Billy Donovan on Florida’s practice intensity, Eli Carter’s return, early evaluations, SEC Media Day

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Monday, less than one week after his team began fall practice. Donovan discussed a number of pressing topics facing the Gators as they prepare for the 2014-15 season.

DOUBLE RAINBOW PRACTICES!

Donovan put Florida to work as soon as the team convened for practice last week, holding double sessions on Friday and Saturday with Sunday off and a fifth practice on Monday. Overall, he was pleased with the early results, especially on Saturday when there was a lot of installing and teaching going on with the team.

“Their attitude was good. They worked hard. It was really good effort. I thought there was sustained intensity. I thought the two freshmen, there was a lot thrown at them in those first four practices on Friday and Saturday, and they seemed to absorb it. They have a pretty good basketball IQ, picked things up. I think those guys will continue to get better,” he explained.

Asked why the Gators did not open practice with more pomp and circumstance – such as Midnight Madness (with or without a rap star running out with the team only to airball a shot) – Donovan somewhat avoided the question, instead pointing to his preference to get the team as ready as possible for the season with the time he has allotted.

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2015 F Keith Stone commits to Florida Gators

The Florida Gators added another big name to their already-impressive 2015 recruiting class on Monday night when three-star forward Keith Stone (Deerfield Beach, FL) verbally committed to play college basketball in Gainesville.

Ranked No. 127 overall by Rivals, Stone (6-foot-7, 215 pounds) took his first official visit to Florida over the weekend.

A long-time Gators lean, seeing the program in person and getting the go-ahead from the staff was all it took for him to commit to head coach Billy Donovan. Stone announced his commitment Monday via his Twitter account.

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Media Day: New challenges ahead for Florida Gators basketball in 2014-15

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan held a press conference last week as part of his team’s media day and discussed a number of pressing topics facing his team as it began fall practice. Below are some links to stories published here on OnlyGators.com last week as well as a wrap-up of everything else Donovan had to say.

Story: Chris Walker suspended three games, Brandone Francis will not play
Story: Billy Donovan stands behind embattled Will Muschamp
Story: Michael Frazier II must step up game, leadership for Gators

NEW CHALLENGES

The 2014-15 Gators basketball team will be a vastly different group…because that’s what happens when you lose four true-senior starters that amassed the vast majority of your points and logged tons of minutes. Florida was so successful last season not just because of those players’ experience but also due to the fact that they had faced so much adversity that they were motivated to overcome any they encountered during their final year in orange and blue.

This year’s team, well, it’s filled with freshman and sophomores that are used to seeing the Gators as one of the best teams in the nation, coming off a season in which the program only lost three games.

“They haven’t faced any adversity,” said Donovan. “That’s going to be, I think, a challenge that these guys have not been tested in. They can go out there, work really, really hard and may not get the results [they want]. …

“There are a couple of concerns for me. There was no level of consistency at all from our returning players outside of Michael Frazier. There were moments that he played exceptionally well, there were moments that they really did a great job, but there was a discipline issue on the court in terms of being reliable guys game in and game out. That is going to be a challenge.”

It’s not that Donovan thinks this group of players is entitled. Rather, “it’s a lack of not living in the real world” for these players, which likely expect Florida to continue or even improve on its impressive showing from last season.

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Micahel Frazier II must step up game, leadership

Just like Florida Gators basketball’s mantra was once “layups, dunks and Lee Humphrey,” the 2013-14 season was very much “layups, dunks and Michael Frazier II.”

Then a sophomore, Frazier took 38 percent of Florida’s three-point attempts and was the Gators’ second-leading scorer with 482 points (18 percent of the team’s total) despite only taking 79 shots inside the arc.

Frazier also made 11 threes in a single game, breaking a 17-year school mark for most in a single game while draining the third-most in a single contest by an SEC player and the most ever in an SEC league game.

However, he was also sixth in assists and seventh in free throw attempts, despite being the team’s best shooter at .842 in 39 games.

If Frazier wants to continue being a productive player for Florida in 2014-15, he’s going to have to step up his all-around game. That means driving the lane, helping facilitate by passing the ball, and taking his already-improved defense to another level.

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Brandone Francis cleared to enroll at Florida

While most of the Florida Gators basketball team has been on campus this summer training ahead of the 2014-15 season, one first-year player has been noticeably absent.

Four-star guard Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, FL) was unable to join his teammates this summer while awaiting approval from the NCAA Clearinghouse.

A native of the Dominican Republic, the approval process took longer for Francis, who told OnlyGators.com on Friday evening that he has now received the proverbial thumbs up to enroll at Florida on Sunday, Aug. 24.

“It’s a great day, great day to be a Gator,” he said in an interview with OnlyGators.com Friday night. “Today I got the word that I’m able to enroll in school, and I will be there in nine days on the 24th.

“As an international kid, [the NCAA] wanted to look into my playing history more than some others, but I knew everything would come through fine. There was nothing wrong, they just like to be extra careful on guys coming from outside the United States.”

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New Gators basketball players pick numbers

Updated on July 1 at 1:15 p.m.

In the process of finalizing the roster information for 2014-15, the Florida Gators have announced the uniform numbers for the six new players set to play for the first time next season, many of which finally stepped on campus as students on Monday.

TRANSFERS*
» 5 – Alex Murphy (Wakefield, RI), four-star redshirt junior forward
* Murphy joined the Gators in the spring of 2014 from Duke. He will be eligible to play in the spring of 2015 barring the approval of a NCAA waiver.
» 15 – John Egbunu (Fort Walton Beach, FL), four-star sophomore center
* Egbunu joins Florida as a transfer from USF. He will not be eligible to play until the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
» 21 – Jon Horford (Grand Ledge, MI), three-star redshirt senior power forward
* Horford joins UF as a graduate transfer from Michigan.

FRESHMEN
» 2 – Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, FL), four-star guard
» 3 – Devin Robinson (Christchurch, VA), five-star forward
» 11 – Chris Chiozza (Memphis, TN), four-star point guard
» 24 – Zach Hodskins (Alpharetta, GA), preferred walk-on guard

CHANGES^
» 14 – Lexx Edwards (Orlando, FL), junior guard
^ Edwards previously wore No. 11, which was taken by Chiozza

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13 Gator Bites for Friday, June 13: Graham, Dendy, Harvin, Haslem, softball, MLB, Parsons

From time to time, OnlyGators.com 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. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Florida Gators redshirt sophomore guard Dillon Graham on Friday tweeted that he has “finally [been] cleared” by team doctors after missing most of the 2013-14 season following surgery to repair bone spurs in his hips. Less than a month ago, head coach Billy Donovan said he did not expect Graham to be cleared for contact until August or September. Doctors are likely allowing Graham to work out and practice in non-contact situations at this time. “He’s missed a whole entire year of development and now you’re talking about an entire summer and into the fall without it,” Donovan said on May 22. “So, when he does get back, what is he like as a player and maybe how long does it take to get him back to maybe where he was? I think that’s going to be a long process for him.”

» Florida junior jumper Marquis Dendy on Thursday captured the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championship in men’s long jump. The outdoor long jump title in school history, Dendy’s 8.00m/26-3 championship-winning mark was his best of the season. Actually, all three of his jumps would have won the crown for Dendy, who previously won the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championship in the same event. He did not even need to take the last jump but chose to do so because he was “in the moment” and also wanted to qualify nationally in the event. He returns to the field on Saturday for the men’s triple jump, an event UF has dominated in recent years.

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Donovan talks Harris, Horford, Egbunu, NBA

With the Florida Gators making plenty of news this offseason, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Thursday to discuss his program’s incoming transfers and exiting players. He also touched on whether professional teams have contacted him about his services and explained how he responded to those inquiries.

THREE STRIKES AND YOU’RE OUT

Donovan does the best he can to get players to buy in but some simply cannot get out of their own way. Such is the case with center Damontre Harris, who Donovan has dismissed from the team for the second time in six months – this time for good.

Harris was granted the opportunity to return to the Gators after Donovan dismissed him in December 2013 but failed to live up to his promises – dedication to the program, attendance at all team events, communication with the coaching staff and teammates. Having already suspended Harris for a violation of team rules at the start of the 2013-14 season and dismissed him at the end of the fall semester, Donovan finally decided to give up on his reclamation projection after Harris proved no better this time around.

“Damontre is not a bad kid. He’s a good kid but really undisciplined and unreliable in a lot of ways, and [he was] really selling me on the fact that he’s going to be [improved in] that way,” Donovan explained on Thursday. “And then what we basically did was not allow him to play, even though he was eligible to play, and I told him he had to earn his way back on the team, very similar to the way Scottie [Wilbekin] had to do it. …

“He had every opportunity to do that. He had a whole semester to do that and just could not do the things he needed to do, we expected him to do. … This guy was in practice; he was used on the scout team. The things we were talking about is like going to class, being on time, being in the weight room, lifting, showing up to practice, those kind of things.

“Basically, we evaluated him over that two-and-a-half, three month [span] over that second semester and clearly nothing had changed at all. And I was just not going to have him come back in this kind of situation.”

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