10/20: Donovan on Gators’ progress, chemistry

With Florida Gators basketball having finally begun fall practice and just about three weeks away from the team’s first regular season game, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Thursday to discuss how practice is going up to this point.

A ROUGH DAY OF PRACTICE

Donovan lauded the team for how well it had performed over the first few practices but was less enthusiastic about Wednesday’s effort after the off-day on Tuesday. “We’ve been really good the first four or five days. Coming out of an off-day yesterday, yesterday was by far the worst day we had as a group,” he said. “I didn’t think the guys handled the adversity of practice well. That’s an area that we got to get a lot better at right now. The one thing about these guys that’s been pretty constant has been their effort. They’re a pretty competitive group. I didn’t think the attention to detail the first five days was there on Wednesday. We have an opportunity to come back today and improve on that.”

However, he was happy that the team is facing that obstacle now rather than later on in the process. “A lot of times guys get cranky. From a maturity standpoint, we better be able to move past those things. Because our season is so long, a lot of days you’re not going to feel great and you still have to have the mental toughness and fortitude to work through those things,” Donovan said. “It was good that it happened yesterday because the guys were able to see it and correct it. It’s never smooth sailing. I’d rather find out now what we’re dealing with going into the season. I certainly didn’t expect every practice to be totally perfect and great. We have an opportunity to regroup and handle the way we practiced yesterday better today.”

BUILDING A NEW GATORS TEAM

Though he may not have to start from scratch with this group because only two players on the current roster were not members of the team last year, Donovan realizes that it will be a work in progress as everyone learns their new roles and responsibilities.

Erving [Walker] and Kenny [Boynton], their roles and how they’re going to play the game is probably not going to change a whole lot other than that they’ve got more offense on the floor with them,” he said. “Patric [Young], Cody [Larson], Will [Yeguete] and Casey [Prather] are in totally different roles. Scottie [Wilbekin]’s role is pretty similar in terms of what he can do defensively. Brad [Beal]’s first time here; Walter [Pitchford]’s first time here. In a lot of respects, even though we’ve got some returning players, there’s different things they need to do to help our team. I think this is a completely different team from the way it was the last two years.”

For that reason, Donovan has put a hold on installing new offenses, defenses and plays from out of bounds. Instead he wants Florida to try and perfect what has already been implemented before moving forward and adding more layers.

“We could play in a game right now. There’s enough things offensively, defensively and on the sides. I feel confident we could play in a game. I don’t know how good we’d be in a game right now, but there’s enough things in,” he said. “What we need to do right now, before we start putting some more in, is really try to work on the execution part of getting better at what’s in right now. This time of year there’s always a fine line. [...] Most of the guys are coming back so there’s not anything that’s drastically new for them. I’m not dealing with five new players that this is the first time. We’re probably, in terms of the group understanding, a little further advanced. However, in terms of executing it, we’re not great in that right now.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan said junior forward Erik Murphy got a “finger to the eye” on Wednesday and ended up missing practice. He added that it was not his cornea, but a part of Murphy’s eye was scratched. There was swelling and he couldn’t open his eye but after visiting a doctor he was told that there was no damage to the eye and he was cleared to practice Thursday.

» Donovan on if he’s still pleased with the team’s backcourt chemistry: “I feel good about it right now. Our guys are trying to play the right way. That’s something that has been there. We’ve talked a lot about it. They’ve seen film of it. They’ve seen how you can look when there’s an understanding. It’s not so much the extra pass part. That’s a piece of it.”

» Donovan on how Larson has been playing: “Cody has been a guy that is doing a lot of really good things right now in terms of the little things that aren’t going to show up on a stat sheet. I’ve been pleased with what he’s been able to do for our team physically because we need another physical presence up front. I think Will provides that exact thing as well.”

» Donovan on if he’s seen improved shooting from downtown: “I look less at the shooting percentage right now as I do look at the total number of shots being taken. Patric Young has gotten the most shots, and that’s a good thing for our team. After the first five days, Erving was third to last on the number of shots taken. He’s been very dominant in practice with what he’s been able to do. I’m more concerned about the shot distribution in practice rather than the percentages. Casey Prather has not taken a whole lot of shots, and his shooting percentage is not great, but to me he’s playing his best basketball since he’s been here up to this point in time. The percentages come from ball movement, player movement, extra passes, getting good looks and making shots in the flow of the offense. Then what we can do is repetitively work with those guys in practice to get them better shooting the basketball just through the number of shots they’re going to take. We’ve got a very good shooting team. I’m not so sure the stats indicate that now, but I feel confident that we are where we should be.”

» Boynton on being ranked No. 10 in the preseason: “That’s a good accomplishment, but we haven’t proven anything yet. We have to go out and prove that we’re worthy of that ranking.”

» Boynton on if he’s being worn out by practice: “Not really but we’ve been going hard.”

» Boynton on who has been the best in practice: “So far Pat has been going hard. Erv’s been leading the team. Casey and Will have been doing good from last year, they’ve stepped up a lot..”

» Boynton on how Prather is progressing: “His confidence. He’s not forcing it. He’s taking the right shots, finishing and on defense he’s very intense.”

» Boynton on the chemistry in the backcourt: “So far it’s good. Everybody’s making the extra pass.”

» Boynton on what it’s been like playing with three guards: “We’ve been good. Pretty much it’s been fun. I feel like when we play different teams we’ll have a mismatch on someone.”

» Boynton on how the team is doing with the pressure defense: “We’ve been pressing every day. When we all get together on one team, if we try a three- or four-guard lineup, we’re going to get a lot of turnovers. [...] It’s the same press. With our speed this year, we’re going to be alright out there. We can cheat some passes because we have the speed to get there.”

» Boynton on what he’s been doing to improve his game: “Overall I’ve just been hitting the gym a lot trying to keep getting more repetitions. [...] My left hand gotten a lot better, as did my finishing at the rim.”

» Prather said this role this year is to be a rebounder who defends and can slash to the hoop. “We definitely lost Chandler [Parsons], Vernon [Macklin] and Alex [Tyus] so we need people like me ot rebound and defend,” he said.

» Prather on having an opportunity to excel at small forward: “That’s like one of the main reasons why I came here, because of the tradition they have at the three-spot.”

» Prather on how Yeguete is playing: “He’s playing so aggressive, looking tos core more, get to the rim and control the offensive rebounds”

» Prather on how Larson is playing: “He’s physical. He still brings it every day. He bangs with Pat, and that’s hard to do. He just accepts it and doesn’t back down.”

» Prather on why recruits should commit to the Gators: “Because we win here. It’s all about tradition with Coach Donovan and the University of Florida.”

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10/17: Donovan on freshmen, Walker, Young

With Florida Gators basketball having finally begun fall practice and just just over three weeks away from the team’s first regular season game, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Monday to discuss how practice is going up to this point.

FRESHMEN A WORK IN PROGRESS

“It’s hard for any freshman to come in prepared,” Donovan said Monday, even though he is pleased with how guard Brad Beal and forward Walter Pitchford are responding thus far. “When you’re a freshman, if you’re willing to physically put your body in plays, if you are highly competitive and you have a high basketball IQ, you’re going to be able to play right away as a freshman – given that you’re talented enough. If you lack one of those three things, it becomes really difficult to be a constant guy.”

As far as Donovan is concerned, right now one of his freshmen is fitting that profile while another has a ways to go until he can contribute to the team on a consistent basis.

“Those first four days [of practice], Brad has all those things. He’s willing to put his body in there physically. He has a cerebral understanding of what we’re doing, and I think he’s highly competitive. My feeling in watching him the first four days here is that there’s no question he’s going to be able to contribute and help our team,” he said.

“Walter is still learning and growing. Things have come pretty quickly the first four days,” he continued. “Brad has been able to pick up everything very well. Walter is not any different than a lot of freshmen that come in terms of figuring out how hard they have to play, better competition, what to do, where to go, what’s happening. Really the first four days here, we’ve put in [a lot of plays]. I’m not so sure we’re really good at anything yet, but that stuff is in right now.

“For Walter, the first four days was difficult because – outside of he and Brad – a lot of the stuff is familiar to some of the older guys. So it is easier for them to know what’s coming and what we’re doing. Brad is probably more advanced than most freshmen I’ve been around in terms of his basketball intelligence, his IQ, his understanding and how quickly he grasps things. It’s pretty impressive for me, so far, we’re three or four days into this and then he can pick up a lot of the stuff.”

WALKER’s UNSELFISHNESS A NICE SURPRISE

Donovan (and Florida fans) have been clamoring for senior point guard Erving Walker to work on his assist-to-turnover ratio and unselfishness for two years now and it appears as if they have finally gotten their wish. With so much talk in the media about how the Gators are going to struggling with sharing the ball in the backcourt, Walker said there is a concerted effort to share.

“That’s us trying to be the best team we can be, trying to get everybody easy shots and working together,” he said. “We feel like we got a lot of talent and can help each other, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”

His coach is noticing, too. “Because there’s been so much talk about it, they’ve gone the other way and are trying to prove how unselfish they are. I’ve noticed in practice – and it’s been encouraging to me – we’ve got guys right now that are passing up shots that they normally would take to make an extra pass.

“We chart every shot in practice. Right now there’s only two players on our team that have taken fewer shots than Erving Walker – Cody Larson and Casey Prather. Everybody else on our team has in practice taken more shots than Erving Walker. He has really tried to grasp and understand who he is playing with on the floor. His assist-to-turnover ratio in practice has been very good. He has an idea and understanding of the challenges in front of him, and I feel like he’s really trying to do that.”

YOUNG HANDLING ADVERSITY BETTER THAN EXPECTED

As he admitted himself last year, sophomore forward/center Patric Young had a lot of growing up to do from a maturity standpoint. Donovan reiterated that point at times during the season and said so again on Monday. “I’d say the first time Patric Young went through any adversity was last year. He’s always been the biggest and the strongest and the quickest. How do you handle that? How do you get better from that?“ he noted.

This season, Donovan is putting Young in situations in practice where he is going to have to face adversity and rise above it. “Like I’ll get fouled here and there and he’s not going to call it just to see how I’ll react,” Young explained. “I’ve grown up a lot in that sense. Last year I probably would have just shut down. I’m going to get fouled a lot and sometimes calls are going to be missed. He’s just trying to help me grow up and get ready for the season.”

Donovan agrees that his big man has taken a step forward. “He has been phenomenal. He has made some very positive strides,” he said. “The biggest thing I feel with Patric and these guys, I feel like our team right now is locked in on what we have to do. It’s not a group that’s focused on ‘me.’ It’s a group that is focused on, ‘What do I need to do to help the team?’ [...] That’s something that takes work each and every single day for Patric. He’s got to keep working through that. Our team is addressing the things that we have to address to get better at as individuals and as a team.”

Young is also seeing his improved mentality paying dividends. “It’s made a huge difference in my game because I know how important I am to the team when I’m at 100 percent,” he said. “I’m alert, helping my teammates, being vocal. The team is completely different when I’m down being depressed and emotional to when I’m focused, concentrated and focused on helping the team get better. It’s a completely different team.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan said that no one has missed practice yet and he is very pleased with the effort and coachability of the players. The effort has been there on a unanimous basis to fix the things they find wrong and try to improve as much as possible early on.

» Donovan on having so many talented guards: “I’m hopeful that all of those guys, offensively, can help make each other better defensively.”

» Donovan on redshirt junior G Mike Rosario monitoring his back issue: “What we’ve told him is that he’s got a disc problem. It’s something that we have to monitor, but it has not held him out of any practices. They’ve done core strengthening, stretching and all those kind of things. It’s not something that needs surgery. Our trainer doesn’t think it’s going to be a problem during the year, but he’s got to stay on top of it as far as what he does rehab-wise before and after practice. I’m not going into the year anticipating this is going to be a problem for him. It’s there and he had the tingling down the back of his leg and the numbness in his leg and that’s always a red flag. We were able to hold him off some in the offseason and rest him. I don’t see Mike just dealing with the pain and not saying anything. I think he understands that, in order for him to get treated, it’s only going to get worse if he does that, it’s not going to get better.”

» Walker on his relationship with the other guard: “Me and Kenny [Boynton] got a special relationship, but I would say we all hang out a lot. Everybody is like family. It’s a little brotherhood we got and we embrace each other. It’s just fun to be around those guys.”

» Walker on how Beal is playing: “Brad is adjusting really well and quick, like he’s been here for a while now. [...] He looked a lot more comfortable out there and a lot more aggressive. I think he’s really been showing his talent these past few practices – his jump shot and his ability to get to the hole. His understanding of the game, I think, he’s going to get better. His overall play is not what a freshman would do. The way he’s been aggressive lately, you can really see his talent showing. It’s amazing that he can come in, be so early and do the things that he’s doing.”

» Walker on Rosario seeing the court: “I’m happy for Mike being the great player that he is. He’s finally going ot play this year and he’s been doing a great job so far.”

» Young on playing for his country in Europe over the summer: “I got a lot of confidence out of it – some offensive confidence. It helped me use the things I’ve learned and what I can do and what I should do.”

» Young on the play of the guards so far: “The way our team started off these first few practices is amazing. It looks like we’ve been playing together for a couple of years now. It’s just the ball’s been moving, guys are talking to each other, everyone’s listening, everyone’s been willing to work [together]. It’s just been really good so far. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, because I know we got a lot of guys who like to shoot. Everyone is giving the extra pass. I guess I was surprised that things went so well so far.”

» Young on being a vocal player on the court: “A lot of guys aren’t really used to communicating. I am. I’ve been doing it since I was in high school. It’s a huge part of the game. Communication in life is a huge part of everything. This is communication right here. My major is telecommunications. I just like to talk, and I like to let my teammates know what’s going on.”

» Young on who plays him the best from a physicality standpoint:Will [Yeguete], he defends me the best because he doesn’t give up angles and he’s really long and really physical as well.”

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TWO Basketball BITS: Larson’s trial, uniforms

1 » Just days after junior forward Erik Murphy was fully reinstated by head basketball coach Billy Donovan, Florida Gators redshirt freshman F Cody Larson had part of his recent legal issue settled. According to The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway, Larson accepted deferred prosecution for his misdemeanor criminal trespassing charges and will perform 200 hours of community service as his primary form of punishment. Like Murphy, Larson has already completed a substance abuse course and paid restitution to the victims, Brockway reports. Still to be determined is how the conclusion of this case affects Larson’s standing in his home state of South Dakota, where he is still on probation for an incident that occurred while in high school and before he committed to Florida. Donovan has yet to reinstate Larson as a member of the Gators.

2 » Athletes care about their uniform numbers, and now that Florida basketball is beginning preparations for the 2011-12 season, it was time for the team’s newest members to officially receive theirs. The freshman roster is as follows:

» No. 23 – Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO), five-star guard, 6’3″ 207 lbs.
» No. 35 – Walter Pitchford V (Grand Rapids, MI), three-star forward, 6’10” 221 lbs.

Also stepping on the court for the first time this year is a redshirt junior transfer from Rutgers who picked his number last year:

» No. 3 – Mike Rosario (Jersey City, NJ), four-star guard, 6’3″ 191 lbs.

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FOUR BITS: freshmen, Tyus, Sweeting, McDonald

1 » Orientation for freshmen student-athletes is underway as both of the Florida Gators incoming basketball commitments and the remaining 12 football signees are now in Gainesville, FL getting their college careers started. Five-star guard Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) and three-star forward Walter Pitchford (East Lansing, MI) join four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL), four-star defensive back Jabari Gorman (Miami, FL), three-star DB Chris Johnson (Ocala, FL), three-star offensive lineman Tommy Jordan (Ridgefield, CT), three-star fullback Hunter Joyer (Wesley Chapel, FL), four-star DB Louchiez Purifoy (Pensacola, FL), four-star DB Marcus Roberson (Fort Lauderdale, FL), three-star DB Valdez Showers (Madison Heights, MI), four-star linebacker Graham Stewart (Middletown, CT), four-star wide receiver Ja’Juan Story (Brooksville, FL), four-star OL Trip Thurman (Dover, DE) and three-star defensive end Tevin Westbrook (Coconut Creek, FL) as the latest players to don the Orange and Blue hoping to make Gator Nation proud. The players will be meeting with academic advisers, taking physicals, beginning workouts, taking drug tests as they prepare to begin workouts and college life in general.

2 » With the 2011 NBA Draft approaching on Thursday, Florida forward Alex Tyus appears to understand exactly what is likely to happen over the course of the event. “Honestly, for Thursday, I’m not expecting to get drafted,” Tyus told InsideTheGators.com’s Kyle Maistri. “But anything can happen.” Having only worked out for four teams since participating in the 2011 Portsmouth Invitational (where he had a strong showing and was one of the event’s standout performers), Tyus understands that his best bet at earning a spot on a NBA bench may come as an undrafted free agent or by working on his game some more in the NBA Development League or overseas. OGGOA will have extensive coverage leading up to, during and after the NBA Draft.

3 » Down two sets in his opening round match at Wimbledon, former Gators tennis player No. 69 Ryan Sweeting came back to defeat opponent No. 50 Pablo Andujar 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(7-1), 6-1. His reward? Taking on the ATP’s top-ranked player in the world, Rafael Nadal, Wed. at 11:30 a.m. in the second round of the event. Nadal, of course, is 2-0 all-time against Sweeting, last defeating him 6-3, 6-1 at Indian Wells earlier this year. Sweeting won his first ATP World Tour event in 2011 and is 10-9 overall this year.

4 » In a conversation with The Sacramento Bee, former Florida defensive end Ray McDonald expressed his desire to earn a starting job in the NFL. Set to become an unrestricted free agent when a new labor deal is signed, McDonald (currently of the San Francisco 49ers) could re-sign with his current team or look elsewhere. “I know I’m an every-down player, a starter,” he said. “And that’s what I’m looking to do this year. I’m not looking to back up anybody. I’m looking to start this year. […] I’ve been waiting four years for this. [Being a free agent] would make my life. That would change everything as far as me going ahead with my future in my NFL career. So that’s some good news – no, excellent news – for me.”

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5/10: Donovan introduces his new assistants

Having now filled his depleted coaching staff following the departure of all three of his assistants, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Tuesday to introduce new coaches John Pelphrey, Norm Roberts and Matt McCall. Below are some choice notes and quotes from the press conference and media availabilities.

BILLY DONOVAN

» Forwards sophomore Erik Murphy and freshman Cody Larson remain indefinitely suspended from the team after being (at the time) arrested for third-degree burglary. “[I want] to wait to see what actually happens. There’s a lot of things they’ve got to go through. Them getting through this and finding out exactly what they’re being charged with and what’s going to happen. Once it happens, then me stepping in to react here, I’ll do. I’m disappointed with what’s happened. Once it gets resolved and once I find out what the resolution is, I can react from there.”

» Team manager Josh Adel was not involved in the activities as initially cited by police. “There was a perception that Josh Adel was ‘the lookout.’ That wasn’t the case.”

» Florida will not be going to another country to play as initially planned during the summer. Donovan said freshman center Patric Young and signee guard Brad Beal have invitations to tryout for USA Basketball in June and July. Additionally, signee forward Walter Pitchford has to go through the NCAA Clearinghouse, the legal situation has to be resolved and the July recruiting period is important.

» On the dedication of McCall: “You want to have guys that bleed orange and blue. [John] is a Gator. Matt McCall more so than anybody else out there [is a Gator]. The University of Florida really means something to him. When you look at great programs across the country, it is the pride that somebody has inside their program that really matters. For Matt being a young guy, he lives and breathes the profession, recruiting and what goes into it.”

JOHN PELPHREY

» On returning to Florida: “It’s a blessing to have a chance [to come back here]. He’s been such a big part of my life. My focus right now is on my faith, on my family and on my Florida. If I can focus on those things, then I have a chance to be at my best and be a part of a coaching team that has a chance to bring out the best in Billy and hopefully our players.”

» On Donovan bringing out the best in others: “Everybody understands how great a coach he is, how good at recruiting he is, but when you get a chance to be around him over an extended period of time, you understand he’s just a great human being. He’s hardworking. He’s a normal guy. He has no idea he’s a hall of fame coach. He does not know that and that’s pretty cool. In life, success changes people. It doesn’t for Billy. One season ends, he starts over evaluating, looking and trying to figure out a way to be better the next day. When you get a chance to spend time with him, you see it’s real, you see it’s genuine because that’s the way he is every single day.”

» On the unique opportunity to return to Gainesville, FL: “I don’t see myself having taken this opportunity anywhere else. You’re talking about a guy that there’s only one place in America that, after two and a half weeks, he would have gone back to work. I’m pretty fortunate. [Knocks on the table] You don’t have a job and then two and a half weeks later you get the only one you would take? I think it’s a miracle. I think the good lord had his hand on it.”

» On if this is a temporary job for him: “I was here before the renovations to the O’Dome. I was here before the practice facility was built. I was here before the first run to the national championship game. I’m a little bit invested. Any leader wants the guys in the organization to be invested. For me, this is not just another place. This is a special place. […] I knew this was right.”

NORM ROBERTS

» On why he chose the Gators: “There were three things that were really important to me about the next job I would take. I had opportunities to take some Division I jobs, but they were jobs I would say would not lead to much afterwards. I wanted to coach at a high level, recruit at a high level and, for my family, try to go somewhere where we would enjoy living. […] I wanted to work for a guy I really respected. Especially when you’re a head coach and you’re coming back in, that’s what you really want to do. I’ve respected what Coach Donovan has done for quite some time.”

» On why Donovan is such a good coach: “He is a tireless recruiter. He’s done a great job in recruiting and the different players that he’s recruited all over the country. The other thing Coach Donovan does that is paramount is he does a great job recruiting players. That player may have a specific skill set that he’s really good at. And then what he does is, he allows that player to play to his strengths and then encompasses that into the team as well as developing his weaknesses. That’s very unique.”

» On the players he will be coaching: “A lot of the guys I knew already [from recruiting], so it made it a little bit more comfortable.”

» On going from head coach to assistant: “Both me and Pel understand the business; this is a new opportunity for us, an exciting opportunity for us. The one thing you try to do in this business is build great relationships and have people respect what you do. We left both those places [St. John’s, Arkansas] in a lot better shape than they were when we got there.”

MATT McCALL

» On his responsibilities right now: “From a recruiting standpoint, Coach Pelphrey and Coach Roberts have really honed in on the 2012 guys. For me, I’m trying to cast a huge net out there for 2013 and 2014.”

» McCall said he has a lot of in-state connections and will help the other assistants recruit for 2012 while also looking ahead toward the future as it is important to develop relationships as young as possible.

» On what returning to UF means to him: “To be able to say ‘Matt McCall, assistant coach at the University of Florida’ is exciting. I bleed orange and blue, like Coach Donovan told you. I grew up here coming to games, always wanted to be a ball boy when I was little. This is the profession I chose. For me, it’s more than just the University of Florida. It’s Coach Donovan, one of the best coaches in the game.”

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Gators add commitment from 2012 PG Ogbueze

Florida Gators basketball’s 2012 recruiting class doubled in size Wednesday as four-star point guard Braxton Ogbueze (Charlotte, NC) committed to head coach Billy Donovan.

Joining four-star shooting guard Michael Frazier (Tampa, FL), Ogbueze is Donovan’s second backcourt commitment for the 2012 cycle and the University of Florida’s highest-ranked point guard recruit since former five-star Nick Calathes. He is listed as the No. 7 player at his position by Scout and the No. 9 point guard in his class by Rivals.

“When I arrived on campus I was impressed with all the coaches, players and the beautiful campus,” Ogbueze told ESPN about his decision. “I want to learn my position from Coach Donovan, who has had great success with perimeter players and is a proven winner. Winning back-to-back national championships means a lot.”

Always holding the school in high acclaim, Ogbueze decided to attend Florida over offers from Oklahoma, Baylor, Tennessee, Wake Forest and South Carolina. Assistant coach Rob Lanier was heavily involved in his recruitment.

“Braxton Ogbueze approaches everything with excellence in mind,” his high school head coach Sean Wiseman told ESPN. “From the court to the classroom as well as his character, he tries to be the best at what he does. That’s what makes him special.”

The Gators already have five-star SG Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) and three-star forward Walter Pitchford (East Lansing, MI) on board as members of their 2011 signing class.

Scout.com first reported Ogbueze’s decision.

Photo Credit: NY2LA

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Allen to skip fifth season, be honored Tuesday

Redshirt junior forward Adam Allen, who has not played since first injuring his knee in April 2008, has decided to forgo his fifth year of eligibility and conclude his basketball career with the Florida Gators.

Due to his decision, Allen will be honored alongside redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and senior Fs Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus during Senior Day ceremonies on Tuesday before Florida plays Alabama at home.

“It means a lot to me,” Allen said, per The Gainesville Sun. “Even though I haven’t been able to compete this last three seasons, I still feel like I’m a huge part of the team.”

Allen, who sits on the bench for every home game but does not travel with this team, has been a great cheerleader for his teammates. Whether consoling guys who are struggling or running down the court on one leg after a teammate hits a buzzer-beating game winner, he has done his best to smile in the face of continued adversity.

Moving on to what he hopes will be a career in broadcasting, Allen is departing on the heels of the best season he has seen as a member of the team.

As the Sun’s Kevin Brockway points out, Allen’s decision opens up a second scholarship that head coach Billy Donovan could use for the 2011-12 season. The Gators will have four available with two being filled by five-star guard Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) and three-star F Walter Pitchford (East Lansing, MI).

Photo Credit: Unknown

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Donovan gets commitment from F/C Pitchford

With five-star guard Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) seemingly the only member of the Florida Gators 2011 signing class, head coach Billy Donovan made a splash Wednesday by gaining a verbal commitment from former DePaul singee forward/center Walter Pitchford (East Lansing, MI).

“I really like the coaching staff,” Pitchford told Scout. “I like the players a lot. The relationship that they have is so strong. [I like] the campus and the students on the campus and I like how everybody gets involved on campus. They recruiting me hard and they didn’t sugarcoat anything.”

Between 6’9″ and 6’10” and 210-220 lbs., Pitchford originally signed a National Letter of Intent with DePaul in 2010 but asked for and was provided with a release when the school switched head coaches. He has spent the last year playing prep school basketball and is averaging approximately 17 points and nine rebounds per game.

Rated as a three-star athlete by Rivals, Pitchford is listed as a two-star by ESPNU and was widely considered one of the best uncommitted post players in the country.

Pitchford visited the University of Florida last week and obviously came away impressed. Like most of Donovan’s big men, Pitchford runs the floor very well and is quite athletic. His jump shot is solid, but he has plenty of growing to do both as a defender and back-to-the-basket scorer.

In addition to Florida, Pitchford considered and received significant interest from Arizona State, Minnesota, Indiana and Iowa, among others.

Size is a much-needed attribute for the Gators in 2011 as redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and senior forwards Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus will all be graduating.

Pitchford’s decision was first reported by Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com.

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