4 BITS: SEC Media Day, Driskel, softball, Tebow

1 » The Southeastern Conference announced Wednesday that Florida Gators redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III will join head coach Will Muschamp as the school’s contingent at the 2014 SEC Media Days next week in Hoover, Alabama. Florida is one of just two SEC teams not bringing a senior on the trip, a departure from the past when the Gators tried to ensure all three spots were taken by players in their last year of eligibility. The event is scheduled from July 14-17 with Florida set to be the third contingent to go through the process behind league commissioner Mike Slive and Auburn. South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier will entertain on Tuesday, LSU’s Les Miles will follow suit on Wednesday and Alabama’s Nick Saban will kick things off on Thursday.

2 » Speaking of Driskel, UF’s school website announced that he will be working as a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy from July 10-13. It is the second-straight year Driskel will be attending the event in Thibodaux, Louisiana, and he will represent the Gators as one of 40 college signal callers working as counselors. He also participated once as a camper during high school. “The few chances I did get to speak with [the Mannings at previous camps], it was really good experiences,” Driskel said. “They are down-to-earth people and I’m just fortunate enough they invited me back for another year. I’m really looking forward to going.” Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has a long history with former Ole Miss QB Eli Manning after working as his position coach, so Driskel will likely have another topic to discuss with the Mannings over the weekend.

Continue Reading » 4 BITS: SEC Media Day, Driskel, softball, Tebow

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Florida Gators C Patric Young, PG Scottie Wilbekin set to play in NBA Summer League

Though no Florida Gators were selected in the 2014 NBA Draft on Thursday, it did not take long for two of the team’s most accomplished eligible players – center Patric Young and point guard Scottie Wilbekin – to receive opportunities to compete in the NBA Summer Leagues over the next few weeks.

Young, who was unanimously projected as an early second-round pick before surprisingly going undrafted, told OnlyGators.com on Friday afternoon that he has agreed to play for the New Orleans Pelicans from July 11-21 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The 2014 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Young did not participate in a workout with the Pelicans but did visit with the team during the 2014 NBA Pre-Draft Combine back in May.

Continue Reading » Florida Gators C Patric Young, PG Scottie Wilbekin set to play in NBA Summer League

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Patric Young leads three Florida Gators not selected in 2014 NBA Draft

The Florida Gators, with a core group that brought the team to three-straight Elite Eights and a Final Four this past season, did not have any of their three seniors selected on Thursday in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Regarded as an early second-round pick entering the draft, center Patric Young was expected to be selected between picks 25-40 but did not get chosen among the 60 players drafted on Thursday. Young, who averaged a career-high 11.0 points per game as a senior and also contributed 6.2 boards per contest, was the 2014 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

Neither point guard Scottie Wilbekin, the 2014 SEC Player of the Year, nor forward Casey Prather were selected, though both entered the draft projected as undrafted free agents. Forward Will Yeguete, who was also draft-eligible, did not participate in the process.

Young, Wilbekin and Prather each came with their share of concerns. For Young, who was one of 60 players invited to the 2014 NBA Pre-Draft Combine, issues concerning his offensive game and range likely came into play.

Wilbekin was seen as an undersized floor general who also had to answer plenty of questions about off-court troubles that got him suspended twice during his collegiate career. Though athletic, Prather is seen as a player without a jump shot and very much a work in progress as he did not truly blossom until his senior season.

Continue Reading » Patric Young leads three Florida Gators not selected in 2014 NBA Draft

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Donovan’s discipline, Wilbekin’s work, Young’s extended hand set up Florida Gators for success

Much has been written about the offseason suspension of senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, which lasted five games into the 2013-14 season, and the road laid out for him by head coach Billy Donovan to return to the Florida Gators.

During a Monday afternoon appearance on ESPN Radio‘s SVP & Russillo, Donovan provided additional insight into Wilbekin’s offseason struggles, explaining why he put so many obstacles in Wilbekin’s way while relating a story about how, with one gesture, his floor general went from outcast to full-fledged team member.

First, some background. Suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules – his third infraction overall and second in a seven-month span – Wilbekin was told by Donovan that it would likely be best for him to transfer and start over elsewhere. If he did choose to stay with the Gators, the Gainesville, FL-native’s hometown team, earning his way back in the good graces of his coach and teammates would be a tall task that he may not have the necessary motivation or discipline to scale.

“Scottie Wilbekin’s situation was a unique one not only from the standpoint of a suspension, but I do think there were some guys on our team that were disappointed in him, there were some guys that had to regain trust, so to speak.. And he needed to be put into a situation – because he does have good leadership qualities – to be able to do that,” Donovan began.

“One of the things I felt like in looking at the whole thing is I was very disappointed, our team was very disappointed in some of the choices and decisions Scottie made. When he made the decision that he wanted to stay here and he wanted to battle and fight his way through, I do think there was a lot of guys on our team that were a little bit skeptical of how committed is he to us. How committed is he to this team? He’s making bad choices and in the past he’s not been committed [off the court].”

Continue Reading » Donovan’s discipline, Wilbekin’s work, Young’s extended hand set up Florida Gators for success

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Billy Donovan (Coach), Scottie Wilbekin (Player) claim AP SEC awards for Florida Gators

No. 1 Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan and senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin were named the 2014 Southeastern Conference Coach and Player of the Year, respectively, by the Associated Press on Monday, sweeping the awards after receiving the same honors from league coaches last Tuesday.

Donovan secured his third unanimous (coaches and AP voters) SEC Coach of the Year award, while Wilbekin cemented his place as just the second Florida player in the history of the award to win SEC Player of the Year.

It took Donovan 14 seasons to receive his first conference coaching honor despite winning two national championships (2006-07), coaching in three title games (2000, 2006-07) and leading his team to three-straight SEC Tournament victories (2005-07). Since winning his first SEC Coach of the Year award in 2011, he has dominated the voting with three in the last four seasons.

Donovan, who is one win away from matching Dale Brown (LSU) for all-time wins at an SEC school, had help leading the Gators to their 32-2 record while setting a number of school marks along the way.

Continue Reading » Billy Donovan (Coach), Scottie Wilbekin (Player) claim AP SEC awards for Florida Gators

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Led by Donovan (Coach) and Wilbekin (Player), Florida Gators clean up at 2014 SEC awards

Updated on Wednesday at 1:15 a.m.

The No. 1 Florida Gators cleaned up on Tuesday when the Southeastern Conference released its 2013-14 year-end awards as voted on by league coaches, earning five of the six honors and placing three players on various All-SEC teams.

SEC Coach of the Year: Billy Donovan
SEC Player of the Year: Scottie Wilbekin
SEC Defensive Player of the Year: Patric Young
SEC Sixth Man of the Year: Dorian Finney-Smith
SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Patric Young

Leading the pack were head coach Billy Donovan, who captured his third SEC Coach of the Year award (all in the last four seasons), and senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who became just the second Florida player in the history of the award to win SEC Player of the Year.

Senior center Patric Young was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year and picked up his third-straight SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor, while redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith was awarded SEC Sixth Man of the Year for his contributions off the bench.

It took Donovan 14 seasons to receive his first conference coaching honor despite winning two national championships (2006-07), coaching in three title games (2000, 2006-07) and leading his team to three-straight SEC Tournament victories (2005-07). Since winning his first SEC Coach of the Year award in 2011, he has dominated the voting with three in the last four seasons.

Continue Reading » Led by Donovan (Coach) and Wilbekin (Player), Florida Gators clean up at 2014 SEC awards

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Top 13 for 2013: Florida’s best moments of the year

For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2013 (see the Not Top 13 for 2013), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to earning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2013. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 13 for 2013.

13 » A NEW TRADITION
Florida’s football program did not get much right in 2013, but instituting a new pre-game tradition – a “celebrity” serving as Mr. Two Bits in honor of the original, George Edmondson – was absolutely a bright spot. The Gators also picked the perfect person to kick off the new tradition with former running back Errict Rhett performing as if he was made for the role. Others had trouble stepping up to the high benchmark set by Rhett, but the honorary Mr. Two Bits was nevertheless a great sight for fans all season long…even if the team was not. OnlyGators.com sat down with Rhett after his appearance for an extensive interview about the experience and his career.

12 » 15-INNING MARATHON
In the fourth-longest game ever played at the Women’s College Series (longest since 1992), Florida softball prevailed 9-8 over Nebraska in a night game that lasted 15 innings and more than five hours, spanning into the early morning of the next day. The Gators lost two separate leads in the contest before rallying to score two runs in the top of the 15th; UF conceded a run in the latter half of the inning but held on for the victory. Unfortunately for Florida, it had to suit up just hours later for an elimination game against Texas at 1 p.m., one it lost 3-0. The Gators were ranked No. 2 entering the 2013 NCAA Tournament but fell short of a title.

11 » ALL HE WANTED WAS A CHANCE


Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy waited patiently as he got overlooked time and time again, most recently by head coach Will Muschamp and his offensive coordinators in favor of younger players with higher ratings coming out of high school. When junior QB Jeff Driskel went down with a fractured fibula against Tennessee, Murphy finally got his shot and made the most of it. Over a three-game stretch including games on Sept. 21, Sept. 28 (at Kentucky) and Oct. 5 (vs. Arkansas), Murphy completed 39-of-54 passes (72.2 percent) for 530 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception. (He also gained 135 yards and picked up two more scores with his legs.) Unfortunately for him, Murphy injured his shoulder on Oct. 12 against LSU and was simply not the same player as he took the field in more pain than he or the coaching staff decided to admit publicly. Murphy missed the final three games of the season due to that injury and ultimately transferred, feeling Muschamp would not give him a fair chance to win the starting job in 2014.

Continue Reading » Top 13 for 2013: Florida’s best moments of the year

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FOUR BITS: Embree, Pounceys, Driskel, Tebow

1 » Former Florida Gators tennis star Lauren Embree was named the 2013 ITA National College Player of the Year on Wednesday, just months after she was named the organization’s National Senior Player of the Year. Embree, who helped lead Florida to two national titles and eight total league crowns, has been training in Boca Raton, FL, and California over the summer as she prepares to begin her career as a professional. Be sure to check out OnlyGators.com’s extensive feature on Embree from May in which she goes in-depth about the tough conclusion to her college career.

2 » According to ESPN’s John Clayton, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins plan to speak to Maurkice and Mike Pouncey, respectively, about their decision to don “Free Hernandez” hats while in a club on Saturday night. Though neither player is expected to be reprimanded by his team in any tangible way, each is considered a locker room leader and centerpiece of his respective team’s future. On Monday, Maurkice Pouncey released the following apology: “I fully recognize the seriousness of the situation involving my former teammate, and I regret that my actions appear to make light of that serious situation. I apologize to anyone who was offended by my actions.”

3 » Participating in a “Air-It-Out” competition while serving as a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy over the weekend in Thibodaux, LA, Florida junior quarterback Jeff Driskel put together a strong performance and finished second amongst the top-tier signal callers in attendance (Miami’s Stephen Morris placed first). While Driskel seemed to do everything right while in attendance, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel was a whole other story. According to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, Manziel was out at a bar early Friday morning and showed up late for one of his coaching sessions hours later. The next day, he completely missed a Saturday morning coaching session, did not alert anyone he would not be there and then left that afternoon. Manziel told staff later in the day he was not feeling well – his father later claimed he was dehydrated, which, presumably, is simply a nicer word to use than “hung-over” – and the staff responded by suggesting he go home. Adding to speculation that Manziel was indeed hung-over and not simply “dehydrated” are reports that he was spotted still having a good time as late as 1:27 a.m. Saturday morning.

4 » Eight-time MLB All-Star right fielder Darryl Strawberry, who has dealt with his share of drug and health problems over the past 30 years, has turned his life around and now spends his days working as an ordained minister. Using religion partially as his reasoning, Strawberry told USA Today last week that he simply wishes he could have been more like New England Patriots quarterback Tim Tebow as a young man. “I wish I could have been like a Gary Carter or a Tim Tebow when I was playing,” he said. “I look at Tebow. He gets bashed because of his faith. Let ‘em laugh. Let ‘em talk. He’s a greater man than anyone who might be greater than him as an athlete. He’s a real man. … I admire him more than he could ever imagine.”

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