Parsons, Tyus, Macklin celebrating Senior Day

The No. 14/14 Florida Gators (22-6, 11-3 SEC) hope the conclusion of Tuesday’s game against the Alabama Crimson Tide (19-9, 11-3 SEC) brings the same smiles that three seniors and one junior will have on their faces before the contest even begins, as the University of Florida celebrates the achievements of redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, senior forwards Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus, and redshirt junior F Adam Allen on Senior Day. All three players, along with head coach Billy Donovan, spoke about the special occasion on Monday.

LOOKING BACK ON FOUR YEARS OF GROWTH

Refraining from referring to ego or a sense of entitlement, Donovan discussed the trials and tribulations his graduating class went through over the course of their Florida careers – especially early on.

“I don’t think you can really be successful unless your heart really gets broken in something that’s competitive,” he said. “I did not feel, when those guys were freshmen and sophomores, that their hearts were broken. Their hearts got broken after their sophomore year. When they came in here after those two National Championships, there was no doubt in their mind they were cruising right to the same thing in 2008 and 2009. It was just very, very immature. It was not their fault. There was no one there to show them.

“They walked into the most difficult situation you could possibly walk into as a young group, and it was not their fault. If anybody, it was my fault. When I say it was my fault, I did not have enough depth or enough people around those guys that when [the Oh Fours] left, that there was enough there for those guys. They came in as freshmen not knowing anything and really got put into a very difficult situation. I give them credit because they were resilient. They did battle and they did fight and they did try to figure things out. They could have felt sorry for themselves. They could have left and gone somewhere else, but they kept battling. Where they are today from where they were as freshmen is two totally different ends of the spectrum.”

Parsons remembers Donovan locking the team out of the beautiful practice facility and taking away their official team clothes after a tough first season that resulted in a NIT berth. “That was unbelievable. That was a rough time for everybody,” he said. “Having to practice at Florida Gym with no shirt, our own shorts, having to do our laundry, come back three times a day, practicing at P.K. Yonge. That was definitely different. Those experiences have helped our upperclassmen get to where they are today.”

EMOTIONAL YET REWARDING

Like most coaches, Donovan will probably show plenty of emotion and stick his chest out with pride as his four oldest players celebrate their final game in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. “It’s always a hard thing. It’s emotional for anybody. When guys step into the arena and know it’s their last game, that’s significant,” he said. “They’re never going to play there again. When they’re young, they act like it’s never going to end. Now they realize, ‘Wow, this is coming to an end.’”

That being said, he also realizes what it took for them to get to where they are now both as players and individuals. “It’s been very rewarding, fulfilling just to see them to get to this point. Sometimes, two-to-three years ago, you don’t know if you’re ever going to get to that point in time,” Donovan noted. “They have worked hard. They have figured some things out. They still know there is a lot left of this season to be played.

“Those three guys deserve a lot of credit in terms of trying to get better, trying to improve and dealing with the adversity and growing pains of trying to be successful.”

Macklin in particular realizes he has made huge strides since first joining the team as a transfer from Georgetown. “I came a long way. I was mentally and physically weak when I got here,” he said. “It was tough for me to realize that coaches and these players actually care about me. Me sitting out, these guys treated me like I was actually playing that year. That made me feel like those guys really wanted me to be here. That helped me out a lot, and I think I’ve grown a lot from there.”

Read more from the mouths of Parsons, Allen and Macklin…after the break!
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Kadji transfers from Gainesville to Coral Gables

Former Florida Gators sophomore center Kenny Kadji will not have a long trip ahead of him after packing up his belongings as, according to FOX Sports’ Jeff Goodman, he has decided to transfer to the Miami Hurricanes.

Kadji, who was given a medical redshirt from the NCAA after only logging 45 total minutes of game time in 2009-10 before ending his season due to a nagging back injury, will be forced to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules.

He had back surgery in February to repair a bulging disk, a procedure similar to what former Florida forward Adrian Moss had done in 2005. Reports were that Kadji had healed nicely from the surgery; he was expected to back-up redshirt junior center Vernon Macklin next season, a job that will probably now be filled by four-star incoming freshman forward Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL).

“I want to thank my coaches and teammates for my two years at the University of Florida,” Kadji said on July 23. “While I’m sad that my time here at Florida is ending, UF will always be special to me. I have goals that I hope to reach and only a short window of my life to make those things happen.”

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Gators center Kenny Kadji granted a transfer

Florida Gators sophomore center Kenny Kadji has requested and received a transfer from the University of Florida and will be released from his scholarship.

“After re-evaluating his situation, Kenny and I had the opportunity to sit down and talk about his future,” head coach Billy Donovan said in a statement. “Kenny has made a decision that it’s in his best interest to start new somewhere else. He’s still recovering from back surgery and working hard to get himself healthy. I wish him the best in his future.”

Kadji, who was given a medical redshirt from the NCAA after only logging 45 total minutes of game time in 2009-10 before ending his season due to a nagging back injury, will have redshirt sophomore status next season if he chooses to remain in college but will also have to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules.

He had back surgery in February to repair a bulging disk, a procedure similar to what former Florida forward Adrian Moss had done in 2005. Reports were that Kadji had healed nicely from the surgery; he was expected to back-up redshirt junior center Vernon Macklin next season, a job that will probably now be filled by four-star incoming freshman forward Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL).

In March, the Orlando Sentinel caught up with Kadji’s AAU coach Matt Ramker, who said that he was “happy at UF” and was “looking forward to next season.”

Now, he has changed his tune.

“I want to thank my coaches and teammates for my two years at the University of Florida,” Kadji said. “While I’m sad that my time here at Florida is ending, UF will always be special to me. I have goals that I hope to reach and only a short window of my life to make those things happen.”

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Florida basketball really a top 10 team in 2010-11?

All five starters are returning for the first time since the Florida Gators back-to-back National Championship seasons, head coach Billy Donovan has a much-needed deep and talented recruiting class coming in and not a single player declared for the NBA Draft for the first time in years. With all of these factors taken into consideration, three college basketball analysts have already declared Florida basketball to be a top 10 team going into the 2010-11 season.

ESPN‘s Andy Katz and Pat Forde and CBS SportsGary Parrish have given the Gators this distinction. But the question is: Do they deserve the love?

See what the experts and OGGOA have to say…after the break!
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TWO BITS: Kadji gets redshirt, Lee loves New York

1 » Florida Gators center Kenny Kadji, who logged 45 total minutes of game time in 2009-10 before ending his season due to a nagging back injury, has been granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA, according to the University of Florida. This exemption will allow Kadji to enter the 2010-11 season as a redshirt sophomore, giving him three additional years of eligibility with the Gators. Kadji had back surgery in February to repair a bulging disk; the procedure was similar to what former Florida forward Adrian Moss had done in 2005. Reports are that Kadji has healed nicely from the surgery; if healthy, he will likely be redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin‘s primary back-up next season.

2 » Though he is now a free agent who can sign with any team in the NBA, former Gators forward/center David Lee loved his time with the New York Knicks and hopes to remain with the franchise next year. “This is where I want to be,” Lee told New York Post. “I enjoy it here. I love the city. I have a lot of friends in the franchise. I do have ties here. They say the two hardest things to deal with [in New York] are the media and the fans, but I’ve found that to be the exact opposite. Having a following here is gonna make the Knicks want to sign me more and makes me want to be in New York.” The Knicks hope to make a splash by signing two maximum contract free agents beginning on July 1, which may leave Lee by the wayside. However, New York fans and the team’s front office both love Lee, who averaged 20.2 points and 11.7 rebounds in 2009-10, and there is certainly a chance that he can get his wish to remain with the franchise.

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FOUR BITS: Transfers, Shelley, Haden, Thompson

1 » Over the weekend, Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel and OGGOA went back-and-forth about the potential transfers of Florida Gators basketball bench players guard Ray Shipman and center Kenny Kadji. Fowler caught up with their former AAU coach, Matt Ramker, who informed him that the duo is expected to remain with Florida. “They are happy at UF and are looking forward to next season,” Ramker said.

2 » Speaking with The Salt Lake Tribune, Shelley Meyer said her husband and Gators head coach Urban Meyer is “150 percent better.” Now that he is back at work, Meyer’s wife is keeping tabs on him in the same respect he stays on top of recruits. Sending him multiple texts ensuring that he is eating, exercising and resting, Shelley claims it is “part of my plan. I’m keeping an eye on him and I’m looking for signs. What happened to Urban was a huge wake-up call that he couldn’t go on like he was.”

3 » In a question-and-answer session with The Gainesville Sun, former Florida cornerback Joe Haden said he felt the pressure of running an improved 40-yard dash at Pro Day last week. Asked how important 40 times actually were, Haden agreed that they were overrated. “They don’t really measure how you run on the field during a game,” he said. “You may be running with someone who runs a 4.2, and you might not be able to run a 4.2, but if you can run with him and cover him, you’re OK. But it’s part of the process and I respect that.” Haden also admitted that he did not do much to help Meyer’s heart issues, playing an April Fool’s joke on him last season when he and former Gators safety Major Wright told their coach they planned to transfer.

4 » One of the biggest disappointments of the 2009 Florida football season was the lack of development of now-redshirt junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson. Though he failed to make much of an impact throughout the season, Thompson is confident he can turn it on in 2010 with new quarterback John Brantley. “I feel I had a good Sugar Bowl,” Thompson told the Sun. “I know now I’ve got to come out hard every day because I pretty much should be the No. 1 guy.”

Photo Credit: Willie J. Allen, Jr./St. Petersburg Times

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CHOMPING On: What to do about Dan Werner

Covering the Florida Gators as close as I do every day, I sometimes find the need to vent regarding some of the coverage, news, opinions and general sentiments surrounding the program. In those instances, OGGOA presents CHOMPING On:

That is the question on every Florida Gators basketball fan’s mind Thursday morning: What can head coach Billy Donovan do about senior forward Dan Werner? While the question is very straightforward, the answer is actually just as simple: Nothing.

Read the rest (trust me, there is plenty more) after the jump!
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Florida Gators vs. No. 14 Tennessee Volunteers

Location: Thompson-Boiling Arena – Knoxville, TN [Capacity: 21,000]
Time: 1:00 p.m. (EST)

TV: CBS/CBSHD
Online: CBSSports.com

Florida Gators No. 14 Tennessee Volunteers
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Bruce Pearl
Record: 15-5, 4-2 SEC Record: 15-4, 3-2 SEC
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Tennessee -8, O/U 141

KEEP AN EYE ON…
-The dynamic backcourt of…sophomore point guard Erving Walker and freshman guard Kenny Boynton who are averaging 37.2 points (almost half of the team’s 75.3 total points) and 8.7 assists per game in SEC play this season.
- Speaking of Walker and Boynton…they have hit 39 of the Gators’ 45 treys in SEC play, and Walker is shooting 62.2 percent (23-of-37) from downtown in conference action.
- Junior forward Alex Tyus…who is dominating the front court, averaging 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds over the last 11 contests. He has hit double figures in 11 straight games and scored 15+ in six of those ten.
- Double-digit scoring by Vernon Macklin…Florida is 10-1 when the redshirt junior transfer center does so.
- Buzzer-beaters from Chandler Parsons…the junior forward has hit two game-winning three-pointers in January. He is also averaging 10.6 points and 6.5 boards per contest.
- Senior center Wayne Chism…who leads the Volunteers in rebounding (6.9) and blocks (1.4). He also accounts for a solid 11.8 points per game.
- Sophomore guard Scotty Hopson…who is tops on Tennessee in scoring with 13.8 points per game.

STREAKS:
- Tennessee leads the all-time series 68-48, winning 10 of the last 13 meetings.
- Last season, the Volunteers swept the series; they have won the last five meetings against the Gators (since 2007).
- Florida has not won in Knoxville since 2005, and head coach Billy Donovan is 12-14 against Tennessee.
- The Gators are on a four-game winning streak, their longest in SEC play since 2007.
- Allowing 95 and 89 points to its first to SEC opponents, the Gators have held teams to 62.8 points per game during their four-game winning streak. Florida is 10-1 this season when holding opponents to 60 points or less and 120-2 all-time under Donovan.
- The Gators are out-rebounding their opponents by 5.2 boards during their four-game winning streak.
- Tennessee defeated then-No. 1 Kansas earlier in the season and also has a quality win over rival Memphis.
- As a team, the Volunteers are forcing 19.1 turnovers per game, averaging 78.7 points per game and hitting 47.1 percent from the floor.

Read OGGOA’s Gators vs. No. 14 Volunteers preview after the jump!
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