UF's long home stretch through rest of month

Published: Wednesday, December 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 1, 2004 at 12:53 a.m.
Florida basketball players will remain in familiar, comfortable surroundings through the holidays.
Florida's game Tuesday night against Florida A&M began a seven-game homestand that will take the Gators through the month of December. A game with in-state rival Miami will follow Saturday, with a big non-conference test coming the following Saturday, Dec. 11, against Louisville.
"I love playing at home," junior guard Matt Walsh said. "We have the best fans. I'm looking forward to it. I think everyone else is too. "
Florida coach Billy Donovan designed the schedule with finals in mind. Many of the exams will take place during the eight-day break between Louisville and Georgia Southern (Dec. 19).
Before finals, Donovan said he'll take advantage of the home stretch to get in some needed practice time.
"We have some games under our belt," Donovan said. "So I think the big thing for us the next week of practice is giving our guys an understanding of what we need to do defensively and offensively and adding some new things."
The schedule also could give Florida a boost heading into conference play. Florida will play at Florida State on Jan. 2 before playing four of its first six SEC games at home.
Florida is 82-11 in the O'Connell Center in the last six seasons. The Gators also are 43-1 at home against non-conference opponents during that span.
"It's a great advantage having a place like the O-Dome and the fans we have," Walsh said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to take advantage of that."
  • NO ORANGES IN 2005: Walsh won't get a chance to go for his fourth straight Orange Bowl Classic MVP next season.
    The Gators have opted to skip the event next year because of its scheduled game at Miami. Florida doesn't want to make two trips to the South Florida area during its non-conference schedule.
    Florida State will replace Florida in the event and will play an opponent yet to be determined. Miami will face Louisville.
    Florida intends to return to the event in 2006.
  • RECRUIT'S DAD VISITS: The father of senior Florida Air Academy point guard Walter Hodge visited the Florida campus last week "He liked it a lot," said Hodge, who practiced with his team at the Florida basketball facility last Wednesday. Florida Air Academy used the facility to prepare for a preseason jamboree tournament over the weekend at Gainesville High.
    Florida pursued Hodge last summer for its 2005 recruiting class. But Hodge opted to wait to make a commitment to any school because he wanted his father, who is from Puerto Rico, to visit campuses before making a decision.
    Miami and Arkansas also are interested in Hodge, who Breakdown Magazine recently ranked as the 12th best prospect in the state.
    Florida has one more scholarship to offer and could consider Hodge for the spring signing period. None of the three players whom Florida signed during the November period are true point guards. Starting point guard Anthony Roberson, a junior, nearly left for the NBA Draft last year. Backup Taurean Green is a freshman.
    Breakdown magazine gave the following rankings to Florida's three November signings, all in-state players: guard Derwin Kitchen (Jacksonville Raines) 2, guard/forward David Huertas (Arlington Country Day) 6 and forward Jimmy Sutton (North Broward Prep) 26.
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