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In order to make sure Florida Gators-related news stories don't fall through the cracks, once or twice a week Orange & Blue News will keep you up-to-date with the latest goings on in the world of University of Florida athletics.
Gators basketball fans were thrilled to learn Monday that center Patric Young has decided to return for his senior season. And for good reason. Florida will now enter the 2013-14 campaign with arguably the top frontcourt in the nation. Joining Young down low will of course be classmates Will Yeguete and Casey Prather but also transfers Dorian Finney-Smith and 6'10" Damontre Harris. Harris likely would have started at center had Young declared for the draft but will now serve as a top-flight reserve. The Gators will also be bringing five-star power forward Chris Walker into the fold, giving Florida six players to rotate in its three frontcourt positions. Personally, I expect head coach Billy Donovan to start Young at the five, Yeguete or Walker at the four, Finney-Smith at the three, point guard Scottie Wilbekin at the two and five-star freshman PG Kasey Hill at the one. Having sharpshooting guard Michael Frazier on the bench with Yeguete or Walker, Prather, Harris, PG Braxton Ogbueze and G Dillon Graham will give the Gators a plethora of options next season.
Attempting to boost their stock as much as possible ahead of the 2013 NBA Draft, Florida guards Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario have agreed to participate in the 61st annual Portsmouth Invitational Tournament from April 10-13 in Portsmouth, VA. The annual event places some of the top players in the country on teams for a tournament that is viewed by local fans and scouts from not only NBA teams but also those in the NBDL and across the globe. Most players that participate in the event are either second-round picks hoping to increase their value or undrafted free agents hoping to get into the second round. Former Gators F/C Vernon Macklin was successful in this endeavor when he participated two years ago (he was selected in the second round by Detroit), but diminutive Florida PG Erving Walker did not have as much luck last year. Erik Murphy was also invited to play in the PIT but did not accept the opportunity.
The gymnastics program is pining for its first NCAA Championship after falling by an excruciatingly small margin of 0.075 last season and has moved one step closer to competing for the top prize in the sport by advancing to this season's semifinals. No. 1 Florida dominated the Gainesville Regional with one of the best scores in school history, posting a 198.400 and earning the NCAA Championship's top overall seed. UF will compete in semifinal action on Friday, April 19 at 3 p.m. in a session with Georgia, Illinois, LSU, Minnesota and Stanford. The Gators will need to finish in the top three spots to advance to the NCAA Super Six final showdown on Saturday, April 20 at 7 p.m. Florida has advanced to the Super Six in six of the last seven seasons.
One week after winning a hard-fought road series at home against then-No. 11 Ole Miss, the Gators baseball team faltered on the road at No. 17 Mississippi State. Florida fell 7-3 on Friday and 2-0 on Saturday before saving face in Sunday's finale with an 8-3 victory. The win was Florida's fourth road victory of the season and first outside of the state The Gators are now 15-18 on the season (5-7 in SEC play) and will have to go 13-10 the rest of the way just to be eligible to participate in the NCAA Tournament. Of Florida's 23 remaining games, only seven are against ranked opponents.
Realizing their 12-game winning streak likely had to come to an end at some point, No. 3 Gators softball was handed a tough defeat at the hands of Mississippi State on Sunday. The Bulldogs triumphed 6-5 over UF by tagging junior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers in the early going and posting a big five-run second inning. Florida responded with four runs of its own in the bottom frame, but Mississippi State added an insurance run in the third that UF could not overcome down the stretch. The Gators did, however, win the first two games of the home weekend series and now stand at 38-4, 12-3 in league play.
Sunday's Senior Day for the women's tennis program was certainly a special one as Lauren Embree, one of the most accomplished players in program history, officially played her final match at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville. Unfortunately for Embree, the top-ranked player in the nation, she was unable to finish her match as No. 2 Florida was so dominant in the affair against Mississippi State that it swept the meeting 4-0. Embree did, however, win her doubles match with partner Sofie Oyen. The 20th-ranked doubles pairing took down No. 56 Alexandra Perper/Naomi Tran 8-2 in 28 minutes to help the Gators win the doubles point and take the early 1-0 advantage. Florida (17-2, 10-1 SEC) is looking to win its third-straight national title.