June 26, 2015

UF shut out of NBA Draft for second straight year

GAINESVILLE -- Ten SEC players were selected in Thursday’s 2015 NBA Draft, but Florida’s Michael Frazier and Chris Walker were not among them. 

For the second straight season, UF was shut out of the draft. 

******************** UPDATE ********************

According to multiple reports, Frazier will play for the reigning champion Golden State Warriors in the NBA Summer League. 

Frazier, a 6-5 sharpshooter, was projected as a second round pick in most mock drafts and was somewhat surprisingly not drafted. The junior averaged 12.1 points and 4.1 rebounds last season, hitting 38 percent from 3-point range during an injury-plagued year.

As a sophomore, Frazier was a key cog on UF’s Final Four team, shooting a conference-best 45 percent from behind-the-arc.

Although he lacked ideal size as a traditional NBA wing, Frazier was considered a specialist with a legitimate NBA skill. Now, he’ll hope to latch onto a NBA summer league team and earn an invite to training camp. 

Meanwhile, Walker wasn’t projected to be drafted following a shoddy sophomore season.

The 6-10 forward averaged just 4.7 points and 3.5 rebounds in 2014-15, often buried at the end of UF’s bench due to defensive lapses, a low basketball IQ and a lack of offensive skills. 

Although he possess elite athleticism, the former McDonald’s All-American failed to fulfill sky-high expectations as a five-star prospect. 

In all, six SEC players were selected in the first round. UF hasn’t produced a first round pick since Bradley Beal to Washington in 2012.  

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June 15, 2015

ESPN: UF athletes linked to most crimes from '09-14

GAINESVILLE -- In an examination of 10 major programs, an ESPN Outside The Lines investigation found that Florida football and men’s basketball athletes had the most players named in criminal incidents from 2009-14.

ESPN investigated 10 schools -- UF, Florida State, Auburn, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Oregon State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Wisconsin -- using public records, determining:

"Overall, the Outside the Lines investigation found that what occurs between high-profile college athletes and law enforcement is not as simple as the commonly held perception that police and prosecutors simply show preferential treatment, though that does occur. Rather, the examination of more than 2,000 documents shows that athletes from the 10 schools mainly benefited from the confluence of factors that can be reality at major sports programs: the near-immediate access to high-profile attorneys, the intimidation that is felt by witnesses who accuse athletes, and the higher bar some criminal justice officials feel needs to be met in high-profile cases." 

The Gators had 80 athletes named in connection to more than a 100 crimes -- roughly 24 percent of the combined rosters -- during the six-year span of former coaches Urban Meyer, Will Muschamp and Billy Donovan. 

UF also had the most repeat offenders, but its athletes received, per the report, lenient treatment compared to the average college student in Gainesville. 

According to the complimentary report, 56 percent of cases involving UF players were either not prosecuted or dropped -- this compared to 28 percent for “a comparison set of cases involving college-age males in Gainesville” during the same six-year span. 

The report also examined the role of “expert legal help," with renowned Gainesville attorney Huntley Johnson mentioned several times. 

"Hernandez's attorney was a man named Huntley Johnson, a graduate of Florida's law school, donor to its athletic fund, and counsel to so many Florida athletes that a local newspaper even dubbed him the Gators' real MVP.

When Outside the Lines first presented Ben Tobias, spokesman for the Gainesville Police Department, with data showing athletes were less likely to be prosecuted than non-athletes, Tobias said the main reason was likely the athletes' unique access to legal counsel, which Outside the Lines found was a factor at such other schools as Florida State, Missouri and Oklahoma State.

"Sometimes we joke that [Huntley Johnson's] got a better communication system than 911," Tobias said."

ESPN’s report did not attach any individual public records, but the OTL investigation did single out former UF players Chris Rainey, Ronald Powell, Janoris Jenkins and Aaron Hernandez. 

The main report's lede was:

"As a University of Florida running back, Chris Rainey was named a suspect in five crimes in Gainesville. He faced charges once.

Rainey's experience as a star athlete accused of criminal activity -- stalking, fighting, injuring someone with fireworks -- but ending up with a mostly clean record is not uncommon: From 2009 to 2014, male basketball and football players at the University of Florida and Florida State University avoided criminal charges or prosecution on average two-thirds of the time when named as suspects in police documents, a result far exceeding that of non-athlete males in the same age range, an Outside the Lines investigation has found."

In all, ESPN conducted a very thorough investigation, but some additional background (i.e. the physical documents and breakdown of each incident) would've provided some necessary context. 

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May 24, 2015

Donovan, wife say goodbye with full-page ad

GAINESVILLE -- Former Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan and his wife Christine wanted to say farewell one final time. 

The Donovan family took out a full-page ad in Sunday’s The Gainesville Sun, thanking the local community and the “Gator Nation” across the globe. 

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Donovan accepted a job with the Oklahoma City Thunder a little more than three weeks ago. 

Aside from the ad's silly spelling error, it was quintessential Donovan: heartfelt and self-deprecating. It's full text:

“Goodbye” is so difficult, especially after having spent two decades in this community. (And as you’ve seen before, leaving you all has never been easy for us!)

The University of Florida and Gainesville embraced us from the day we arrived so long ago, and we have grown to love not only this local community that has so loved us, but all of the Gator Nation — from Crescent Beach to Cedar Key, from Miami to New York, from Jacksonville to San Francisco, to all over the nation and globe.

We are so grateful to Jeremy Foley, staff and leaders at the University of Florida, along with scores of players and coaches who have become part of our family. And, of course, the Rowdy Reptiles. 

We leave with hearts full of love and cherished memories of euphoria and heartbreak -- on and off the court -- shared at every step with our Gator family. 

We are excited for all that Mike White brings as he puts his own unique mark on Florida basketball...Fannnnntastic!


-- Billy and Christine Donovan

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May 14, 2015

Dickerson released from LOI, Allen weighing options

GAINESVILLE -- New Florida coach Michael White is already facing his first test less than a week on the job. 

Former coach Billy Donovan signed a talented and deep recruiting class, but two of the Gators’ four signees are reportedly seeking other options following Donovan’s departure. 

Forward Noah Dickerson -- UF’s highest-rated commit -- has been released from his LOI, according to ESPN.com and other media outlets. 

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Dickerson, a 6-8 forward from Montverde Academy, is ranked No. 51 overall in the country. Meanwhile, explosive shooting guard KaVaughn Allen (North Little Rock, Ark.) is also reportedly seeking his release. 

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White met with Allen last weekend, and said the nation’s 54th ranked player continues to weigh his options. Still, White won’t obstruct any signee wanting to play elsewhere. 

“I don't think we've had any final answers yet,” White said Monday.   

“I’m not into begging. … But they wanted to play for Coach Donovan.  I understand them having second thoughts.  I understand that.  I appreciate it.  I accept it.  And if those guys want to be here, I'd love to have them.  If not, we'd love to help them find the right place for them.”

White did receive some good new late Wednesday evening though, as athletic forward Keith Stone tweeted he would be honoring his LOI with Florida. 

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Big man Kevarrius Hayes (No. 68 in ESPN Top 100) also remains committed to UF, giving White 10 scholarship players for next season. He could add to the roster before the year, and he’s confident he can restock the program with other quality players.  

“I think this place to a certain extent sells itself,” he said. 

“At the University of Florida we can recruit nationally.  I think you can get involved with kids in all 50 states, and I think that in the past that this basketball program has proven that.  But I also understand how important it is to recruit our state, especially a state that's as fertile as it is.

"I've always enjoyed recruiting this state.  Not only because I liked traveling to Florida, but because there are really good players here.  And we're not going to get them all, but we're going to recruit them all.” 


Florida will square off against West Virginia in Gainesville on Jan. 30 as part of the SEC-BIG 12 Challenge, the conferences announced Thursday. 

The Gators played a home-and-home series with Kansas the last two seasons, but the Mountaineers pose a similar non-conference challenge next season.  

Bob Huggins’ team went 25-10 last year, getting trounced by Kentucky in the Sweet 16. 

In years past, the SEC-BIG 12 matchups were held during the heart of football season in November and early December, so the games were moved to later in the schedule in order to boost visibility and interest. 

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May 07, 2015

Reports: La. Tech's White emerges as top candidate

GAINESVILLE -- Louisiana Tech coach Michael White “has emerged as the leading candidate” to replace former Florida coach Billy Donovan, Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday. 

ESPN and other outlets quickly confirmed Pat Forde’s scoop, too. 

White, the son of Duke athletics director Kevin White, is regarded as one of college basketball’s hottest young coaches, leading the Bulldogs to three-straight Conference USA regular-season titles. The 38-year-old coach is 101-40 in four seasons at La Tech, but he’s yet to make an NCAA Tournament.

White is considered a strong recruiter, with a track record of success in the state of Florida. 

According to Yahoo! Sports’ report, White and UF athletics director Jeremy Foley could meet “as soon as today.”

White was born in Dunedin and played at Ole Miss from 1995-99. He began his coaching career as an assistant at Jacksonville State before returning to his alma mater as a part of Andy Kennedy’s staff from 2004-11. White was reportedly targeted for openings at Tennessee and Missouri last offseason. 

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April 30, 2015

Hot Board: Where does Florida turn next?

GAINESVILLE -- Replacing Billy Donovan is an unenviable task, but Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley is charged with finding a coach suitable to fill Donovan’s footsteps. 

Good luck. 

Foley will oversee a second major hire in the last six months, as the Gators will have a new football and basketball coach in the same year for the first time since 1990-91. They’ll be the only Power 5 school in the country with such a duo. 

As is stands, Florida has the lone college basketball opening in the nation. 

Donovan built UF into a national powerhouse, but the program is at a bit of a crossroads with just a decent roster and facilities that need upgrading. Is Florida actually an elite job, or was Donovan what made the Gators an annual contender?

We’ll see.

Here’s a list of candidates Foley may pursue. 

1. Archie Miller, Dayton head coach -- The hottest name potentially linked to Florida. The 36-year-old (and younger brother of Arizona coach Sean Miller) is a considered a rising star after taking the Flyers to the Elite Eight in 2013-14. 

2. John Pelphrey, Florida assistant head coach -- The former South Alabama and Arkansas head coach has been Donovan’s top assistant since 2011. Ideally, Donovan would prefer Pelphrey succeed him. 

3. Chris Mack, Xavier head coach -- An Ohio native, Mack has an impressive résumé (three Sweet 16 births in six seasons) but few ties to the South. 

4. Michael White, Louisiana Tech head coach -- Another rising star and the son of Duke athletic director Kevin White. He played at Ole Miss and is considered a strong recruiter with success in the state of Florida. 

5. Richard Pitino, Minnesota head coach -- A former UF assistant from 2009-11, but Rick Pitino’s son has never made the NCAA Tournament in five seasons as a head coach. 

6. Jay Wright, Villanova head coach -- Easily the most accomplished coach on the list and a longshot candidate. Foley loves him, but Wright is a Northeast native and has coached at Nova for 14 years.  

7. Steve Prohm, Murray State head coach -- Prohm, who went to Alabama, has dominated the Ohio Valley Conference, leading the Racers to a 104-29 record in four seasons. Another longshot candidate.   

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OKC hires Donovan, who leaves UF after 19 seasons

GAINESVILLE -- For the first time in two decades, Florida needs a new basketball coach. 

Billy Donovan officially accepted the opening with the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday, leaving Gainesville after 19 seasons with the Gators. 

Yahoo! Sports and ESPN both initially confirmed the report. 

Donovan agreed to a five-year deal, according to Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski. 

The future Hall of Fame coach inherits an OKC team with tons of talent (stars Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka) but also inherent risks with Durant and Westbrook’s looming free agency’s.

Still, Donovan’s strong ties to the organization -- including a close relationship with Thunder GM Sam Presti -- were critical influences on the decision to leave Florida. Presti flew to Gainesville on Tuesday to personally offer him the job. 

Last year, UF assistant Mark Daigneault was hired as the Thunder’s D-League coach, and at the same time, Florida video coordinator Oliver Winterbone left to become a scout/data analyst for OKC. 

Florida hired Donovan in 1996. He was only 31. The former Wall Street wiz had just two years of head coaching experience, but Donovan was charged with building a competitive program -- one that had just five NCAA Tournament appearances in school history. 

Within three seasons, Donovan took Florida to the Sweet Sixteen and the foundation for the future was established. 

Donovan, who turns 50 on May 30, was a relentless recruiter and offensive mastermind, turning the Gators into a powerhouse. He led UF to four Final Fours, six SEC Championships, 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and 16 straight 20-win seasons. He’s the second youngest coach in D-1 history to win 500 games. 

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April 29, 2015

Reports: Donovan-to-OKC gaining steam

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s two-time national champion coach Billy Donovan is reportedly “leaning strongly” toward accepting the opening with the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, per multiple reports. 

ESPN’s Marc Stein wrote early Wednesday morning UF’s coach and OKC had formally opened talks, and Yahoo! Sports later reported the Thunder is “preparing an offer” and Donovan is “enthusiastic” about the potential move. 

Barring an impasse over contract negotiations, Donovan’s exit appears imminent following weeks of smoke and speculation.

"He's as good as gone," Stein quoted one source.

Stein also stated Donovan's family is "willing to move" and a decision is expected within 48 hours. 

Donovan, who built Florida basketball into a powerhouse over 19 seasons, recently signed an amended, one-year contract extension through the 2020 season, pushing his annual salary just north of $4 million. His buyout ($500,000) remained unchanged though, and he no longer is tied to a noncompete clause. 

The future Hall of Fame coach would inherit an OKC team with tons of talent (stars Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka) but also inherent risks with Durant and Westbrook’s looming free agency’s.

Still, Donovan’s strong ties to the organization -- including a close relationship with Thunder GM Sam Presti -- are critical influences to the potential move. Yahoo! reported Presti flew to Gainesville on Tuesday. 

Last year, UF assistant Mark Daigneault was hired as the Thunder’s D-League coach, and at the same time, Florida video coordinator Oliver Winterbone left to become a scout/data analyst for OKC. 

Florida hired Donovan in 1996. He was only 31. The former Wall Street wiz had just two years of head coaching experience, but Donovan was charged with building a competitive program -- one that had just five NCAA Tournament appearances in school history. 

Within three seasons, Donovan took Florida to the Sweet Sixteen and the foundation for the future was established. 

Donovan, who turns 50 on May 30, was a relentless recruiter and offensive mastermind, turning the Gators into a powerhouse. He led UF to four Final Fours, six SEC Championships, 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and 16 straight 20-win seasons. He’s the second youngest coach in D-1 history to win 500 games. 

Impervious to distractions, Donovan has yet to comment on OKC’s interest and was recruiting for Florida as recently as Sunday.

The Donovan-to-NBA rumors heated up less than a month ago, with Stein initially reporting Donovan would “give renewed consideration” to the NBA, and later writing, “Donovan is looking to make the jump to the NBA more than ever before.”

Donovan has never been shy about the NBA’s allure, openly admitting last March he was still “intrigued.”

In 2007, Donovan infamously accepted the Orlando Magic job before a change of heart brought him back to UF less than a week later.  

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April 27, 2015

SG Eli Carter to transfer, eligible immediately

GAINESVILLE -- Following two injury-riddled seasons, redshirt junior guard Eli Carter is transferring from Florida, the school announced Monday. 

Carter, who was a ballyhooed transfer from Rutgers in 2013, will graduate this spring and is eligible to play immediately next season. 

"I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had here at Florida," Carter said in a release. 

"I’ll always appreciate the coaches, teammates and fans that made my time here memorable."

The swingman averaged 8.8 points last season -- third on the Gators -- but he shot just 36.2 percent from the field and never rediscovered his form as the talented scorer of the Scarlet Knights. 

"We appreciate everything that Eli has done in his two years in Gainesville," UF coach Billy Donovan said. 

“We all wish him well and will do whatever we can to help him take this next step in his career."

As a sophomore at Rutgers, Carter averaged nearly 15 points a game. But he broke his leg in late February and he never fully recovered from the devastating injury. He played sparingly for the Gators in 2013-14 before opting for a medical redshirt. He then missed five games this past season with various aliments. 

Carter’s transfer, coupled with the departures of Michael Frazier II and Chris Walker, leaves Florida with one available scholarship for next season.   

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April 24, 2015

C/F Chris Walker entering 2015 NBA Draft

GAINESVILLE -- Chris Walker’s roller coaster career at Florida has come to an end. 

Despite two unimpressive seasons, the former McDonald’s All-American officially declared for the 2015 NBA Draft, UF announced Friday.

“I want to thank the coaching staff, my teammates and everyone at Florida for my experience here,” Walker said in a statement. 

“I’m excited to continue pursuing my dream of playing professionally.” 

The 6-foot-10 sophomore averaged just 4.7 points and 3.5 rebounds last season, failing to fulfill sky-high expectations as a former five-star prospect and top-10 recruit. 

He totaled 80 career field goals (25 of which were dunks), scored in double figures just five times and never grabbed as many as seven rebounds in a single game. 

"Chris has been a pleasure to coach," UF coach Billy Donovan said.

"He is a great kid with a lot of potential, and everyone here wishes the absolute best for him."

Walker, who possesses elite athleticism, leaves as an unpolished product with a low basketball IQ, minimal development and a complete lack of defensive awareness.

The forward/center could never escape the burdening shadow of hope and hype, as he initially failed to qualify academically and then struggled to find a role on a veteran Final Four team in 2013-14. 

Walker was still projected as a late first round pick last year, but he opted to return for his sophomore season to improve his game. 

His stock has now slipped significantly, as he’s no longer regarded as Top 100 prospect according to ESPN, DraftExpress or CBSSports.

********** UPDATE **********

ESPN basketball analyst Jeff Goodman seemingly confirms whispers Walker no longer had a spot at Florida (reportedly academics) had he not opted to go pro. 

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April 13, 2015

Rehired: Grant returns to Florida

GAINESVILLE -- While Billy Donovan’s name continues to swirl in NBA circles, Florida’s coach is busy putting the band back together. 

Less than 24 hours after Gators assistant Matt McCall took the head coaching job at UT-Chattanooga, Donovan hired longtime assistant and friend Anthony Grant to fill UF’s vacated position. 

Grant, a Miami native who starred at Miami Senior High, spent a dozen seasons as an assistant under Donovan, including 10 years (1996-2006) at Florida. The move also reunites Donovan, Grant and assistant Jon Pelphrey. 

“We're very excited to have Anthony back on our staff,” Donovan said in a statement.

“He's obviously familiar with our program, and he is an outstanding coach and recruiter, so he adds great value to our staff and our team.”

After Florida’s 2006 national title, Grant was hired by VCU and led the Rams to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances in three seasons.

Following the 2009 season, Grant left VCU for Alabama, where he went 117-85 in six seasons but made the NCAA Tournament just once and was fired in March.

Grant is regarded as a relentless recruiter with strong ties to South Florida. He was credited with signing Miami Heat center and former Miami High standout Udonis Haslem. 

“I’m extremely appreciative of Coach Donovan extending the opportunity to me to return to the University of Florida,” Grant said. 

“It’s a great chance to return a place I love and have fond memories of, and I look forward to helping the staff build on the tradition and success that Coach Donovan has created.”

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April 02, 2015

Donovan's contract extended but NBA rumors persist

GAINESVILLE -- Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan signed an amended, one-year contract extension through the 2020 season, the Gainesville Sun reported Wednesday

The contract -- signed in December -- pushes Donovan’s annual salary to $4 million, as he remains the sixth-highest paid coach in college basketball.   

The Gators are fresh of a disappointing 2014-15 season (16-17), missing the postseason for the first time since Donovan’s inaugural year at Florida. 

Still, Donovan, who turns 50 on May 30, has built Florida into a national powerhouse, winning a pair of NCAA Championships in 20 seasons in Gainesville. He’s led UF to four Final Fours, six SEC Championships and 14 NCAA Tournament appearances. 

According to the finalized deal -- initially agreed upon last summer -- Donovan’s bonus structure remains the same and his buyout is only $500,000. 

Meanwhile, the Donovan-to-NBA rumors won’t go away. Two weeks after reporting Donovan will “give renewed consideration” to the NBA, ESPN’s Marc Stein wrote Thursday that Donovan is now “looking to make the jump to the NBA more than ever before.”

Earlier Thursday morning, Louisville coach Rick Pitino -- Donovan’s former college coach and trusted mentor -- seemingly legitimized the rumors by bringing up Donovan's name on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike" during a conversation on college coaches transitioning to the NBA 

“I don't recommend it for college coaches to do that unless they know what it's all about," Pitino said. 

"I take someone like Billy Donovan. I think Billy has looked at it, I think he has an urge to coach in the NBA -- a strong desire to coach in the NBA -- and would like to try it, very similar to Brad Stevens, who is doing a wonderful job with the Celtics. I think people like that with that type of personality will do very well."

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March 27, 2015

Reports: Frazier to skip senior year, enter NBA Draft

GAINESVILLE -- Florida sharpshooter Michael Frazier II declared for the NBA Draft, according to multiple reports. 

The 6-foot-4 guard opted (somewhat surprisingly) to bypass his senior season after a junior campaign marred by injuries and inconsistencies. 

Neither Frazier or Florida has confirmed the purported decision, but Frazier’s father spoke with the Orlando Sentinel and said the report is true. 

********** UPDATE **********

Frazier tweeted his official decision late Friday afternoon. 

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Frazier, a two-year starter, averaged 12.1 points and 4.1 rebounds this past season, but his shooting numbers dipped as defenses keyed on UF’s top scoring option.

He labored through an ankle injury, missing seven games and he struggled rounding out other aspects of his game.

Frazier shot a SEC-best 47 and 45 percent from behind the arc as a freshman and sophomore, but he hit 38 percent of his 3-point attempts in 2014-15. 

As a sophomore, Frazier nailed a school-record 118 treys during Florida’s run to the Final Four. He is the first underclassmen to leave UF since Bradley Beal in 2012-13. 

Frazier is considered a fringe draftable prospect, ranking just 84th on ESPN Chad Ford’s Top 100. 

“Frazier began drawing serious interest from NBA scouts during his sophomore season when he averaged 12 points per game and shot a terrific 45 percent from three,” Ford wrote.

“However, his game stagnated a bit as a junior. His scoring averaged dipped slightly and his 3-point percentage slipped to 38 percent. Not terrible numbers, but not the normal progression scouts typically want to see either. He lacks elite size for his position and is a bit one-dimensional, but his 3-point shooting will get him serious looks in the second round. Look for him to land in the 40 to 60 range in the draft.”

Frazier may be simply the first shoe to drop, too, as junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith and sophomore big-man Chris Walker could go pro as well. 

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March 24, 2015

Basketball weight room set for $1.2 million expansion

GAINESVILLE -- The weight room at Florida’s basketball facility will be upgraded, the University Athletic Associated announced Tuesday. 

The weight room -- used by both basketball teams and the men’s and women’s golf and tennis teams --will undergo a $1.2 million renovation and nearly double in size (1,525 square feet to 3,056 square feet). 

The project, which includes expanded office space and a nutritional bar, is scheduled to start in April and finish sometime in August. 

“This project will enhance the top-tier training space for our men’s and women’s programs in that facility,” UAA executive associate director for internal affairs Chip Howard said in a release. 

“When completed, it’ll ensure our coaches can continue to recruit, retain and empower our student-athletes to perform at the highest possible level.” 

Last month, UF athletics director Jeremy Foley indicated coach Billy Donovan was satisfied with Florida’s facilities but that the weight room was likely to be bulked up in the near future. 

“I think the thing people don’t understand is you don’t have coaches banging on doors -- Billy Donovan he’s worried about coaching and recruiting,” Foley explained. 

“It’s just you walk in that facility and it has served us well for a while, but you have four teams lifting in there, well really more. You have men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis and men’s and women’s basketball. It’s just not big enough right now. So we are going to expand that and maybe even start that this summer.”

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March 21, 2015

Report: Donovan to give NBA "renewed consideration"

GAINESVILLE -- Could Billy Donovan leave Florida?


According to ESPN’s insider Marc Stein, “there’s a growing sense in NBA coaching circles that Florida’s Billy Donovan will give renewed consideration to making a move to the pros.”

The Gators missed the postseason for the first time in 17 years, finishing a disappointing 16-17 after opening the season ranked seventh nationally. 

The rumors -- in a vacuum -- are not shocking. I’ve heard similar whispers, too. 

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However, Donovan leaving the Gators is possible but unlikely.

Stein listed Orlando as a potential fit, while Oklahoma City (Scott Brooks has underwhelmed) and Chicago (Tom Thibodeau has clashed with management) could be openings to watch as well.

Should the Bulls make a move though, Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg is considered the frontrunner for the opening. 

Donovan infamously accepted the Magic job in 2007 before a change of heart quickly brought him back to UF. The future Hall of Fame coach won his 500th game during the 2014-15 season, and has led the Gators to a pair of national titles, six SEC Championships and 14 NCAA Tournament appearances.  

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March 10, 2015

Finney-Smith, Robinson earn All-SEC accolades

GAINESVILLE -- Florida forwards Dorian Finney-Smith and freshman Devin Robinson each earned 2015 All-SEC honors, the league announced Tuesday. 

Finney-Smith, the Gators' top all-around player and the 2014 SEC Sixth Man of the Year, was named to the All-SEC second team. 

The redshirt junior leads the Gators in scoring (13.1 ppg) and rebounds (6.0 rpg). 

Meanwhile, Robinson garnered All-Freshman honors, averaging 6.4 points and 2.9 rebounds this season. The 6-foot-9 swingman started 17 games and scored in double-figures in five of his last eight appearances. 

No. 1 Kentucky swept the majority of the postseason awards, as John Calipari took home SEC Coach of the Year, center Willie Cauley-Stein earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Karl-Anthony Towns was tabbed the SEC’s Freshman of the Year and freshman guard Devin Booker was voted the SEC’s Sixth Man of the Year.  

In a bit of a surprise, Arkansas’ Bobby Portis was named the league’s Player of the Year. 

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March 09, 2015

SEC Tourney: UF-Alabama showdown set for Thursday

GAINESVILLE -- Last March, Florida entered the SEC Tournament as the crown jewel of college hoops.

Led by a quartet of seniors, the Gators -- undefeated in conference play -- swept the tournament and became the first team in league history to go 21-0. 

A year later, UF is desperate to simply extend a disappointing season. 

The Gators landed the No. 8 seed in this week’s SEC Tournament in Nashville, with a 1 p.m. Thursday tipoff against 9th-seeded Alabama (18-13, 8-10 SEC).  

The winner earns the pleasure of facing unbeaten Kentucky in the quarterfinals on Friday afternoon.

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Florida (15-16, 8-10 SEC) lost 67-50 at No. 1 UK over the weekend, and may miss the postseason for the first time since Billy Donovan’s inaugural season in Gainesville in 1996-97.  

Donovan is 9-0 all-time against Alabama coach Anthony Grant, a longtime lieutenant under Donovan at Florida. 

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March 06, 2015

Frazier available against top-ranked Kentucky

GAINESVILLE -- Florida faces No. 1 Kentucky as a 15.5-point underdog Saturday (2 p.m., CBS), but the Gators should be boosted by the return of leading scorer Michael Frazier II. 

UF coach Billy Donovan is optimistic the junior sharpshooter will play after missing seven games with a  high-ankle sprain. 

Still, Donovan is unsure how much Frazier will contribute. 

“How much he will play, I don’t know,” Donovan said Friday. 

"I wasn’t really looking at his timing, shooting, rhythm those kinds of things. I was more interested in seeing how he was moving, and I thought he moved pretty well in practice.” 

Frazier has missed seven straight game since sustaining the injury in a Feb. 7 loss against Kentucky. Frazier scored 10 points in the first half versus the Wildcats before exiting the 68-61 defeat early in the second half. 

The Gators (15-15, 8-9 SEC) have won two straight conference games for the first time since late January, but they’ve really missed Frazier’s ability to stretch the defense and space the floor. 

Despite an inconsistent season, Frazier leads UF in scoring (13.2 ppg) and is shooting 40.1 percent from behind the arc. 

The Gators were 3-4 without Frazier in the lineup. 

“How much we’ll be about to get out of him, if anything, I don’t know,” Donovan said. 

“I’m going into the game with him available, but I think for me to go in there and say, ‘Ok, he’s back right now. He’s going to play 30 minutes and he’s going to be back where he was before he got injured,’ I think would be a mistake. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

March 04, 2015

Florida holds on, knocks off Texas A&M in home finale

GAINESVILLE -- Florida squeaked past Texas A&M 66-62 in excruciating fashion, nearly coughing up a 14-point lead in the final 1:58 at home Tuesday evening.

But Eli Carter sank two clutch free throws with 13.4 seconds remaining, sending the Gators to their second consecutive conference victory and a .500 record on the year. 

The Gators (15-15, 8-9) bullied the Aggies -- a potential NCAA Tournament team at 20-9 -- for much of the game before misadventures at the charity stripe nearly proved disastrous. Florida hit just 5-of-14 free throws down the stretch until Carter ended a serious drought. 

UF shot a woeful 52.8 percent (20-for-38) from the free throw line on the night, turning a potential rout in a nail-biter as Texas A&M scored on eight of 11 possessions. 

“It’s happened to our team a lot this season,” UF coach Billy Donovan said. “We’re not a mentally strong team. ... I don’t think there’s any excuse for that.” 

Still, the Gators survived thanks to a balanced scoring effort and a tenacious defense, with four players scoring in double-figures led by forward Dorian Finney-Smith’s 12 points. 

The junior also chipped in seven rebounds, three steals and two assists off the bench. Carter added 11 points with five turnovers. 

UF actually opened the game in a 10-0 hole, failing to get on the scoreboard for the first 5:28 of the opening period. 

Then Finney-Smith entered the contest, and the Gators immediately went on a 17-4 spurt, as the Aggies couldn’t buy a bucket. 

A seesaw affair early in the second half quickly became a blowout, as UF took control with a 14-0 sprint. 

UF’s half court defense was suffocating for the second straight game, holding the Aggies’ top playmaker Danuel House scoreless (0-for-10) for the first time all season.

The Gators frustrated House with traps and aggressive looks, with UF point guard Kasey Hill (eight assists, two steals) doing an excellent job in 1-on-1 situations. 

Texas A&M point guard Alex Caruso led all scorers with 20 points, while swingman Jalen Jones added 15 points and nine boards. 

“There’s times and glimpses where we play at a very, very high level,” said Donovan on Florida’s stingy defense.

“Mentally this was a game where we felt like we did a terrific job sustaining defensive intensity the whole entire time.” 

UF honored walk-ons Lexx Edwards and Jacob Kurtz during a Senior Night ceremony before the game.   

Kurtz, a key glue-guy the last two years, earned the start and scored a nifty hustle layup late in the first half, only to get injured on the play. 

The forward, who finished with two points and two assists, was poked in the right eye and barely played the rest of the night with his eye nearly swollen shut. 


Freshmen Chris Chiozza and Devin Robinson both scored 10 points. Florida shot 48 percent from the field, and hit 8-of-20 shots from downtown … Alex Murphy chipped in nine points, including seven straight during a mini-run in the second half. Murphy ignited a sparse crowd with a monstrous two-handed jam during a 12-0 run. … UF also played its seventh straight game without leading scorer Michael Frazier II (high-ankle sprain). 

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February 28, 2015

Donovan nets 500th win, as Florida cruises past UT

GAINESVILLE -- Billy Donovan swears win No. 500 wasn’t on his mind. 

He’s not even sure when Florida's next victory will even come. 

But in a forgettable and frustrating season, Donovan finally reached the elusive milestone, as UF smashed Tennessee 66-49 Saturday night in the O’Connell Center. 

In a special night worth remembering, the man who turned Florida into a national powerhouse became the second-youngest men’s D-1 coach to win 500 games.

“I’ve been part of at least a lot of unbelievable experiences in that building. Tonight was very, very meaningful,” Donovan, 49, said. 

It’s been a tough season for the Gators, but in the rout’s closing seconds the Rowdy Reptiles chanted “Billy D. Billy D. Billy D,” and Florida celebrated Donovan’s achievement with a postgame video montage. 

“I thought there was a great crowd tonight, and obviously our team has struggled this year," he said.

"For the amount of people to come out like they did to watch our team play, I was very, very appreciative and very thankful for that. I thought we had a great environment, a great crowd. Then to be kind of honored like that at the end of the game was extremely touching, and I was very, very thankful for that."

The Gators snapped a two-game skid, as Dorian Finney-Smith returned from a three-game suspension to lead all players with 20 points and 10 rebounds. 

The redshirt junior didn’t start, but recorded his second double-double on the season and his most points since Jan. 7 against South Carolina. 

“I just wanted to come out here and play with a lot of energy,” Finney-Smith said. 

“I owed it to these guys to come and have a good game.”

Florida (14-15, 7-9 SEC) led wire-to-wire, shooting a blistering 57.1 percent from the field.

The Vols’ matchup-zone defense was a sieve, yielding a barrage of dunks and 3-pointers for the Gators’ best offensive performance in over 10 weeks. 

UF point guard Kasey Hill rebounded from a miserable effort in Wednesday’s loss at Missouri, slicing Tennessee’s zone for eight dimes and seven points. Gators center Jon Horford chipped in 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting.   

“We were balanced,” Donovan said. 

“We just weren’t just all 3-point bomb shots, we had some layups, we did some good things. … Overall offensively the thing I was most pleased about was the 21 assists.”

The Gators opened the game on a 15-5 run and never looked back. Tennessee (14-14, 6-10 SEC) trailed 40-22 at halftime, as UF’s red-hot start led to seven treys, seven dunks and an astounding 14 assists on 15 field goals. 

The second half became mainly a perfunctory exercise, as UF’s lead ballooned to 23 points and UT never cut the deficit to single digits.   

Florida’s defensive effort was nearly as impressive, suffocating UT’s halfcourt attack. The Vols’ leading scorer Josh Richardson (15.9 ppg) never found a rhythm, scoring just nine points -- none in the first half. 

The Gators forced 14 turnovers and finished with a 27-19 advantage on the glass. 

Junior forward Armani Moore led Tennessee with 18 points, scoring the team’s first eight points to start the game. 

UF hosts Texas A&M at 9 p.m. Tuesday.  


Gators junior guard Eli Carter joined the 1,000-point club with 11, including a trio of first-half 3-pointers. Carter, who missed practice this week with strep throat, also added six assists. … The Vols lost their fifth straight game and seven of eight. … The Gators’ balanced effort led to a 33-18 advantage in bench points.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton



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