Three years after what was supposed to be his one-and-done freshman season at Florida, Kasey Hill will play one last game at the O-Dome. Maybe his UF basketball career didn’t go quite like he thought it would four years ago, but Hill has left his mark on the Gator basketball program just the same.
It will be Senior Night tonight when the Gators (23-6, 13-3 SEC) play host to a red hot Arkansas (22-7, 11-5 SEC) team that has won its last five games and played itself off the NCAA Tournament bubble into a potential #6 or #7. Fellow seniors Canyon Barry, Justin Leon and Schuyler Rimmer will be honored tonight but there is no doubt the longest and loudest ovation will be for Hill, a senior from Umatilla who comes into tonight’s game a member of the 1,000-point club (he has 1,014) and within 39 assists of Erving Walker’s all-time assist record (547) and 30 steals of Eddie Shannon’s all-time mark (204). Perhaps Hill never turned into the scorer that people thought he might be when he came to UF out of Montverde Academy, but there is no doubt he’s made his mark in other ways.
“It’ll be tough to see Kasey go,” Florida coach Mike White said Tuesday. “I think he’s been a great example of perseverance, of character, of work ethic, of filtering out the noise and continuing to do your job and focusing on getting better every day. He’s also been a good example of being about the right things, sacrificing a little bit and finishing strong. He’s had a really solid season.”
Hill’s solid season (9.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists per game, 52 steals) has helped transform the Gators from a team that made the NIT last year into one that probably earns a #3 or #4 seed in the NCAA.
“We got a chance to put Florida back in the tournament, back in the elite,” Hill said.
The more games the Gators play the more likely it is that Hill will leave UF with both the assist and steals record. Of the two marks, he says the steals record is the one he will cherish the most if he gets it.
“I want to have the steals record before the assists record because I feel like if you’re playing defense, then you’re really actually playing the game, playing both sides of the game instead of just offense."
Canyon Barry could wind up as the SEC Sixth Man of the Year. He’s been struggling to recover from a sprained ankle that has limited his productivity and playing time the last couple of games but is there any doubt the Gators would be 23-6 right now without his contributions?
The other two seniors – Schuyler Rimmer and Justin Leon – haven’t put up the numbers that Barry has, but they have had their moments.
White spoke about Rimmer and Leon Tuesday.
“Schuyler has been a great culture guy, a great program guy, positive energy every day, has really stepped up with some leadership this year, has been great in team meetings,” White said. “And you know what you’re getting from Schuyler every day. I’ve loved his attitude. I’ve loved to coach Schuyler.”
Leon was originally slated to play for White at Louisiana Tech, but when the coach came to Gainesville, Leon followed.
“Justin, this is my 17th year coaching and he’s the hardest-playing player I’ve ever coached,” White said. “Hands down. I had a guy named Trevor Gaskins at Louisiana Tech who was about half as psychotic with his lack of regard for his body. I mean Trevor played so hard. Justin, it’s another level because its 365 days a year. It’s shoot around. It’s practice. It’s pickup. It’s games. He’s not the most talented guy in our league. In my opinion, he plays as hard as anyone in our league. I love him. I love coaching him. And I’ve compared Kevarrius (Hayes) to him, as well. But Justin has been as much a part of our culture change as any of these other guys, despite not averaging this or being SEC this or that. He hasn’t got a bunch of accolades, and he doesn’t care. He came here to help recreate the culture here. It’s sad not being able to coach him four years or more as well. It will be sad to see him go because he’s been awesome.”
FIRST DAY OF SPRING PRACTICE
It was the first day of spring practice Tuesday and only a few minutes were open to the media. After that it was behind closed doors so the only thing we know is the injury report (OT Kavaris Harkless, WR Rick Wells and LB Jeremiah Moon all missed) and what McElwain told us. He said the things you might expect about quarterbacks Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask and Kadarius Toney. What was interesting were his comments about the offensive line under new assistant Brad Davis.
“I tell you what, it’s night and day out there,” McElwain said. “Here’s what was good is the energy in which they went to the line of scrimmage. They communicated. They played fast.”
Night and day difference from the O-line in spring football. What a concept after the last two years with Mike Summers. Hopefully what happened Tuesday carries over to night and day difference on the field in the fall from a unit that has to perform if the Gators are to make it three straight SEC East titles.
GATORS 4, UCF 3
Mike Kolozvarsky’s 7th inning home run to left center field proved to be the game winner Tuesday night as the 2nd-ranked Gators improved to 7-1 with a 4-3 win over UCF at McKethan Stadium. The Gators used six pitchers who gave up 8 hits and walked 7 while overcoming a night when UF’s bats were erratic, at best. The Gators managed only 4 hits all night but they got a 2-run double from Blake Reese in the third and added an unearned run in the fourth.
The Gators will face UCF tonight in Orlando. This weekend Columbia will come to town for a 3-game set.
UF SOFTBALL BACK TO #1 RANKING
After a one-week hiatus, the Gators (15-1) moved back to the #1 spot in the ESPN/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll. That’s what happens when you go 5-0 with 4 shutouts while allowing only one run the week before. Last week’s #1, Florida State, dropped to #2 after losing to Texas A&M and then tying Michigan in a tournament in California last week. Auburn, which lost to then #19 James Madison, fell one spot to third.
Tim Walton will get a pretty good idea of what the Gators need to work on and how far they have to become a legitimate national championship contender. At the Mary Nutt Classic in Palm Springs, California where their 5-game schedule will include Thursday showdowns with #18 California and #8 UCLA.
The Gators lead the nation in fielding percentage (.995) with only 2 errors in 16 games while UF ranks second nationally in ERA at 0.58. Kelly Barnhill (6-0, 0.19 ERA) leads the nation in strikeouts per 7 innings at 14.1.
GATORS FACE ARKANSAS IN SEC WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT
The Gators (14-15, 5-11 SEC) will face Arkansas (13-16, 2-14 SEC) in the first round of the SEC Women’s Tournament in Greenville, South Carolina today. The losing season is a setback for UF coach Amanda Butler, but it must be noted today’s game will be the Gators’ 21st game away from home.
MUSCHAMP SETS HIGH BAR FOR SOUTH CAROLINA
South Carolina exceeded all expectations in Will Muschamp’s first year on the job. Nobody thought the Gamecocks would win 6 regular season games and make it to a bowl game. As the Gamecocks are two practices into spring football, Muschamp says the goals for 2017 are fairly simple: “We want to win the East. That’s what we want to do.”
There have been changes in the organization, everything from assistant coaches to support staff as Muschamp is determined to bring a measure of toughness that wasn’t there in Columbia when he arrived. Last year, he says, South Carolina was soft.
“It was a disappointment to put that [team] on the football field,” Muschamp said last week. “Call it like it is. Physical is a state of mind, and we have to continue to buy into that.”
Tennessee’s search for an athletic director is over. The Vols hired Kansas State athletic director John Currie, who was an assistant AD at UT from 2003-09 under Mike Hamilton. Currie, who headed massive facilities project improvements at K-State, is an exceptional fund raiser, something Tennessee needs with athletic department debt in excess of $200 million.
Embattled Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze held a press conference Tuesday in which he vowed to fight the NCAA failure to monitor charges against him that could lead to the program being hit with a lack of institutional control. Ole Miss has 90 days to respond to a new notice of allegations which totals 21 rules violations. During the press conference, Freeze called the chance to defend himself and Ole Miss “a remarkable opportunity.” He said he is hopeful that the NCAA Committee on Infractions will reduce the charges when he presents his own evidence.
Kentucky’s Derek Willis used the occasion of Senior Day to get down on his knee to propose to his girlfriend Tuesday night. He hit the game tying 3-pointer late in the game when Kentucky (25-5, 15-2 SEC) came from 19 points down in the second half, eventually beating Vanderbilt (16-14, 9-8 SEC), 73-67. In other SEC games, South Carolina (22-8, 12-5 SEC) knocked off Mississippi State (14-15, 5-12 SEC), 63-57, and Texas A&M (16-13, 8-9 SEC) stuffed Missouri (7-22, 2-15 SEC), 60-43.
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield issued a public apology for an arrest Saturday in Fayetteville, Arkansas for public intoxication, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and fleeing the cops. Chances are he will be suspended for the spring game.
The Minnesota Vikings declined the option on running back Adrian Peterson, who is likely to become a free agent. He might land in Kansas City, which released all-time Chiefs rushing leader Jamaal Charles on Tuesday.
Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers had surgery on his left knee Tuesday. This is the 11th knee surgery of his Major League Baseball career. He hasn’t played in the Majors since 2015 or more than 90 games in a season since 2013.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
The NCAA has ruled five University of Richmond baseball players ineligible by the NCAA for their participation in a fantasy football league, citing this as a former of sports wagering. Given all you know about the NCAA, do you think the organization can be reformed or is it time for a breakaway by the big schools to form their own organization?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Today’s music is a live show from Monday night in Mexico by Widespread Panic. It’s hard to get more recent music for you folks than that.