Florida G Eli Carter cleared to play immediately

Nearly six months after initially deciding to transfer to the Florida Gators, junior guard Eli Carter learned that the NCAA has granted his waiver to play immediately, according to CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Borzello. The report has since been confirmed by UF.

Carter, who committed to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in 2011 but decided to leave the program following the scandal involving then-head coach Mike Rice, averaged 14.9 points in 28.8 minutes per game during his sophomore season.

He joins a Florida team in need of backcourt scoring help after losing two veteran guards – Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario – to graduation after the 2012-13 season. Boynton and Rosario combined for 24.5 points per game last season.

Though he is now eligible to play, whether Carter is healthy enough to step on the court for the Gators in 39 days (Nov. 8 vs. North Florida) remains to be seen. He has not yet been medically cleared by UF’s doctors and trainers.

On Feb. 16 in a game against DePaul, Carter gruesomely fractured his right fibula [GIF] when he was fouled early in the second half on his way to the basket for a layup.

Though he was initially expected to make a full recovery without surgery, Carter went under the knife on Feb. 28. He was told by surgeons and trainers that he would be able to resume running in June.

Continue Reading » Florida G Eli Carter cleared to play immediately

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Rutgers transfer Eli Carter commits to Florida

Updated: Friday, May 10 at 3:00 p.m.

For the second time in the last four offeasons, Florida Gators basketball has added a transfer from the Rutgers Scarlet Knights as guard Eli Carter on Tuesday announced his intent to continue his career in Gainesville, FL.

“Proud to announce that I will be continuing my career at the University of Florida !! #Gators,” he tweeted at approximately 2 p.m.

Once former Rutgers head coach Mike Rice was fired for physically and emotionally bullying his players, a number of Scarlet Knights informed the school that they would be transferring. Carter (Paterson, NJ), a former three-star prospect and the No. 114 recruit in the nation as ranked by Rivals in 2011, first narrowed his options down to Florida and Maryland before deciding to pull the trigger for the Gators on Tuesday.

After Florida assistant Rashon Burno – who like Carter and Mike Rosario attended St. Anthony’s High School in New Jersey under head coach Bob Hurley – reached out to the player in early April, Gators head coach Billy Donovan flew up north to meet with Carter and his family in their home on April 22.

Donovan convinced him to visit Florida and he obliged, spending time in Gainesville on Sunday and Monday. While in town, Carter told the Gators he would be attending Florida but made his intentions officially known to the public on Tuesday.

“Eli is a great addition to our team, and we’re pleased he’s a Gator now,” Donovan said in a school release on May 10. “I’m excited to get down to Florida, and I can’t wait to start gelling with the team and the coaches,” Carter added.

Continue Reading » Rutgers transfer Eli Carter commits to Florida

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TWO BITS: Donovan meets Carter, Floyd speaks

1 » Rutgers Scarlet Knights sophomore guard Eli Carter, who received his release from the school last week and plans to transfer, met with Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan in his home on Monday, reports Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv. Carter has a number of teams interested in receiving him as a transfer including Duke, Maryland and Texas, but Florida has a lot going for it in this particular situation. Like former Gators guard Mike Rosario and current assistant coach Rashon Burno, Carter spent his youth playing at St. Anthony’s High School in New Jersey under head coach Bob Hurley. The relationship between Donovan and Hurley goes back a ways and having Burno in the fold certainly does not hurt. “I think with Rashon Burno there and two guards leaving, one guard signed, [Kasey] Hill is the only guard coming in, they can I think talk to him about playing time,” Hurley told Zagoria. “When you transfer you have to go someplace where you’re gonna play. You can’t go someplace and play less than you did where you were before.”

Carter averaged 14.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists as a true sophomore but shot just 38.4 percent from the field and 32 percent from downtown. As a freshman against Florida in 2011, he scored 31 points on 12-of-24 shooting with seven rebounds and seven dimes (in double overtime). The Gators have one open scholarship for the 2013-14 season, which Carter would take if he transferred to Florida, even though he would have to sit out the season due to NCAA rules.

2 » It took a while for criticisms about Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd to pop up, but it did not take the potential top-five overall pick much time to respond to them. “In my eyes there is no road-block that is going to stop me,” Floyd said on NFL AM on Tuesday. “A lot of people ask me, ‘Do you feel as though your arms are short?” and I say, ‘I don’t play like my arms are short.’ So my tape speaks for itself and the type of person I am speaks for itself.” Check out this three-minute interview with Floyd, which was aired Monday on ESPN.

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TWO BITS: Hamilton’s commitment, Tebow out

1 » One of two schools vying for the services of five-star defensive end Darius Hamilton (Ramsey, NJ), the Florida Gators were thought to be behind the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in contention for his commitment. The New Jersey boy was expected to stay in-state and play for Rutgers but his thoughts may be in the process of changing when it was reported Thursday morning that the Scarlet Knights’ head coach, Greg Schiano, is on his way to take the same job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hamilton has said that Florida and Rutgers were his final two and planned to make an announcement sometime before National Signing Day on Feb. 1. He was supposed to meet with Schiano on Wednesday, but it is unknown if that visit took place.

Should the Gators miss out on Hamilton and/or five-star athlete Josh Harvey-Clemons (Valdosta, GA), Florida could offer a scholarship to three-star DE Junior Gnonkonde (Lakeland, GA). According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, UF has been calling about the former Georgia Tech commitment but will only have room for him in their class if they miss out on one or both of Hamilton and Harvey-Clemons.

2 » Originally scheduled to participate in the 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has been forced to withdraw from the event due to the multiple injuries he suffered against the New England Patriots in the second round of the NFL Playoffs. Though Tebow does not need surgery and is expected to make a full recovery, he will not be able to participate in the event from Feb. 9-12. An avid golfer, Tebow was undoubtedly looking forward to the event, and the tournament’s directors were certainly hoping he would be able to play as well.

Extra BIT » No. 5 Florida lacrosse will begin its 2012 campaign with an exhibition match Thursday against England at 6:30 p.m. The Gators are looking to build on consecutive impressive years and hope to win their first national championship in the program’s third season of existence.

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Rutgers shocks No. 10 Florida 85-83 in double OT

Thursday’s contest against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights was supposed to be just another game for the No. 10 Florida Gators but instead of an easy win, Florida (10-3) was forced to play hard for 50 minutes and fell 85-83 to Rutgers (8-5) in double overtime at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, NJ.

Scarlet Knights guard Eli Carter led all scorers with 31 points and was supported by a superb performance off the bench by G Myles Mack, who scored 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting, was 3-for-5 from downtown and hit a number of clutch shots down the stretch.

The Gators shot a paltry 45.2 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc as junior G Kenny Boynton led the team with 26 points.

Florida junior forward Erik Murphy had a hot hand early, hitting the Gators’ first three shots (two from downtown) to provide his team with an 8-2 advantage that helped them jump ahead 14-5. Rutgers answered with a 7-0 run to cut UF’s lead to two and added a 9-2 scoring stretch to tie the contest at 21 with 8:06 remaining in the first half.

The Scarlet Knights played solid defense on the Gators for the remainder of the half, holding Florida to just two field goals in the final 10:31 of the period. The Gators scored nine of their 13 points over the final eight minutes from the line and took just only a four-point lead into the locker rooms at the break.

UF began the second half on a 7-2 run and had a 46-38 advantage after a three-pointer by Boynton, but RU quickly responded with a 15-6 stretch to take their first lead.

Rutgers only led for 52 seconds, however, as Boynton answered with five-straight points including a bomb from downtown to put Florida back ahead four with 4:32 left.

The Gators had a seven-point lead with 2:49 to play and once again with 2:06 left, but a trey by Mack brought the score within four. Consecutive Florida turnovers by Boynton and senior point guard Erving Walker gave the Scarlet Knights two additional opportunities to score, and Rutgers added four more points to complete a 7-0 run and tie the game with 44 seconds remaining.

Walker missed a layup on the ensuing possession, and Mack shanked a jumper at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.

The extra period started back-and-forth but sophomore center Patric Young put the Gators ahead one after muscling in a layup and adding a free throw. A scoop layup by Scarlet Knights G Jerome Seagears gave Rutgers the lead back, but Young put UF ahead one point again by converting a layup with less than a minute to play.

After a miss on the other end, RU purposely fouled Young to send him to the line for the one-and-one. He hit both free throws and gave the Gators a 76-73 lead with 31.8 seconds left, but Carter negated that advantage immediately with a big three to tie the game once again and send the contest into double overtime.

Rutgers outplayed Florida from that point on, taking a four-point lead with 1:46 to go before trading threes and regaining that advantage with 58 seconds left. Walker hit a floater to cut UF’s deficit to two but missed an off-balance shot at the buzzer to allow RU to escape with the upset victory.

The Scarlet Knights only turned the ball over 11 times compared to 18 by the Gators; Rutgers also held even with Florida on the boards with each team grabbing 32 rebounds. RU outshot UF from the floor and downtown, registering 18 assists on 35 made baskets.

The Gators, however, were an efficient 18-for-19 from the free throw line, the team’s best work from the charity stripe all season long.

Florida freshman G Bradley Beal was second on the team with 15 points but hit just 4-of-12 shots from the field and 1-for-6 from beyond the arc. He also grabbed seven rebounds but turned the ball over a game-high seven times.

Murphy finished with 14 points and a game-high eight boards, Young added 11 points and six rebounds, and Walker registered nine points with six boards and six dimes but had four turnovers and was also inefficient from the floor (4-of-11, 1-for-5 from three).

UF’s prior two losses this year had been to the now-No. 1 (Syracuse) and No. 2 (Ohio State) teams in the country; both came on the road by an average of 5.5 points. The Gators’ defeat by the Scarlet Knights Thursday was their first regular season loss by an unranked team since Jan. 29, 2010 (Mississippi State).

Florida will look to regroup and end 2011 on a positive note when they host Yale in Gainesville, FL on Saturday at 2 p.m. The game will air live nationally on ESPNU.

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12/28: Rosario ready for his return to Rutgers

With No. 10 Florida Gators basketball set to resume action with a road contest against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Thursday in its second-to-last game of 2011, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Wednesday to discuss what preparations he and the team are making for the squad’s next game.

ROSARIO ANTICIPATED BACK FOR HOMECOMING

Despite being declared “doubtful” last week and a person close to his family telling SNY.tv he was unlikely to play Thursday, redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario is expected to be back on the court against his former team, Donovan said on Wednesday.

“I think right now he’s going to play. He went through practice on the 26th – he did do a full contact [Tuesday] although, through my own decisions, I pulled him in and out,” he said. “He’s still having some discomfort there but it’s not at the level it was. When you’re dealing with his back, it has to be how he feels a little bit and what he can handle.”

Rosario agreed with Donovan’s assessment, also saying Wednesday that he is “100 percent” and feels “way better than I felt two weeks ago.” He continued, “It’s a long process and it’s a long season. I feel as though I’m in a great position right now, and I’m just happy to be a Gator.”

Due to both his injury and what Donovan referred to as his mental state a few weeks back, Rosario has not see the court as much as he may have liked to this point. Nevertheless, he remains positive about his spot on the team going forward. “It’s not frustrating. I had a little setback because of my back,” he said. “When you have injuries before your conference play, you always want to take care of that because you want to make sure you’re 100 percent before conference play comes. By me taking those couple days off really helped me and got me ready for [Thursday’s] game.”

The fact that Rosario will be able to play against his former team is lost on him whatsoever. “It means a lot to go back home and play in my state, especially playing against a school I went to two years ago. It’s going to be a great opportunity for me to go out there and just have fun and be able to play the game and have fun,” he said. “I’m just excited to go back up there and be able to play and have my friends and family and some of the people that I still speak to at Rutgers come out and see me play. The most important thing is to just go out there and have fun. I’m just anxious for the opportunity.”

Donovan is equally happy to have him back in the fold, especially considering how important he knows the game is to his player. “I do think that Mike is a valuable and important piece to our team. Keeping him healthy and having him available is important to our team,” he said. “I’m sure there will be a lot of emotions running through him – when you make a decision to transfer and leave and then all of a sudden your first year back playing you’re going back there to play.”

LEADING THE NATION FROM DOWNTOWN

Florida is currently No. 1 nationally in three-point shooting, but Donovan said he is even more pleased with the way the team has been finding sophomore center Patric Young ever since the Arizona game a few weeks ago. He feels that the Gators’ realization that they need to play inside-out has opened up even more shots from downtown and helped the team be more consistent form that distance.

“It’s not about how many threes we get up, it’s about the shooting percentage,” he said. “If we’re shooting 40 percent from the three-point line, that’s a good thing. Where you get hurt a little bit is when you take a lot of three-point shots and you start shooting a percentage below 30 percent. Then it’s not good.”

Rosario is not surprised how well Florida is shooting from beyond the arc. In fact, he thinks the Gators should and will be hitting a higher percentage of its attempts from downtown as the season wears on.

“We work on shooting every day and coach loves when we run-and-gun, when we run up and down and shoot threes and just being a run-and-gun team. That’s something that we’ve been trying to take advantage of,” he said. “I think we should be shooting better from three, but time will tell. We’re in the gym every day taking a lot of shots and putting a lot of shots up. It feels good to be leading the nation behind the arc.”

Because he feels Florida will shoot even better and improve its defense and consistency from the line (see note and quotes section), Rosario believes the Gators are not close to the team they will be in March. “I really think you haven’t seen close to what this team will look like,” he said. “This team hasn’t reached our peak yet, and we’re still trying to find the little things that we need to win a championship. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan said some members of the team are suffering though illnesses. Redshirt freshman forward Cody Larson missed some time recently with a sore throat but returned to action against Florida State, and sophomore G/F Casey Prather is expected to be out of action Thursday due to being sick.

» Donovan on Florida’s competition up to this point in the season: “We’ve had a pretty good measuring stick going into the league [schedule]. We’ve played clearly two of the best teams in the country on the road. We learned a lot from both of those games. We played a Florida State team who is obviously long and athletic and big, and we played well in that game. The Arizona game there was some adversity. We didn’t play well, we frustrated ourselves, [but] we found a way to win that game. Texas A&M – going down [to Sunrise, FL] against a top-20 team, playing them.” He is pleased that the team has been exposed to various styles of play and competitive teams in great environments while participating in close games and having some of their weaknesses exposed.

» Rosario on what the team needs to improve: “Free throw shooting is the most important thing, but I think that we can be a very good defensive team. That’ something that we’ve been working on every day trying to get better at that. The opportunity is here. The season is here and it’s a great opportunity for us to go out and prove the nation wrong.”

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FOUR BITS: Dillman hired? Rosario, Kitchens

1 » According to the coaching news website CoachingSearch.com, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp has hired Jeff Dillman as the team’s next director of strength and conditioning. Dillman, who OGGOA reported last week was a top candidate for the job, is currently the head of physical conditioning for the IMG Performance Institute. A former college football player, he served as an assistant strength coach at LSU under head coach Nick Saban and was also the former director of strength and conditioning at Appalachian State during the team’s back-to-back national championship seasons. OGGOA will have more on Dillman when/if the University of Florida officially announces a hire, which is likely to come after the bowl game next Monday.

2 » Putting together a short preview for the 2012 Gator Bowl, which will be played on Monday, Jan. 2 at 1 p.m., SI.com’s Cory McCartney uncovered an interesting “did you know” fact. “The Gators ran the fewest offensive plays of any team in the nation this season with 735,” McCartney wrote. As luck would have it for Florida, the Ohio State Buckeyes were not far behind, running just 12 more offensive plays on the year. UF actually ranks ahead of OSU in total offense (101st to 107th) heading into the game; the Gators also check in better than the Buckeyes defensively (9th to 24th).

3 » When Florida basketball’s 2011-12 schedule was released, there was no doubt that redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario was eyeing the team’s road game at the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, the team he transferred from two seasons ago. However, due to a back injury that began acting up on him over a week ago, it appears as if Rosario will be out for the game even if he will once again grab a seat in the Louis Brown Athletic Center. Head coach Billy Donovan said last week that Rosario was “doubtful” for the game, especially because he would be going home for Christmas and not available to do rehabilitation with the Gators’ training staff. SNY.tv’s Adam Zagoria spoke with a “family source” who said that Rosario is not expected to suit up. “He’s still questionable,” the person said. “He wants to play, but I don’t think he’s going to play.”

4 » One of the last football moments fans will remember from the 2011 is a scary incident involving Gators sophomore linebacker Darrin Kitchens laying motionless on Florida Field after being hit hard while on special teams during a kickoff against Florida State. Speaking with UF senior writer Scott Carter recently, Kitchens said the entire moment is a blur. “I don’t really remember anything,” he said. “I remember running down the field and my chin strap came loose, so I was trying to buckle it up. That’s the last thing I remember. The next thing I know I was talking to my trainer.” Kitchens, who was placed on a spinal board and taken to the hospital for evaluation, was cleared that evening with “just” a concussion, a relief to his family, friends, teammates and the coaching and training staffs. He returned to practice prior to the short break for Christmas and should be active for the Gator Bowl. Carter spoke extensively with Kitchens, teammates, staff members and trainers about the incident in a feature story you can read by clicking here.

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For Beal and Rosario, practice makes perfect

No one would argue that the Florida Gators basketball team is going to be guard-heavy this season. Aside from questions about how the frontcourt will support their high-scoring counterparts, plenty remains to be seen from two of Florida’s newest scoring threats – freshman sensation Brad Beal and redshirt junior transfer Mike Rosario.

Head coach Billy Donovan’s most lauded recruit since point guard Nick Calathes, Beal was ranked as the No. 4 player in the country by Rivals and, at 6’4” and 195 lbs., has the size to penetrate as well as the stroke to hit shots from the perimeter.

Discussing what Beal brings to the table during Florida basketball’s media day on Wednesday, Donovan raved about his character more so than his immense talent.

“Brad is a very, very unique kid. He’s probably as mature as any freshman I’ve had come in here. He’s got a really, really good understanding of team chemistry,” he explained. “The one thing that I admire is, when you have a high-profile player come in, when there’s a level of humility and respect and understanding that there are some guys here before you arrived that have been successful and have had the opportunity to accomplish a lot of different things throughout their career.

“Brad’s not the kind of the guy that’s coming in here, ‘I’m taking your job. I’m starting.’ He’s not that way at all. He really understands the importance of chemistry. He understands the importance of being unselfish.”

As talented as Beal is, Donovan has already identified one area in which he needs to push him early and often before the regular season gets underway.

“Brad, maybe more so than anything else, I’m going to need as a coach to push him to be even more aggressive than maybe he is. He is very conscientious of fitting in, being part of the team and doing what he can do to help our team,” he said. “Right now with really no practices under his belt, he has no idea. What is my role? How am I going ot be used? What position am I going to play? He doesn’t know any of those things right now because those things will get answered as we start to practice.

“In terms of his work ethic, in terms of hits talent and what he can bring to our team, he’s certainly very gifted. Like all freshmen, there will be some growth, some ups and downs. It’s not always going to be easy. I do think he’s very competitive. He’s highly motivated and driven, and I think he’ll be a good addition to our team.”

Beal is confident that the praise he received coming out of high school will not play into how he conducts himself on the court in college. “Honestly, all of that doesn’t matter anymore. That was high school, and now I’m in college. And Coach Donovan has told me that before, and it stuck with me. The McDonald’s All-American stuff doesn’t matter anymore. I’m just focusing on what he wants me to do,” he said.

Unlike Beal, Rosario was with the Gators last year but was unable play due to NCAA transfer rules. Averaging nearly 17 points per game during his sophomore season with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Rosario is used to being his team’s top scorer. He will have a different role with Florida in 2011-12 and going forward.

“Mike made a decision to stay close to home. There was a lot of expectations he had placed on himself as being a local guy to help raise Rutgers’ basketball team. Like all these guys wanting to someday play in the NBA, he thought there was a route or a vision he was going to take,” Donovan said.

“He’s a guy that has scored a lot of points in college but his teams haven’t won in college at the level that he probably wanted to. He’s coming into a situation where he realizes there are other good players here on our team that he’s got to fit in with.”

Donovan’s hopes Rosario can continue learning to share the ball while simultaneously ensuring that he maintains a level of consistency.

“We’ve got to be a very unselfish group, and Mike’s got a good feel of how to play. He’s smart, he’s intelligent. He’s competitive. He’s got to be an everyday guy though. He’s got to come every single day with an understanding that he’s got to continue to grow, develop, work and get better,” Donovan said.

“There’s a reason he’s no longer at Rutgers. It didn’t work out. There is lot of room that he needs to grow as a person and as a player. If it was going really well for him with all the minutes he was getting at Rutgers, he would have stayed there. There’s some things he’s got to get better at as a player. Part of that is just being a regular guy every single day that comes to work. Sometimes Mike, emotionally, can be up and down, up and down. He’s got to be more consistent for our team in that fashion.”

With so much emphasis placed on Florida’s backcourt this season, the development of Beal and Rosario will be paramount to the Gators’ level of success.

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