Florida Gators: Billy Donovan

Florida coach Billy Donovan is halfway around the world right now, but he received some great recruiting news from right in his back yard.

Donovan is in the Czech Republic leading USA Basketball’s U19 team into action in the FIBA U19 World Championships. Play began on Thursday, which just happens to be the same day Donovan landed a commitment from ESPN 100 guard Brandone Francis out of Arlington Country Day School in Jacksonville, Fla.

[+] EnlargeBrandone Francis
Courtesy of adidasCombo guard Brandone Francis will bring a versatile game to Florida in 2014.
The nation’s No. 34 rising senior, Francis joins ESPN 100 point guard Chris Chiozza (Memphis, Tenn./White Station) in the Gators’ 2014 class, which is now ranked No. 5 in the country. What makes Francis such a highly coveted recruit and productive player is that he is one of the few players in the 2014 class who excels both on and off the ball.
The Florida Gators are on the board in the Class of 2015 after receiving a pledge from ESPN 60 PF Kevarrius Hayes (Live Oak, Fla./Suwannee) Monday night. Hayes chose to play for Billy Donovan over interest from Alabama, Kansas State and Miami (Fla.), among others. Hayes recruiting was really starting to pick up of late but when the Gators stepped up with an offer, he knew it was time to pull the trigger on his decision.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Donovan's unique recruiting opportunity 

June, 11, 2013
6/11/13
4:13
PM ET
Editor's note: This is excerpted from this week's Starting 5 column. Click here to read the rest of Dave Telep's weekly basketball recruiting column. Insider

If you recall, last year Julius Randle went out of his way to say how much he enjoyed playing U18 USA Basketball for Billy Donovan, the team's head coach. The pair won a FIBA Americas championship together and helped Team USA qualify for this year's U19 world championship.

Well, this year Donovan returns to coach the U19 team along with VCU's Shaka Smart and Virginia's Tony Bennett. Like Randle last year when he was the only recruitable player on the roster, rising seniors Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor are set to try out for the squad.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Class of 2014 point guard Chris Chiozza (Memphis, Tenn./White Station) has committed to the Florida Gators, and the style of play is not only a good fit but Chiozza will rapidly improve under the tutelage of another point guard -- Florida coach Billy Donovan.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Florida basketball program has lost another player.

Coach Billy Donovan announced Monday that freshman guard/forward DeVon Walker has been granted his release and will be transferring.

"DeVon has a bright future, and we hope for the best for him wherever he chooses to go," Donovan said in a statement.

The 6-foot-6 Walker played in 25 games and scored 20 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked four shots.

He is the second freshman to transfer. Point guard Braxton Ogbueze, who played in only 23 games and scored only 19 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and had seven assists, announced he was leaving last week.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- One day after gaining a player, the Florida basketball program lost one.

B. Ogbueze
B. Ogbueze
UF coach Billy Donovan announced Wednesday that freshman point guard Braxton Ogbueze will transfer. Ogbueze played in only 23 games and scored only 19 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and had seven assists in 2012-13.

"I’ve appreciated the opportunity here at Florida and have learned a lot that will help me in the future," Ogbueze said in a statement.

The 6-foot, 182-pound Ogbueze was a four-star recruit and the No. 94 overall player in the 2012 ESPN 100. He was the country’s No. 7 point guard.

On Tuesday the Gators added Rutgers transfer Eli Carter. The 6-2 Carter led the Scarlet Knights in scoring in 2012-13 (14.8 points per game) while shooting 38.4 percent from the floor and 32.0 percent from 3-point range.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Mike Rosario, he of the broken finger, bum ankle, tender back, nagging hip pointer and bad first NCAA tournament game, decided to put the hurt on someone else Sunday.

And, yes, there were tears involved. That's usually the case at this one-and-done point of the season. But third-seeded Florida and Rosario were feeling no pain as they wide-tooth grinned their way into the Sweet 16 after a 78-64 win over No. 11 seed Minnesota in the Frank Erwin Center.

Florida, which is in its third straight Sweet 16 for the first time in school history, will play 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast in Arlington, Texas, on Friday.

"I told myself, 'I can't let my guys down,'" Rosario said. "I was beating myself up that I didn't bring the full Mike Rosario in the first game and I felt like had to come out the second game."

[+] EnlargeMike Rosario
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsAfter struggling in Florida's NCAA tournament opener, senior Mike Rosario shined against Minnesota.
He came out and stayed out. The senior guard scored 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting, with 17 of those points coming in the first half as Florida staked itself to a 23-point lead over the Gophers.

"When you shoot 6-of-9 [from behind the arc], even if you are by yourself that is pretty impressive," Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. "Those were really tough shots."

It wouldn't be Rosario if they weren't. He is a player more apt to struggle down the rocky road than stroll down the smooth path. A transfer from Rutgers, Rosario has been a player and personality who has not exactly been at odds with Florida coach Billy Donovan in his Florida career but has not exactly been on the same wavelength, either. As a junior Donovan was pushing him through the injuries, letting him know what it meant to be a big-time player every night in a big-time program. And even in this, Rosario's senior season, Donovan has twice limited his minutes in the final weeks because of Rosario's failure to do the lithe, and essential, things on the court.

"There are times with Mike when he can come not focused and not be accountable and not be responsible in terms of doing the things he needs to do," Donovan said. "The reason our relationship is sometimes rocky is that I have held him to a higher standard."

Donovan, and everyone else, held Rosario in high esteem Sunday. Really there was no other place to put him. Even after the 17-point first half, Rosario, who has what is surely an infuriating ability to check out, stayed focused and nailed a 3-pointer that quelled a Minnesota run midway through the second half.

"I felt that every time I have an open look at it I'm going to take it," Rosario said. "And they were falling tonight."

That wasn't the case against Northwestern State on Friday. Rosario failed to box out on a play and because of that found himself on the bench for the majority of the game. Ditto with a few weeks ago against Kentucky when his carelessness pushed Donovan to the brink and Rosario right back to the bench.

But Rosario doesn't go to the bench to sulk.

"Mike will assume responsibility," Donovan said. "He is not a finger pointer and is not blaming other people. The best thing about Mike is that Mike lets me coach him. I am on him all the time a lot because I want him to be the best he can be on and off the floor."

Sunday Rosario was just that.
Julius Randle played out his recruiting until just about the 11th hour. And when the music finally stopped playing and Randle picked Kentucky on Wednesday, there were three schools left standing with broken hearts. Here’s a look at where those programs go from here.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Florida's Prather steps in, steps up

February, 12, 2013
2/12/13
11:47
PM ET
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Casey Prather left the Florida locker room after the Gators’ 69-52 victory over Kentucky with a small red bump on his lower lip near the corner of his mouth.

That wasn’t a lot of damage for the 6-foot-6 swingman despite an evening of playing inside against the nation’s top shot-blocker and a 7-footer. The Gators hope he can hold up that well throughout the rest of the regular season.

That’s pretty much the only way UF can weather the loss of Will Yeguete and put itself in position to make another deep NCAA tournament run.

[+] EnlargeFlorida's Casey Prather
AP Photo/Phil SandlinCasey Prather scored 12 points and took three charges for the Gators.
"It [stepping in for Yeguete] wasn’t really in the back of my mind," Prather said after scoring 12 points, grabbing three rebounds, blocking two shots, and dishing out two assists. "I would just say I was trying to give the team a big boost, big energy boost, and so I was just glad to help the team out any way I could."

The 6-7 Yeguete -- the Gators’ second-leading rebounder, best post defender, and the key to UF’s full-court press -- underwent surgery last Friday to clean out loose bodies in his right knee. Replacing part of Yeguete’s production fell to Prather, and he has embraced the challenge. He had 12 points and five rebounds in the Gators’ rout of Mississippi State last Saturday, but the Bulldogs sit in the SEC’s cellar and have won just seven games. It was going to be a much bigger task to do it against Kentucky and 6-10 Nerlens Noel, the nation’s leading shot-blocker (4.5 per game), and 7-foot center Willie Cauley-Stein.

Prather not only held his own, he drew three charges and had a big first half to help the Gators rally from a slow start. With Erik Murphy on the bench for much of the first half with two fouls, Prather scored eight points -- two of which came on a dunk in front of Cauley-Stein.

"It's just a matter of confidence with that guy," UF center Patric Young said. "Because, I know he can do that day in and day out. He's just really athletic with really active hands. It was a night where he could show what he can do."

(Read full post)

While Florida still has one scholarship left in the Class of 2013 and remains in the hunt for No. 4 senior Julius Randle (Dallas/Prestonwood Christian), the Gators are now focusing the majority of their recruiting time and effort on the Class of 2014.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- To celebrate Florida coach Billy Donovan’s 400th victory at the school, Gators center Patric Young lured Donovan into a separate part of the locker room and doused him with a watercooler full of ice water.

Donovan was stunned.

"Basketball coaches don’t have that happen to them very often," he said several moments later. "And I tell you what: That was really, really, really cold. I mean, really cold."

[+] EnlargeBilly Donovan
AP Photo/Phil SandlinBilly Donovan's Florida Gators have yet to allow an SEC opponent to score more than 52 points.
But not as cold as what 10th-ranked Florida did to 17th-ranked Missouri on Saturday afternoon to give Donovan that milestone victory. The Gators dominated the Tigers in an 83-52 victory in front of 12,597 at the O’Connell Center in what was supposed to be a matchup of the top two teams in the SEC.

Florida held Missouri to a season-low 32.7 percent from the floor, forced 21 turnovers and took point guard Phil Pressey -- who was named the league’s preseason player of the year by the media -- completely out of the game. It was yet another stellar defensive performance from the Gators (14-2, 4-0 SEC), which have yet to allow an SEC opponent to score more than 52 points.

"A 30-point victory against one of the best teams in the SEC -- it was just a great game for us," said Young, who had nine points and eight rebounds. "I know nobody expected that. I’m sure a lot of teams thought they were going to come in here and they were going to upset us. I know they thought they were going to upset us, but we were prepared so well for this game and we really wanted it."

That was evident from the opening tip. Young tapped the ball toward point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who took a couple of dribbles and scored on a layup just four seconds into the game.

It got worse for Missouri (13-4, 2-2) from there. The Gators raced out to an 11-0 lead in the first 3:14, and the Tigers pulled to within single digits only once after that. Missouri committed two turnovers and went 0-for-5 from the field during that opening stretch.

(Read full post)


GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A quick look at No. 10 Florida’s 83-52 victory against No. 17 Missouri on Saturday afternoon at the O’Connell Center:

Overview: This was supposed to be a battle between the SEC's two best teams.

That lasted less than five minutes.

Florida rolled out to a quick start and completely dominated the Tigers. In doing so, the Gators (14-2, 4-0 SEC) have pretty much established themselves as the class of the league. Missouri (13-3, 2-2 SEC) was overwhelmed offensively and defensively, and ended up shooting a season-low 32.7 percent from the field.

Florida had four players score in double figures. Point guard Scottie Wilbekin had 13 points and 10 assists, forward Erik Murphy scored 15 points, and guard Kenny Boynton scored 14.

Turning point: How about the game’s first 3:14. Florida raced out to an 11-0 lead during that span, and Missouri only pulled within single digits once after that. Missouri committed two turnovers and went 0-for-5 from the field while Florida went 4-for-5. The Gators scored two baskets in the game’s first minute, including a big dunk by Patric Young, and that got the crowd in the sold-out O’Connell Center into the game pretty quickly.

Key player: Wilbekin had another dominant defensive performance. Two days after shutting down Texas A&M’s Elston Turner, Wilbekin blanketed Missouri point guard Phil Pressey, holding him to two points on 1 of 7 shooting. Pressey, who had been averaging 13.8 points 9.8 assists in his previous six games, had 6 assists and 10 turnovers.

(Read full post)

Behind the Numbers: Florida-Arizona

December, 14, 2012
12/14/12
12:40
PM ET
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesBilly Donovan and Kenny Boynton have worked to make Florida better.

The only top-10 matchup of the week takes place in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday night. Two 7-0 teams look to remain perfect when the eighth-ranked Arizona Wildcats host the fifth-ranked Florida Gators at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Fans at the McKale Center can only hope that this game will be as exciting as last year’s overtime thriller, won by Florida, 78-72.

Solomon Hill hit three free throws with 4 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime, when Erving Walker scored seven of Florida’s 12 points in the extra period to lead his team to the win.

Florida winning with ‘D’
The Gators have been one of the most dominant teams in the country at both ends of the floor during the first month.

Florida is ranked ninth in Division I in offensive efficiency and fourth in defensive efficiency. The only other team in the nation ranked in the top 10 in both of those categories is Indiana.

The Gators were strong offensively last season (sixth in offensive efficiency) but struggled defensively (135th in defensive efficiency). They have transformed themselves in several areas on the defensive end this year.

(Read full post)

ESPN Radio: Talking Florida basketball

December, 13, 2012
12/13/12
3:13
PM ET
Florida coach Billy Donovan went on the SVP & Russillo Show to discuss the Gators' early success this season, the diminished Big East, the influence of football on conference realignment and much more. Listen here Listen

Similarly, Arizona coach Sean Miller was on The Herd with Colin Cowherd to talk about the Wildcats' Saturday matchup with Florida, the state of the Big East, conference realignment and more. Listen here Listen

Biggest threat to Kentucky's No. 1 class 

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
10:54
AM ET

Kentucky’s dominance of the recruiting landscape has never been greater than it is right now, and for good reason. John Calipari’s won his first national championship last year, stars Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were taken with the first two picks of last year’s NBA Draft and the team has achieved unprecedented television exposure, giving college basketball’s greatest salesman a whole lot of new material to sell recruits on.

The Wildcats are so far ahead of everyone else in their 2013 recruiting class that our coverage of the early signing period has essentially removed them from the discussion, comparing Kentucky’s current recruiting class only to some of the best in history and, today, rating every other class in the country, after Kentucky.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES

No. 7 OLB Jerome Baker Flips To Ohio St.
Jerome Baker, the No. 70 overall player in the ESPN 300, changed his commitment Tuesday from Florida to Ohio State. National recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton explains what prompted the move.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video

SEC SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 10/25