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Gator Report

Antonya English

Gators sophomore Chris Walker declares for NBA Draft

He was expected to be one of the rare one-and-done players for Florida coach Billy Donovan.

Instead, Chris Walker is two-and-done.

Florida announced today that the sophomore forward has declared for the NBA Draft, and will not return for his junior season. During part of two seasons Walker played in 49 games for Florida.

Walker joins Michael Frazier II, of Tampa, as early entries off UF’s 2014-15 team.

“I want to thank the coaching staff, my teammates and everyone at Florida for my experience here,” Walker said. “I’m excited to continue pursuing my dream of playing professionally.”

Walker was a highly-touted recruit out of Bonifay, and at 6-foot-10 dominated the high school and AAU circuit. But academic and NCAA eligibility issues forced him to miss all of the fall and nearly two months of the spring his freshman season. He played in just 18 games.

Walker played in 31 games this season, with six starts, averaging 4.7 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. He had five double-figure scoring games this past season, and a career-best five blocks in Florida’s win vs. Vanderbilt on Feb. 18. …

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Stunner in Gainesville: Gymnastics coach Rhonda Faehn leaving for job with USA Gymnastics

Less than one week after leading Florida to its third consecutive NCAA gymnastics championship, Florida head coach Rhonda Faehn has resigned to take a position with USA Gymnastics.

The 43-year-old will become senior vice president of USA Gymnastics, Florida athletic officials announced on Friday.

“It was incredibly hard,” Faehn said. “I absolutely love Florida and what the University of Florida stands for.  At the same time, I really feel there is another plan for me. I’m still going to be doing what I love and hopefully making an impact on the lives of a lot of athletes who will be representing our country.”

Faehn just completed her 13th season with the Gators. She is one of just two UF coaches to win three straight NCAA titles. Over the past six seasons, Faehn signed the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class five times. …

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Gators DB J.C. Jackson pleads not guilty to armed robbery

Gators defensive back J.C. Jackson has pled not guilty to three counts of first-degree felony armed robbery, according to court records.

Jackson, who was released from jail earlier this week on $150,000 bond, entered a written plea to the charges Thursday morning.

Jackson was arrested Sunday after he allegedly aided in a robbbery in a southwest Gainesville apartment where $382 and two gaming systems were taken while the alleged victims were held at gunpoint.

An Immokalee native, Jackson has retained Naples attorney Chris Brown for representation.

Jackson is accused of going to the apartment of an acquaintance to smoke marijuana, and taking two unidentified men with him. After Jackson left the apartment acting as if he had received a phone call, the other two men allegedly robbed the place.

Jackson is currently suspended from the team.




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Scott Brooks' firing fuels speculation about Billy Donovan's future with the Gators

Gators head coach Billy Donovan looks on during the second half of the Nov. 21 game against Louisiana Monroe at the O'Connell Center in Gainesville.

Getty Images (2014)

Gators head coach Billy Donovan looks on during the second half of the Nov. 21 game against Louisiana Monroe at the O'Connell Center in Gainesville.

The rumors have now advanced to the heavy speculation stage.

Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti has reportedly fired coach Scott Brooks, and Florida coach Billy Donovan has immediately been named as someone Presti will target as a replacement.

According to Yahoo Sports, sources have said Donovan is "a serious potential candidate to replace Brooks."

Former NBA player and UConn coach Kevin Ollie is also reportedly a top candidate, but Ollie issued a statement today that he has no plans to pursue another coaching job.

Donovan has not responded to the reports.

Donovan and Presti have a personal relationship, and Presti has reportedly openly expressed his admiration for Donovan as a coach.

But there are some lingering questions about whether Donovan would take a job with the Thunder.

Donovan's buyout is only $500,000, so if an NBA team wants him that would be no deterrent.

But Donovan has often spoken of his appreciation of athletic director Jeremy Foley because of the stability of having the same boss for the past two decades. …

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SEC "experts" rank Gainesville among worst league towns

When it comes to college towns unless you're - well in college - Gainesville ain't that great.

At least that's the opinion of 12 SEC "experts".

Athlon Sports asked 12 people, including longtime sports broadcaster Tim Brando and veteran college football writer Tony Barnhart, to rate the 14 SEC towns.

Gainesville came in at No. 11.

Nashville was No. 1, and probably no surprise, Starkville, Miss., was dead last.

Among the issues the experts have with Gainesville? "Unless you are an undergrad at the university, there isn't a whole lot to the city of Gainesville."

Let the debate begin.

Find out more about why Gainesville ranked so low - and where the rest of the SEC ranked.


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Gators OL Rod Johnson: "It's hard to walk away from this game"

Nearly one week after a medical diagnosis forced him to quit playing football, Gators OL Rod Johnson issued a statement, saying how difficult it is to walk away from the game he loves and thanking the Florida staff for its assistance.

Here is Johnson's statement, in his own words, released by the UAA today.

“Spinal stenosis -- April 3 2015 -- the day that changed my life. It’s hard to walk away from this game, and it's dearly easy to fall In love with when you have the right mindset and the dedication. I enjoyed my time as a Gator from the first day I got that call from Coach Muschamp. I instantly fell in love with a school I didn't like since I was a kid (lol). I had a tough time trying to enroll due to my grades.

I pulled through with the love and support from the UF staff. Taking the redshirt my first year was rough, so going into my freshmen redshirt year I took it more serious. Listening to Coach (Mike) Summers coach and trusting his technique made me a great offensive linemen and I always had heart, of course. It's a tough time as I try to move forward, but I still have some positives on the situation. …

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Gators football player J.C. Jackson arrested on armed robbery charges

Florida cornerback J.C. Jackson is in the Alachua County Jail today facing a charge of robbery with a firearm after he allegedly participated in an armed robbery at a Gainesville apartment.

Jackson, whose full name is Jerald Christopher Jackson, was arrested early Sunday morning.  A judge has ordered a $150,000 bond.

"We are aware of the news involving J.C. Jackson, and he is currently dealing with a serious issue,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “We don't condone any of his actions, and it is not something that reflects on the expectations we have in the program. It is being handled accordingly due to the severity of his actions."

According to a police report from the Gainesville Police Department, Jackson arrived at the apartment of an acquaintance early Saturday afternoon accompanied by two other men - neither of whom the residents of the apartment knew. Jackson had arranged to stop by to "hang out and smoke cannabis."

Jackson then left the apartment under the guise that he had received a phone call, according to police, leaving the other two men inside. …

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Gators gymnastics team begins quest for third straight national title

The two-time defending national champion Florida gymnastics team will begin its quest for a third consecutive title tonight at the Fort Worth Covention Center.

This is the first NCAA Gymnastics Championships event held in Texas.

For the first time in the history of NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships, a pair of teams - Florida and Oklahoma - will be trying to defend their titles. The two shared the national championship in 2014. The Gators also won in 2013.

To advance to Saturday's Super Six final where the national team champion is determined, the Gators need to be among the top three teams in their semifinal session today.

Florida starts Semifinal I competition on floor exercise, at 2 p.m.  The event will be streamed live on

Florida has qualified for the NCAA Championships 33 times, missing only the 2000 event. The Gators advanced to this year's national competition by winning the Morgantown Regional, held April 4 in the West Virginia University Coliseum.

This is the fifth time Florida enters the NCAA Championships ranked No. 2. The Gators were second seed in 2010, 2008, 1998 and 1984.

Florida entered the last three NCAA Championships as the No. 1 seed. …

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Billy Donovan NBA talk resurfaces

Talk of Florida coach Billy Donovan leaving for the NBA is on the rise, again.

After the Gators finished the 2014-15 season with a 16-17 record, speculation began that Donovan may be starting to feel the need to move on after 19 years as the Gators' head coach.

He has never denied his interest in possibly becoming an NBA coach.

On Thursday, Yahoo Sports reported that sources have said Donovan "could emerge as a serious candidate" to replace Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks if he is not retained.

The Thunder are not in the playoffs for the first time in six years after a 45-37 record.

Donovan has a relationship wth the team's general manager, but whether he would seriously consider an offer remains to be seen. It was recently announced that Donovan has signed a contract extension through 2020.

And earlier this week Donovan rehired former assistant Anthony Grant, raising expectations that Florida can rebound quickly from its dismal season with Grant, John Pelphrey and Donovan back together - the group that helped build the Florida program.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said during a web chat last week Donovan has given him no indication that he is planing to leave. …

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Former Gators use social media to react to Aaron Hernandez guilty verdict

After former Florida All-American tight end Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first degree murder in the death of Odin Lloyd on Wednesday, former teammates took to social media to express shock and sadness.

Hernandez was part of the 2008 national championship team with the Gators, and was close to several of his former teammates.

Shortly after the verdict was announced on live television across the nation, former Gator All-American CB Joe Haden put one word on his Twitter account: "Speechless."

Later, Haden wrote: Pray 4 Odin Lloyd and Hernandez family's! At the end of the day both family's lost sons and the kids lost there dads!

About 12 minutes after Haden's first Tweet, another former teammate Brandon Spikes Tweeted: "IM CONFUSED ABOUT THE JUSTICE SYSTEM THESE DAYS!!!

He then wrote he was getting off Twitter for the day because of the jokes at Hernandez's expense that were being posted.

Former Gator Ahmad Black said he did not support "whehter he did or didn't do it" but said he would never waver on his feelings about his former teammate.

"Love Ya Chico (Hernandez's nickname with Gator teammates). . . keep your head, besides all this you'll alays be my bro!#gatorfamily …

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Gators to find role for injured OL Rod Johnson

Gators OL Rod Johnson has been foreced to quit football, but coach Jim McElwain said that doesn't mean he's leaving the program.

On Tuesday Johnson was diagnosed with congenital cervical stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal that surrounds the spinal cord, preventing enough fluid to gather around the spinal cord to properly protect it from injury.

Doctors recommended Johnson never play football again.

But McElwain said Johnson will have a role with the program this fall as he continues his education.

"As we move forward, it's one of those tough deals," McElwain said. "And yet with that, he'll be a huge part of this program, still, this football team. We're kind of going through the different things we need to do right now, but I look forward to him being a great influence on these young guys that are coming in. As they get here this summer I'll put him in charge and he'll work almost as a coach, as a student assistant moving forward. Look forward to him being with us as he continues to get his degree and move forward into that part of his life." …

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Clearwater's Mike McNeely nominated for prestigious SEC McWhorter Scholarship

Palm Harbor University alum and former Gators WR Mike McNeely has been nominated by the University of Florida for the H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete Post-Graduate Scholarship. Lacrosse player Nora Barry is the Gators' female nominee.

The McWhorter Scholar-Athlete Post-Graduate Scholarship has been presented to the SEC's top male and female scholar-athletes since 1986. The SEC will name the 2015 recipients of the McWhorter Scholar-Athlete Post-Graduate Scholarship on April 30.

McNeely, of Clearwater, is an Exercise & Sports Science major who graduated in December of 2014. He was a four-year letter winner for the Gators. 

He was named the 2014 National Football Foundation Legacy Award Winner, given to individuals or organizations who have made extraordinary contributions to the NFF or embody its mission, and also earned the prestigious Presidential Service Award.

McNeely most likely will be remembered by Gator fans for fake field goal that resulted in a 21-yard touchdown run to help lead the Gators to an upset win over rival Georgia.

McNeely was a three-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll (2012-14).

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Injury puts an end to career of Gators OL Roderick Johnson

Roderick Johnson will no longer be able to play after being diagnosed by the University of Florida medical staff with congenital cervical stenosis — a narrowing of the spinal canal that surrounds the spinal cord.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times (2014)

Roderick Johnson will no longer be able to play after being diagnosed by the University of Florida medical staff with congenital cervical stenosis — a narrowing of the spinal canal that surrounds the spinal cord.

The college football career of OL Roderick Johnson has been cut short by injury.

The Gators announced today that Johnson will no longer be able to play after being diagnosed by the University of Florida medical staff with congenital cervical stenosis - a narrowing of the spinal canal that surrounds the spinal cord. The condition prevents the proper amount of fluid from gathering around the spinal cord to properly protect it from injury.

Johnson, a redshirt sophomore who started three games last season, suffered what was at the time believed to be a "stinger" during a spring scrimmage during practice on April 3. He experienced numbness in his fingers and hands and did not participate in the final week of spring camp or Saturday’s Orange and Blue spring game.

Florida coach Jim McElwain said that following an MRI and consultation with outside specialists and team physicians, it was recommended Johnson retire from the sport.

He said following Saturday's spring game he would never go against medical advice just to keep a player on the field. …

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Two Gators baseball players suspended after weekend arrest

Florida has suspended pitchers A.J. Puk and Kirby Snead after the two were arrested late Sunday night.

Puk, a 19-year-old from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Snead, a 20-year old from Alachua, are accused of  trespassing at a posted construction site after climbing into a crane on that site, which is a third degree felony.

The alleged incident happened at the site of UF’s new chemistry building on the corner of University Avenue and Buckman Drive.

According to the police report, the construction site was fenced and properly marked. The report also states both players had been drinking.

Puk has a 6-3 record in nine appearances, with seven starts and a 5.87 ERA. Snead has a 4.91 ERA in 13 appearances.

Both played in Saturday's win over South Carolina.

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Former Alabama coach Anthony Grant returns to Gators basketball staff

Anthony Grant, who spent 10 seasons as an assistant to Florida coach Billy Donovan, has rejoined the Florida staff.

AP photo

Anthony Grant, who spent 10 seasons as an assistant to Florida coach Billy Donovan, has rejoined the Florida staff.

The staff that arrived in Gainesville in 1996 and helped build Florida basketball into a national championship program is largely back intact.

Anthony Grant is returning to Gainesville.

Grant, who spent 10 seasons as an assistant to Florida coach Billy Donovan, has rejoined the Florida staff. He was fired earlier this month after six seasons as the head coach at Alabama.

His return was made possible by the departure of assistant Matt McCall, who on Sunday was hired as the new head coach at Chattanooga.

“We're very excited to have Anthony back on our staff,” Donovan said. “He's obviously familiar with our program, and he is an outstanding coach and recruiter, so he adds great value to our staff and our team.”

Grant will be reunited with Donovan and assistant coach John Pelphrey - a staff that came to Florida together from Marshall and helped build the Gators into a national power.

“I’m extremely appreciative of coach Donovan extending the opportunity to me to return to the University of Florida,” Grant said. “It’s a great chance to return a place I love and have fond memories of, and I look forward to helping the staff build on the tradition and success that Coach Donovan has created.” …

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