2 BITS: Walker to miss season? Prather honored

1 » While the Florida Gators continue to wait, hoping to learn about the playing eligibility of freshman forward Chris Walker, the NCAA has been tight-lipped about the entire situation. However, a source with the organization told SNY.tv‘s Adam Zagoria on Wednesday that Walker “not playing at all this season remains a possibility.” Though that information sounds dire, it is not necessarily groundbreaking as anyone facing an NCAA eligibility issue has the possibility of never being cleared and therefore not playing. Head coach Billy Donovan has decided to stop addressing Walker and his status, so a comment from him on this report the next time he speaks (Thursday) is unlikely.


2 » The news was much more positive for another Gators forward on Wednesday as senior Casey Prather was named to the Wooden Award‘s midseason list of 25 semifinalists. Though Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Kansas’s Joel Embiid are the frontrunners, Prather is widely considered one of the most improved players in college basketball this season as he currently averages a team-high 17.3 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting a team-best 63.6 percent from the field. Prather is just 17 points away from scoring 276 during the 2013-14 season, which matches the total number of points he scored over the last three campaigns, combined.

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FOUR BITS: Young, Jaeckel, cheer, Jenkins

1 » Florida Gators sophomore forward/center Patric Young, one of the most important pieces to the team’s 2011-12 season, was named to the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list on Monday. The Wooden Award is presented each year to the nation’s most outstanding college basketball player and is awarded after the postseason has concluded. Every player in the nation is eligible to win except freshmen, medical redshirts and transfers. Young is one of seven players representing the Southeastern Conference on the watch list and the only one from Florida.

2 » Gators senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel picked up a pair of prestigious weekly honors after standout performances over the weekend. Jaeckel was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday and was honored with the AVCA National Player of the Week award just one day later. Over the course of two road games against Auburn and Georgia, Jaeckel totaled 29 kills, 12 blocks, four digs and two service aces. Florida swept both opponents 3-0 and is now 11-3 with a 4-1 record in SEC competition so far this season.

3 » UF cheerleader Tarin Moses wrote a Sideline Report blog for AmericanCheerleaders.com, which takes readers through a day in the life of a member of the Gators’ spirit squad before, during and after a big contest at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Though the majority of Florida fans already know of the traditions Moses writes about, the entry is an interesting look at the game from her perspective.

4 » Former Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins, playing his final collegiate season with the North Alabama Lions after transferring due to multiple rules violations, was named the Gulf Coast Conference Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday because he had an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown and a blocked field goal during his team’s game on Saturday. It was Jenkins’s third touchdown of the season (punt return, fumble return), and he is also third on North Alabama with 33 tackles through five games. The Lions have started the 2011 season 5-0.

Extra BIT » Offensive tackle Max Starks has not played a game in the NFL this season after being released by the Pittsburgh Steelers when the lockout ended this summer. Due to a massive amount of injuries and an intense need for a player who knows the system, Pittsburgh flew Starks in to work out for the team on Tuesday, NFL.com‘s Jason LaCanfora reports. Starks was originally cut by the Steelers due to weight issues and concerns stemming from offseason neck surgery. When asked last week if Starks was an option to return, head coach Mike Tomlin flat-out said no.

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FOUR BITS: Harvin, Boynton, Parsons, Spikes

1 » Breaking news Wednesday has future Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss being traded from the New England Patriots to the Minnesota Vikings for a third round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. One of the players his arrival in Minnesota will help most? Former Florida Gators WR Percy Harvin, who has had a slow start to the season as the team’s primary pass catcher with WR Sidney Rice out of action for more than half of the year. Harvin could flourish in intermediate routes from the slot or opposite Moss on the outside, so keep an eye out for him as the season progresses.

2 » Florida sophomore guard Kenny Boynton was named to the John R. Wooden Preseason Watch List on Monday. The list showcases 50 collegiate basketball players who Wooden Award Committee believes are frontrunners for the group’s player of the year award at the end of the season. Left off of this year’s initial list was Gators senior forward Chandler Parsons who was unquestionably the team’s best player last season and will be an integral piece should the team make the deep NCAA Tournament run predicted for them. Discounted by the committee, Parsons was recently profiled by Dime Magazine, which called him the “leader of the best starting five in America.” Check out this interview with Parsons that covers a number of topics.

3 » Three former Florida stars turned NFL rookies – tight end Aaron Hernandez and linebackers Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes – have been getting major playing time (most of the time as starters) this season with New England. Cunningham had to overcome injuries during the offseason, but Hernandez and Spikes each had to deal with a different personal matter that cast doubt about them in the eyes of fans and the media. For seemingly the first time in years, Spikes spoke with reporters and tried to clear the air. “I definitely was embarrassed,” he said about the online video released of him. Now his focus is on football, which is getting easier for him week-to-week. “It’s kind of been a big learning process, but I think it’s coming along,” Spikes said. “Every day is a step I need to take to try to get better.”

4 » It has been five years since former Alabama Crimson Tide WR Tyrone Prothro’s career was basically ended when he shattered the lower part of his leg while attempting to make a catch in the end zone at home against the Gators. The best game of Prothro’s career ended up being his last, something he will always remember as being a life-changing event. “I definitely think that if I didn’t get hurt, I’d be in the NFL right now,” Prothro told AOL FanHouse. “I’m not sure if I would have come out early or not, but I might have. I was a junior. Though he is able to walk – and run – again, Prothro’s physicality is not where it needs to be to play professionally. Now he is working as a bank teller at Regions Bank across the street from his former team’s football complex. “People don’t believe it’s me,” he said. “I’ve got a name tag and a nameplate. They look down, then they look back up, and I’m like ‘It’s me.’”

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Florida Gators’ Billy Donovan honored with John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award

University of Florida men’s basketball head coach Billy Donovan was honored with the John R. Wooden “Legends of Coaching Award” on Friday at a banquet and ceremony at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. This award, which recognizes successful coaches who exemplify Wooden’s high standards of integrity on the court, is presented to recipients who are selected based on character, success, student-athlete graduation rate and coaching philosophy.

Donovan is one of only four active coaches who have both guided teams to multiple NCAA National Championship titles (2006, 2007) and received this honor. The others are the Duke Blue Devils’ Mike Krzyzweski (4), North Carolina Tar Heels’ Roy Williams (2) and Connecticut Huskies’ Jim Calhoun (2). Donovan is 331-139 (.704) in 14 seasons as coach of the Florida Gators with 12 consecutive 20-win seasons, 10 NCAA Tournament appearances and three Southeastern Conference Championships.

“This is a great honor and I was very taken back when I learned I was going to be here tonight,” Donovan said. “To me, coaching is about how your players talk about you when they’re out of your program five or six years down the road. The true sign of a great coach is how your players speak about you and I am certainly proud of some of the comments my players said about me tonight. You want to have a shared vision at your university and we have a great athletic director and administration at the University of Florida. I love the basketball practices, getting the chance to be on court and provide individual instruction to our student-athletes. Florida is a terrific place. I have been very blessed that my family has been in one place for 14 years. For my wife and our four children, it’s been a great ride to be at one place and to build something like we have.”

Photo Credit: H. Darr Beiser/USA TODAY

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TWO BITS: Brown’s search, Donovan’s honor

1 » Looking for a new home after being cut outright by the Chicago Bears, former Florida Gators defensive end Alex Brown is making the rounds. Visiting Tuesday with the New Orleans Saints, Brown has also scheduled a meeting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday. With the Saints, Brown would likely receive a starting job should he be amenable to their contract offer.

2 » From OGGOA on Oct. 14, 2009:

University of Florida men’s basketball head coach Billy Donovan will be honored with the John R. Wooden “Legends of Coaching Award” on April [9,] 2010. This award recognizes successful coaches who exemplify Wooden’s high standards of integrity on the court. Winners are selected based on character, success, student-athlete graduation rate and coaching philosophy. Donovan will be one of only four active coaches who have both guided teams to multiple NCAA National Championship titles (20006, 2007) and received this honor. The others are the Duke Blue Devils’ Mike Krzyzweski (4), North Carolina Tar Heels’ Roy Williams (2) and Connecticut Huskies’ Jim Calhoun (2). Donovan is 333-139 (.706) in 14 seasons as coach of the Gators with 12 consecutive 20-win seasons, 10 NCAA Tournament appearances and three SEC Championships.

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