June 18, 2015

Fireworks: UF's homer barrage sends UM packing

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s bats were held quiet against Virginia, but the Gators brought the thunder Tuesday night, ending Miami’s season with a bang to stave off elimination at the College World Series. 

The Miami Herald’s George Richards wrote the gamer from UF’s 10-2 win in TD Ameritrade Park.

The highlights: 

* UF smashed four dingers, including the three longest homers ever in the stadium. Peter Alonso's blast traveled 421-feet to straightaway center. 

 * The four long balls were the most in a CWS game at TD Ameritrade Park. 

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* Florida left fielder Harrison Bader became the first player since 2008 to leadoff a CWS game with a home run. 

* The Gators outscored the Hurricanes 25-5 in two games in Omaha. 

* UF has won 21-of-26 over UM, including eight consecutive postseason matchups. In a related note, Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan has never lost to the Canes in the NCAA Tournament. 

* Florida ended Miami’s season for the fourth time since 2009. 

UF is now set for a rematch with Virginia on Friday (3 p.m., ESPN2). UF must beat UVA twice to advance to the CWS Finals after losing to the Cavaliers 1-0 on Monday evening.

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May 21, 2014

Harris officially done

Orl-gators1520121010150914(Courtesy Gatorzone.com)

GAINESVILLE -- Damontre Harris ran out of chances. 

As first reported by Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com, Florida’s 6-foot-10 center is no longer with the team -- a permanent move following multiple disciplinary issues and second chances. 

UF later confirmed Rothstein’s report, and coach Billy Donovan is likely to speak on the issue Thursday at his post-spring wrap-up press conference. 

But Wednesday officially ended a rollercoaster ride for the troubled transfer from South Carolina. Harris, a member of the All-SEC Defensive team in 2011-12, never played a minute for the Gators -- this despite being eligible during Florida’s Final Four run last season. 

Donovan suspended Harris indefinitely before the start of the 2013-14 season, later dismissing the big-man from the team during Christmas break. However, Harris pleaded for another chance -- a request Donovan granted.

Harris practiced with the Gators during their NCAA Tournament run, but Donovan refused to allow Harris to play citing chemistry, values and respect. 

Like former embattled guard Scottie Wilbekin, Harris was given conditions follow before ever seeing the court again -- stipulations likely not completed this spring/summer. 

Harris’ loss is hardly a surprise considering Florida recently landed 7-foot shot blocking sensation John Egbunu from South Florida

While Egbunu, with three years of eligibility remaining, must sit out the 2014-15 season due to transfer rules, he will be on scholarship -- an issue resolved with Harris’ dismissal. 

With Egbunu’s addition, the Gators were one over the NCAA scholarship limit (13) before Harris was released. 

More to come. 

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March 07, 2014

Class Dismissed

 

 

GAINESVILLE -- No. 1 Florida is chasing perfection -- and history -- Saturday at noon against No. 25 Kentucky, but a pregame ceremony honoring its decorated senior class will serve as an appropriate appetizer on an emotionally charged afternoon.

The Gators, winners of a school-record 23 straight, will pay homage to a special (and rare) group of four seniors -- Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather, Will Yeguete and Patric Young -- who have played over 500 games together and share the discernible scars from three consecutive Elite Eight exits.  

It’s a weathered, warted but invested quartet, discovering enviable (and possibly record) successes despite navigating through cobblestone-esque roads.

Each player’s story is different, and while chemistry and experience are cliché characterizations of UF’s four seniors, overcoming adversity is what seems to truly define them.

Four years ago, a hotshot prospect (Young), a kid (Wilbekin), a project (Yeguete) and a wide-eyed winger (Prather) came together. On Saturday, they stand as the greatest senior class in UF’s history.

It wasn’t always pretty, and was rarely easy, but Florida’s quartet -- forged by toughness, patience and poise -- is exactly how the whole can be better than the sum of its parts.

The seniors, none stud nor slouch, have combined for three Southeastern Conference titles, nine NCAA Tournament wins and stand just a single victory away from becoming the first team in league history to go 18-0 in conference play.

Florida’s special class is the perfect storm of madness meets good fortune. Young is a former McDonald’s All-American who gradually found consistency, but never developed fast enough to see his lottery projection fulfilled. Wilbekin is a former local high school product thrust into adulthood too soon, yet newfound maturity (via multiple suspensions) saw him transform into UF’s best and most indispensable player.

Prather is a dynamic slasher who wanted to be a prolific shooter, but wasn’t. After flirting with transferring, he decided to stay in Gainesville and blossomed into the team’s top scorer.

Finally, Yeguete is and has always been the heart and soul of the group. The glue-guy who’s body has been undone by multiple injuries, the fauxhawked forward remains a key-cog in UF’s championship run as its energy, heartbeat and intangible force.

Together, the four seniors have accomplished great things, and while they’re hardly ready to commemorate their careers, each player was able to reflect on their journey and what tomorrow’s final home game means.

Below is a compilation of quotes, including a nugget from coach Billy Donovan.

DONOVAN

On how the group deserves to be remembered: 

"I think first and foremost great kids, great people, people of substance, of character. None of them are perfect. They've all made mistakes. They've all been through their ups and downs, but I think at the heart of who they are, they're really great kids. The other think the other thing that I would say is that this institution means an enormous amount to them personally. Them putting on a Florida uniform, them playing here, has meant a lot to them and something they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. And then I think the other part of it is their teammates have been equally important to them as the institution has been. I think they're kids that worked really, really hard and tried each and every day to do the best that they can." 

YEGUETE

On how the seniors will be remembered:

“I think we all have our own personal story. I think we all went through a couple things in our four years here. Me and my injury. Casey wasn't playing a lot first few years and now he's having a great year. Pat kind of being up and down a little bit. Scottie being in trouble. I think guys are just staying in the moment, just staying with the process. We fought through a lot of adversity we had and just staying connected. That's pretty much how we'll be remembered.”

On the group’s special bond:  

"We knew how close we are and how much we could accomplish as a group. We had a lot of fun here, especially with this group this year, and we're just excited for what's next and we know there's more out there for us." 

WILBEKIN 

On tomorrow’s atmosphere:

“Yeah, I’ve thought about it quite a bit. It definitely brings back some memories of just how long I’ve been here. But I just want to end it the right way, just playing hard and giving it my all for this last home game." 

On not relishing the moment until it’s over:

“That’s how I want it to be. Obviously I want to make the most out of it, but I can’t let whatever moment it is, and the rest of the guys can’t let whatever moment it is be bigger than the big game we have to play. That’s what we’ve been trying to focus on.”

YOUNG

On the class’ accomplishments:

"Hopefully, the greatest thing hasn't come yet. But as of now, this class has gone through a lot, from guys thinking about transferring to staying in school, to not playing games with injuries, all those things, this team, this senior class, has persevered, stuck together and won." 

On his attitude this season:

“I knew this was my last chance to do something great here. I just really wanted to give it my best shot by putting in the work during the offseason. I’ve been focused on doing whatever I can to be more connected to my teammates, being a better teammate and trying to improve myself mentally for the ups and downs that come during the season and focus in on working harder each day.”

PRATHER 

On the quartet’s relationship:

“We’re so close. Even from the first day we met we just clicked. I don’t know what it was about it, but we clicked instantly. Since then we’ve just improved our relationship on and off the court.”

On his bond with Donovan:

“It’s grown quite a bit because he knows some of the obstacles I came through from earlier experiences in high school. He’s been a great guy and great mentor who has prepared me for the games and for the future.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

January 29, 2014

NCAA clears Walker

GAINESVILLE -- Chris 'Sky' Walker is finally free to soar.

No. 3 Florida's 6-foot-10 McDonald's All-American forward -- cleared Wednesday by the NCAA -- will make his collegiate debut Feb. 4 in primetime when UF hosts Missouri (9 p.m., ESPN).

“We’re glad there’s a resolution for everyone involved, especially Chris,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said in a news release.

“We appreciate everyone’s participation in this process and are ready to move forward.”

ESPN’s Jeff Goodman first reported Walker’s reinstatement, with the NCAA and university quickly confirming the sourced report.

According to a release by the NCAA, Walker received a 12-game suspension -- or 40 percent of the season -- for accepting impermissible benefits from five people, including two agents.

The report states Walker received “free cell phones and service, airfare, lodging, meals and apparel.”

Additionally, “individuals close to Walker received free airfare and lodging for nine different trips, including eight associated with Walker’s non-scholastic [AAU] basketball team competitions.”

The five-star forward is required to donate the $270 he received from agents to a charity of his choice and perform 80 hours of community service.

“I appreciate all the support from UF, Coach Donovan and my teammates,” Walker said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to helping the team any way I can.”

He later tweeted...

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The report states Walker was declared ineligible by the NCAA [at an unspecified date] and then Florida filed for Walker’s reinstatement Jan. 21. The two parties “worked to finalize the facts” until Wednesday’s decision.

“The NCAA membership has expressed continued concern about how third-party influence, improper agent involvement and the role of non-scholastic basketball impact student-athletes and prospects,” Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs, said in the statement.

“Out of concern for student-athletes’ wellbeing, our members have created rules that limit the involvement of these individuals. The 12 games Mr. Walker was required to sit out reflect the significance of these violations.”

Walker, a freak finisher and shot-blocker as prep prospect, didn’t enroll at Florida until Dec. 14 after failing to qualify academically last summer. The Bonifay native, who led Holmes County to the 1A state finals, spent the fall getting his academics in order, eventually completing the necessary requirements to enroll for the spring semester. 

 

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FOR REAL -- #FREESKYWALKER actually happening ... for real this time?

********** UPDATED **********

Florida confirms Goodman's report, saying Walker has been cleared and will debut against Mizzou. 

In a statement, coach Billy Donovan said, "We're glad there's a resolution for everyone involved, especially Chris. We appreciate everyone's participation in this process and are ready to move forward."

Walker, a five-star forward expected to bolster UF's frontcourt, added, "I appreciate all the support from UF, coach Donovan and my teammates. I'm looking forward to helping the team any way I can."

Meanwhile, the NCAA released a report on Walker's reinstatement, explaining the 12-game suspension.

According to the NCAA, Walker accepted $270 in benefits and is required to donate the same amount to a charity of his choice.

Walker must also serve 80 hours of community service for "the remaining benefits received."

More to come...

GAINESVILLE -- From the best source to date...

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If true, the long nightmare for the 2013 McDonald's All-American would be over. 

According to Goodman, Walker will be (officially) eligible to play on Tuesday (Feb. 4) when No. 3 Florida hosts Missouri in a nationally televised showcase (9 p.m., ESPN). 

The university has yet to confirm Goodman's report or issue any sort of statement

Stay tuned. 

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

January 21, 2014

Done talking

GAINESVILLE -- Billy Donovan is done taking questions concerning Chris Walker's eligibly.

Florida's 6-foot-10 freshman forward, who enrolled at the school on Dec. 14 but has yet to play for the No. 6 Gators, remains in limbo awaiting a decision by the NCAA.

On Monday, a report by an Orlando TV station stated that Walker -- a five-star prospect from Holmes County High and 2013 McDonald's All-American -- would be cleared for Saturday's home game against Tennessee. However, the university immediately denied the report, as did the NCAA (per The Gainesville Sun).

Tuesday, Donovan, clearly frustrated by the NCAA's foot-dragging and the relentless questions regarding the subject, addressed Walker's issue for the final time, saying, "As it relates to Chris, just listen to us and our school. I’m not going to address it anymore. Certainly we’re hopeful he gets back soon, but there’s been no indication that there’s any truth to that at all."

Donovan continued to refute the report, adding, "Whenever [Chris] gets cleared -- and certainly we all hope it’s soon, believe me -- I’m not going to throw a guy in a game and have him pop up and you guys not be aware of it. The minute he gets eligible, cleared and he’s able to play, I’ll let you know. Anything else that’s out there about that is not true.”

According to various reports, Walker allegedly received improper benefits from former AAU coach Matt Ramker, but Donovan wouldn't address any specific issue delaying Walker's clearance.

"I don’t know all the details because it doesn’t involve our institution. I’m just focusing on our team, the guys that are here right now and letting our administration handle it," Donovan said. "I have not been privy to any conversations between the NCAA, our school, Chris or any of those other things. The only thing I’ve been trying to do with Chris is each and every day trying to help him get better as a player, provide the resources he needs academically, try to work with him on the court to get better.

"In terms of all the details and hangs up, I don’t know all those details because when there’s something going on like this, there’s ethical conduct forms that are signed. That stuff has to be kept confidential, be kept between Chris and the NCAA, kept between our administration and the NCAA. I’m not involved in any of those conversations. I trust our administration and what they’re doing. Hopefully it will be resolved in a timely fashion." 

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December 21, 2013

HOOPS: Harris dismissed

GAINESVILLE -- After weeks of innuendo, Damontre Harris was officially dismissed from the Florida basketball team Saturday morning.

The 6-foot-10, 228-pound South Carolina transfer never played a game in a Gators uniform.

Harris, who sat out the 2012-13 season after leaving Columbia, was suspended indefinitely for an undisclosed violation of team rules at the start of the 2013-14 campaign.

Os-pictures-2013-uf-mens-basketball-media-day--026(Courtesy orlandosentinel.com)

Coach Billy Donovan publicly expressed his disappointment in the troubled center for weeks and just five days ago acknowledged Harris was unlikely to ever play at Florida.

On Saturday morning, Harris’ fate was officially sealed.

“He was never disrespectful as far as his attitude,” Donovan said in a statement. “He was a nice kid and never blamed anybody for what was happening. We tried to help him off the court and help him with some of the challenges he was dealing with, but there was never this reciprocation of wanting to be helped, or wanting to do the things necessary.”

Harris, who was expected to be a rotational frontcourt piece this year, was injured (hamstring) at the start of training camp and his role with the team quickly unraveled. Already suspended in the preseason, the center stopped showing up to the practice facility for treatment and rehab. Last month, Donovan announced Harris never practiced with the team since the season started.

“I think he realizes that a big opportunity for him is now gone,” Donovan told the school website Saturday. “The thing I tried to get across to him, if he has any aspirations of playing professional basketball there is not one team in this country or overseas that is going to tolerate this type of behavior, and I’d be doing him a disservice if I didn’t hold him accountable for these things.”

Harris, who did complete the fall semester in good academic standing, is permitted to transfer to any school without restrictions. 

No. 16 Florida (8-2) faces Fresno State (6-5) today at 4:30 p.m. (Sun Network) in Sunrise at the Orange Bowl Classic. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

December 18, 2013

HOOPS: Murphy x 2

GAINESVILLE -- Alex Murphy wants to continue the family tradition.

After his older brother, Erik, developed into an All-SEC power forward with the Gators, Murphy, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound combo-forward, decided to transfer to Florida following two-plus seasons at Duke.

***** UPDATE *****

Florida officially confirmed Murphy's transfer late Thursday afternoon. 

"We're excited about having Alex join our team," coach Billy Donovan said. "We obviously know his family well and look forward to having Alex here."

The redshirt sophomore will enroll at UF in January and become eligible to play next December baring a hardship wavier.

“At the end of the day, it was just my comfort level with the program and coaches,” Murphy told The Gainesville Sun. “It was a gut feeling. It was where I wanted to be.”

Murphy chose UF over Rhode Island, Providence and Northeastern.

He announced his decision on Twitter.

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 Erik, a rookie on the Chicago Bulls who starred on UF's three straight Elite Eight teams, tweeted out his support too.

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Murphy was a highly rated recruit in the 2011 Class (four-star, No. 45 overall), but the stretch-four struggled to break into coach Mike Krzyzewski’s rotation. While Murphy must earn his stripes at UF, the forward could play a key role in Florida’s frontcourt next season. The Gators graduate three seniors -- Patric Young, Will Yeguete, Casey Prather -- while South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris is unlikely to ever suit up at UF and freshman Chris Walker and sophomore Dorian-Finney Smith could leave early for the NBA.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

December 16, 2013

HOOPS: Walker "not a savior," Harris likely done at UF

GAINESVILLE -- Five-star freshman Chris Walker -- a 6-foot-10 athletic power forward -- is expected to boost No. 16 Florida with his shotblocking, rim-rattling and rebounding skills, but coach Billy Donovan immediately tempered all expectations for the McDonald’s All-American on Monday.

“He is going to find out just how far behind he really is,” Donovan said. “I think there is obviously a lot of attention with him coming into school, but I think the one thing that people have got to realize is the fact that he is going to come in here and totally change our team, that is the furthest thing from the truth. He's got such a long way to go and it's not his fault.”

Walker, who missed the fall semester, joined the Gators on Saturday after compelling the necessary requirements to gain academic eligibility, but the freshman forward has only practiced with the team as he awaits the final decision by the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Walker will not play -- or even travel -- when UF takes on No. 15 Memphis at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night (9 p.m., ESPN) in New York City.  

Donovan said Walker’s final eligibility is “totally out of our hands,” placing no timetable on when he anticipates Walker seeing the floor.

“It's just going to be a process for him and I just hope he doesn't get frustrated,” Donovan explained. “I hope people realize he's not going to be the savior and all of a sudden like he doesn't just change our team. I'm just happy to have a body, happy that he's able to participate. I'm happy for him more than anything else.''

FATE SEALED

Donovan has publicly expressed his frustrations with former South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris, who remains suspended indefinitely due to undisclosed violations. 

On Monday, Florida’s coach took his disappointment in the 6-foot-11, 228-pound center a step further.

Harris is unlikely to ever play for the Gators.

“Nothing changed at all,” Donovan said.

“He has shown no signs of wanting to do the things necessary to come back. I really don’t know what his plans would be or where he’ll go, but right now I don’t ever anticipate him playing here at Florida.”

WILBEKIN HONORED

Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin was named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week after tallying a career-high 18 points along with six assists and four steals in UF’s 67-61 win over Kansas. 

VIDEO: Senior forward Will Yeguete talks NYC, Walker, the Tigers and more. 

 

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December 14, 2013

HOOPS: Walker enrolls at UF

GAINESVILLE -- McDonald's All-American forward Chris Walker was officially admitted to the University of Florida and is eligible to practice immediately, the school announced Saturday.

With UF's fall semester over, the five-star forward from Bonifay -- who did not qualify academically for the fall -- completed the necessary course work and entry requirements to enroll for the spring semester.

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(Courtesy @GatorZoneChris | Billy Donovan, left; Chris Walker, middle; Matt McCall, right)

Walker, a 6-foot-10, 220-pound explosive athlete, immediately boosts No. 19 Florida's already long and aggressive front line.   

Due to an undisclosed NCAA issue, the freshman is not yet eligible to compete for the Gators and has been ruled out against No. 16 Memphis on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden (Jimmy V Classic, 9 p.m., ESPN). 

Per UF, Walker will wear No. 23 for the Gators. 

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December 09, 2013

HOOPS: Wilbekin, Hill to play against Kansas

GAINESVILLE -- For the first time all season, Billy Donovan's team will have both its headliner point guards available for the same game. 

Scottie Wilbekin (ankle sprain) and Kasey Hill (high ankle sprain) will play in No. 19 Florida's marquee matchup with No. 13 Kansas on Tuesday night (7 p.m., ESPN), Donovan announced Monday. 

Wilbekin -- hurt late in UF's heartbreaking loss at Connecticut (Dec. 2) -- was originally diagnosed with a high ankle sprain, but team trainers later reclassified the senior's injury and ruled Wilbekin "probable" over the weekend for UF's top-25 showdown. 

Hill, sidelined since Nov. 18, practiced full-contact Sunday for the first time since sustaining his injury against Southern University. Donovan acknowledged the staff doesn't quite "know what we're going to get from him," but did say Hill will at least "get an opportunity." 

WALKER UPDATE

McDonald's All-American forward Chris Walker has completed the necessary coursework and could be admitted to the university sometime this week, Donovan said. 

The freshman, ineligible for the fall semester, is waiting for the green light from both UF's admissions department and the NCAA Clearinghouse. 

Donovan said the situation is "out of our hands," but that Walker " has done everything he needs to do."

The earliest the 6-foot-10, 225-pound forward can practice with the team is Saturday -- the day after final exams end for the fall semester. But Donovan immediately ruled Walker out for Florida's next game -- a New York City showdown with Memphis on Dec. 17 (Madison Square Garden, Jimmy V Classic).  

THIS & THAT

Sophomore swingman DeVon Walker (foot sprain) is healthy and expected to play normal minutes Tuesday. … Redshirt junior guard Eli Carter (broken leg) will officially redshirt, Donovan confirmed. Carter, who averaged just 7.6 minutes in seven games this season, will apply for a medical redshirt due to his slow-healing broken leg suffered last February as a member of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. … Donovan denied a report suspended center Damontre Harris, a transfer from South Carolina, has been dismissed from Florida. 

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October 31, 2013

HOOPS: Suspensions, season-previews & more

GAINESVILLE -- And you thought Florida’s football team was shorthanded.

Coach Billy Donovan’s No. 10 men’s basketball team will kickoff preseason play Friday night (Florida Southern, 7 p.m.) with just six available scholarship players following two more suspensions and multiple lingering injuries/illnesses. 

On Thursday, Donovan announced sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith and junior center Damontre Harris -- two transfers expected to play key roles this season -- are suspended indefinitely (games only) for an undisclosed violation of team rules. The two transfers join senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin on the bench -- suspended indefinitely since June 10 -- and will miss at least Florida’s first two games -- counting tomorrow’s exhibition opener.

Donovan remained vague at the exact length of the suspensions, saying, “We’ll make a decision. There’s some things they need to do as well. Hopefully, they will do it, and we’ll see how that translates going forward.”

The Gators will also be without sophomore guard Michael Frazier II, who was diagnosed with mononucleosis Tuesday and is sidelined indefinitely.

“He’s out, and we really don’t know when he’d be back,” Donovan said. “I think his illness will probably go into some regular-season games.”

Senior forward Will Yeguete is also unlikely to play against Florida Southern, as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery. Yeguete has practiced this preseason, but not everyday.

“Earlier in this week, he was probably in the mindset that he wasn’t ready to play,” Donovan said. “It’s going to be on his terms. I’m not forcing him or telling him he can’t. We’re going to go into this situation where he’s going to have to evaluate where he’s at. He practiced pretty well on Tuesday. Yesterday he was out the whole entire day. … He’s back in today. I’m going to talk to him before and see where he’s at mentally.”

Meanwhile, Rutgers transfer guard Eli Carter (fibula) will play some Friday, but Donovan said the junior is hardly 100 percent and still runs with a noticeable limp.

Overall, the Gators are a depleted bunch facing a brutal non-conference schedule, including traveling to Madison to play Wisconsin in the second game of the season (Nov. 12).  

“The only constants have been Kasey Hill, DeVon Walker, Casey Prather, Patric Young, those four guys have been the only four constants. I would say from that point everybody has missed at least a minimum of three or four days of practice,” Donovan said. “It is what it is. … But the thing about it is our team needs to keep moving forward because regardless of what happens tomorrow night or when we open up next week the season is still coming.”

Florida hosts North Florida on Nov. 8 to kickoff its 2013-14 campaign.  

ICYMI: SEASON PREVIEWS

Yesterday, I wrote a pair of season-previews for Florida’s men and women’s basketball teams.

* MEN: On freshman point guard Kasey Hill and the uncertainty that clouds Florida’s start to season

* WOMEN: On coach Amanda Butler’s team being high on hopes, but short on numbers

THIS & THAT

Florida starts the year at No. 10 in the preseason Associated Press men’s college basketball poll -- released Thursday -- and Donovan thought his team’s ranking was a joke.  “I would say we’re not even remotely close to being 10 in the country right now,” Donovan said, laughing. The Gators are ranked No. 8 in the preseason USA Today poll. … Five-star forward Devin Robinson (Christchurch High, Va.) -- the nation’s No. 20 ranked prospect in the 2014 class according to Rivals.com -- verbally committed to the Gators on Wednesday afternoon. … Donovan was unsure of his starting lineup against the Mocs, but it’s likely to include a walk-on (forward Jacob Kurtz) and a shooting guard (DeVon Walker) destined for a redshirt season just 10 days ago.

VIDEO: WALKER TALKS IMPORTANT CONVO WITH DONOVAN & OFFSEAON GROWTH

   

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October 09, 2013

HOOPS: Unknowns everywhere as Gators kickoff practice Friday

GAINESVILLE -- The Florida basketball team opens practice Friday, but one of the SEC’s premier programs will kickoff the 2013-14 season with a plethora of unknowns.

Billy Donovan’s bunch must replace its top three scorers – Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario, Eric Murphy -- and the Gators will kickoff camp shorthanded.

Starting senior forward Will Yeguete (offseason knee surgery) and junior guard Eli Carter (fractured fibula) won’t practice while continuing to battle significant injuries lingering from last season.

“I don’t know when they’ll be back. All I know is Friday they will not be available,” Donovan said.

“Right now you have to go with the guys that are there and in practice right away. Those are the guys you have to rely on and get them ready.”   

Yeguete, who underwent knee surgery late last May, is confident he will be ready to play in the opener Nov. 8 against North Florida.

IMG_0079
(Will Yeguete)

However, Carter -- the Rutgers transfer who broke his leg in a game against DePaul last February -- had no timetable on a possible return.  

“The only expectation I have right now is to play [sometime this season,]” Carter said.

In mid-September, the NCAA declared Carter eligible to play immediately for Florida after leaving the Scarlet Knights at the end of the 2012-13 season following the scandal involving former Rutgers coach Mike Rice.

“I feel bad for Carter,” Donovan said. “Any time you transfer in and you start your career at a different school on an injured note and not really able to go out there and prove yourself and play every day, I think that’s been difficult.”

Meanwhile, senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin was reinstated to practice with the team, but remains suspended to start the regular season.

On June 10, Wilbekin was banned from all team activities after violating undisclosed team rules.

“I am really, really proud of him and what he has done and the way he has handled and conducted himself. From the spring all the way until now, it has been a long, long road for him being disconnected from our team, not working out with our team and not really being around our team and slowly trying to work his way back,” Donovan said.

“He has done everything that I could ask of him as a player in terms of taking responsibility and growing. He still has some things in front of him before he is fully back on our team, but we will give him the opportunity to practice.”

Wilbekin was not available for comment at Florida’s Media Day, but multiple teammates voiced their support for the senior, with sophomore guard Michael Frazier saying he’s excited to see Wilbekin back on the court.

During the summer, rumors also swirled that Dorian Finney-Smith, Damontre Harris and Casey Prather would be suspended to start the season, but Donovan addressed the alleged report, saying, “Everybody but Will Yeguete and Eli Carter is ready to practice going forward and on our team.”

 

(Donovan's opening statement at UF Media Day)

DONOVAN “OPTIMISTIC”

Five-star forward and McDonald’s All-American Chris Walker continues to work to qualify academically for the spring semester.

The freshman signee from Holmes County High failed to enroll in August, but Donovan is confident the 6-foot-10, 225-pound athletic big-man will wear a Gators uniform at some point this season.

“He’s working really, really hard. I’m optimistic that he’ll be back here,” Donovan said.

Florida’s coach said Walker’s recruitment and the ensuing limbo reminded him of the Kwame Brown situation in 2001. After committing to UF, Brown never enrolled at Florida and was the No. 1 overall pick by the Washington Wizards in the NBA Draft.  

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September 30, 2013

HOOPS: Carter eligible

For once, the NCAA got it right. 

Rutgers transfer guard Eli Carter officially received a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately at Florida. 

"We are happy to have Eli available to play this season," head coach Billy Donovan said in a school release.

Last season, Carter -- a 6-foot-3 junior -- averaged 14.9 points as a sophomore for the Scarlet Knights before gruesomely suffering a season-ending injury (a fractured fibula) against DePaul in mid-February.

Carter transferred to UF this offseason following the ugly scandal involving former Rutgers head coach Mike Rice.

In 2011 as a freshman, Carter actually torched UF for 31 points in a double-overtime upset victory for Rutgers. 

Although the junior guard is technically eligible to play this season, that doesn't mean he will. 

Carter's health is still a major unknown, as he has still not been medically cleared by Florida's doctors.  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

August 29, 2013

HOOPS: Walker not on campus

McDonald's All-American forward Chris Walker did not academically qualify for the fall semester. 

Florida's basketball signee -- a 6-foot-11, 230-pound five-star recruit from Bonifay -- missed Tuesday's deadline for the university's drop/add period for fall registration. 

Walker told ESPN's Jeff Goodman he plans to enroll in December and still play for Billy Donovan's team.

The athletic freshman remains optimistic he will complete his academic requirements for spring eligibility.

"It's a minor setback, and everyday I'm working hard to get to Florida," Walker told ESPN. "Now I understand how serious high school is and that you can't take the work lightly. I didn't do as well and work as hard as I should have early in high school." 

Walker was the nation's No. 6 player in the Class of 2013, according to Rivals.com  

March 07, 2009

UF assistant scouts Broward hoops star

Florida men's basketball associate head coach Larry Shyatt watched prospect Brandon Knight win a state title.

LAKELAND -- In our ongoing effort to provide a wide variety of news on the Gators, the editorial board of Gator Clause, Inc. took a road trip to Lakeland on Friday for the FHSAA Class 3A boys' basketball Knight state championship game. The reason behind the trip to The Lakeland Center? Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest hoops star Brandon Knight, of course.

[PICTURED, Brandon Knight (left) didn't break a sweat on Friday.]

Knight, a 6-3 junior point guard, is at the top of the Gators' recruiting wish list for 2010. Among the many college coaches in attendance on Friday was UF associate head coach Larry ShyattPine Crest won its second state title in a row on Friday. CLICK ME for a photo gallery. Knight had a game-high 27 points. He was sloppy at times on Friday but there is no doubting his talent. He runs the floor with confidence and quickness. His arms are long and his court vision is considerable.

Continue reading "UF assistant scouts Broward hoops star" »

October 30, 2008

Heritage guard Boynton Jr. commits to UF

GAINESVILLE -- Plantation American Heritage senior guard Kenny Boynton Jr. committed to Florida and Gators coach Billy Donovan on Thursday. Boynton Jr. announced his decision on ESPNU.

Boynton Jr. (6-2, 187 pounds) made official visits to UF, USC and Georgia Tech. He visited UF last weekend for the homecoming festivities. Boynton Jr. attended Gator Growl and the football game. He's rated as one of the top recruits in the country for the 2009 recruiting cycle, according to both Rivals.com and Scout.com. He is ranked No.13 in the nation in the ESPNU Top 100.

"I took numerous visits to all the schools that were recruiting me and on my Florida visit I was very comfortable," Boynton Jr. said. "Me and Billy Donovan, we have a great relationship and we just clicked."

Boynton Jr. is an excellent shooter, great perimeter defender and can drive to the basket with authority. Most of all, Boynton Jr. is a ferocious competitor and the importance of that addition to the current Gators' basketball roster cannot be overstated.

"Next year I feel I'm going to be a big piece of the team and we're going to try to get to the Final Four," said Boynton Jr., who joins fellow 2009 UF commitments Erik Murphy (6-10 forward of Southborough, Mass) and Deshawn Painter (6-9 forward of Chatham, Va.).

Boynton Jr. began his high school career at Pompano Beach Ely, winning a state championship with the Tigers in 2007 before transferring to American Heritage. Along the way, Boynton has played AAU basketball for Team Breakdown, a powerhouse hoops program in South Florida.

Current UF freshmen Ray Shipman (Miami Monsignor Pace) and Eloy Vargas (Plantation American Heritage) played with Boynton for Team Breakdown.

"We're real cool friends," Shipman said during UF's preseason basketball media day. "I talked to [Boynton Jr.] when he came up here just to visit. Me, Kenny and Eloy all played together so it'd be crazy if all of us get to reunite."

According to Boynton Jr., Donovan used a creative technique during the early stages of the recruiting process. The coach traveled to Fort Lauderdale equipped with a dart gun for a home visit with Boynton Jr.

"He laid a dart gun down and he said he wanted me to shoot him if he was talking recruiting," Boynton Jr. said. "Unfortunately by the end of the night I didn't shoot him with a dart gun, so I guess he did a good job."

-jo-

Kenny Boynton Jr. Highlight Video


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