Gators basketball adds transfer Finney-Smith

For the second time in as many months Florida Gators basketball has boosted its frontcourt for the 2013-14 season after learning Thursday that Virginia Tech Hokies forward Dorian Finney-Smith has decided to transfer to the University of Florida, according to ESPN‘s Dave Telep and CBS Sports‘s Jeff Goodman.

A four-star prospect, the No. 8 forward and the No. 31 overall player in the country as ranked by Rivals.com when he committed to Virginia Tech in 2011, Finney-Smith (6’8” 192 lbs.) was an ACC All-Freshman Team member who averaged 6.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists while starting 30 of 33 games last season.

Like former South Carolina power forward Damontre Harris, who decided to transfer to Florida on May 26, Finney-Smith will be forced to sit out the 2012-13 season per NCAA transfer rules but will fill a major position of need for the Gators when his redshirt season is up. Both players will be able to practice with the team next year, providing senior F Erik Murphy and juniors center Patric Young and F Will Yeguete with talented opponents to go up against each day.

The duo brings much-needed size to Florida’s frontcourt, especially considering the Gators have not received any commitments taller than 6’6” as part of the 2012 (now completed) or 2013 (in progress) classes. UF notoriously missed out on a pledge from five-star PF Anthony Bennett (Henderson, NV) in May.

As OGGOA first reported when Harris made his decision, Florida never stopped pursuing Finney-Smith and had a plan in place scholarship-wise should he join the Gators as all 13 athletic scholarships are currently filled by roster players or incoming signees.

Finney-Smith chose UF over a list of possible destinations including Memphis, Louisville and Iowa State. He visited the other three schools but did not travel to Gainesville, FL as he was already familiar with the campus and head coach Billy Donovan.

OGGOA has reached out to a source close to the program and is awaiting confirmation.

Photo Credit: Daily Press

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FOUR BITS: Machen, Taylor, Tebow, Beal

1 » University of Florida President Bernie Machen announced Friday that he will conclude his tenure sometime in 2013 after nearly a decade at the helm of the most prestigious institution of higher learning in the state. Machen, 68, made his announcement at the UF Board of Trustees meeting, and the school sent an e-mail to students, alumni and faculty almost simultaneously. “This decision reflects our joint feeling that there’s a time for everything in life and it’s now our time to pursue the next chapter,” said Machen while also referring to his wife Chris, according to The Gainesville Sun. “Of course, it will be pursued here in Gainesville and it will be pursued at the University of Florida.” The Sun notes that his most recent contract extension, signed last year, “establishes a post-presidency role for Machen at the university.” The school expects that it will have a decision on Machen’s replacement in the next six months; a smooth transition will take place with Machen handing over the reins and responsibilities at a time both parties deem to be the most convenient and effective. Read the school’s official announcement on Machen’s decision.

2 » The Jacksonville Jaguars announced Thursday that recently retired running back Fred Taylor would be inducted into the Pride of the Jaguars this season. Taylor, who will join offensive tackle Tony Boselli as the second member of the Pride, is arguably the most talented and popular player in team history. He finished his career in Jacksonville (spanning 11 years) with 11,271 yards (4.6 yards per carry average) and 62 rushing touchdowns along with 2,361 receiving yards and eight reception scores. Taylor is not a member of the Florida GatorsRing of Honor as he is not yet eligible but could become eligible should he be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is, however, a member of the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame and UF Athletic Hall of Fame.

3 » It has been obvious from day one of the trade that New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan believes in quarterback Tim Tebow. Though he may have his reservations about him as a signal caller, Ryan continues to be impressed with Tebow’s character and football-playing abilities. He also seems to be infatuated with his strength. “Let me give you a little story about Tim,” Ryan said on Thursday, according to Pro Football Talk. “I saw this in the weight room. A player had challenged him, holding these big huge sledgehammers. They held them doing this big iron cross kind of deal. The big lineman went first. [Tebow] said you want to go first or second. The big lineman said he’d go first. He went for about a 1:04, shaking. Tim went for 1:18. This guy is crazy with how strong he is and the kind of focus [he has]. I see that from him. He’s super competitive.” Ryan also said that he understands Tebow likes to use his athleticism in the pocket and is perfectly with that in the correct situations. “He’s done some things in some previous practices, where it’s like, wow, that’s a football player,” he said. “The defense will start chirping about him, ‘Come on. Throw the ball, stand back and throw the ball.’ Why? If he sees two-man [deep defense], he’s running with it. Someone better go out there and make a tackle. I think everyone sees Tim for what he is. He’s a super competitive guy and a good teammate. I’ve noticed he’s always building guys up. By the way, he’s a talented kid, or young man.”

4 » At the 2012 NBA Combine as a partial participant, Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal has been getting plenty of work done off the court. According to the Chicago Tribune (the combine is taking place in Chicago, IL), Beal “had interviews with Detroit, Denver and Sacramento on Wednesday,” several more planned for Thursday and individual workouts scheduled with Charlotte (No. 2 overall pick) and Washington (No. 3 overall pick) in the near future.

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FOUR BITS: Muschamp, Allen, Pitchford, Hill

1 » Despite the lack of actual conflict between Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and Texas A&M Aggies top man Kevin Sumlin, the city of College Station, TX took the barbs as an opportunity to create the following video promoting their city while simultaneously making some light-hearted jokes at Muschamp.

2 » Former Gators forward Adam Allen, who never truly played for Florida again after injuring his knee as a true freshman, left the team for good after seeing 25 seconds on Senior Night in his redshirt junior season. Allen was graduating from the University of Florida and saw no further reason to remain on the team considering he would be unable to play for head coach Billy Donovan. Now over a year removed from the game, Allen has decided to attend Rollins College in Winter Park, FL for graduate school and announced this week that he will also have the opportunity to play basketball while enrolled. Allen, whose knee injury still limits him, told OGGOA (he served as a columnist here during the 2011-12 basketball season) that will not be able to play full-time at Rollins but will do whatever he can to help the team.

3 » Speaking of former Gators basketball players, Florida freshman transfer Walter Pitchford has officially committed to Nebraska after visiting the school over the weekend. “I just thought it was the right decision,” Pitchford told Rivals.com. “I’m comfortable with everyone on the staff and the players. I just felt like I really got along with everyone and this was the right fit for more.” A former three-star recruit, Pitchford was a late UF commitment during the 2011 cycle but played very limited minutes last season. He decided following the season to leave the program and move closer to home and chose a school that is a two-hour flight from Michigan. Pitchford will apply for a hardship waiver (citing family reasons for his transfer) that would allow him to be eligible immediately at Nebraska but chances are he will have to sit out the 2012-13 season.

4 » A future Gators basketball star also got some good news on Saturday when ESPN released its latest top-100 players list for the 2013 season. Florida five-star point guard commitment Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL) has been turning heads this entire offseason and jumped 12 spots on the list up to No. 6 overall. Already ranked No. 8 by Rivals, Hill is now a consensus top-10 player and has the opportunity to vault even higher with a stellar senior campaign. The Gators’ primary remaining target for 2013, five-star forward Chris Walker (Bonifay, FL), is listed as the seventh-best player by ESPN and sixth-best by Rivals. He has plenty of offers but will likely choose between UF and Kansas. Working in Florida’s favor is the fact that Walker and Hill are close and have discussed playing together at the next level.

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FOUR BITS: All-Americans, The Swamp, Harvin

1 » Four Florida Gators were named to various All-American teams on Thursday. Junior baseball players catcher Mike Zunino and left-handed pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson were both honored as Louisville Slugger All-Americans by Collegiate Baseball newspaper, while softball’s senior centerfielder Michelle Moultrie and sophomore right-hander Hannah Rogers were awarded by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. Zunino and Moultrie earned first-team honors, and Johnson and Rogers were named to the second team.

2 » A press release issued on Thursday announced that the University of Florida and LIDS® Sports Group have reached an agreement for the retailer “to operate and manage the official team stores” located within Ben Hill Griffin Stadium “as well as other special event concessions for the University’s baseball, basketball, and gymnastics athletic programs, among others.” The now-former Florida Gators Sports Shop will be re-branded as the Gator Locker Room, a name similar to the LIDS Locker Room storefronts that can be found throughout the state of Florida. The two stores inside The Swamp “will be equipped with custom embroidery and screen printing capabilities…which will allow fans to personalize their game day apparel.” There will also be a loyalty card available that “provides points with every purchase that earns rewards such as exclusive discounts and promotional offers, as well as access to special products and events.” LIDS also plans to leverage Gators merchandise in existing locations throughout the state, which will give Florida fans a greater choice of merchandise outside of Gainesville, FL. “We wanted a company that offered what Gator fans are looking for – a vast variety of quality merchandise available at convenient store locations around the state,” athletic director Jeremy Foley said in the release. “LIDS fits those requirements, as it is among the nation’s premier sports retailers. We are confident Florida fans will find just what they are looking for at the Gator Locker Room or at LIDS Locker Room locations.”

3 » Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin explained that he is sitting out of organized team activities as a precaution not because his recently operated upon shoulder is requiring him avoid physical activity. “I feel great. No limitations. Got all my strength back. It’s just precaution,” Harvin said, according to the Associated Press. “They don’t want me to fall or do anything crazy right now during these drills. Hopefully next week I should be back out here.” Even less stressed about Harvin’s absence from the field (he is still at the facility running and exercising) is head coach Leslie Frazier. “I gave him a big hug when he showed up,” Frazier said. “He texted me Monday night, Memorial Day, because I wasn’t sure what his flight schedule was going to be. He said, ‘I’m in town, what doctors do I have to see tomorrow morning?’ I texted him back, ‘Is this the Percy Harvin? The real Percy Harvin?’ So just great for our meetings, great for our coaches to see him around.”

4 » In a new edition of the Gatorade online series Inside the Edge, former Florida striker and current U.S. Women’s National Team member Abby Wambach is filmed at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute as she learns “how to properly prepare her body from the inside out before hitting the field.”

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TWO BITS: Will advances, Dowling resigns

1 » Action continued in the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Saturday with Florida Gators women’s tennis fielding a singles competitor and doubles pairing.

No. 1 Allie Will (junior) def. No. 6 Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar (Texas A&M) – 6-3, 6-3

No. 10 Natalie Pluskota/Kata Szekely (Tennessee) def. No. 22 Lauren Embree/Joanna Mather (junior/senior) – 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(3)

Will’s victory advances her to the Final Four round of the 2012 NCAA Individual Championships on Sunday at noon where she will face No. 3 Nicole Gibbs (Stanford) whom she defeated 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 earlier this season in team competition. The winner will take on either No. 5 Mallory Burdette (Stanford) or No. 13 Zsofi Susanyi (California) in the national title game on Monday.

2 » Florida athletics lost a head coach for the second-straight day after women’s golf’s Jan Dowling resigned from her position on Saturday. “It truly has been an honor to coach at the University of Florida for the past three seasons, and I want to thank Mr. [Jeremy] Foley and the entire administration for this opportunity,” Dowling said in a school release. “I am very proud of what these young women have accomplished, and feel very fortunate to be involved with such a great athletic association. My decision was extremely difficult, however, I have to make the right choices for my personal life too. I will cherish my time at Florida, and wish nothing but the very best for the future of the program and the entire athletic association.”

The women’s golf program made steady progress in Dowling’s three seasons at Florida improving from 10th in the Southeastern Conference in 2010 to fourth in 2012. The Gators did not participate in the NCAA Championships in her first year at the helm but finished tied for 10th in 2011 and alone in 12th in 2012. Downling also recruited and coached the 2012 SEC Freshman of the Year in Camilla Hedberg. A statement from Foley indicates that Dowling’s decision was her own and that she was not relieved by the university. “I was surprised with Jan’s decision, but I respect her decision to do what is best for her. We wish her the best in whatever her future holds,” he said. Foley and Florida announced the resignation of head men’s tennis coach Andy Jackson on Friday in a move that, while titled a resignation, appeared to be at the behest of Foley.

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Florida basketball adds transfer Damontre Harris

Florida Gators basketball received a significant boost to its frontcourt in 2013-14 after learning Saturday that South Carolina Gamecocks power forward Damontre Harris has chosen to transfer to the University of Florida.

A four-star prospect and the No. 64 player in the country as ranked by Rivals.com in 2010, Harris decided to leave South Carolina after the administration fired head coach Darrin Horn and replaced him with Frank Martin. Florida and Kansas battled for his transfer, and the player also gave consideration to staying in Columbia, SC.

Instead Harris will be forced to sit out the 2012-13 season per NCAA transfer rules but will fill a major position of need for the Gators when his redshirt season is up. He will still be able to practice with the team next year, providing sophomores center Patric Young and forward Will Yeguete with a big, talented opponent to go up against each day.

At 6’9” and 226 lbs., Harris has been an important and effective player for the Gamecocks over his two years with the team. He averaged 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 25.9 minutes per game his sophomore season while shooting .550 from the field and .804 from the free throw line.

Florida has not had a shot blocker average more than two swats per game since Joakim Noah registered 2.4 per contest during his sophomore season (2005-06).

With Young potentially moving on to the NBA after his junior year and the Gators not having received any commitments taller than 6’6” as part of their 2012 or 2013 (so far) recruiting classes, Harris should eventually have a legitimate opportunity to start for Florida though he most certainly will not be handed that role.

Martin has a good relationship with Gators head coach Billy Donovan and did not place any restrictions on Harris as it pertained to contacting or transferring to a SEC East rival.

Despite Harris’s decision, Florida is still pursuing transfer forward Dorian Finney-Smith of Virginia Tech, a source close to the program confirmed to OGGOA on Saturday

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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Florida sweeps SEC All-Sports Awards yet again

Any doubt that the University of Florida had the dominant athletics program in the Southeastern Conference during the 2011-12 school year was put to rest Sunday as the university was named the SEC All-Sports champion by the Halifax Media Group for the fourth-straight season. Sweeping all three titles – overall, men’s and women’s – the Florida Gators won by staggering numbers in each category, literally dominating the competition.

Team (OVERALL)Total PointsSportsAverage
No. 1 Florida156.5169.78
No. 2 Georgia141.0168.81
No. 3 LSU129.0158.06

Team (MEN's)Total PointsSportsAverage
No. 1 Florida 66.579.50
No. 2 Georgia59.078.43
No. 3 LSU55.077.86

Team (WOMEN's)Total PointsSportsAverage
No. 1 Florida90.0910.00
No. 2 Georgia82.099.11
No. 3 Tennessee70.088.75

Florida is the only school to sweep all three titles in a single season, accomplishing the feat for the 12th time, fifth in the last six years and fourth-in-a-row (2006-07, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11). UF has now won 22 overall titles (including six-straight), 19 women’s titles and 16 men’s titles.

All 16 of the Gators’ sports (nine women’s, seven men’s) were counted with cross country, indoor and outdoor track & field combined into one unit per gender. Lacrosse was not included as that program competes in the American Lacrosse Conference.

Florida won three SEC titles over this period – gymnastics, women’s tennis and women’s indoor track and field – compared to eight in 2010-11. UF women’s tennis captured both the regular season and tournament championships.

The Gators lead the SEC with 205 all-time team titles.

The SEC All-Sports titles were previously awarded by The New York Times Regional Newspaper Group from 1994-95 to 2010-11.

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Florida softball eliminated from NCAA Tourney; Walton speaks on suspension decision

A tumultuous weekend and up-and-down season came to a conclusion for No. 5 Florida Gators softball as the team fell 1-0 to the South Florida Bulls and failed in their bid to advance out of the Gainesville Regional in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Florida (48-13) lost the first game of the regional but won consecutive contests in the loser’s bracket on Saturday to move on to the finals against USF (48-11). The Gators were hoping to win and force a second game on Sunday but instead lost the contest and failed to reach the Women’s College World Series for the fifth-straight season.

Sophomore right-hander Hannah Rogers (28-8) got the nod to start and pitched a complete game, allowing one earned run on four hits with no walks and four strikeouts in 7.0 innings. Her lone blemish came in the top of the fourth when an infield single allowed the Bulls to score what would end up being the game-deciding run.

Rogers’s complete game performance was matched by South Florida starter Sara Nevens, who allowed five hits and three walks but struck out 12 including two important batters in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Florida rallied to load the bases with no one out but failed to cross the plate as Nevins struck out consecutive batters and forced an infield groundout to get out of the frame unscathed.

Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie, playing her last game in orange and blue, was the only Florida batter to register more than one hit as she went 2-for-4 on the afternoon. She concluded her UF career as the team’s all-time leader in batting average (.385), stolen bases (83) and stolen base attempts (99). Moultrie also picked up a number of awards during her tenure with the Gators including 2010 SEC Player of the Year, 2011 WCWS Co-Most Outstanding Player, 2011 WCWS All-Tournament Team and a number of All-American honors.

It is the first time since 2006 that Florida did not move on to the Super Regional.

Though he did not get into specifics regarding the incident that led to him eventually suspending three of his starters, head coach Tim Walton spoke more about the general situation following Sunday’s loss at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Continue Reading » Florida softball eliminated from NCAA Tourney; Walton speaks on suspension decision

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