What Brad Beal’s entry into the NBA Draft means for Florida

17 Apr

After weeks of deliberation and weighing his options with family, coaches and friends, UF freshman guard Brad Beal finally made up his mind.

He’s foregoing his remaining three years of eligibility at Florida to enter the NBA Draft where he’ll likely be a lottery pick and possibly go within the top 5.

Here’s how ESPN’s Chad Ford sees the pecking order shaking out with this year’s prospects.

1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky, Fr.

2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky, Fr.

3. Brad Beal, Florida, Fr.

  • 14.8 points per game on 44.5 percent shooting
  • Team-best 6.7 rebounds per game
  • Led UF with 51 steals
  • Played a team-best 34.2 minutes per game

4. Thomas Robinson, Kansas, Jr.

5. Andre Drummond, Connecticut, Fr.

While Beal will spend next season toiling on an NBA bottom feeder like the Golden State Warriors or Washington Wizards,  the Gators will still have a dangerous squad that can compete once again deep into March.

Florida returns a strong backcourt despite losing Beal that features rising senior Kenny Boynton (15.9 ppg)  and four incoming freshman.

Though there’s a certainly a debate for how much UF will miss Beal’s rebounding prowess and ability to attack the rim, the Gators have a chance to be a dominant post team in the mold of the 2010 Elite Eight squad with three upperclassmen big men as well.

Florida’s traditional starting five for next season:

PG Kenny Boynton — Subs: Scottie Wilbekin, Braxton Ogbueze

SG Mike Rosario — Subs: Michael Frazier, Dillon Graham

SF Casey Prather — Subs: DeVon Walker

PF Erik Murphy — Subs: Will Yeguete, Cody Larson

C Patric Young — Subs: Will Yeguete, Cody Larson

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Erving Walker is an alleged taco thief

3 Apr

After writing a fairly glowing piece on how important senior guard Erving Walker was to Florida basketball over the last four years, I’m now reporting on how he has embarrassed his teammates and himself.

Walker was arrested on Friday in connection with stealing a $3 taco from a downtown street food vendor at around 1 a.m. Being I was thoroughly beaten on breaking the story later that day, I figured I’d go downtown and try to get the taco vendor’s take on what happened.

From the Monday edition of the Alligator

Vendor provides account of Walker’s alleged taco theft

James Perez had no idea it was a former Gators basketball player who was arrested for stealing a $3 taco from his downtown food stand early Friday morning.

Then the forwarded messages came pouring in.

When Perez took a closer look at his phone later in the day, each new text or email from one of his friends led to a story saying the 5-foot-8, 178-pound man he chased across three blocks was Erving Walker, UF’s all-time leader in assists and the lone senior on this year’s team.

Walker was arrested by Gainesville Police Department officers at 1 a.m. Friday and charged with petit theft and resisting an officer without violence, both misdemeanors. He was not jailed and is scheduled to appear in court on April 19 at 9 a.m.

“I don’t follow sports,” Perez said. “He was just some dude that stole who was very fast.”

According to Perez, Walker stopped at the Tacos Locos food stand across from Rockey’s Piano Bar on South Main Street just before 1 a.m. and placed an order.

As Perez, 26, prepared to receive payment like he has every day since setting up his stand last June, his co-worker Matt Hruska, also 26, quickly prepared a taco and gave it to Walker.

“He ordered a $3 sausage taco and then he was like, ‘Do ya’ll take cards?’” Perez said.

But before either Perez or Hruska could reply, Walker allegedly took off with the taco and sprinted across Main Street toward Southwest First Avenue.

“So I looked at Matt and said, ‘Dang, he just stole that. Should I chase him?’ and he was like, ‘Yeah,’” Perez said.

Perez said two other tall men accompanied Walker to the stand, but neither tried to stop what was happening and began to slowly walk behind him.

While Hruska called the police, Perez began to chase Walker down the street. Perez said the two men called out, “He’s coming!” when he began to catch up to Walker.

However, when Walker realized he was being followed he tripped and fell, dropping the taco, before heading into a parking lot next to Loosey’s bar at the corner of Southwest First Avenue and Southwest Second Street.

“Then he ran over there and stopped for a second and he was like, ‘Don’t come at me, man,’” Perez said. “And I was like, ‘I’m not coming at you, I’m going to get a cop and you’re going to jail.’”

Perez said he flagged down a police officer in a patrol car before continuing to run after Walker. When Walker saw Perez talking to police, he ran across West University Avenue and continued north on Northwest First Street, Perez said.

According to the arrest report, GPD officer Visvambhara Nicoloff chased on foot and yelled, “Police. Stop!” at Walker, who looked back before turning around to get back onto West University Avenue.

With the help of several marked police cars, Nicoloff caught up to Walker and arrested him in the 200-block of West University Avenue.

Walker told police he knew he had not paid for the taco when he initially ran off and that he was “just playing around.”

“Then, finally, the cops tackled him and arrested him,” Perez said. “And he looked at me and said, ‘Come on man, for $3?’ — like I screwed him.”

Top 10 UF men’s basketball plays this season

30 Mar

While the Gators ended the year on another bitter note by losing in the Elite Eight for the second straight year, this season was not without it highlights.
Here’s the Top 10 plays from the 2011-2012 campaign with links to YouTube clips in the descriptions.

UF sophomore center Patric Young's highlight-worthy dunks are well-represented in the Top 10.

10. Patric Young’s alley-oop against Arkansas. The Gators were already up 23, but that doesn’t make this play any less impressive. Erving Walker drove baseline and flipped it to Young for a thunderous slam that left the backboard shaking.

9. Mike Rosario’s behind-the-back pass against Kentucky. Rosario provided a highlight from Florida’s disastrous trip to Rupp Arena by pump-faking Kyle Wiltjer, driving and finding Young with a no-look, behind-the-back pass for an easy two. This play might have been higher on the list if Anthony Davis hadn’t swatted Rosario’s 3-point attempt about four seconds beforehand.

8. Patric Young’s alley-oop dunk against Louisville. I’m sure nobody wants to hear about Louisville anymore, but this play is worth revisiting. Young and Walker operate the pick and roll to perfection, and Walker’s slightly errant pass only adds to the aesthetic value. The distance the ball covers as Young tomahawks it forward is pretty insane.

7. Kenny Boynton’s and-1 layup against Arkansas. Boynton drove around a defender, leapt into Arkansas’ Hunter Mickelson, absorbed contact, switched hands in mid-air and scooped home the lefty, high-arcing layup, all before returning to the ground.

6. Casey Prather’s alley-oop finish against Marquette. Boynton threw the lob from two steps inside the half-court line and Prather did the rest. He caught the ball facing midcourt before somehow starting a spin in midair to finish facing the basket. He made it look much, much easier than it probably was.

5. Brad Beal’s dunk on South Carolina’s Damontre Harris. With Florida up by six and four minutes remaining, Beal’s finish provided the dagger. Walker found Beal cutting to the basket and the freshman took two steps, jumped, stiff-armed Harris and powered home the jam. It was flat-out mean.

4. Young’s follow-up slam against Mississippi State. It’s criminal that this play isn’t on YouTube. After Walker missed a transition three, Young couldn’t have asked for a better rebound. He out-jumped Rodney Hood, gathered the ball and threw it home in one fluid, flawless motion.

3. Beal’s dunk on Moussa Gueye of Alabama. With the game already in hand, Beal split a trap — cough, double dribble, cough — and delivered the same stiff-arm and posterization combo he hit Harris with. It was even meaner than the first. Sure, he and Young were T’d up for their celebration afterward, but it was worth it. “BOW TO YOUR SENSEI!”

2. Casey Prather’s dunk on Wiltjer in the SEC Tournament. After a ho-hum season, this dunk put Prather on the map. Walker drove the lane and found a trailing Prather. The sophomore took one dribble, jumped about 18 feet in the air and slammed it on a helpless Wiltjer. The only thing better than the dunk was Boynton’s celebration.

1. Patric Young’s block and finish against FSU. Bernard James thought he had a wide-open dunk from the baseline, but Young had other ideas. Young came flying down the lane and, using only his left hand, ripped the ball right out of James’ grasp, reeling it in and coming down in bounds. On the ensuing possession, Yeguete claimed an offensive rebound and found Young for the uncontested two-handed slam, a double-feature more than worthy of the No. 1 spot.

A look back at Erving Walker’s career

28 Mar

Florida senior guard Erving Walker sits in his locker following the Gators' Elite Eight loss to Louisville.


Following Florida Elite Eight loss to Louisville, I tried to put the college journey of UF’s lone senior, Erving Walker into perspective.

Here’s an excerpt of the March 26 story for the Alligator:

Before all of the wins, the trips to the Elite Eight and the record-setting performances, there was a time when Erving Walker questioned becoming a Gator.
Florida was fresh off an NIT season in 2008 and there was little room in UF’s crowded backcourt — even for a 5-foot-6, 140-pound freshman out of Middle Village, N.Y.
With starting point guard Nick Calathes already entrenched in Florida’s lineup and backup Jai Lucas still in the fold, Walker was heading into a situation in Gainesville as the least-touted of three guards and also — on paper — the least physically gifted.
“I think a lot of people told Erving that this would be a bad fit,” coach Billy Donovan said. “Too much depth, too many guards, you need to re-open your recruitment.”
In order to keep Walker, Donovan thought he would have to make another last-ditch sales pitch on behalf of the Gators. When the pair finally talked about Walker’s future at Florida, Donovan pleasantly realized he was wrong.
Read more after the jump…

While Walker finishes his four-year career at UF as the school’s all-time leader in assists and minutes played, he will most likely be remembered for his clutch shooting in big games.

Here’s two of my favorite Walker moments.

Feb. 9, 2009: Game-winner against Alabama
In the waning moments of a road game at Coleman Coliseum, all 5-foot-8, 170 pounds of Walker bravely charged down the lane against some truly gargantuan Crimson Tide players. Despite his diminutive stature and several Alabama big men swatting at him, Walker was able to get a floating shot off. The ball antagonistically bounced on the rim for several seconds before trickling through the net and quieting the raucous crowd.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCZWnqP6AvE

Jan. 25, 2011: End of regulation 3-point at Georgia
Playing in front of another hostile crowd, this time in Athens, Ga., Walker helped Florida send a critical SEC East game last season into overtime on a long, 30-foot 3-pointer. The shot came less than a minute after Walker missed several key free throws that could have given the Gators a chance to wrap things up before the buzzer. But regardless, Walker was there with his second game-saving moment of his career.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KOHTgXYhrs

First look: No. 10-seed Virginia

13 Mar

Tournament resume: 22-9 overall, 9-7 in Atlantic Coast Conference play

  • Quality wins against Drexel (49-35), Michigan (70-58), N.C. State (61-60)
  • Record against NCAA Tournament teams this season is 2-6.
  • Finished fourth in the ACC’s regular season standings behind current No. 1-seed North Carolina (0-2), No. 2-seed Duke (0-1) and No. 3-seed Florida State (0-2).

Players to watch: senior forward Mike Scott (18.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg), sophomore guard Joe Harris (11.5 ppg, 39.5 percent 3-point shooter)

Coach: Tony Bennett (53 wins, 40 losses in three seasons at Virginia)

Outlook

At first glance, this looks to be a favorable draw for Florida. Virginia plays a very slow, paced brand of basketball and averages just 63.1 points per game. While the Cavaliers have a potent defense that ranked among the best in the ACC this season and holds opposing shooters to 29.5 percent from behind the arc, the Gators are coming off a 50 percent 3-point shooting night against top-seeded Kentucky. If a team can shoot that well against the lengthy Wildcats, it can do it against anyone.

Early prediction: 67-62 Florida

NCAA Tournament Preview: No. 7-seed Florida

13 Mar

Before the Gators knew their seeding or what far reaches of the country the NCAA Tournament selection committee would send them this week, they sat in the visitors locker room at New Orleans Arena on Saturday confident of their completed resume.

Florida’s schedule this season was littered with games against championship-caliber teams, including three meetings with No. 1 overall seed Kentucky, as well as road tests against No. 1 seed Syracuse and No. 2 seed Ohio State.

The common thread in each of those marquee matchups, however, was a UF loss.

On Sunday, the selection committee pegged No. 7-seed Florida (23-10) to play 10th-seeded Virginia (25-9) in Omaha, Neb., on Friday. (Full interactive bracket at NCAA.com)

Before being placed in the West Region of The Big Dance, both the Gators and Cavaliers ended their respective seasons by losing six of their last 10 games. Florida has dropped four of its last five.

Though the Gators missed an upset bid against the top-seeded Wildcats over the weekend, they came away from their 74-71 loss with a renewed confidence.

Florida fell in its previous two meetings with Kentucky by an average of 17.5 points.

Last season, the Gators were considered over-seeded as a No. 2 and went on an Elite Eight run which culminated in an overtime loss to eventual NCAA runner-up Butler.

ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb said in a phone interview last week that UF had to avoid being placed in the eight- to- nine-seed range, which would mean a potential matchup with a No. 1 seed in its second game.

Instead, as a No. 7 seed, the Gators will see the winner of No. 2 Missouri and No. 15 Norfolk State if they get past the Cavaliers.

Gottlieb has Florida upsetting Missouri in the second round of the tournament and advancing as far as the Final Four (ESPN.com video) in New Orleans.

Welcome to O’Dome Overload!

8 Mar

Hi, my name is John Boothe and I’m the UF men’s basketball writer for the Independent Florida Alligator — the University of Florida’s student-run newspaper.

Each day, there’s a ton of Gators basketball information, interesting tidbits about the team and analysis of games that I can’t fit in my print stories for the Alligator. While there’s always Twitter and other social media sites to filter this unused news through, there’s no need to limit the discussion to 140 characters or less.

Beginning this weekend in New Orleans for the SEC Tournament (March 8-11) I’ll be travelling across the country covering all of the Gators’ postseason games and storylines. Also, check in regularly for my instant reaction to all of Florida’s upcoming matchups and seeding breakdowns.

It’s going to be an exciting ride.