1 » Training camp for many NBA teams begins on Tuesday and there are currently 15 former Florida Gators on rosters with 12 assured of making the cut out of training camp this season. Guard Bradley Beal (Washington), forward Matt Bonner (San Antonio), F Corey Brewer (Minnesota), point guard Nick Calathes (Memphis), power forward Udonis Haslem (Miami), PF Al Horford (Atlanta), PF David Lee (Golden State), F Mike Miller (Cleveland), center Joakim Noah (Chicago), F Chandler Parsons (Dallas), PF Marreese Speights (Golden State) and C Patric Young (New Orleans) will all certainly find their way onto regular-season rosters. Also competing in training camp right now are PF Vernon Macklin (New Orleans), F Erik Murphy (Boston) and F Casey Prather (Phoenix). Murphy has barely played since being selected in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft and will be on his fourth team in just over one full season. Macklin and Prather both received non-guaranteed, league-minimum training camp contracts.
He comes from France
All four senior basketball players that left the Florida Gators last offseason have now found professional homes despite none being selected in the 2014 NBA Draft.
First was center Patric Young, who worked in the NBA Summer League with the New Orleans Pelicans (which guaranteed him a spot in training camp). By the time Summer League had commenced, Young agreed to a standard two-year, $1.35 million rookie contract with the franchise and is expected to be a contributor this season.
Point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who spent the Summer League playing for two different teams, was unable to find a home in the NBA but instead got a soft landing spot overseas. Wilbekin inked a contract with the Cairns Taipans of the Australian Basketball League and is already in Australia working out with his team.
1 » Former Florida Gators forward Casey Prather has been given a second chance at latching on with an NBA team after agreeing to join the Phoenix Suns in training camp on a non-guaranteed contract. Phoenix currently has 13 guaranteed contracts on its roster as well as one open roster spot. Prather will be competing with veteran center Earl Barron for that job. After spending the month of July playing for the Atlanta Hawks during NBA Summer League games in Las Vegas, Nevada, Prather was not retained or signed by another team. He averaged 5.2 points and 2.2 rebounds in 20 minutes per game.
Both of Prather’s fellow undrafted teammates out of Florida, C Patric Young and point guard Scottie Wilbekin, have landed professional contracts. Young signed a two-year, $1.35 million contract with the New Orleans Pelicans, while Wilbekin inked a deal with the Cairns Taipans of the Australian Basketball League.
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In case you missed it last week, The Silver Lining is a new weekly column exclusively on OnlyGators.com that combines news, opinion and entertainment. The format may change as the concept develops, and suggestions are both respected and appreciated.
DeVon Walker: A season over before it started
Breaking news came through Saturday afternoon that Florida Gators junior guard/forward DeVon Walker, a rotation player who made headlines last year for transferring in the offseason only to change course and return to school, tore his ACL on Friday and is consequently expected to miss the entire 2014-15 season.
Walker, who originally transferred due to playing time concerns, wound up making seven starts and playing in 35 games last year as his teammates dealt with injuries and suspensions. His energy and defense were bright spots – as was his three-point shooting on occasion (he drained 8-of-14 threes over a five-game stretch in league play) – but Walker still averaged just 2.4 points and 1.2 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per game.
It is for that reason that his injury does not strike a major blow for Florida basketball. The Gators will get along fine without Walker next season. Junior Michael Frazier II will start at shooting guard, and five-star freshman Devin Robinson has a great shot to play major minutes at small forward with redshirt junior Alex Murphy currently not cleared to play until the spring semester (pending an NCAA waiver).
Nevertheless, it is interesting that Walker’s serious injury – which a UF spokesman eventually confirmed to OnlyGators.com on Monday – has not even been mentioned publicly by the university. Walker may only be a role player but he is a scholarship student-athlete in a major sport and had an impact on the team last season.
Florida Gators center Patric Young signed a two-year deal with the New Orleans Pelicans, a source close to the process told OnlyGators.com on Saturday afternoon.
Young, the 2014 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year who was not selected in the 2014 NBA Draft on June 26, was given a guaranteed training camp deal with the Pelicans and played for New Orleans during the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The team had been considering adding Young to their roster but did not officially come to a deal with the big man until Saturday.
In five Summer League games with the Pelicans, Young averaged 7.4 points and 8.0 rebounds in 25.2 minutes per game. He started the last four contests at power forward for New Orleans and shot 48.4 percent from the field over the course of the week.
The 11th player at Florida to end his career with more than 1,300 points and 800 rebounds, Young averaged a career-high 11.0 points per game as a senior and also contributed 6.2 boards per contest last season. He is second all-time among Gators in games played (149), fifth in blocks (159) and dunks (142), eighth in minutes played (1,644), and ninth in field goal percentage (.577) and games started (107).
Young in 2013-14 was also named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, becoming the first player in league history to win the award in three-straight seasons.
“It feels good going to a situation with a team that really wanted me but couldn’t get me instead of a team that would get me on the team just to have me on the team and see what I could do,” Young wrote in his exclusive OnlyGators.com Path to the Draft blog about joining the Pelicans for Summer League action. “The general manager, Dell Demps, called me and said he’s really excited for me to be here. He wants me to play defense and rebound in Summer League and everything else will work out. I was excited to hear from him, especially with him saying those things. This definitely feels like the best scenario for me right now.”
Update: Young thanked his fans for their support on Saturday evening.
It's a blessing to announce that I signed a contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. Thank you to everyone that supported me!!!
— Patric Young (@BigPatYoung4) July 19, 2014
1 » During an interview with the Boomer and Carton Show on WFAN and CBS Sports Radio, New York Jets wide receiver David Nelson was asked about former teammate Aaron Hernandez and whether he ever had an inkling that the former tight end was be capable of going off the rails. “You know, there was definitely some tendencies – I’d be lying to you if I said there wasn’t – but it was a huge surprise,” he said. “It really shocked me. Because this is a guy I saw get into a fight in practice and [he was] crying 15 minutes later because he had just hurt his teammate. So this was a guy who was extremely sensitive, he was extremely vulnerable, but the thing is, he was who he hung out with. So if he was hanging out with somebody he was very influenced.
Nelson corroborated what has been reported elsewhere, that members of the Florida Gators were worried about Hernandez going home to Connecticut and hanging out with his old crowd. He also noted that head coach Urban Meyer purposely put Hernandez around himself and Tim Tebow to help improve his character. “You saw some issues with him in college, but they were minor – some drug stuff and that was about it – but nothing to this extreme,” Nelson added. “So he started to hang out with the wrong crowd, get a lot of fame, a lot of money, start to get that ‘I can do whatever I want’ invincible kind of mentality a lot of NFL guys get. And I think you saw him make a really bad mistake.”
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This is something I have wanted to bring to OnlyGators.com for a while, a weekly column combining opinion, entertainment and information. Seeing as this is still the offseason – and today also happens to be my birthday – I felt there was no better time than the present to begin The Silver Lining, which will be posted every Wednesday right here on OnlyGators.com. The format may change as the concept develops, and suggestions are both respected and appreciated.
The “football school” tag was removed from the Florida Gators long ago, but it is nevertheless noteworthy how much of an impact head basketball coach Billy Donovan has made not just on the school but the NBA as well.
Consider this: On Tuesday, forward Chandler Parsons officially became the best-paid former Florida basketball player in school history (based on average salary) when he signed a three-year, $46 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks. He will earn $14.7 million next year, $15.4 million in 2015-16 and $16.1 million in 2016-17; the latter two salaries are the highest ever scheduled to be paid to a player out of UF.
Consider this, also: During the 2014-15 season, the Gators will have four players earning $12 million or more from their respective NBA teams including Parsons, Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee ($15.0 million), Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah ($12.2 million) and Atlanta Hawks F/C Al Horford ($12.0 million).
Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, junior defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. and sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III will represent the team on Monday by participating in the 2014 Southeastern Conference Media Days at the Winfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.
Before Muschamp could take the stand and the Florida contingent had the opportunity to be swarmed by reporters, SEC commissioner Mike Slive held an introductory press conference to address a number of topics including the league’s success, updates to bowl game arrangements and an outlook for the future. Below are some highlights of comments made by Slive on Monday afternoon.
PRAISING SOME GATORS
Two now-former Florida student-athletes, right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers and center Patric Young, were singled out by Slive during his opening speech.
While running down the SEC’s multiple successes during the 2013-14 athletic campaign, Slive pointed out that Rogers won numerous awards while leading Gators softball to the first NCAA title in program history.
“Florida’s softball student athlete, Hannah Rogers, led Florida to its first national championship in softball and she was named the College World Series most outstanding player,” he noted. “Both A.J. [Reed] and Hannah were named Roy Kramer Athletes of the Year this year as voted by our league’s athletic directors.”
In the latter portion of his press conference, Slive used Young as a paradigm for what the SEC wants out of its student-athletes. He is someone who certainly excelled on the court but also was in great academic standing and contributed to the community both stateside and abroad.
“Florida’s basketball player Patric Young is an example of a student athlete who has made the most of his collegiate academic and athletic experience. He led the Gators to the 2014 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament title and the NCAA Final Four, was named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year twice, was named the SEC male winner of the Brad Davis Community Service Award. Then he traveled to Africa where he encouraged children to focus on exercise and healthy lifestyle,” he explained.
“While doing all of that, Patric maintained a 3.4 grade point average. Student athletes like Patric, as well as many other student athletes like him, inspire us to protect intercollegiate athletics, to keep it healthy, vibrant and an integral part of higher education. We do this for the young men and women who seek an education, compete in sports, and ultimately make a difference in people’s lives.
“This is why it is critical for the NCAA to change, and to change in accordance with the vision proposed for the 21st century by the five conferences. This is one important way we will be able to provide academic and athletic opportunities for the generations of Patrics yet to come.”