Oklahoma City Thunder

150524_Donovan

Donovan family thanks Florida fan base in full-page ad

1 Comment

In late April Billy Donovan accepted an offer to become the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, thus ending a two-decade run as head coach at Florida. During his time in Gainesville, Donovan led the Gators to two national titles, four Final Four appearances, seven Elite Eights (including a stretch of four straight years from 2011-14), six SEC regular season titles and four SEC tournament titles.

source: Getty Images

To say that he accomplished a great deal in Gainesville would be a major understatement, especially when considering the program’s history prior to his arrival.

Yet for as great of an impact that Donovan and his family had on the school, its basketball program and fan base, those who support the Gators impacted the Donovans as well. Sunday the family thanked the fan base in the form of a full-page ad in the Gainesville Sun, which can be seen in the embedded tweet above.

Their message read as follows:

“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 Gator Nation — from Crescent Beach to Cedar Key, from Miami to New York, from Jacksonville to San Fransisco, 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!

And so, rather than goodbye, …until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

— Billy and Christine Donovan

They were sure to allude to Donovan’s first “dance” with the NBA, as he accepted an offer from the Orlando Magic in 2007 before changing his mind and deciding to return to Florida. This time around, the opportunity to coach a team led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook was too enticing to pass up.

h/t The Dagger

NAIA allows Cameron Rodriguez to keep $20K after hitting half-court shot at Oklahoma City Thunder game

Southwestern College
2 Comments

On November 18, Cameron Rodriguez hit a half-court shot during a break in the Denver Nuggets-Oklahoma City Thunder game, with the award being $20,000 dollars. However there was a question if Rodriguez, a student-athlete on the Southwestern College basketball team, could accept the payment.

Southwestern College is an NAIA program in Winfield, Kans. The NAIA disallows players benefiting financially off their specific athletic skills. On Tuesday, the NAIA announced that an agreement had been reached after Rodriguez and the school recommended that Rodriguez use the money toward a scholarship.

The 6-foot-6 sophomore forward for the Southwestern College Moundbuilders gets the money and retains his eligibility. Sounds like a pretty good deal.

“We’re pleased with the decision from the membership and specifically the NEC [National Eligibility Committee] that allows Cameron to keep his winnings to use towards his education,” NAIA President and CEO Jim Carr said in a statement on Tuesday. “We feel the NAIA is the student-centered association in collegiate athletics, and this decision by our membership reflects that emphasis.”

“We are proud of our student-athlete for doing the right thing in contacting his coach before he did anything,” Dick Merriman, Southwestern College President said. “We are also proud of the NAIA for doing the right thing in their ruling. I am pleased with this outcome.”

[h/t Matt Norlander, CBS Sports]

Kentucky out of Top 25 for first time under Calipari

John Calipari, Ryan Harrow
9 Comments

Yes, Big Blue Nation, it finally happened. A Calipari-coached Kentucky team will play their next game without a ranking next to their name.

For the first time since Cal took over prior to the 2009-10 season, the Wildcats aren’t ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll. It’s a product of back-to-back losses to Notre Dame on the road and Baylor at home, a loss that was also Cal’s first at home since taking over at Kentucky.

Now breathe. It’s going to be ok.

This team is not anywhere near the caliber of last season’s national champions that steam-rolled essentially everyone (sans Indiana and Vanderbilt) on it’s way to one of the greatest seasons in college basketball history. You probably knew that already.

But first of all, polls are dumb. They are meaningless, really. Especially this early. They factor a little bit into opinions for at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament. The end.

But mainly, this team has a huge deficiency in leadership and that’s due to the fact that for the first season under Cal, the team lacks the senior leader that has been through the pre-Calipari Domination years. There’s no Patrick Patterson, Perry Stevenson or Ramon Harris. No Jorts, DeAndre Liggins or Darius Miller. No big brother figure that can lead the team mentally and emotionally when they’re tired of hearing it from Calipari. No, Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson don’t count.

It’s a newsworthy item because of Kentucky’s recent dominance. But nothing that should send Wildcats fans into a panic. There’s still four months to play until Selection Sunday.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Naismith Award watch list stretches from A(nderson) to Z(eller)

Kyle Anderson, Devonte Brown
Leave a comment

The Naismith Men’s Player of the Year Award early season watch list has been published, and it’s loaded with the usual suspects.

The state of Kentucky fared well, with Louisville and Kentucky landing three players apiece on the list. Chane Behanan, Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng were the Cardinals honored. The Wildcats, unsurprisingly, were represented by an all-freshman troika of Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Nerlens Noel.

In fact, there were plenty of first-year players on the list, with UCLA’s Kyle Anderson coming first alphabetically, joined by the Kentucky recruits, Ben McLemore (Kansas), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) and his own currently ineligible teammate Shabazz Muhammad.

Non-BCS programs were well represented, as they have been in All-America lists across the land. South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters is on the list, as are Isaiah Canaan (Murray State), Rotnei Clarke (Butler), CJ McCollum (Lehigh), DJ Cooper (Ohio), Doug McDermott (Creighton) and several players from the WCC and Mountain West conferences.

The power shift in the ACC was plainly evident, as well. Duke is represented by lone ranger Mason Plumlee, while traditional rival UNC had just James Michael McAdoo to carry the standard. Florida State has Michael Snaer. Resurgent NC State, on the other hand, will be repped by two players: Lorenzo Brown and CJ Leslie.

The Atlanta Tipoff club has sponsored the Naismith Award since 1969, when UCLA’s Lew Alcindor claimed the first trophy. Other winners have included Bill Walton, Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant and, most recently, Kentucky’s Anthony Davis.

Georgetown/Florida preview: More basketball, more aircraft carriers

NCAA Basketball Tournament - North Carolina State v Georgetown
Leave a comment

The best part about the few week or so is the teams that realize non-conference games are for great games, not blowouts, so they make sure to put one or two on the schedule. Florida and Georgetown knew that, and they did it.

Forget that, the best part about the first opening games is the gimmicks. And this one also involves playing on another aircraft carrier. The Hoyas and Gators will play aboard the USS Bataan in Jacksonville.

Not much separates these two teams. The Hoyas are a team that is paced by steady play from the guards and wings, namely sophomore  Otto Porter, who is due for a huge season. Much-hyped freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is expected to come in and replace the now-graduated Jason Clark and his 14 ppg. In fact, there’s a lot Georgetown has to replace: Clark, Hollis Thompson (12.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and Henry Sims (11.6 ppg, 6 rpg, 3.5 apg). Porter will fill some holes, but the biggest question mark is who will pick up the defense? Glue guy Nate Lubick should help (started all 33 games last season), as should Markel Starks (25 starts, 7.1 ppg).

Florida? Well, they stay Florida. Erving Walker is really the only player they lost, with volume (understatement) shooter Kenny Boynton back (15.9 ppg, 44-percent from the field), as well as slasher Mike Rosario and a tall shooter in 6-10 Erik Murphy (10.5 ppg in 2011-12). Patric Young will be asked to shoulder just as much of the front-court load as last season and he’s got the size to prove it. The biggest question mark in this game is if the suspension of point guard Scottie Wilbekin is going to change anything in the Gators attack. Boynton will take over at the point for the three games he’s out and expect Rosario, who played a sizable amount of  point in two seasons at Rutgers, to play some as well.

Weather might have an affect on this one, the same as it will on the  Ohio State/Marquette game. Wind will decide how much these teams shoot from deep, which makes it advantage Georgetown, who will be more adept at getting to the rim. Florida will also have to avoid turnovers and bad shots. Unfortunately, with shot-happy guards handling the ball like Boynton and Rosario, that might be a challenge.

Remember a few years back when playing outside was an amazing event? Now it’s aircraft carriers. Your move, college football.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Howland clarifies UCLA point guard picture

Larry Drew
Leave a comment

The UCLA Bruins have had many problems over the past couple-three years, many of them materializing off-court. One problem that has persisted on-court is the lack of a strong point guard presence. Not since the days of Russell Westbrook and Darren Collison has the ball really seemed to be in good hands the majority of the time.

You’ll forgive us if we still consider that to be a major problem for this year’s highly-touted version of the Bruins. UNC refugee Larry Drew II gets the nominal job of primary ballhandler this season, after going down in flames in that role in Chapel Hill. Ben Howland has already acknowledged that Drew is not his one and only as lead guard, however, now that freshman Kyle Anderson has been cleared to play by the NCAA. If anything, Howland looks forward to putting both players on the floor at the same time, according to the Charlotte Observer.

One is a freshman, the other a fifth-year senior. One hails from the East (New Jersey), the other the West (Los Angeles). One stands 6-foot-9, the other is 6-2.

But both are point guards, and coach Ben Howland said Thursday they’ll often be in the same lineup.

“I’ve always loved having two point guards on the floor,” Howland said at the Pac-12 Conference’s men’s basketball media day.

Howland noted that he employed that tactic when Jordan Farmar, Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday and Russell Westbrook wore Bruins blue.

Playing Anderson and Drew in tandem – for stretches at least – helps solve the riddle of which maestro will conduct UCLA’s potentially potent offense. They both will.

The distinction matters primarily when the team is on offense – either player may bring the ball up the floor, a tactic that was employed to great effect during the Bruins’ tour of China this summer. Defensively, Anderson is expected to guard opposing small forwards, a task to which his lanky frame is more naturally suited. Point guards will be assigned to Drew and his true backup at the point, 6’3″ Norman Powell.

There’s little doubt that this UCLA team is intriguing. It could be a good sort of intrigue if all of these diverse parts coalesce into a team. It could be a bad connotation of the word if cameraderie once again eludes a Howland-coached squad of Bruins.