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June 26, 2008Florida guard Nick Calathes is in Athens this week.
No, he's not considering a transfer to Georgia. Instead, the rising sophomore is in Athens, Greece, attempting to make the Greek National Team. If he does, and word is he has a strong chance, he'll compete for his great-grandparents' native country in an upcoming Olympic Qualifying Tournament in the hopes of making it through to the Olympics in Beijing that begin Aug. 8.
"They e-mailed my dad and asked what I thought about trying out because they saw me play this year," said Calathes, a former five-star prospect who led the Gators in scoring (15.3 ppg) and led the SEC in assists (6.1) this past season. "We talked about it. It's a great opportunity for me and for my grandfather (John), who passed away (in May 2006). If he saw me do this, he'd be very proud."
The qualifying tournament takes place July 14-20. Along with host Greece, other countries participating are Brazil, Lebanon, Cape Verde, Germany, New Zealand, Canada, Korea, Slovenia, Cameroon, Croatia and Puerto Rico. The top three advance to Beijing.
Calathes said the Greeks already have a "really good point guard," so he sees himself in a backup role if he should make the team.
"I think I have a good chance. I just have to go and play," he said.
The dream, of course, would be to meet up with the U.S. team at the Olympics.
"That's all I think about," Calathes said. "It would be so great to go on the floor with those guys. They're obviously the best in the world."
The Gators had been the best in the college world for two years before Calathes' arrival, winning consecutive national titles. But with the departures of Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer (all NBA lottery picks) and other starters Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey, UF fell flat last season. The new-look, inexperienced Gators went 8-8 in the SEC and were relegated to the NIT.
Coach Billy Donovan was less than pleased. He ripped the young team after it was eliminated from the SEC tournament in the first round, specifically the freshman class Rivals ranked No. 1 in the country. "I'm not necessarily really that excited about these guys being sophomores, to be honest," Donovan said then. "I don't think people change a whole lot, and I don't think you've seen the basketball team change at all this year. So it's hard for me to get overly thrilled or excited."
Calathes is mindful of his coach's comments. He believes things will change in 2008-09.
"I think we'll come in with a different mind-set and be working hard in practice every day to be the best we can be," Calathes said. "We don't want a season like we had last year."
No one associated with the program does.
"In practice we didn't have the kind of attitude that Joakim and Al and those guys had," Calathes said. "Sometimes we took off practice and didn't go the way we wanted to go."
Calathes said he and classmates Chandler Parsons, Jai Lucas, Alex Tyus and Adam Allen have worked hard in the weight room to get ready for next season. Word is Parsons, another five-star prospect, has put on some much-needed weight and could be ready to have a breakout season.
Donovan also will count on another highly touted recruiting class. The Gators welcome a five-man class ? ranked 10th nationally ? that includes four four-star prospects.
"We're going to need some of the new guys to help us," Calathes said. "The freshmen will have a big role."
So will the sophomores. No one is thinking national title, but no one was thinking it about when a relatively unheralded group of sophomores led Florida to the national title in 2006.
Who was the last team to beat Florida in the 2005-06 season when the Gators were en route to the school's first national title? (Answer at the end of the column.)
TRANSFER WINDS UP AT OREGON STATE
Williams, who averaged 11 points per game last season for the Friars, had signed with Long Beach State about a week before winding up in Corvallis.
Williams told the 49ers there had been a "miscommunication," the Long Beach State sports information office said.
New Beavers coach Craig Robinson was aware of Williams. Robinson coached at Brown last season; Brown also is located in Providence, R.I., and the teams played each other Dec. 9. Robinson was linked to the Providence job after Tim Welsh was fired, but the Friars went with Drake's Keno Davis and Robinson landed at Oregon State.
"We are excited to have a player of Dwain's caliber come to Oregon State," Robinson said. "I had an opportunity to coach against him at Brown, and I came away very impressed. He's a talented guard and the type of player who can provide an immediate impact and can help us build as a program."
In a release from Long Beach State, apparently put out before the "miscommunication," Williams was quoted as saying, "I felt that Long Beach was the best place to go in that league. It's close to my mother and I have a single parent, raising five kids on her own. To come back home and be near my family and help put Long Beach on the map were the main reasons I chose Long Beach State. Coach (Dan) Monson and the coaching staff are a good group of guys and good recruiters. They told me I'll have an opportunity to come in and be a leader on the team and bring my 'A' game every night and to practice every day and bring leadership. They were really real. Everything was up front. They are a good group of guys, and my mom loved them."
Williams will have two years of eligibility remaining when he takes the court again in 2009-10.
? Connecticut forward Stanley Robinson (10.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg) has every intention of returning to play for the Huskies, his former AAU coach said. Norm Williams confirmed to Rivals.com that Robinson is home in Birmingham, Ala., tending to personal matters. UConn coach Jim Calhoun told The Day newspaper of New London, Conn., earlier this month that Robinson "has got some things that he's got to prove to us much the same as, quite frankly, Curtis (Kelly) and Doug (Wiggins)." Kelly and Wiggins have since transferred. "Right now Stanley is in the process of (determining) if he wants to be part of the program," Calhoun told The Day. "It's the same package as the other kids with a combination of academics and social, and being on time and being dedicated to the program. He has time to show us that he wants to do the things that we asked him to do. There is an opportunity. He certainly could have a UConn uniform on again." Williams said he has spoken to Robinson and that the player did not talk about transferring.
? South Florida has sent paperwork to the NCAA in hopes of obtaining immediate eligibility for forward Gus Gilchrist, a former four-star prospect who transferred from Maryland. "The puzzle is starting to fit in nicely," USF coach Stan Heath told Rivals.com. "Gilchrist is a great addition for us. I think he has the whole package. He's an outstanding talent and can help put USF on the map in the Big East in a big way." Whether or not they get Gilchrist, the Bulls will have Georgia transfer Mike Mercer available this season.
? UCF recently hired Steve DeMeo as an assistant. He had spent the previous 12 seasons as an assistant to Tim Welsh, including the past nine at Providence. DeMeo was named one of Rivals' top 25 assistants before last season.
? Brian Carlwell, the Illinois player injured in an auto accident in February 2007 in which teammate Jamar Smith eventually pleaded guilty to aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol, has transferred to San Diego State. Carlwell, a 6-11 center, is a former four-star prospect.
Alabama handed Florida an 82-77 loss on Feb. 26, 2006. It was the third consecutive loss for the Gators, but it turned out to be their last that season. They won their final 11 games to claim the national title.
Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.