Allen’s Alley: Break out of the funk, make a run

A four-year member of the Florida Gators basketball program under head coach Billy Donovan, former forward Adam Allen – a four-star recruit coming out of Milton High School – was forced to retire due to multiple knee surgeries. No longer with the team, he has joined OGGOA as a basketball columnist and will provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2011-12 season.

Ending the regular season with three losses and lacking inspired play down the stretch is not what any Florida fan wanted to see from their preseason top 10-ranked team heading into the 2012 SEC Tournament. However, there is still hope for this battle-tested team going into the postseason.

In order for this team to be able to make a run in either of the upcoming tournaments, the players will have to learn from their mistakes and play with more passion than they have been since losing sophomore forward Will Yeguete to injury. At this point in the year, there is no room for mistakes and no excuse not to leave everything on the table each and every time they step on the court.

The way this team finished the season is comparable to the 2007-08 team that I was a part of. In fact, I read here on OGGOA that head coach Billy Donovan even compared the two teams before this squad’s slide to end the season.

We had a great chance of making the NCAA Tournament that year but instead played not to lose (as opposed to being aggressors) and ended our season on a 2-5 skid. We didn’t realize how much passion we needed to play with on a game-by-game basis until the coaching staff kicked us out of our gym and put us through a few incredibly intense practices a day at P.K Yonge High School and Florida Gym. We weren’t even allowed to wear our practice gear because Coach Donovan said that we didn’t deserve to have “Florida” on our chests while we were playing such uninspired ball.

He was right.

After those intense practices, we made a run in the NIT and got all the way to the Final Four, beating San Diego State, Creighton and then Arizona State before losing to UMass in Madison Square Garden. We came together as a group after Alabama knocked us out of the SEC Tournament, and it is somewhat ironic that Florida will face that same opponent this year in second-round action.

Though the Gators will not have to beat the Crimson Tide to earn a NCAA berth, Florida will have to overcome at least that obstacle in order to maintain/improve their seed.

This year’s Florida team is definitely more talented and has experienced tougher tests and more success than the players on the 2007-08 team did that year. I would expect that they are experiencing some of the same “tough love” that our team did from Coach Donovan during my freshman year even though they have not fallen off the way we did.

Once the ball is tipped up Friday in New Orleans, LA, the Gators have an opportunity to prove they have learned from their mistakes and have refocused their attention on what it takes to be successful during the madness that is the month of March.

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Donovan adds Pelphrey, Roberts to Gators staff

A familiar face and an old friend will be joining Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan in Gainesville, FL next season. On Tuesday, the University of Florida announced that a pair of former head coaches – John Pelphrey and Norm Roberts – have been hired as assistants for the basketball team.

“Having John back will be a great addition to our program,’’ Donovan said in a school release. “Obviously, he has a level of familiarity with me and with the University of Florida makes this a great fit. John’s a great coach, he’s a great friend and has a love for Florida, and we’re excited to bring him back. Being from New York, I’ve known Norm for a long [time]. He’s an outstanding coach, he’s a great recruiter, has high character and integrity and I’m thrilled to have him on our staff here at Florida.”

An assistant at Florida for six seasons (1996-2002), Pelphrey will be reunited with his close friend and mentor. He played under Donovan (an assistant at the time) and head coach Rick Pitino with the Kentucky Wildcats and served as an assistant on Donovan’s first coaching staff for two seasons with the Marshall Thundering Herd (1994-96). He joined Donovan when he was hired by UF, helping lead the Gators to four-straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

Pelphrey left in 2002 for a head coaching gig with the South Alabama Jaguars, where he led the team for five seasons. He won the Sun Belt Championship, was named the Sun Belt Coach of the Year and brought his squad to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2006. USA would end up falling to Florida in the first round.

Noticing his success at a smaller school, Arkansas hired him to lead their program in 2007. Pelphrey brought the Razorbacks their first NCAA Tournament victory since 1999 in his first season but failed to replicate his success over the following three. He was fired by Arkansas on March 13 even though he had a top-tier recruiting class on its way in.

Roberts, who does not have any direct coaching connection to Donovan, is – like his new boss – a native New Yorker. He most recently served as head coach of the St. John’s Red Storm from 2004-10 but was fired on March 19, 2010, after leading the team to an unimpressive 81-101 record in six seasons.

Donovan is in the middle of reshaping his coaching staff as he has now lost all three of his 2010-11 assistants in one offseason. Long-time cohort Larry Shyatt accepted the top job at Wyoming, assistant Rob Lanier is returning to coach at Texas, and assistant Richard Pitino will join his father’s staff at Louisville.

OGGOA learned on April 3 that Florida Atlantic assistant Matt McCall is a top candidate to fill a role on Donovan’s revamped coaching staff. Another option is former Florida player Brett Nelson, who coached under Pelphrey at Arkansas last season.

Photo Credit: Unknown, Chris Trotman/Getty Images

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3/23: Florida’s Sweet 16 press conference quotes

Arriving in New Orleans, LA for their Sweet 16 match-up against the No. 3-seed BYU Cougars in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan along with senior Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin met with the media to discuss a number of topics. OGGOA has compiled most of those quotes for you below (click the link below) with the rest coming in a post Thursday afternoon.

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2010-11 Florida Gators basketball season preview

Finally returning to the NCAA Tournament after back-to-back appearances in the NIT, the No. 9/11 Florida Gators basketball team is back in the preseason top 10 and looking to return to the glory it experienced just a few short years ago. With forward Dan Werner now graduated and five new freshmen in the fold looking to make an impact, head coach Billy Donovan hopes to get back to his winning ways.

STARTING FIVE:

PG Erving Walker – junior, 5’8”, 171 lbs.
2009 STATS: 12.6 PPG – 4.9 APG – 3.3 RPG – .339 FG% – .347 3P% – 32.9 MPG
A spark plug who often appears to prefer shooting and penetrating to passing, Walker was named to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team two years ago and the preseason All-SEC second team this year. He had trouble performing at a high level last season partially due to the lack of depth behind him on the bench. Donovan has noted that Walker’s shot selection, stroke and defense have all improved over the summer. He plans to keep him fresh by utilizing a number of other players at point guard during games and hopes that Walker will improve his ball handling, court vision and willingness to dish the ball – three things he needed to work on at this point last year.

G Kenny Boynton – sophomore, 6’2”, 183 lbs.
2009 STATS: 14.0 PPG – 2.7 APG – 2.6 RPG – .376 FG% – .294 3P% – 32.9 MPG
A five-star recruit coming out of high school, Boynton was the pride of the Gators’ 2009 recruiting class. Quick both with and without the ball, Boynton is highly competitive and athletic with the ability to play either backcourt position. He led Florida in points and was second in minutes played (Walker) in his first season, catching on fire in his final two games scoring a combined 50 points on 16-of-33 shooting while also going 9-of-18 from downtown. He can get his shot off at will, whether it be a pull up jumper, deep three-pointer, floater down the lane or penetrating layup. Boynton is also a tough defender who is strong with quick feet laterally but, like Walker, was gassed late in games last season due to lack of depth. Also similar to Walker, Donovan is impressed with Boynton’s improved shot selection and decision making this offseason. He was honored with a preseason All-SEC second team nomination this year.

This post contains 1,818 words previewing the season. You have already made it this far, so you might as well continue reading the rest…after the break!
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FOUR BITS: ESPN coverage of Florida basketball

1 » With Florida Gators basketball’s 2010-11 season set to begin Thursday in the form of an exhibition match against Florida Tech, ESPN heaped some praise on the program Tuesday. First up was Andy Katz, who sees a team that is ready to return to a championship level of play after a few years of mediocrity.

“It definitely feels like the last three years, that I’ve been another player, not been able to do anything great with my teammates for the fans and the University of Florida to remember me,” senior forward Alex Tyus told Katz during a recent interview. “If we have a great year this year, hopefully they’ll remember the guys who came in after Al and Jo and left with their piece of the pie.”

Fellow senior forward Chandler Parsons recounts what happened that first season after the Gators’ best six players left. “It was as tough a time as I’ve ever been through,” he said. “We got kicked out of here [the Florida practice facility] and practiced in high school gyms two or three times a day when we were getting ready for the NIT and then after the season was over. But that’s what coach [Billy] Donovan does — he pushes you and puts your back against the wall to get the most out of you.”

Katz touches on a number of other topics in his article including junior point guard Erving Walker noticing a lack of leadership upon arriving in Gainesville, FL, sophomore guard Kenny Boynton setting his sights on the Final Four and freshman power forward Patric Young never wavering on his commitment.

2 » Also spotlighting Florida on Tuesday is ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford, who has named Young as the No. 2 overall 2011 NBA Draft prospect in the Southeastern Conference. Ford believes Young “looks like a 27-year-old NBA player in his prime” and calls him “an absolute physical specimen that has drawn comparisons to a young Dwight Howard.” Saying Young is “already an elite defender and rebounder,” Ford spoke with a NBA general manager who said “He’s one kid who could step in right now and play for an NBA team because of his defensive ability. Where he goes offensively really determines his ceiling, but his floor is already very high.”

3 » To Young’s credit, he told The Florida Times-Union in April that he plans to play for the Gators for either three of four years while earning his degree. “I’ve always wanted to play in the NBA, but I have a backup plan and that’s to have an education,” he said. “That ranks second, right behind my faith, in terms of importance. I eventually want to do something else in basketball, whether it’s to be an announcer, work for a team or have a business involved in the sport.”

4 » Former Ohio State walk-on Mark Titus, now a writer for ESPN Insider, has tabbed UF to win the SEC this year. He also took a humorous look at how Florida and its Gator Chomp still haunts his dreams. “I had nightmares about the Gator Chomp for weeks after losing the 2007 National Championship to Florida. But even though I hate it so much, there really is nothing like it in college basketball. […] Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go battle the recurring night terrors of Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer opening and closing their arm-jaws amidst a wave of confetti. Thanks, Florida.”

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FOUR BITS: 200 FR title, WNIT, Murphy, Crowder

1 » Competing in the first night of the finals of the 2010 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championship meet, the Florida Gators women’s team has already taken home a national title. UF’s 200-yard free relay team – seniors Gemma Spofforth and Stephanie Napies and sophomores Shara Stafford and Sarah Bateman – won the title behind a school-record 1:27.79 time. The Gators are in fourth place with 107 points after the first day of competition, even with their 101st national title being captured.

2 » Though they failed to reach the 2010 NCAA Tournament, the Florida women’s basketball team (15-16) got off to a quick start in the WNIT with a 61-54 win over the South Florida Bulls (15-16) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Senior guard Steffi Sorensen scored a team-high 16 points as sophomore center Azania Stewart contributed 11 of her 15 points in the second half. The Gators move on to face the Miami Hurricanes (19-13) on Sunday at the BankUnited Center.

3 » Sophomore right-side/setter Kelly Murphy of the Florida volleyball team has been announced as one of 24 players selected to the roster of the 2010 U.S. Women’s National A2 team. The 2008 AVCA National Freshman of the Year, Murphy ranked third in the SEC in hitting percentage (.344) and seventh in assists per set (7.04) in 2009. She is the 35th Gators volleyball player to receive this honor since 2001.

4 » One of OGGOA’s favorite all-time Florida football players is Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that one of our all-time favorite Gators’ mom’s is his very own – Pauline. Aside from helping raise Channing and supporting him throught his life, Pauline has started a Football 101 for Women & Friends class that has become quite popular in South Florida. You can read more about it here.

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Florida to face Auburn in SEC tourney rematch

In the second round of the 2009 Southeastern Conference Tournament, the Auburn Tigers thrashed the Florida GatorsNCAA Tournament dreams, defeating them 61-58 in Tampa, FL. The Gators may have gotten some retribution against the Tigers with a 78-70 win on Feb. 18 in Gainesville, FL, but their chance for true redemption will come Thursday in Nashville, TN.

Florida (20-10, 9-6 SEC), the No. 4 seed in the East, will take on Auburn (15-16, 6-10 SEC), the No. 5 seed in the West, in game three of the first round of the 2010 SEC Tournament on March 11 at 7:30 p.m. The game will air live on the SEC Network – check your local listings.

The winner of the contest will move on to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs in round two on Fri., March 12 at 7:30 p.m. The Gators will need at least one SEC Tournament victory to have a chance at avoiding the NIT for the first time in three seasons. (Unless, of course, they defeat the No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats on Sunday).

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CHOMPING On: Dan Werner’s swan song

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:

Redemption.

When it comes to sports, that word is one of the most highly sought after experiences while simultaneously being one of the most rarely achieved.

Men like Scott Norwood (Buffalo Bills, Super Bowl XXV), Bill Buckner (Boston Red Sox, 1986 World Series) and Chris Webber (Michigan Wolverines (1993 NCAA Championship) only dream about having the opportunity to right their wrongs, while few others like Alex Rodriguez (New York Yankees, 2009 MLB postseason) have been able to overcome obstacles and achieve some form of salvation.

Florida Gators senior forward Dan Werner, in the last home game of his career on Tuesday, has a chance to do just that. No, Werner is not going to score a career-high in points (20), and he is not likely to have the ball in his hands for a game-winning shot (again), but he can indeed turn his legacy around with one effort-filled performance.

Read the rest of CHOMPING On: Dan Werner’s swan song…after the jump!
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