Donovan returns as USA Basketball U19 coach

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan has been retained to continue leading USA Basketball during the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship set to take place from June 17-July 7 in Prague, Czech Republic.

Donovan, a court coach during the 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U19 National Team Training Camp two summers ago and head coach of the team that won the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship last summer, will represent his country as a head coach in international competition for the second time in his career. His coaching staff, which included Virginia Commonwealth head coach Shaka Smart (a former Florida assistant) and Gonzaga head coach Mark Few, is also set to return.

“It’s such an honor to have this opportunity to represent our country with USA Basketball once again, and I’m really looking forward to it,” Donovan said. “Mark Few and Shaka Smart are both outstanding coaches. I have tremendous respect for them both and am glad for another chance to coach alongside them.”

The Donovan-led Americans breezed through last year’s event, amassing a 5-0 record and winning games by an average of 38.6 points to win the gold medal and qualify for the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship. USA Basketball hopes to see the team continue its success with Donovan at the helm.

“Our 19-and-under team is going to have as good a coaching staff as there is in coaches Donovan, Few and Smart,” said Jim Boeheim, Syracuse head coach and chair of the 2009-12 Junior National Team Committee. “It’s going to be a tremendous advantage to have the same staff that led the 18-and-under squad a year ago.”

Donovan will begin coaching the team on June 14 in Colorado Springs, CO as 25 players begin a five-day training camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center with only 12 earning spots on the roster.

The United States will begin the event in Group D along with China (FIBA Asia U18 gold), Ivory Coast (FIBA Africa U18 silver) and Russia (FIBA Europe U18 fourth place). The gold medal game is scheduled for July 7.

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SIX BITS: Brantley, Donovan, Moss, Tebow, Rainey

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback John Brantley was cut by the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday after being signed by the team as an undrafted free agent in April. It was unlikely that Brantley would have made the team to begin with though he likely would have remained in training camp longer had Baltimore not needed to sign a free agent tight end as an injury replacement. He could rejoin the Ravens at any time, be added to their practice squad after the preseason or be picked up by another team. Former Florida wide receiver Deonte Thompson, also signed as an undrafted free agent, remains with Baltimore despite recently “displaying shaky hands,” according to Carroll County Times reporter Aaron Wilson.

2 » One of the hot conversation pieces ongoing as some of the NBA’s brightest stars compete in the 2012 London Olympics is if the league’s owners will get their wish that all Olympic basketball competitors will have to be 23 years of age or younger starting in 2016. CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman took a look at what a U23 team might look like in 2016; he believes that Gators guard Bradley Beal would be featured on the squad and that Florida head coach Billy Donovan could be one of two choices to replace Coach Mike Krzyewski, citing his success with the U18 team this summer.

3 » Former Florida forward Adrian Moss informed OGGOA on Wednesday that he has signed a one-year contract with EESM Le Portel of the French Pro B league. Moss averaged 15.4 points on 53.3 percent shooting (35.6 percent from downtown) and grabbed 6.1 rebounds per game last year in Spain. He has also previously played professional basketball in Israel and Germany.

4 » New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow may have had a rough start to training camp with his new team, but ESPN’s Ron Jaworski remarked on SportsCenter early this week that he saw improvement from the player in one very important area. “The one thing I’ve noticed about Tim Tebow – and it’s a small sampling thus far – is his [throwing] stroke is much better,” he said. “It’s cleaner. It’s not as elongated. He’s not dropping the football [down to his hip]. That means the ball will come out quicker.” Jaworski did see some room for improvement, however. “I’d still like to see Tebow drive off his back leg a little more,” he added. “Sometimes he has that dead leg and he loses energy at the end of the throw on the deeper throws. It’s fine in the short to intermediate area. But downfield those throws, when they hang in the air, will get knocked down or batted down by the very athletic secondary players in this league.”

5 » Though Pittsburgh Steelers running back Chris Rainey is already coming on strong with his new team, some of his teammates and coaches are noticing that he needs to be pushed hard during practice. According to Scout.com, Rainey has been ragged on by everyone including good friend center Maurkice Pouncey. “He probably needs it. Heck yeah,” he said. “Oh, [the coaches] love him. They really, really love him. I hope it stays that way. I hope he stays here with me as long as he can.” The ribbing Rainey is taking may be good-natured, but head coach Mike Tomlin has reportedly been using a version of the unfortunate text message that got Rainey arrested as part of that motivation. “OK, 22, time to die!” he apparently yelled during the first full-contact practice. “I hear it every day, about five times a day,” Rainey said. “It’s all good. I made a bad mistake in the past but I moved on. It’s funny now. I’m glad I’m here.”

6 » Three members of the Gators lacrosse team were awarded training team spots with the U.S. National Team over the weekend. Seniors midfielder Brittany Dashiell and goalkeeper Mikey Meagher, along with assistant coach (and MF) Caitlyn McFadden, will join the 36-player pool that will eventually be whittled down to 18 (in February 2013) before the United States defends its title at the 2013 FIL World Cup. McFadden was a member of Team USA in 2009 and helped bring home the championship.

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Donovan brings home gold for USA Basketball

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan won the first gold medal of his career on Wednesday as he led USA Basketball to an 81-56 victory over Brazil in the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship.

The United States was the only team to go undefeated (5-0) on its way to taking home the gold. The Americans tore through the competition in Sao Sebastian, Brazil, winning every game by at least 19 and by an average of 38.6 points (105-42 vs. Virgin Islands, 110-59 vs. Mexico, 83-64 vs. Brazil, 107-72 vs. Argentina, 81-56 vs. Brazil).

The FIBA Americas was Donovan’s first go-around as head coach of Team USA. He was joined on the bench by Florida trainer Dave Werner as well as former Gators assistant and Virginia Commonwealth head coach Shaka Smart and Gonzaga head coach Mark Few. Donovan had previously served as a court coach for team trials in 2011.

The strong showing in the tournament qualified the United States for the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship next June. Donovan is not guaranteed to be the head coach of that team though he will likely be called upon again to continue leading the Americans.

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FOUR BITS: Rosario, Donovan, McQuay, 2011-12

1 » Florida Gators senior guard Mike Rosario, playing with the Puerto Rico National Team in the 2012 Centrobasket Championship, registered seven points and three rebounds in his team’s easy 92-60 win over Panama on Monday. Puerto Rico is set to take on the Bahamas at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday as they continue in the event and hope to earn a bid to the 2012 London Olympics.

2 » In Brazil with the USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team, Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan improved to 3-0 in international competition as the Americans defeated host Brazil 83-64 on Monday in the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. The United States has already qualified for the 2013 FIBA U18 World Championship set for next summer but still has plenty to accomplish in this tournament. The U.S. will take on Argentina on Tuesday in a semifinal game for the opportunity to play for the tournament title against either Canada or Brazil.

3 » Gators junior runner Tony McQuay was named a semifinalist for The Bowerman the biggest award in collegiate track & field on Tuesday, becoming the fifth student-athlete from Florida to receive the distinction in the last three years. Though UF has yet to bring home the prestigious award, McQuay has as legitimate of a shot as anyone before having won the national title in both the indoor and outdoor 400-meter dash. He also anchored the Gators’ 4×400-meter team that captured the outdoor national championship and was one of the two top performers for the Florida men’s track & field team that swept the indoor and outdoor 2012 NCAA Championship.

4 » The 2011-12 athletic season has come to an end for the Gators and though some highly ranked Florida teams missed out on opportunities at national titles (baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse, softball), UF also brought home a school record three NCAA Championships thanks to sterling efforts by men’s track & field (indoor and outdoor) and women’s tennis. The NCAA Indoor title for men’s track and field marked the third-straight for the program, and women’s tennis completed their quest to win back-to-back titles with their victory this season. The Gators also won eight individual national titles including six in track & field and one in gymnastics.

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Gator Bites for Monday, June 18

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» A rough senior season at the center position made many Florida Gators fans skeptical that Mike Pouncey could play the position as well as his twin brother. But after one year as the starting center for the Miami Dolphins, those questions no longer exist as Pouncey has proven that he can perform at a Pro Bowl level (though he did not make it to the game in 2011). Now he is focused on getting even better and told the Sun-Sentinel it all starts with eating better. “I can get away with [eating fast food], but I changed it up this year just trying to eat more leaner stuff,” he said. “I hired a chef, so it’s been working well for me.” Pouncey also feels the zone blocking scheme the Dolphins will be employing in 2012 and beyond will benefit him and the offense; he expects a breakout season for himself. “They say your second year is supposed to be your best year,” he said. “I’m hoping for big things. I’m coming out as hard as I can. I want to take on more of a leadership role this year.”

» Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan has been working with the United States U18 National Team over the last few weeks and began action in the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship with his squad on Saturday. Donovan’s young squad is already 2-0 in international competition with a 105-42 victory over the Virgin Islands on Saturday and a 110-59 win over Mexico on Sunday. The U.S. will take on Brazil on Monday to conclude first-round action with the semifinals taking place Tuesday and the championship being held on Wednesday. Donovan’s squad needs to place in the top four teams at the end of the event in order to advance to the 2013 FIBA World Championship next summer. “I told them there are three things we want to accomplish. First and foremost, win a gold medal. Second, we’ve got a lot of guys on our team going into college and we want them to get maybe a bit more prepared than some other incoming freshmen for what they’re going to face in college. And third, we want to help them get better as players,” Donovan told the Sporting News before leaving for Brazil.

» Gators linebacker Neiron Ball, who missed the entire 2011 season after a blood vessel burst in his brain and he was diagnosed with a hereditary vascular condition, was officially cleared to participate in all football activities by team doctors on Friday. Ball had previously announced on March 1 that he had medical clearance from doctors to return to action, but head coach Will Muschamp cautioned in April and May that while he had returned to work out with the team that he was not a full participant and was still awaiting an additional clearance. Now that Ball is good to go, he will compete for immediate playing time at Buck linebacker, a position with a major depth issue now that junior Ronald Powell is out until at least mid-October with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

» Florida track & field coach Mike Holloway was awarded his first Coach of the Year honor for the outdoor season by the USTFCCCA on Thursday. He had previously won the award in consecutive years for the indoor season (2010-11). Holloway’s men’s team swept the 2012 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships this season.

Read six more Gator Bites…after the break!

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Monday, June 18

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Gator Bites for Wednesday, May 23

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Former Florida Gators forward Chandler Parsons of the Houston Rockets was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie second team on Tuesday, falling just seven points short of earning a first-team nod. Parsons averaged 9.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals while starting 57 of 63 games for Houston in his rookie season.

» Hoping to achieve a similar feat in his rookie season, Florida freshman guard Bradley Beal is currently getting ready to work out for teams as he prepares for the 2012 NBA Draft. He will have some help towards that goal thanks to the league, which invited him to be one of 60 players who will compete at the 2012 NBA Combine in Chicago, IL. Gators senior point guard Erving Walker was not included on the list.

» Florida head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease made it a point to note that they plan to bring on a quarterback commitment each and every year. To that end a pair of three-star 2013 signal callers, Ryan Buchanan (Jackson, MS) and Tim Boyle (Middleton, CT), will be visiting Gainesville, FL over the weekend. Though UF has struck out with some big name quarterbacks this recruiting cycle and has four signal callers that will be on the roster for at least the next two years, the coaches have not changed their minds about brining another one into the fold. “It’s a very difficult position to evaluate and then take the right guy,” Muschamp said at a Gator Gathering on Tuesday, according to InsidetheGators.com. “Guys that worry about depth charts, we don’t want them. You hit it with them one time, if they ask you to go over it a second time. If they ask a third time, you need to move on.” If the Gators have their way, either Buchanan or Boyle will put an end to their search for a 2013 quarterback.

» Speaking of recruiting, things are getting interesting (or aggravating, if you prefer) for Florida basketball as the team looks to add at least one more player before heading into the 2012-13 season. South Carolina transfer power forward Damontre Harris, a former four-star recruit who averaged 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while playing 25.9 minutes per game last season, was supposed to make his decision between UF, Kansas or staying at USC last week but has yet to make a call. The Gators are also under consideration by Virginia Tech transfer F Dorian Finney-Smith, another former four-star recruit who averaged 6.3 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 36.6 percent from three last season. Finney-Smith has only “narrowed” his list to Florida, Georgetown, Iowa State, Louisville, Marquette, Ohio State and Texas. He will take visits and speak to coaches before making his decision.

» Joining the undecided party is 2012 four-star PF Montrezl Harrell (Tarboro, VA). Formerly a VT signee, Harrell decided to pursue other opportunities after the team fired head coach Seth Greenberg and is heavily considering playing for UF, which is one of a handful of schools on his short list (Alabama, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, South Carolina are the others). The Gators may have an inside track on Harrell due to head coach Billy Donovan being the head coach for the USA Basketball U18 National Team during training camp from June 5-12 in Colorado Springs, CO. Harrell will be playing on the team and have the opportunity to see first-hand what it would be like to practice and play for Donovan. Some are of the opinion that Louisville, a team he did not list when mentioning his top five, has an opportunity to be his eventual destination.

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Wednesday, May 23

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TWO BITS: Murphy deferred, Young in Latvia

1 » Florida Gators junior forward Erik Murphy has agreed to deferred prosecution for misdemeanor criminal trespassing, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Murphy, who will as part of the deal pay $440 in restitution and court costs while also performing 50 hours of community service and completing a substance abuse evaluation, was previously facing more serious charges before prosecutors agreed to reduce them. He will be on probation for alcohol and controlled substances for 12 months and must send a “meaningful” apology letter to the victim as well, the Sentinel reports. Murphy and redshirt freshman F Cody Larson, who also pled not guilty and will face the same charges on July 19, are currently indefinitely suspended from the basketball team. Head coach Billy Donovan said he would evaluate their statuses after their legal situations were settled. Receiving deferred prosecution and probation will likely allow Murphy and Larson (if he signs the same agreement) to return to the team for the 2011-12 season.

2 » Having lost twice during the event, the 2011 USA Basketball U19 Team finished in an uninspiring fifth place at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship in Latvia. In his final game over the weekend, Florida sophomore center Patric Young turned in another efficient performance, going 4-for-5 from the field for nine points with five rebounds in 13 minutes. Team USA defeated Australia 78-77 in the contest, yet another close finish in an event filled with disappointment for the Americans.

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FOUR BITS: Macklin, Young, planking, Nelson

1 » Though the story is no longer available on the team’s website due to the NBA lockout, the Detroit Pistons had posted an interesting column focusing on their No. 52 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, former Florida Gators center Vernon Macklin. Evaluating his performances in workouts, team vice president Scott Perry raved about Macklin’s potential. “The biggest thing is, he didn’t look out of place,” Perry said. “He was physical, strong, could hold his position in the low post defensively, long arms and he competed. That’s what you want to see.”

Macklin also received support from Detroit personnel director George David, who fueled him during the Portsmouth Invitational. “He said, ‘Are you going to be Joakim Noah or his backup?’” Macklin recalls. “After my first game at PIT, he texted me and said, ‘You were Joakim Noah today.’ And he said the same thing at the end of the workout.”

2 » The 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U19 Team faltered at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championships on Wednesday, dropping a 87-85 contest to Croatia. Just a day earlier, the United States was triumphant in an equally close match, defeating Lithuania 107-105 in overtime. The constant in both games was the play of Florida sophomore center Patric Young, who has turned in some dominant performances after getting off to a slow start. Young went 5/7 both from the field and from the line for 15 points with seven rebounds in 26:24 on Tuesday and followed that up by shooting 7/8 from the floor for 16 points with eight boards in 26:19 on Wednesday. Over his last three international games, Young has shot 85.7 percent and averaged 14.7 points and 7.3 rebounds.

3 » It has been just over a week since Gators redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail went on a planking spree, and OGGOA has had fun following many of Florida’s student-athletes as they take part in the activity. Things seem to have wound down a bit over the last few days and, therefore, we present you with this (potentially final) compilation wrapping up the latest planking attempts. You can view the rest of them here, here and here. The photos below feature Trail and sophomore wide receiver Robert Clark, redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison and softball players Hannah Rogers and Ensley Gammel.

4 » Keeping busy during the NFL’s lockout, Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson was recently in Las Vegas, NV and ended up on stage during a Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood concert. Below is a picture snapped by one of his friends.

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