Florida Gators: Georgetown Hoyas

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida’s defense is going to be tested immediately in the NCAA tournament.

The Gators earned a No. 3 seed in the South region and will play its tournament opener against No. 14 seed Northwestern State, which entered the weekend as the nation’s top-scoring team. The game will be played Friday in Austin, Texas.

The Gators (26-7), who won the regular-season Southeastern Conference title but fell to Ole Miss in the SEC tournament, entered the weekend third nationally in scoring defense (53.2 points per game allowed). UF has allowed just one opponent to score more than 66 points since a 67-61 loss to Kansas State on Dec. 22, 2012.

Northwestern State (23-8) won the Southland Conference tournament. The Demons entered the weekend averaging 82.4 points per game, but that number dropped to 81.0 per game after the conference tournament.

The Demons have four players averaging in double figures in scoring, led by 6-foot-7 forward DeQuan Hicks (14.1 ppg). Northwestern also is pretty deep. They have 10 players averaging at least 15.5 minutes per game.

Should the Gators get by Northwestern State they face a potential third-round matchup with No. 6 seed UCLA (25-9), which plays No. 11 seed Minnesota. UF has won all three of its meetings against the Bruins, and all have come in the NCAA tournament. The Gators beat UCLA in the 2006 national championship game, in the 2007 national semifinals and in a third-round game in 2011.

If the Gators do advance to the Sweet 16, they could potentially face No. 2 seed Georgetown (25-6). That would be a rematch of the Navy-Marine Corps Classic aboard the USS Bataan at Mayport (Fla.) Naval Station that was never finished because of condensation on the court.

ESPN 60 PG JaQuan Lyle down to six

March, 11, 2013
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ESPN 60 junior JaQuan Lyle (Evansville, Ind./Bosse) narrowed his college choices to six schools over the weekend. Lyle confirmed the news via his Twitter account on Saturday.

The 6-foot-4 point guard will decide among Illinois, Florida, Indiana, Louisville, Tennessee and Ohio State. Eliminated were Texas, NC State, Georgetown and Cincinnati.

Lyle's junior season came to an end on Saturday in an 82-65 loss to Greensburg in a regional semifinal. He scored 25 points and added 10 rebounds in the defeat.

Hoophall Classic: Players to watch 

January, 18, 2013
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The Spalding Hoophall Classic held near the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., is annually the nation’s best in-season high school basketball event -- and this year may be its best field ever. Which is saying something considering the likes of Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Jared Sullinger and Kyrie Irving have played in the showcase.

The elite national matchups will get rolling on Saturday and then really kick into gear on Sunday and Monday, when six games will be televised across ESPN, ESPNU and WatchESPN. In those six TV games alone, 25 players ranked in the ESPN 100 and seven teams ranked in the ESPN 25 Power Rankings will be featured, including the No. 1 and No. 2 prospects, six of the top 12 recruits in the country and a showdown between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams. Recruits for Kentucky, Duke, Florida, Syracuse, Indiana, NC State, Georgetown, Washington, Baylor, BYU and more will be on display.

To get you set for all the action, here are the players to watch for each of the 12 teams playing on TV this weekend.

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Johnson flirts with perfection, slices list 

December, 20, 2012
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Chaminade-esque run of Bishop Verot (Fort Myers, Fla.) at the City of Palms Classic ended on Wednesday courtesy of national No. 1 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) and a big fella named Dakari Johnson (New York, N.Y./Montverde).

To say the Vikings couldn’t stop Johnson, the No. 1-ranked center in the ESPN 100, isn’t accurate because that would imply they did at least on occasion. Instead, Johnson carve up a depleted Verot frontline for 23 points and 10 rebounds as he went 11-for-11 from the field. Only a 2-for-4 performance from the line cost him offensive efficiency perfection.

Afterward, Johnson still couldn’t miss when he talked recruiting.

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Military trip resonates with Gators

November, 14, 2012
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ABOARD THE USS BATAAN -- Erik Murphy sat with his Florida basketball teammates in a hotel meeting room last Thursday night and listened to one of the most horrifying and uplifting stories he had ever heard.

Army veteran Andrew Coughlan described surviving a mortar attack in Iraq because another soldier jumped on top of him to shield him from the explosion. The other soldier, Coughlan’s best friend in the unit, didn’t survive.

Coughlan talked about his grief over his friend’s death and the loss of other friends in the Iraq war. He was wracked with guilt over having survived when others didn’t. He described what it was like to come home and live with that memory. And finally, he talked about accepting what happened and deciding to live for the soldiers who didn’t come back.

"His story was just ... it’s so like ... I really don’t know how to explain it," Murphy said. "It was unreal. It was an unreal story sitting in the room listening to it. You can hear how it affected him, how it changed his life, and how it first affected him negatively and then he took that and changed it to a positive. He’s telling the story just to help other people. It’s something special."

That was the most powerful moment the Gators experienced during a two-day span that culminated with the Navy-Marine Corps Classic aboard the USS Bataan at Naval Station Mayport on Friday night. But there were plenty of others that affected UF’s players.

In touring the Bataan on Thursday, the Gators met various members of the military. Some were officers and some were enlisted men and women. Some were older, but some were their age -- or even younger. Even though the players know there are thousands of men and women just a few years out of high school serving in the military, it didn’t really sink in until they met some of them.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Billy Donovan's decision to suspend PG Scottie Wilbekin indefinitely means the job of directing the Gators' offense will fall to senior Kenny Boynton.

Boynton has run the point in spurts through the past three seasons, mainly in relief of starting PG Erving Walker, who graduated as the school's all-time assist leader. Boynton, who is on pace to become the school's all-time leading scorer, is the Gators' top man defender, so his role there won't change.

The bigger issue for Donovan is finding someone to replace the 6-foot-2 Wilbekin in the starting lineup for Friday's season opener against Georgetown and to relieve Boynton when he's on the bench. Donovan could slide 6-3 Mike Rosario into the shooting guard spot to go along with 6-9 C Patric Young, 6-10 F Erik Murphy and 6-7 F Will Yeguete.

Or Donovan could go with 6-6 freshman Michael Frazier, who scored 21 points in UF's exhibition victory over Nebraska-Kearney. Even if Rosario starts, Wilbekin's suspension will mean more playing time for Frazier and two other freshmen: 6-4 Dillon Graham and 6-0 Braxton Ogbueze. The Gators cannot use 6-6 G/F Casey Prather on Friday because he is out with a concussion.

"This throws a wrench," Donovan said. "We've got to do some things in practice to make some adjustments going into this game.

"The biggest thing for me as a coach is how do I get these guys to understand what they're doing because there's going to be a lot of different lineups on the floor."

Donovan has a track record of successfully juggling lineups. He got the Gators to the Elite Eight last season after losing Yeguete -- the Gators' top post defender and key cog in their press -- to a broken foot in February.

Five-star junior Leron Black picks Baylor 

September, 17, 2012
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Class of 2014 small forward Leron Black put an end to his recruitment on Monday with a verbal pledge to Baylor, according to sources.

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I just had a great conversation with Sonny Parker, father of Chicago Simeon small forward Jabari Parker, who said his son is excited about the home visits, which started Tuesday night when Florida coach Billy Donovan stopped by. They continue with DePaul coach Oliver Purnell visiting on Wednesday and Kansas coach Bill Self making the trip on Friday to the top-rated senior, while other programs are working on dates to visit the Parkers.

Once the in-home visits are complete, Sonny said that Jabari could be ready to trim his list of 10 -- Brigham Young, DePaul, Duke, Florida, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina and Stanford -- down to five.

"I am looking for how the coaches explain their style of play to Jabari," said Sonny, who was drafted No. 17 overall in the 1976 NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors. "I want to see how the coaches are going to set up a player of Jabari's size (6-foot-8, 220 pounds) and talent so he can handle the ball on the break and in the half court. Jabari needs to be allowed to make plays."

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SportsNation: Can SEC newcomers win?

September, 3, 2012
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Get in on SportsNation's College Football Final Verdict and make your vote count for, among other things, which SEC newcomer might have a shot at winning in its SEC debut this Saturday: Missouri over Georgia, or Texas A&M over Florida.
Franklin Howard (Washington, D.C./Gonzaga College) has been driving lanes long before he could drive a car. By doing so, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard is driving college offers up as well.

A star in the class of 2015, Howard -- who still doesn’t have a driver’s license -- picked up offers from Miami and Ohio State over the weekend to add to an already-impressive list that includes Florida, Georgetown, Seton Hall and Villanova.

“I’m happy I was able to pick up those offers,” Howard said. “It’s what I’ve been dreaming of my whole life. Since I’ve started playing basketball, I’ve always wanted to get all these offers, all these looks.’

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Facey
Courtesy of Long Island Lutheran.Kentan Facey has seen his stock soar in the span of a year.
It seems that every summer one under-the-radar prospect emerges and grabs the attention of college coaches and basketball analysts alike. This year it appears to be Kentan Facey.

The native of Jamaica, who came to the United States a couple of years ago, is 6-foot-8, 190 pounds and has a 7-1 wingspan. In 2011, he enrolled with Upper Room Christian in Long Island before transferring after the season to his new school, Long Island Lutheran. This time one year ago he was playing AAU basketball for the New Heights Program, but wasn't really a factor. He was trying acclimate to the culture. To say he was raw would be an understatement

"When I came to the States I had no idea what to expect," Facey said. "The speed of the game was at another level. It was a huge adjustment. I had a hard time just catching the ball."

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida’s 2012-2013 basketball schedule was finished. And it was a good one, too.

The Gators were playing home games against Wisconsin, Marquette and Central Florida and road games at Arizona, Yale and Florida State. There also were neutral-site games against Kansas State and a TBD opponent in the Orange Bowl Classic.

[+] EnlargeNorth Carolina-Michigan on Carrier
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesMichigan State and North Carolina ushered in the 2011-12 season aboard the USS Carl Vinson last Nov. 11.
Most schools around the country were still trying to fill dates in mid-May, so it’s understandable why Mike Hill, UF’s senior associate athletics director for external affairs and the person responsible for basketball scheduling, was feeling pretty good.

Then Alan Verlander called. The director of sports and entertainment for the city of Jacksonville, Fla., said he was trying to put together a basketball game on an aircraft carrier and would the Gators be interested?

So much for the schedule being done.

"I told [UF coach] Billy [Donovan], 'If there’s an aircraft carrier parked in Jacksonville with a basketball game being played there I don’t know how Florida can’t be involved,' " Hill said. "He said, 'I agree.'

"We were really excited to already have our schedule done by the time we did. Most schools are still scrambling for games. We were already working on next year’s schedule and I got the call. It threw everything into chaos."

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- All Amanda O’Leary had to sell was a promise.

Florida’s lacrosse coach had a University of Florida shirt in 2007, but little else as she began recruiting players for the Gators’ new program, which wasn’t scheduled to begin play for nearly three years. No facility. No stadium. No equipment. Just a promise that the Gators would eventually compete for a national championship.

"We had nothing to show them," O’Leary remembered. "They would come on their recruiting visits and we had no stadium, we had no tradition, we had nothing to show them.

"They basically bought into something."

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Updates on unsigned ESPNU 100 recruits 

November, 17, 2011
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The early period concluded Wednesday night but there’s a chance a letter of intent or two could be post-dated and arrive within the next two weeks. However, outside of that possibility, the period is over. That means its time to check in with the big dogs and take a pulse of what’s up with the remaining ESPNU 100 players.

No. 1 Shabazz Muhammad (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) sat back and watched the early period come and go without a decision. This was exactly what we expected him to do. The biggest development in his recruitment might be the early season play of UCLA. The Bruins, the perceived clubhouse leader, dropped their first two games. Everyone’s asking what this means for UCLA and Shabazz. The reality is, Ben Howland’s pitch now becomes stronger: “We need you” is something I’m sure he’s heard by now and now UCLA can cite examples of why. That’s the only silver lining in the early season losses if you can call it that.

No. 7 Anthony Bennett (Brampton, Ont./Findlay Prep) had no intention of signing early and he followed through with that. His list is long. I’d say pay attention to Florida, Kentucky and Connecticut but remember, his list is long and he’ll be armed with the capacity to take five official visits.

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Scene and Heard: Top 10 Predictions
In a conversation with ESPN's Antonietta Collins, national recruiting reporter Gerry Hamilton breaks down the recruiting momentum building at Auburn and offers predictions for where the top 10 recruits will commit.Tags: Trenton Thompson, Kerryon Johnson, Jeffery Holland, Martez Ivey, Torrance Gibson, Cece Jefferson, ESPN 300, RecruitingNation, high school football recruiting, Gerry Hamilton
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