4 BITS: Every, women’s basketball, gymnastics

1 » Former Florida Gators golfer Matt Every on Sunday clinched his first-ever PGA Tour victory, winning the 2014 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, FL. Every, whose third-round 66 vaulted him into the lead, finished -13 for the tournament and edged Keegan Bradley by a single stroke. The victory results in him receiving earnings of $1.12 million (more than he has made in the rest of his career, combined), 500 FedEx Cup points and an automatic qualification to the 2014 Masters in April. A native of Daytona Beach, FL, Every played at Bay Hill dozens of times throughout his life and long dreamed of winning a PGA Tour event at the course, which is located about an hour from where he grew up.

At Florida from 2003-06, Every was a four-time All-American and three-time first-team All-SEC selection. He is the second former Gators golfer to capture a PGA Tour event title in as many years after Billy Horschel won the 2013 Zurich Classic last April.

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One-handed 2014 guard Zach Hodskins accepts preferred walk-on spot with Florida Gators

Interest extended by the Florida Gators in August came to fruition on Saturday when 2014 guard Zach Hodskins (Alpharetta, GA) committed to join the Gators basketball team after spending the weekend visiting Florida.

Hodskins, a one-handed phenom who was born without the bottom of his left arm (having it cut off at his elbow), took in a practice at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and came away incredibly impressed.

“What an amazing visit to Florida, [their] basketball program is off the charts!” he tweeted on Saturday.

One hour later, Hodskins had made his decision.

“[I’ve] officially committed to the University of Florida basketball. I know God has put me in the right place #GatorNation #GatorBasketball” he wrote.

Hodskins (6-foot-3, 175 pounds) was offered a preferred walk-on spot in August by assistant coach John Pelphrey. A preferred walk-on is guaranteed a place on the roster but does not receive a scholarship.

The opportunity to play for a program like the Gators and a head coach like Billy Donovan was obviously too much for Hodskins to pass up in the long run. The chance to earn a scholarship would not be out of the realm of possibility either.

He is the third guard committed to play for Florida in 2014, joining a pair of four-star, Rivals 100 recruits in Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, FL) and Chris Chiozza.

OnlyGators.com confirmed with Hodskins that the commitment he made was to join the program as a preferred walk-on. Check back Sunday for an update to this story.


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Florida offers preferred walk-on spot to one-handed 2014 guard Zach Hodskins

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan has made a career of recruiting the right players for his program, making the most out of underrated talent and turning top prospects into NBA Draft lottery picks.

He may have a new opportunity to smooth out yet another diamond in the rough if 2014 guard Zach Hodskins (Alpharetta, GA), a one-handed phenom, accepts Donovan’s preferred walk-on offer to join the Florida basketball team.

Hodskins was born without the bottom half of his left arm, which is cut off at the elbow and therefore missing a hand and forearm, yet is an incredibly skilled shooter (hitting 60 percent of his three-pointers) and passer despite only having one hand.

According to David Boyd, Hodskins’s former basketball coach, Gators assistant coach John Pelphrey presented the preferred walk-on offer, which would guarantee Hodskins a spot on the team for the 2014-15 season though not a full scholarship.


Hodskins (6-foot-3, 175 pounds) has not received a scholarship offer from a Division I program although Alabama-Birmingham and Birmingham Southern are both considering taking that step in their recruitment of the player, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Pep Rally blog, which first reported Hodskins’s offer from UF.

The opportunity to play – even as a reserve deep on the bench – for a program like Florida might be too much for him to pass up in the long run. While that may be the case, Hodskins is not expected to rush into a decision and will undoubtedly wait to see if a full scholarship offer arrives before agreeing to continue his career in Gainesville, FL.

“I know that people who don’t know me sleep on me when I walk on the court,” he told USA Today back in December. “They don’t think I can play or they don’t know what to think, but it’s when I hit those first few shots or when I go by them is when they wake up. That’s when they start playing me hard. That’s what I love. I know I’ve just earned their respect. That’s all I want.”

The Gators have a pair of four-star, Rivals100 guards – Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, FL) and Chris Chiozza (Memphis, TN) – already committed for 2014 but are expected to have at least two more roster sports available as the team is losing four seniors and potentially one or two underclassmen.

If Hodskins was to join the Florida basketball team as a preferred walk-on, he could potentially earn a full scholarship in the future.


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Odds and ends from Florida Gators in Texas

After coming out of the first weekend of the 2013 NCAA Tournament with two big wins, the three-seed Florida Gators chose to remain in Texas – travelling from Austin, TX to Arlington, TX on Monday – rather than fly home only to be forced to fly back out a few days later. Head coach Billy Donovan has participated in two media availabilities since then and the team has been doing plenty of work on and off the court as well. Here are a few odds and ends that would not fit into some of the other posts here on OGGOA.

» Former Florida center Joakim Noah will be in attendance on Friday. The Chicago Bulls happen to be playing against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday afternoon, so Noah will be in town and able to attend the Sweet 16 game.

» The Gators had a pair of celebrity visitors as guests in practice this week as Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle took in the team’s first workout on Tuesday and Texas Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski wound up in Cowboys Stadium on Thursday to watch the team’s shootaround. Pierzynski is a life-long UF fan.

» Donovan and Carlisle were both members of the 1987-88 New York Knicks though both were just bench players on the team. Also on that squad? Sidney Green, the father of former Florida point guard Taurean Green. Donovan and Carlisle also played with Patrick Ewing, Kenny “Sky” Walker, Bill Cartwright, Gerald Henderson, Mark Jackson and Gerald Wilkins among others. Donovan and his Gators coaching staff actually went out for dinner with Carlisle and his assistants when Florida got into town on Monday. The Gators then went to the Mavericks game on on Tuesday and saw Dallas pull off an exciting 109-102 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

» According to Florida Today’s David Jones, junior forward Will Yeguete had been approached in the past to leave Florida early to play professional basketball in France. He declined. “Not happening. My parents want me to graduate,” he said.

» Students from Florida and Florida Gulf Coast will be featured on NBC’s The Today Show on Friday morning. There will be a live spirit competition between the students on a split screen. Gators fans should wear orange, blue and gear with the team logo and arrive at Gate 1 of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center at 6:30 a.m. sharp. The segment will air on NBC at approximately 7:15 a.m.

» Senior guard Kenny Boynton on trying to get to the Final Four after consecutive losses in the Elite Eight: “Basically you need to remember, but you don’t think about it. We remember the pain it caused for us last year. I think we used it to learn for the next few games. We’ve been close, and our goal is to get further this year.”

» Donovan on being forced to suspend junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin before the first game of the season: “I’ll never forget this. It was one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever experienced as a coach when I told him in my office, ‘We’re not taking you on this trip. You’re not playing.’ And all of our team is on the bus and we’re driving to Jacksonville. And he’s got his book bag over his shoulder and our bus is leaving and he’s walking down past our facility to walk back to his dorm. He’s obviously very emotional and he’s crying. I think those kinds of events sometimes really change you. … I think there’s no question that situation with Scottie helped him.”

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Gators release salaries of basketball assistants

Having to hire his fourth new assistant over the last two seasons, Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan brought in an unfamiliar face with a lot of potential and promoted a current assistant to the second position on the bench.

On Tuesday, Florida released the assistants’ 2012-13 salaries in compliance with a records requests obtained and published The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway.

A look at the coaching staff’s 2012-13 salaries:

2012-13 Coach2012-13 Salary2011-12 Coach2011-12 Salary
Billy Donovan
Head Coach
$3.5 million
(4 years)
Billy Donovan
Head Coach
$3.3 million
(3 years)
John Pelphrey
Assistant Coach
$180,000
(1 year)
Norm Roberts
Assistant Coach
$235,000
(1 year)
Matt McCall
Assistant Coach
$140,000
(1 year)
John Pelphrey
Assistant Coach
$180,000
(1 year)
Rashon Burno
Assistant Coach
$120,000
(1 year)
Matt McCall
Assistant Coach
$100,000
(1 year)

Pelphrey’s salary will help offset the $1.8 million Arkansas owes him for firing him with three years remaining on his head coaching contract. The school was set to pay him $600,000 annually for three years but will instead contribute just $420,000 per season.

Contract notes:
- Donovan will earn a loyalty bonus of $500,000 this season.
- Donovan receives a $60,000 expense account.
- All coaches receive a $10,000 bonus from Florida’s contract with Nike
- All coaches receive a car and other tangible incentives.
- All coaches are eligible for multiple performance-based bonuses.

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Florida hoping to pull off a big win at Arkansas

Looking to continue their winning ways after a decisive victory on Tuesday at Alabama, the No. 12/14 Florida Gators travel to Fayetteville, AR to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday. Florida head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Friday to discuss his team heading into the upcoming game.

YEGUETE SET TO RETURN; ROSARIO NOT SO MUCH

Both still recovering from injuries, sophomore forward Will Yeguete (concussion) and redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario (hip pointer) returned to practice on Friday before the team left for Arkansas. However, despite Yeguete passing all five necessary concussion tests and Rosario practicing for the first time in over a week, Donovan was unsure if either would be available on Saturday.

“As it relates to me playing or not playing him, that will always be predicated on what the medical team says and how they feel,” he said of Yeguete. “When you’re out of practice and out of games for over a week, there probably is a level of rust, there probably is a level of timing that needs to get back,” he added when speaking about Rosario.

The Gators announced just under two hours before game time that Yeguete has been cleared to play; Rosario, on the other hand, did not travel with the team and will miss his sixth game (third-straight) this season.

A MEASURE OF REVENGE FOR PELPHREY

Now back with Florida as an assistant, former Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey will return to Fayetteville for the first time since the team fired him one year ago. Though he is still close with many of the players he recruited on the team, Donovan suspects that he will certainly feel something when he steps into the arena on Saturday.

“I’m sure internally there’s probably a lot of emotions there for him,” he said. “Any time there is a change like that, it’s always difficult. [...] I’m sure for him there will be some emotions and some feelings going back there.”

HISTORY AND STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Arkansas 14-10; the Gators hold a 14-5 advantage over the Razorbacks since Donovan took over UF’s program and is on a four-game winning streak against Saturday’s opponent.
» The Gators are 4-0 against traditional SEC West opponents this season.
» All five of Florida’s normal starters are averaging double figures in scoring.
» The Gators have made 10+ three-pointers in 17 of 26 games this year, a season-high mark under Donovan.
» Florida has made a three in 677 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» The Gators are 285-38 since 1988-89 when holding opponents under 70 points.
» Florida has won 20+ games for the 14th consecutive season after defeating Alabama. That mark is currently the longest active streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally.
» Arkansas is 17-0 at home this season and 0-9 in away and neutral site games.

WALKER CLIMBING UP ALL-TIME LISTS

Senior point guard Erving Walker is steadily making his way up a number of Florida’s career lists, moving into No. 1 all-time in assists against Alabama (505) and already holding the top mark for career three-point attempts. Below are some of the achievements he is about to make in UF’s record books.

» Minutes: Walker (4,002) can move into No. 1 all-time in time on the court by playing 99 more minutes, passing Eugene McDowell (4,100).
» Three-pointers made: Walker (265) can move into No. 3 all-time with three treys, passing Anthony Roberson (267).
» Scoring: Walker (1,634) can move into No. 4 all-time with 45 points, passing Stacey Poole (1,678).
» Free throws made: Walker (403) can move into No. 7 all-time with 9 makes from the charity stripe, passing Dan Cross (411).
» Free throws attempted: Walker (512) can move into No. 9 all-time with three foul shots, passing David Lee (514).
» Walker is near the top 10 all-time in games started (two away) and steals (six away).

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan if recruiting “bench” players is difficult: “Assembling a team in college basketball in a lot of respects is challenging and a lot different than it was when I first got here. You always have the opportunity with good players where they have an opportunity to make a decision at the end of the year. Teams’ dynamics and personalities can alter and get changed pretty quickly with departures.”

» Asked what injuries he had suffered as a basketball player, Donovan disclosed that he had broken his ankles, dislocated a knee cap and even broken some ribs when he fell onto an opponent’s knee. He also made a joke when discussing Yeguete’s concussions and how in years prior they may have gone undiagnosed. “Sometimes with the way I think, I think I’ve had a few concussions in my day,” he said.

» Sophomore center Patric Young on freshman G Bradley Beal’s dunk and technical foul against Alabama: “It’s kind of my fault on the technical. I kind of made him do it. I like when he dunks on guys. Of course we need that kind of energy. It gets me fired up, and it got him fired up as well. He doesn’t need to stare the guy down like he did, that was kind of a little much. We need each one of our guys to bring some energy like that.”

» Young on the picture of him floating around from the Alabama game: “I’m kind of annoyed because people keep Tweeting me as if I haven’t seen it yet.”

» Junior F Erik Murphy on Walker’s recent struggles: “I’m always confident in Erv no matter what. He’s been great in practice lately. His attitude and stuff is fine. He’s mentally there. I think he’ll break out of this slump pretty soon.”

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Gator Bites for Thursday, January 12th

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.

» In a poll conducted by ESPN and calculated monthly, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow topped the December list as the United States’ favorite athlete. Tebow is “just the sixth different athlete to finish No. 1 in the monthly rankings since 2007” and, in the 18 years of the poll, only 11 different athletes have ever held that distinction.

» In addition to the Top 10 list OGGOA posted Wednesday from CBS’s the Late Show with David Letterman, Tebow was also brought up on TBS’s Conan. Host Conan O’Brien, claiming he was absent the budget to air actual game footage, had his staff put together a recreation of his game-winning play from Sunday…with peanuts replacing the players.

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Billy Donovan talks about hitting 400 wins

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan won the 400th game of his career on Monday when Florida routed Stetson 96-70 in Orlando, FL. Following the game, Donovan was hit with a Gatorade shower in the locker room and got to celebrate for a short while with the team and visitors Chandler Parsons and Jason Williams. In his post-game press conference, Donovan spoke at length about reaching 400 victories and his coaching career.

On what winning 400 games means to him: “One, I’m definitely clearly getting older. A guy like Jason Williams is here at the game, and he was obviously a part of it when it first started, coaching him. Chandler came in the locker room [and I thought about] his time here. Joakim Noah has been on campus a lot with the lockout. The Brent Wrights of the world. The [Udonis] Haslems. I think more about the time here and the guys that have come through. There have been a lot of special guys. Not only the guys that people get a chance to watch that are in the NBA, because those are obvious guys, but the Justin Hamiltons, the Brent Wrights, the Major Parkers – that first recruiting class. Anthony Roberson, Matt Walsh, Brett Nelson, there have been so many guys that have come through that were close to making the NBA that maybe didn’t make it that had a huge significance and impact on our program. It’s not just the NBA guys, it’s a lot of really good quality kids I’ve coached for a period of time. It’s hard to believe you see Jason Williams. The guy is married, he already has a couple of kids and is retired from the NBA. It’s definitely a reflection that time is moving on and you’re getting older.”

Read everything else Billy Donovan had to say…after the break!
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