NCAA Basketball Tournament - Louisville v Florida

Florida got Shabazzed, but Gators have a lot to like

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The No. 15 Florida Gators showed late-game resiliency, senior leadership and an ability to make key plays in big moments as they played on the road at Gampel Pavilion and scored on their final possession — a beautiful cut and layup by Michael Frazier II off an assist from Casey Prather — against No. 12 UConn.

Then Shabazz Napier happened.

The Gators can’t really hang their head on one of college basketball’s most clutch players knocking down a shot in his home building. Florida has too much to take away from this loss and a brutal upcoming schedule can’t leave them sulking.

Struggling with offense for much of the season, senior center Patric Young had 17 points and seven rebounds and his three-point play with 1:18 left was his third go-to bucket in the post in the game’s final minutes. Young contributed to Philip Nolan and Tyler Olander fouling out and on that three-point play with 1:18 left, the senior sank the free throw to go 5-for-7 for the day on the road as a 55 percent foul shooter.

His touch is off at times and he isn’t as fluid as he used to be, but Young plays hard, is a decent passer out of the post and his two interceptions of UConn passes on defense made it appear as though an NFL career might be more feasible following this season in Gainesville.

But for now, the Gators will take that performance from Young every time they can.

Casey Prather also continued his unlikely rise as the SEC’s current best scoring threat. The senior forward is averaging 19.1 points per game and hit that number 19 on the head against UConn while contributing seven rebounds and three assists.

At times Prather appeared unguardable in the second half.

The best part about Prather’s scoring ability against UConn was his aggression getting to the basket and trying to score inside. Prather attempted no three-pointers — the Gators were 3-for-9 for the game as a team — and was 8-for-13 from the field, using hesitation moves, and some straight-line attacks to the rack to score.

Scottie Wilbekin also made some plays for the Gators, but he’ll need to be more consistent handling the ball as he makes his comeback from his early season suspension. The senior point guard made some critical turnovers in the second half, including a jump pass that resulted in a UConn fast-break bucket and a botched 3-on-2 break that resulted in an awkward shot and a bailout foul on the ensuing Florida offensive rebound.

But for Wilbekin’s inconsistencies, he’ll also be aided by the return of freshman point guard and McDonald’s All-American Kasey Hill — who has been out since November 16th and could return soon — and continued playing time in this early season. The Gators had 16 turnovers to eight assists as a team and struggled on offense at times.

But Florida has been in some big games that have gone to the wire already this season, winning 67-66 over in-state rival Florida State and now with this loss to UConn and they can’t think about this loss too much as their next two games come against Kansas and Memphis on December 10th and 17th respectively.

The Gators are playing at a high level and one of those two games could be close going late into the game as well. And Florida isn’t even into the SEC portion of the schedule yet.

As long as their seniors step up and they integrate Kasey Hill into the lineup, this Florida team can be really good.

Seton Hall’s Derrick Gordon won’t pursue pro basketball to become a firefighter

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 12:  Derrick Gordon #32 of the Seton Hall Pirates celebrates after hitting a basket against the Villanova Wildcats during the Big East Basketball Tournament Championship at Madison Square Garden on March 12, 2016 in New York City. Seton Hall Pirates defeated Villanova Wildcats 69-67.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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After a successful career that included stops at Western Kentucky, UMass and Seton Hall, Derrick Gordon, Division I college basketball’s first openly gay player, will not pursue professional opportunities and will instead become a firefighter.

The 6-foot-3 Gordon averaged 8.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a senior for the Pirates, helping the team reach the NCAA tournament during his graduate transfer year. By making the NCAA tournament with Seton Hall this past season, Gordon became the first college basketball player to reach the event with three different teams.

A tenacious perimeter defender who could have earned a pro contract if he stuck with basketball, Gordon will instead pursue a career as a firefighter in San Francisco.

“I’ve had an amazing basketball career and want to thank everybody who has always been there supporting me every step on the way,” Gordon said via his Instagram. “But I’m making a change in my career…I will now be working towards becoming a San Francisco Firefighter!! I’m excited about this and looking forward to having a long career!!”

While Gordon likely would have never made the NBA on talent alone, his defensive prowess would have likely given him a shot overseas or in the D League. It’s hard to say why Gordon is making this decision, but given what we saw with all of the attention surrounding Michael Sam when he tried to play in the NFL, Gordon was probably going to face a lot of scrutiny wherever he decided to play.

Hopefully Gordon finds his calling as a firefighter and brings the same energy and leadership that he brought on the floor to helping other people outside of basketball.

Washington guard Markelle Fultz pulls off sick spin and dunk at FIBA U18 Americas

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Kelly Kline/Under Armour
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Washington incoming freshman guard Markelle Fultz is going to be one of the premier players in the country next season as his unique game is going to be fascinating to watch.

The 6-foot-5 Fultz is currently playing with the USA U18 team in Chile for the FIBA U18 Americas as he’s second on the team in scoring and first in assists as the Americans play Canada for the title on Saturday.

Against the host country, Fultz had an electric spin move in the paint and finished with an easy dunk. If you’re not willing to stay up late to watch this dude play this year, then set your DVRs, because Fultz is going to have some fun moments during the season.

(H/t: Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report)

POSTERIZED: Class of 2016 forward Chris Seeley has a massive dunk on defender

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The Las Vegas AAU events are all going on this week and it’s the final event for rising seniors.

At the Las Vegas Fab 48, forward Chris Seeley of the Splash City 17U team put down one of the best poster dunks of the summer as he skied over a defender for an emphatic finish.

The Class of 2016 forward attends Central High School in Fresno, California as he’s receiving plenty of buzz for his recent play.

 

 

 

Five-star forward Jarred Vanderbilt cuts list to nine

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LAS VEGAS, NV — Five-star Class of 2017 forward Jarred Vanderbilt has been one of the most sought-after recruits in the country since he was a freshman in high school.

The 6-foot-8 native of Houston is beginning to wind things down in the recruiting process as he cut his list to nine schools on Friday. Vanderbilt’s list includes some of the most storied programs in college basketball and plenty of schools from his home state of Texas.

“I just followed my heart. Went with the schools I liked the most and who I have the best relationships with. Thear were the schools I could see myself playing for,” Vanderbilt told NBCSports.com.

Regarded as the No. 13 overall prospect in the Rivals.com national rankings, Vanderbilt is currently recovering from a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot.

Vanderbilt will see a doctor in three-to-four weeks as he’s currently in a boot to help his foot heal.

Report: Michigan State and Penn State will play at the Palestra

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 10: Head coach Patrick Chambers of the Penn State Nittany Lions looks on against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second round of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has previously expressed a desire to coach a game at the legendary Palestra in Philadelphia and it appears he’ll get his chance in a Big Ten game this season.

According to a report from Brendan F. Quinn of MLive, Penn State will use the Palestra as its home gym for the Jan. 7, 2017 Big Ten game against Michigan State. It is the only time the two teams are scheduled to play during Big Ten season and Penn’s home gym will offer a unique setting for the game.

Since the capacity of the Palestra is 8,722, it should make for a fun atmosphere for both programs since this will be a game both fan bases will likely want to attend.

With Nittany Lions head coach Pat Chambers making Philadelphia a major recruiting priority for his program, a game like this in Philadelphia makes sense while Michigan State has always been open to playing games in unique settings such as aircraft carriers.

The Palestra has been a college basketball mainstay since it was built in 1927 as it hosts all Penn home games and, in the past, hosted a lot of Big 5 Philadelphia college games between La Salle, Penn, Saint Joseph’s, Temple and Villanova.

Overall, a fun idea that should make for an interesting experience for both programs. It’s not often that a team will change its home venue for a conference game, but it could be the start of something we see other schools look to do.