ORLANDO -- Freshman point guard Kasey Hill will be a game-time decision for Florida’s tournament opener against 16-seed Albany (4:10 p.m., TBS), the school announced Wednesday.
Hill, who is averaging 5.9 points and 3.1 assists as Scottie Wilbekin’s backup, is battling turf toe and will be re-evaluated Thursday morning during Florida’s team shoot-around.
The Umatilla native participated in Wednesday’s open practice and displayed no visible limp during the workout, but the McDonald’s All-American did miss seven games this season with various injuries (ankle, groin).
Orlando is a homecoming of sorts for several Gators, including fan-favorite walk-on Jake “The Snake” Kurtz.
Kurtz, who starred at Hagerty under Josh Kone, said the return to Orlando is “really cool.”
“I grew up a Magic fan, 15-minutes away from here. This is a thrill,” he said.
Kurtz’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament wasn’t so pleasant though.
In 2011, when the Gators faced Virginia (and later Norfolk State) in Omaha, Nebraska, Kurtz didn’t have a seat on the bench.
Tomorrow he may have a chance to play.
“The seats get cut down in the NCAA Tournament,” Kurtz explained, acknowledging the situation was “a bummer.” “I wasn’t able to sit [with the team]. That was the first experience I had with the tournament. … I’d love to play. Everyone wants to play, but I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing if we win, and I don’t. I’m ok as long as we keep moving on.”
MASTER AND HIS PUPIL(S)
While fans across the country are upset with Louisville's seeding, coach Rick Pitino is frustrated with his team's opponent.
Pitnio criticized the NCAA selection committee for pitting his Cardinals against Manhattan, coached by protégée and longtime friend Steve Masiello.
But while Louisville's Hall of Fame coach is upset about facing off against Masiello, Pitino effusively sang the praises of another former star pupil also in Orlando: Florida coach Billy Donovan.
“Billy the Kid to me is one of the most special people in my life. I’ve said this, [former Cardinals point guard] Peyton Siva and Donovan were two of the most special people I’ve ever coached. I could never find a character flaw in them,” Pitino said.
Then the eulogizing continued.
“There’s no finer person I’ve met in my life,” he said. “He’s just the most special human being I’ve ever encountered in my lifetime. He never changed. Success hasn’t changed him. Adversity hasn’t changed him.”
Donovan, who’s built his own expansive coaching tree including Shaka Smart (VCU), Anthony Grant (Alabama), Donnie Jones (UCF) and Larry Shyatt (Wyoming), boasted on Pitino’s ability to develop assistants into quality head coaches.
“When I was 24 years old, I was forced to scout. I was forced to coach. I was forced to teach. I was forced to break down film,” Donovan explained. “I was forced to make decisions. There was not any area of coaching when I was with Coach Pitino that I was not exposed to, and it was challenging, it was demanding, and it made me better. I really felt even though I was 28-years-old and took over at Marshall, I didn't feel like I was unprepared, or geez, this is overwhelming. Not at all, and I think that had everything to do with Coach Pitino in terms of preparing us, and I hope in some way what he did for me I can do the same thing for my guys that are assistant coaches and move on to head coaching positions, is to get them prepared as much as I can.”
"It seems like a long time ago. I've got great respect for the Magic and for this organization, for the people running it. I'm excited to be at Florida. When I went back, I knew we were going to have to rebuild. We lost a lot of personnel, and it's been challenging, it's been rewarding. There's been peaks and valleys. There's been ups and downs. But I'm proud of what our team has done to get to this point. We're happy that we can certainly stay here in the state of Florida and the city of Orlando to play in the tournament. But for me, I think that's over and done with, and I've kind of moved on from it."
--- Donovan, on returning to Orlando for the first time since renegging on Magic job in 2007.
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