.


» Junior point guard Erving Walker…who is leading his team in scoring with 14.5 points per game and leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.425) and three-point percentage (.383). Walker also leads the Gators in turnovers (57) and became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points earlier this season.
» Senior forward Chandler Parsons…who is back to averaging double-digit points (10.7) while leading the Gators with 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Parsons ranks No. 1 among active SEC players in rebounds (741), No. 3 in points (1,280) and No. 4 in assists (279) and steals (117).
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 57.8 percent as a starter this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.1 points and 6.3 rebounds a game while being a major presence for Florida.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably UF’s most talented player but is struggling with consistency in his field goal percentage. Boynton is only shooting 35.7 percent from the field and 30.2 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second on the team in scoring with 13.0 points per game and hits 82.5 percent of his free throws.
» 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 Tuesday against Vanderbilt.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are the Gators primary reserves each averaging 17.1. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads Florida in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.5:1), while Young averages 3.4 points and 3.4 boards off the bench.
» Kentucky G Brandon Knight…who plays a team-high 35.0 minutes as a freshman, averages 17.2 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 Jeffrey Taylor …who leads his team in scoring and rebounding with 17.9 points and 9.0 boards per game.


Visiting Gainesville for the first time since 2008 and third time overall, ESPN College GameDay emanated from the O’Connell Center Saturday at 10 a.m. and will once again with a pregame show an hour before the game begins. Donovan and Calipari were both interviewed in the morning; you can view the video below to see what they had to say.

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Donovan enthusiastic about Gators’ future

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan, who is on his way to Germany to watch five-star 2011 guard commitment Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) and other top recruits compete with the USA Basketball Men’s U-17 National Team in the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship for Men, spoke with ESPN’s Andy Katz about the team’s return to respectability and his excitement over the latest batch of incoming recruits.

“If [senior forward] Chandler Parsons‘ 75-foot shot at NC State doesn’t go in or we’re one of the four teams that misses the NCAA tournament and we’ve been out for three years in a row, then maybe we’re having a different conversation,” Donovan told Katz earlier in the week. “If we didn’t get into the tournament, there would be a different feeling right now. But we did, and I told our team that we’ve got to maximize that.

“But our goals have to be bigger than that. It’s easy for everyone to feel good with five starters back since no one else does in the SEC, but we can’t fall into the trap about the outside perception. We’re not as good as people think or not as bad.”

Donovan also raved about four-star power forward Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL).

“We’ve got a chance to be really good going forward,” he added. “What we’re getting with Patric is a player with an excellent motor. He’s got a high energy level and plenty of humility. He wants to earn everyone’s respect. This is a different challenge, and he’s setting the right mentality.”

Other notes from Katz’s story:

– The Gators are also taking a strong look at other 2011 recruits participating in the international competition including five-star small forward Adonis Thomas (Memphis, TN) and four-star power forward Johnny O’Bryant (Cleveland, MS).
– Donovan’s itinerary included stops at the adidas camp in Indianapolis, IN, and the King City Classic on Thursday in Cleveland, OH, before he heads to Germany.
– Young realizes that his experience with USA Basketball, while fun, does not equal the challenge of playing against top NCAA competition.
– Joining Donovan in Germany – among others – are Kentucky’s John Calipari and Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl. “You can see how your guys stack up against international competition, [and] you can watch a much wider range of players at events like that, more so than going from one AAU event to another.”

OGGOA will be reporting on Beal’s journey after competition concludes.

Photo Credit: Wiley Price/The St. Louis American

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UCLA’s John Wooden, a legend in coaching and life, passes away at age 99 (1910-2010)

With all former UCLA Bruins head basketball coach John Wooden did for the game of basketball, his impact was felt just as much off the court in the life lessons he taught his players, fellow coaches and just about anyone else who crossed his path. Wooden’s intelligence, game management and coaching style made him the most successful college basketball coach of all time, but his life lessons made him a legend. That is why, with his passing at the age of 99 Friday night, the Wizard of Westwood will be remembered just as well for what he said as for what he did as a coach.

Below are some of his greatest “Woodenisms,” courtesy of CoachWooden.com.

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

“Never mistake activity for achievement.”

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

“Be prepared and be honest.”

“You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.”

“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”

“Winning takes talent; to repeat takes character.”

“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

“It isn’t what you do, but how you do it.”

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”

“It’s not so important who starts the game but who finishes it.”

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

“Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

“Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

“Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”

Players and coaches speak on the impact Wooden had in their lives:

Former UCLA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: “It’s kind of hard to talk about Coach Wooden simply, because he was a complex man. But he taught in a very simple way. He just used sports as a means to teach us how to apply ourselves to any situation. He set quite an example. He was more like a parent than a coach. He really was a very selfless and giving human being, but he was a disciplinarian. We learned all about those aspects of life that most kids want to skip over. He wouldn’t let us do that.”

Former UCLA star Jamaal Wilkes: “He was always the boss. He always knew what to say. Even in the heyday of winning and losing, you could almost discuss anything with him. He always had that composure and wit about him. He could connect with all kind of people and situations and always be in control of himself and seemingly of the situation.”

Florida coach Billy Donovan: “John Wooden was a great coach and a great man. He was a man of humility who embodied the best in character and values, and exemplified what coaching is all about. 

I was fortunate enough to be honored with the Wooden Award in April, an award that now takes on added significance to me personally. I found out that I was being honored on his 99th birthday. To have the opportunity to go out to Los Angeles and see firsthand how great an impact he still has is something I will always be honored and humbled to be a part of. His legacy will endure forever.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski: “Today, we’ve lost a giant in all of sport with the passing of Coach Wooden. Quite likely, his accomplishments as a college basketball coach will never be matched. Neither will the impact he had on his players or the greater basketball community. Many have called Coach Wooden the ‘gold standard’ of coaches. I believe he was the ‘gold standard’ of people and carried himself with uncommon grace, dignity and humility. Coach Wooden’s name is synonymous with excellence, and deservedly so. He was one of the great leaders – in any profession – of his generation. We are blessed that the sport of basketball benefited from his talents for so long. Coach Wooden and his wisdom will be sorely missed.”

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun: “My reaction is sadness yet at this point we have to celebrate maybe the most important guy in the history of the game. There has been no greater influence on college basketball not just about the game but the team. He gave so much to basketball and education. In my opinion if he’s not as important as Dr. Naismith, he’s right next to him.”

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim: “When I think of a basketball coach the only one I ever thought of was Coach Wooden. He had a great life and helped so many coaches until well in his 90s. Every time I talked to him he would give me some words of advice. He’s the best of all time. There will never be another like him, and you can’t say that about too many people. It’s a sad day but he had such an unbelievable run. I can’t tell you what he’s done for game of basketball and it’s not just the wins. It’s the attitude and the way he carried himself. I just can’t say enough about him.”

Former Arizona coach Lute Olson: “I always sat and chatted with him before our games at UCLA and about five years ago he asked, ‘Can I come out and watch one of your practices?’ … We had a jet pick him up at Van Nuys Airport, just a few minutes from where he lived, and bring him [to Tucson]. We had lunch and I asked if he could say a few words to the team. He said yes and spoke for 20 or 30 minutes. He never said a word about basketball, just talked about his philosophy of life and being the best that you could be. He has been anxious to be reunited with Nell for a lot of years, so this is not a sad experience for him I don’t believe. I don’t think there is anyone who had influenced the number of people in his life than he had.”

St. Johns coach Steve Lavin: “Even though we anticipated this day, the finality still strikes with a force equal to a ton of bricks. There was the common affinity we shared for Purdue and UCLA and that forged a unique bond. I turned to him for perspective at every critical juncture over the past 20 years. Ninety-nine years of goodness and now he’s back with Nell [his wife].”

“Coach Wooden leaves all of us a lasting legacy from a lifetime devoted to goodness. Coach believed the court was his classroom and basketball was a metaphor for life. He was an eternal learner and teacher. He was the best friend and mentor one could hope for and it is difficult to imagine a college basketball season without John Wooden being with us.

Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt: “The takeaways we all have been blessed with from knowing John Wooden are numerous. For all of his successes, he was such a humble man. Tonight, we have lost a true American icon.”

Kentucky coach John Calipari: “[Wooden was] one of the greatest coaches in any sport. He did it without being a bully and the players at the time probably struggled with the structure but when they left, there was a burning love for him. He is what this game is all about. When you talk about how he taught, how he was with his late wife. You talk about his character as a person. That’s what he was about.”

L.A. Times: John Wooden dies at 99; UCLA basketball coach won 10 national titles
Bill Plaschke (LA Times): Coach’s lasting lesson is one of simple devotion
T.J. Simers (LA Times): John Wooden’s life was a love letter
L.A. Times: John Wooden’s pyramid stands test of time

Image courtesy of ESPN

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TWO BITS: Profiling Wilbekin, Vargas’ transfer

1 » Three-star point guard commitment Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL), who is leaving The Rock School a year early as a junior to join the Florida Gators‘ 2010 recruiting class, remains a mystery to many fans who are curious as to what he can bring to the program right away. Reggie Rankin, who covers basketball recruiting for ESPN caught a glimpse of Wilbekin at the second session of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) and came away impressed. “[Wilbekin] has added about 25 pounds and his confidence and swagger on the court is tremendous,” Rankin wrote. “He may not be a star for the Gators, but he will provide them with a lead guard that possess a high basketball IQ, can run the team, get others involved and makes open shots. He also is an excellent defender that is alert in the passing lanes. He will provide Billy Donovan with a steady hand at the point position. […] It is great to see a kid have these options not only because he is a good kid and player, but most importantly a good student.”

Wilbekin’s school also went ahead and published a video with his coaches profiling his game and some of his accomplishments. (h/t Orlando Sentinel)

2 » Speaking of Florida basketball and its recruiting, former four-star 2008 commitment center Eloy Vargas has transferred for the second time in as many eligible seasons. This time, Vargas is leaving Miami Dade College for none other than head coach John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats. Vargas averaged 25 points and 15 rebounds last season and hopes to make a quick transition back to the Southeastern Conference.

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SIX BITS: Nelson, Cunningham, softball, lax, UK

1 » On Feb. 1, OGGOA reported that former Florida Gators safety Reggie Nelson could be cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars if he does not show significant improvement by the time training camp concludes. Nelson owned up to ESPN about his issues in 2009 and has figured out why they occurred. “I had mistakes last year, I did,” he said. “I’ve watched film since I’ve been here in February and I can own up and say, ‘Yes, I did blow some coverages. Yes, I did miss tackles.’ That’s something I’ve looked at. I have to correct them. You’ve got to look at it: I played safety, corner, nickel, so many different positions. Most players would be like, ‘Oh, no, I’m not doing that, y’all drafted me for this.’ That’s not me, I want to win. I took that challenge, I played corner, I played nickel. I am a competitive guy. […] They made their decision and I’ve got to live with it.” Nelson also said he will not do the same thing in 2010 – if it is up to him. “The way things happened last year, I don’t think I’d do it,” he said. “I will not do it. I tried that last year. It didn’t work. I don’t think it was fair to me. I would not go back. You live and you lean. It’s their decision, regardless. The only thing I can do is show up and play football.”

2 » The New England Patriots want former Florida defensive end Jermaine Cunningham to replace recently released outside linebacker Adalius Thomas – this much is known. How he will progress in the transition remains to be seen, but head coach Bill Belichick is just as confident as Cunningham is in himself. “It’s all football. I’m a football player,” Cunningham said. “I’m going to study the playbooks and just do whatever it takes to get better, and keep on getting better. […] I’m a hard worker and fundamental technician. […] Left or right, just get to the ball.” For what its worth, Cunningham has also taken to giving a name to the influx of former Gators with the Patriots – “Gator Nation North,” he calls it.

Four more BITS on softball, lacrosse, baseball and Kentucky basketball posting the lowest average GPA in the SEC…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Nelson, Cunningham, softball, lax, UK

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Gameday: Florida Gators at (3) Kentucky Wildcats

Location: Rupp Arena – Lexington, KY [Capacity: 23,500]
Time: 12:00 p.m. (EST)

Online Video: CBSSports.com
Live Updates: OGGOA on Twitter

Florida Gators No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 20-10, 9-6 SEC Record: 28-2, 13-2 SEC
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: TBD

» Junior forward Chandler Parsons…who has scored in double figures in seven of his last eight games and has two double-doubles in those contests. He has also helped run the point while averaging 15.9 points and 7.6 rebounds and shooting 55.4 percent.
» Double-digit scoring by Vernon Macklin…the Gators are 13-4 when the redshirt junior transfer center finishes in double figures. Macklin has scored in double figures in five of the last six games, averaging 14.2 points and 7.7 boards in that span.
» The backcourt combo of sophomore point guard Erving Walker and freshman guard Kenny Boynton…who are averaging a combined 28.2 points per game in conference play this season. The duo has hit 65 treys in SEC action.
» Kentucky’s John Wall…who leads the SEC in assts and is tops on his team in points with an average of 17.0 per game.
» The Wildcats’ DeMarcus Cousins…who compliments Wall perfectly with averages of 15.9 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game.

» Kentucky leads the all-time series against Florida 87-32, though the Gators have won eight of the last 11 meetings. Billy Donovan is 12-17 against the Wildcats and only 3-10 when facing them at Rupp Arena.
» Florida has won nine of its last 13 conference games; the Gators hope to reach 10 league wins for the ninth time in the last 12 years and first time since 2007.
» UF is 5-3 on the road and can reach six road wins for the first time since 2005-06.
» Parsons needs just 15 points to reach 1,000 for his career.
» The Gators are 13-3 in 2009-10 when out-rebounding their opponents.
» Kentucky has clinched the SEC regular season crown with a 13-2 conference record. They are undefeated at home, 17-0.
» The Wildcats are first in the SEC in scoring offense (79.9 points per game) and fourth in the nation in rebounds (41.9 board per game).

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Florida Gators vs. No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 12,000]
Time: 9:00 p.m. (EST)

Online: ESPN360.com
Sirius 217 – XM: 199

Florida Gators No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 11-4 Record: 16-0
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Kentucky -3.5, O/U 142

– Players scoring in double-figures…five Gators starters and one bench player are all averaging double-digit points. Freshman guard Kenny Boynton averages 14.6 ppg while junior forwards Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons, redshrit junior center Vernon Macklin and sophomore point guard Erving Walker all average 11.7-10.0 ppg.
– Kentucky’s double-digit scorers…three average more than 15 points per game, while the team is scoring 82.4 points per game and shooting 49.8 percent from the floor.
– Tyus…who is averaging 15.0 points and 7.5 rebounds over the last six games. He has been in double figures for six straight contests and scored above his average in four.
– Boynton/Walker connection…the duo combined for 50 points against Vanderbilt on Saturday and have dished out 127 assists to just 58 turnovers on the season.
– The Wildcats’ John Wall…ranks in the top five in the NCAA with 6.9 assists per game and leads the team in points (17.2) and steals (2.2) per game.
– Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson…is averaging 16.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.

– Florida trails the all-time series against Kentucky by a large margin – 86-32. However, the Gators won the last meeting, eight of the last 10 and five straight in Gainesville.
– The Wildcats are the highest-ranked opponent to come to the O’Connell Center since they were also ranked No. 2 in March of 2003.
– Under Donovan, Florida is 3-3 against top-five teams at home (2-2 vs. Kentucky).
– The Gators and Wildcats will face-off on national television for the 24th straight time since 1999 – the longest streak in the SEC.

Read OGGOA’s Gators vs. No. 2 Wildcats preview after the jump!
Continue Reading » Florida Gators vs. No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats

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