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Gator Report

Antonya English

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 NCAA.com.

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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Gators Treon Harris vows to stay and battle for starting QB job

Florida QB Treon Harris admits he's slightly behind in the Gators' QB compeition with Will Grier, but said he has no plans to transfer and intends to stay and battle for the job.

"I will be here this fall competing for the spot," Harris said. "Like I said earlier me and Will are brothers. We're here for each other."

Harris started the final six games of the 2014 season, while Grier redshirted last season.

With the hiring of coach Jim McElwain, the Gators spent the spring installing a new offense. But Harris missed four practices due to a death in the family.

"Treon missed four practices, so he’s a little behind," McElwain said. "That’ll be a really good competition moving forward.”

McElwain said he would not name a starter on Saturday, and instead the competition will carry over into the fall.

"We haven’t made a determination on that," McElwain said. "We’ll get back, we’ll look at the video, the guys will work this summer and come back in the fall and I’m just excited those two guys are here.”

Harris said he realizes he has a lot of work to do, but he'll spend every moment possible this summer working to improve. …

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Jim McElwain says Gators improving, but still have a long way to go

Florida concluded spring practices today with the annual Orange and Blue game, and first-year coach Jim McElwain said the Gators have progressed, but much improvement is still needed.

McEwlain did not name a starting QB and said the competition between Treon Harris and Will Grier will continue into the fall. He said Harris is slightly behind with the installation of the new offense because of the four practices he missed due to the death of his cousin.

Here are some of McElwain's postgame thoughts on Saturday at the conclusion of the Orange and Blue game.

 

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Gators WR Chris Thompson accused of battery

The Gainesville Police Department has filed a sworn complaint against Florida junior receiver Chris Thompson for simple battery and dating violence after he was accused of injuring his former girlfriend in an argument.

The complaint was filed on April 1, and Thompson has not been attending spring practice since.

According to the GPD report, the 20-year-old Thompson and a woman he stopped dating about four months ago got into an argument over a text message Thompson received from another woman.

According to the complaint, Thompson scratched the former girlfriend's arms and neck during the argument as he tried to retrieve his cell phone.

Thompson, a native of Gainesville who graduated from Gainesville High, played in 10 games this past season, mostly on special teams. He had two receptions for 17 yards.

Thompson is the first player to get into legal trouble under new head coach Jim McElwain.

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Gators' Dante Fowler seeks to be first pick on defense

GAINESVILLE -- Dante Fowler is in position to be a top-five pick in the upcoming NFL draft, but after completing his pro day before scouts and coaches at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, he's still motivated to prove himself at the highest level.

"I still have a big chip on my shoulder and I have a lot of things to prove. I'm still working," said Fowler, wearing a white Nike headband and camouflage shorts as he went through drills. "I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I feel like I'm supposed to be the No. 1 guy taken off the board, especially defensively. I know the Bucs need a quarterback and that stuff, but on the defense, I'm the No. 1 guy."

The Bucs are widely expected to use the No. 1 pick on FSU quarterback Jameis Winston, but Fowler, a former prep standout at Lakewood, will be at One Buc Place on Friday as part of the team's workouts for local prospects. He's visited the Jaguars and Titans as well this week, and made it a priority Tuesday to show his versatility, either as a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker. …

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Gators forward Dorian Finney-Smith to return for senior season

Redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith has decided to return for his senior season.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times (2014)

Redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith has decided to return for his senior season.

One week after losing one of his top players, Florida coach Billy Donovan has received some good news on another. …

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Gators guard Michael Frazier to bypass final season, enter NBA Draft

Michael Frazier II has decided to bypass his senior season and enter the 2015 NBA Draft.

Getty Images

Michael Frazier II has decided to bypass his senior season and enter the 2015 NBA Draft.

Michael Frazier II has played his final game for the Gators.

The junior guard has decided to bypass his senior season and enter the 2015 NBA Draft.

The decision comes at the end of an injury-filled season that was marred by disappointment and the Gators' failure to make it into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2008-09 season.

Frazier played in 26 games this season, but missed seven after suffering a high ankle sprain on Feb. 7, then returned for the final three games, including two in the SEC Tournament, but was not at full capacity.

Despite the injury, he finished as the team's second leading scorer with 12.1 points per game.

He will finish his career with 998 points - two shy of the 1,000 point mark.

Frazier, who is from Tampa, graduated from Montverde Academy.

Last season he set the Florida record for 3-pointers made in a season (118) and in a game vs. South Carolina (11). He was named to the All-SEC Tournament team and the All-NCAA Tournament South Regional team as a sophomore.

With Frazier's depature, the Gators will return senior Eli Carter, and also have redshirt freshman Brandone Francis and incoming freshman KeVaughn Allen at the guard position.

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Gators track and field star Marquis Dendy earns national honor

One week after winning national championships in the long and triple jump, Florida track and field athlete Marquis Dendy has been named the  2015 USTFCCCA (United States Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association) National Indoor Field Athlete of the Year.

Dendy previously earned SEC and USTFCCCA South Region Field Athlete of the Year honors.

Dendy, a senior who is on The Bowerman Award Watch List, has now swept both jumps at the last three championship meets: the 2014 NCAA Outdoors, 2015 SEC Indoors and 2015 NCAA Indoors.

He's accomplished those in historic fashion. In Eugene last spring, Dendy was the first athlete since 2002 to sweep both jumps, and at the SEC Indoors meet this year, he was the first since Gator Christian Taylor did so in 2009. 

The Middletown, Del., native PR (and school record) jumps at indoor nationals in the long (8.28m/27-2) before hitting a world-leading 17.37m/57 leap to win his fifth individual national title, third indoors, last Saturday.

Dendy’s triple performance is the third-best jump in collegiate indoor history and was the best mark for a collegian since 1986.

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