Support for the (1) Florida Gators (36-2) has been strong throughout the season and especially the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
It continued on Saturday after the team advanced to the Final Four for the fifth time in school history and first time since 2007 with a 62-52 Elite Eight win over the (11) Dayton Flyers (26-11) at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN.
Check out the pictures, tweets and videos below for a comprehensive look at what former and current Gators had to say before, during and after the game. OnlyGators.com has also added a few other choice contributions that fit in with the overall theme.
This team is special. I thank God for everything this team has accomplished. God is so good thank you for allowing us to be #FINALFOURBOUND
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.
Florida Gators basketball picked up its first verbal commitment for the Class of 2016 on Saturday when power forward John Mooney (Altamonte Springs, FL) pledged to continue his career in Gainesville, FL.
At 6’7” and 210 pounds (as of July), Mooney is a sophomore in high school and likely still has some growing to do before he steps foot on campus in three years.
He averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds as a freshman at Lake Brantley High School and was just the third freshman in the last nine years to play on varsity, according to head coach Mike Cuff.
Mooney also plays for the Nike Team Florida travel program, which had former Gators Chandler Parsons and Nick Calathes on its roster while they were in high school.
His brother, Brendan Mooney, committed to Spring Hill College to play basketball as a member of the school’s 2013 recruiting class.
Mooney was recruited by Florida assistant Matt McCall and committed to the Gators following an unofficial visit. UF hopes he continues to grow and projects that he will resemble David Lee by the time he gets to college.
Florida now has basketball pledges in each of the next three recruiting cycles. Four-stars guard Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, FL) and point guard Chris Chiozza (Memphis, TN) are committed for 2014, while three-star power forward Kevarrius Hayes (Live Oak, FL) has decided to join the team in 2015.
Huge congratulations to 2016 NTF Forward Johnny Mooney @jmoon32 on his commitment to Billy Donovan & the Florida Gators! NTFamily!
For the second-straight offseason, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan will not be with his team when it begins summer training activities on campus in Gainesville, FL. Instead, Donovan will once again be coaching USA Basketball as it competes this year at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship in Prague, Czech Republic.
While he obviously holds his job at Florida as priority No. 1, Donovan and has said multiple times that he is only working with USA Basketball because it is a manageable situation for him as his experienced coaching staff is capable of leading the program in his absence during a portion of the Summer B semester.
Filling in for Donovan during his scheduled Monday media appearance on the annual summertime Southeastern Conference teleconference was third-year assistant Matt McCall, who said the Gators are getting down to business while Donovan is overseas.
“Obviously this is an exciting time when you’re able to get some of your new guys on campus and have your old guys back and start working with them here,” McCall said. “[It will be nice to] get them in the weight room with our strength coach and start preparing for next year.”
“We came down to Gainesville together last week for a visit and he loved it,” Hayes’s high school coach and University of Florida alumnus, Jeremy Ulmer, told InsidetheGators.com‘s Russ Wood ($). “Florida was his dream school and he told me he was ready. I called Billy Donovan and told him that Kevarrius had something to tell him, then I handed him the phone.”
Hayes, who recently participated in the Nike Elite 100 basketball camp from June 3-9 in St. Louis, MO, was named Suwannee High School’s Defensive Player of the Year for the 2012-13 season. He has drawn comparisons to current Gators PF Will Yeguete for his strong defense and ability to clean up offensively around the basket.
Like Yeguete did as a high schooler, Hayes plays travel-league basketball for head coach Tom Topping and Nike Team Florida. Hayes joins Yeguete, Walter Hodge, Nick Calathes, Chandler Parsons, Scottie Wilbekin and DeVon Walker as recent or current Gators that previously played under Topping.
During his sophomore season at Suwannee, Hayes averaged 11.3 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks per game. Rivals lists him as a three-star prospect (the company’s 2015 rankings have not yet been released), while ESPN currently has him ranked him as a four-star and the No. 58 overall player in the Class of 2015.
Hayes (6-foot-9, 190-pounds) also had early interest from Alabama, Kansas State and Miami. Florida assistant coach Matt McCall, his primary recruiter, helped reel him in.
According to the Suwannee Democrat, he boasts a 3.0 grade point average, served as president of his sophomore class last school year and hopes to attend medical school so he can become a surgeon. He is also a member of the track and field team and currently holds the school record in the high jump.
“Kevarrius has everything it takes to be a major [Division I] player. He has athletic and academic ability, a positive attitude and a great work ethic,” Ulmer told the Democrat on June 12. “He is everything a coach could ask for in a player.”
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.”
1 » Coincidence led to an impromptu speaking engagement from former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow , who found himself at the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport on Sunday when his private jet was forced to stop in order to refuel. Also on the runway were the nine-seed Wichita State Shockers, which had just boarded their team bus after a flight home. When Tebow learned of this being the case, one of his representatives asked head coach Gregg Marshall if he would allow Tebow to address the team, which he did. Tebow stepped off his jet, onto the team’s bus and delivered a short address to the players telling them to make the most of this time in their lives and that if they continue working hard, positive results will follow. You can check out a snippet of Tebow’s speech by clicking here.
2 » A large number of Florida fans likely also root for the Orlando Magic, which means they probably are not too fond of Dwight Howard. So Howard sending a veiled threat to a former Gators basketball player – power forward David Lee of the Golden State Warriors – is unlikely to rub more in a positive way.
Speaking with the media on Monday after a 109-103 loss, Howard vowed revenge against Lee and the Warriors for an unintentional shot he took in the mouth during the first half as Lee was going to the rim for a layup. Howard actually got called for a technical on the play. “He got away with a shot,” Howard said per ESPN. “I will remember this game. I will remember that shot. He said he wasn’t trying to do it. You can look at the play and see it for yourself. I will take care of it later.”
3 » The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway caught up with assistant basketball coach Matt McCall last week and asked him about Florida’s incoming five-star commitments – point guard Kasey Hill and power forward Chris Walker. McCall, who “spearheaded the efforts of recruiting both standouts” according to Brockway, is pleased that Hill can score but is not a “shoot-first point guard” and thought Walker put together a “second-to-none” performance in the recent state championship tournament.
4 » The reality show “What would Ryan Lochte Do?” is set to premiere on E! on Sunday, April 21 at 10 p.m. The network released an extended trailer (4:30) for the show this week, and you can check it out below. This show will either be absolutely awful or downright hysterical to make fun of each week. There is likely no in-between.
The Florida Gators officially announced Wednesday that two of the top high school basketball players in the country – five-stars point guard Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL) and power forward Chris Walker (Bonifay, FL) – have signed and submitted their National Letters of Intent to play for Florida beginning in the 2013-14 season.
Hill and Walker, each ranked in the top-10 nationally by all of the major recruiting services, are a huge 1-2 punch for the Gators as they look to replace at least three players who are set to leave following the 2012-13 campaign. The players are close friends and have been AAU teammates over the last few years.
“How they rank to the rest of the country, doesn’t really matter to me because there are so many things they bring to the table,” head coach Billy Donovan told Florida’s website. “Being in-state guys, I’ve had a chance to watch them grow over a three-year period and I understand what we’ll be getting. They’re athletic, with speed and quickness and competiveness. They both have a chance to have tremendous careers here.”
Walker is the first big man the Gators have signed out of high school since Florida added a trio of players, including center Patric Young, as part of its 2010 class.
“The best frontcourt players to come through here — the Horfords, Haslems, Bonners, Noahs — they could all really run,” assistant coach Matt McCall said. “And Chris Walker can really run.”
Donovan, a former point guard, is equally excited at what Hill (a former teammate of freshman guard Michael Frazier II at Montverde Academy) brings to the table as the highest-rated floor general signed by the Gators since Anthony Roberson in 2002.
“He’s just a presence on the floor. Great vision,” he said of Hill.
Most exciting for Florida fans is that Donovan and his staff are not done just yet. Though the Gators will not add another player as part of the early signing period, Florida is in the running for a trio of uncommitted five-star players including forward Jabari Parker (Chicago, IL), PF Julius Randle (Plano, TX) and C Dakari Johnson (Montverde, FL). The second National Signing Day is set for April 17, 2013.
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