Media Day: New challenges ahead for Florida Gators basketball in 2014-15

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan held a press conference last week as part of his team’s media day and discussed a number of pressing topics facing his team as it began fall practice. Below are some links to stories published here on OnlyGators.com last week as well as a wrap-up of everything else Donovan had to say.

Story: Chris Walker suspended three games, Brandone Francis will not play
Story: Billy Donovan stands behind embattled Will Muschamp
Story: Michael Frazier II must step up game, leadership for Gators

NEW CHALLENGES

The 2014-15 Gators basketball team will be a vastly different group…because that’s what happens when you lose four true-senior starters that amassed the vast majority of your points and logged tons of minutes. Florida was so successful last season not just because of those players’ experience but also due to the fact that they had faced so much adversity that they were motivated to overcome any they encountered during their final year in orange and blue.

This year’s team, well, it’s filled with freshman and sophomores that are used to seeing the Gators as one of the best teams in the nation, coming off a season in which the program only lost three games.

“They haven’t faced any adversity,” said Donovan. “That’s going to be, I think, a challenge that these guys have not been tested in. They can go out there, work really, really hard and may not get the results [they want]. …

“There are a couple of concerns for me. There was no level of consistency at all from our returning players outside of Michael Frazier. There were moments that he played exceptionally well, there were moments that they really did a great job, but there was a discipline issue on the court in terms of being reliable guys game in and game out. That is going to be a challenge.”

It’s not that Donovan thinks this group of players is entitled. Rather, “it’s a lack of not living in the real world” for these players, which likely expect Florida to continue or even improve on its impressive showing from last season.

Continue Reading » Media Day: New challenges ahead for Florida Gators basketball in 2014-15

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Brandone Francis cleared to enroll at Florida

While most of the Florida Gators basketball team has been on campus this summer training ahead of the 2014-15 season, one first-year player has been noticeably absent.

Four-star guard Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, FL) was unable to join his teammates this summer while awaiting approval from the NCAA Clearinghouse.

A native of the Dominican Republic, the approval process took longer for Francis, who told OnlyGators.com on Friday evening that he has now received the proverbial thumbs up to enroll at Florida on Sunday, Aug. 24.

“It’s a great day, great day to be a Gator,” he said in an interview with OnlyGators.com Friday night. “Today I got the word that I’m able to enroll in school, and I will be there in nine days on the 24th.

“As an international kid, [the NCAA] wanted to look into my playing history more than some others, but I knew everything would come through fine. There was nothing wrong, they just like to be extra careful on guys coming from outside the United States.”

Continue Reading » Brandone Francis cleared to enroll at Florida

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New Gators basketball players pick numbers

Updated on July 1 at 1:15 p.m.

In the process of finalizing the roster information for 2014-15, the Florida Gators have announced the uniform numbers for the six new players set to play for the first time next season, many of which finally stepped on campus as students on Monday.

TRANSFERS*
» 5 – Alex Murphy (Wakefield, RI), four-star redshirt junior forward
* Murphy joined the Gators in the spring of 2014 from Duke. He will be eligible to play in the spring of 2015 barring the approval of a NCAA waiver.
» 15 – John Egbunu (Fort Walton Beach, FL), four-star sophomore center
* Egbunu joins Florida as a transfer from USF. He will not be eligible to play until the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
» 21 – Jon Horford (Grand Ledge, MI), three-star redshirt senior power forward
* Horford joins UF as a graduate transfer from Michigan.

FRESHMEN
» 2 – Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, FL), four-star guard
» 3 – Devin Robinson (Christchurch, VA), five-star forward
» 11 – Chris Chiozza (Memphis, TN), four-star point guard
» 24 – Zach Hodskins (Alpharetta, GA), preferred walk-on guard

CHANGES^
» 14 – Lexx Edwards (Orlando, FL), junior guard
^ Edwards previously wore No. 11, which was taken by Chiozza

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Florida snags five-star 2014 F Devin Robinson

Head coach Billy Donovan is slowly but surely piecing together an impressive 2014 recruiting class for the Florida Gators, boosting his haul Wednesday by receiving a verbal commitment from five-star forward Devin Robinson (Christchurch, VA).

Robinson announced his choice at his high school, picking UF over Indiana, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State.

The third unanimous top-50 player to join Florida’s 2014 class, Robinson (6-foot-8, 180-pounds) is a talented shot maker who is efficient from long range, drives to the hoop with ease and spreads the ball around when defenders converge.

He is also a solid perimeter defender who will become even more dominant once he adds some much-needed bulk.

Robinson, the 20th ranked prospect in the Rivals150, is now the Gators’ top-rated recruit for the cycle. He is joined in the 2014 class by four-stars guard Brandon Francis (Jacksonville, FL) and point guard Chris Chiozza (Memphis, TN). Francis is ranked 26th in the nation, while Chiozza checks in at No. 38 overall.

Florida has also gained a 2014 pledge from G Zach Hodskins (Milton, GA), who will join the Gators next season as a preferred walk-on.

With four seniors set to graduate, UF is assured of having at least one additional scholarship available for 2014.

Should freshman PG Kasey Hill or incoming power forward Chris Walker declare early for the NBA Draft – or other players transfer out of the program – Donovan may have even more space to add talent to his roster ahead of next season.

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Florida Gators want the player, not the story, in 2014 commit Zach Hodskins

The Florida Gators got a player in 2014 guard Zack Hodskins (Alpharetta, GA), and being a player is the only thing Hodskins has ever wanted.

Excelling as a high school basketball star can earn one a lot of attention. Supplement that talent with the unavoidable fact that Hodskins only has one hand – he was born without a forearm or hand on his left arm – and the rush of recognition has become overwhelming, especially since August when Florida was the first Division I program to offer him a role with its basketball team.

It did not take long for Hodskins to realize that he belonged with the Gators, which are interested in him solely because of his on-court ability – equal to that of other players – rather than the story of how he has overcome adversity and come close to achieving his dream despite working with a perceived limitation.

“They made it clear, first of all, that I’m a player for them. They see me as a player in every aspect,” Hodskins told OnlyGators.com in an exclusive interview Monday night. “I have every opportunity to earn a scholarship. It’s not just because of who I am. It’s because they see me as a player.

“That’s what they want people to know. I know Billy Donovan wants a lot of people to know that, and I want people to know that. That’s the main thing. That’s what they told me. I’m just like any other player that got recruited for them. It’s just a different type of offer. That’s it.”

That is why Hodskins committed Saturday to join the Florida basketball program in 2014 without a scholarship but rather in a preferred walk-on role.

Continue Reading » Florida Gators want the player, not the story, in 2014 commit Zach Hodskins

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One-handed 2014 guard Zach Hodskins accepts preferred walk-on spot with Florida Gators

Interest extended by the Florida Gators in August came to fruition on Saturday when 2014 guard Zach Hodskins (Alpharetta, GA) committed to join the Gators basketball team after spending the weekend visiting Florida.

Hodskins, a one-handed phenom who was born without the bottom of his left arm (having it cut off at his elbow), took in a practice at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and came away incredibly impressed.

“What an amazing visit to Florida, [their] basketball program is off the charts!” he tweeted on Saturday.

One hour later, Hodskins had made his decision.

“[I’ve] officially committed to the University of Florida basketball. I know God has put me in the right place #GatorNation #GatorBasketball” he wrote.

Hodskins (6-foot-3, 175 pounds) was offered a preferred walk-on spot in August by assistant coach John Pelphrey. A preferred walk-on is guaranteed a place on the roster but does not receive a scholarship.

The opportunity to play for a program like the Gators and a head coach like Billy Donovan was obviously too much for Hodskins to pass up in the long run. The chance to earn a scholarship would not be out of the realm of possibility either.

He is the third guard committed to play for Florida in 2014, joining a pair of four-star, Rivals 100 recruits in Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, FL) and Chris Chiozza.

OnlyGators.com confirmed with Hodskins that the commitment he made was to join the program as a preferred walk-on. Check back Sunday for an update to this story.


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Florida offers preferred walk-on spot to one-handed 2014 guard Zach Hodskins

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan has made a career of recruiting the right players for his program, making the most out of underrated talent and turning top prospects into NBA Draft lottery picks.

He may have a new opportunity to smooth out yet another diamond in the rough if 2014 guard Zach Hodskins (Alpharetta, GA), a one-handed phenom, accepts Donovan’s preferred walk-on offer to join the Florida basketball team.

Hodskins was born without the bottom half of his left arm, which is cut off at the elbow and therefore missing a hand and forearm, yet is an incredibly skilled shooter (hitting 60 percent of his three-pointers) and passer despite only having one hand.

According to David Boyd, Hodskins’s former basketball coach, Gators assistant coach John Pelphrey presented the preferred walk-on offer, which would guarantee Hodskins a spot on the team for the 2014-15 season though not a full scholarship.


Hodskins (6-foot-3, 175 pounds) has not received a scholarship offer from a Division I program although Alabama-Birmingham and Birmingham Southern are both considering taking that step in their recruitment of the player, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Pep Rally blog, which first reported Hodskins’s offer from UF.

The opportunity to play – even as a reserve deep on the bench – for a program like Florida might be too much for him to pass up in the long run. While that may be the case, Hodskins is not expected to rush into a decision and will undoubtedly wait to see if a full scholarship offer arrives before agreeing to continue his career in Gainesville, FL.

“I know that people who don’t know me sleep on me when I walk on the court,” he told USA Today back in December. “They don’t think I can play or they don’t know what to think, but it’s when I hit those first few shots or when I go by them is when they wake up. That’s when they start playing me hard. That’s what I love. I know I’ve just earned their respect. That’s all I want.”

The Gators have a pair of four-star, Rivals100 guards – Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, FL) and Chris Chiozza (Memphis, TN) – already committed for 2014 but are expected to have at least two more roster sports available as the team is losing four seniors and potentially one or two underclassmen.

If Hodskins was to join the Florida basketball team as a preferred walk-on, he could potentially earn a full scholarship in the future.


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