10 Gator Bites for Friday, April 18

From time to time, OnlyGators.com will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (20-2) opens up competition in the semifinals of the 2014 NCAA Championships on Friday as it looks to defend the program’s first-ever NCAA National Championship by advancing to the Super Six for the eighth time in the last nine years. UF will compete against Alabama, Nebraska, Penn State, UCLA and Utah on Friday at 8 p.m. in Birmingham, AL with the top three finishers moving on to compete Saturday at 7 p.m. A live video stream of Friday’s event is available by clicking here. ESPN3.com will air Saturday’s Super Six and Sunday’s individual event competitions.

» Gators defensive tackle Dominique Easley drew some positive reviews out of his Pro Day workout on Thursday even despite the fact that he was only competing at about 80-85 percent as he continues to recover from a torn ACL. According to Sports Illustrated contributor Tony Pauline, Easley is “drawing heavy interest” from Chicago, New England, San Francisco and Seattle with the aforementioned teams believing he will go in the second round of May’s 2014 NFL Draft.

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FOUR Noah BITS: videos, GIFs, feature, Yannick

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah jokingly refuses to answer a question posted by a reporter wearing a Florida State hat. “I don’t talk to people who wear FSU hats,” he quipped. “Maybe if you change your hat maybe we can talk later. OK, thanks.”

2 » Sports Illustrated‘s Lee Jenkins wrote an in-depth feature about the former Florida Gators frontcourt star, and how he has impacted Chicago throughout the season, for this week’s edition of the magazine. Check it out in full by clicking here.

Noah’s passion is as celebrated as Tim Duncan’s footwork and Chris Paul’s vision, but equally reductive. Depicting him purely as a 29-year-old “hustle guy” does him no justice. It took more than chase-down blocks and primal roars to become the best playmaking center in three decades — a floor general and rim protector all at once — whose versatility prompts one NBA assistant coach to remark, “I haven’t seen anything like him since Bill Walton in ’77.”

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TWO BITS: Horford transfer, Easley Pro Day

1 » According to ESPN.com‘s Jeff Goodman, redshirt junior forward Jon Horford, a Michigan Wolverines transfer and the brother of former Florida Gators F Al Horford, is heavily considering choosing to play the final year of his collegiate career in Gainesville, FL. Jon Horford (6-foot-10, 250 pounds) will be a redshirt senior in 2014-15 and cleared to play without having to sit out a season. He registered 3.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game for Michigan last season and decided to transfer in order to get more playing time. That is one reason why a move to Florida was not believed to be on the table previously. Though the Gators are in need of frontcourt players, they do have freshman Chris Walker and redshirt junior Damontre Harris at center next season. Florida will also play redshirt juniors Alex Murphy (currently not scheduled to be eligible until the spring), redshirt junior Dorian Finney-Smith and incoming freshman Devin Robinson, though the latter two players will likely play small forward. Horford’s addition would fill UF’s remaining 2014-15 scholarship but not affect the allotment for 2015-16.

2 » Gators defensive tackle Dominique Easley has spent the last seven months rehabilitating his torn ACL but is finally getting the chance to show NFL teams what he can do on Thursday as he is participating in a private Pro Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville. Joining Easley for the workout are outside linebackers Ronald Powell and Darrin Kitchens, who also participated in Florida’s first Pro Day one month earlier on March 17. Easley recently completed a visit with the Dallas Cowboys, his first private trip, and is expected to go on many more after his Pro Day workout is complete. Projections for Easley range from the second to fifth round, but he is likely to be taken on the second day of the 2014 NFL Draft as long as he can prove he’s healthy.

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Former Florida Gators in the NBA: 2013-14 regular season marks and 2014 Playoffs preview

With the 2013-14 NBA regular season concluding on Wednesday, 10 of the 12 former Florida Gators basketball players in the league advanced to the 2014 NBA Playoffs and saw their campaign continue.

Former Gators are represented on eight of the 16 playoff teams with nine total players active for the playoffs (four starters, five reserves).

OnlyGators.com has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Florida players accomplished throughout the entire 2013-14 season and can look ahead to in the NBA Playoffs.

* Players names highlighted in orange have advanced to the 2014 NBA Playoffs.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR
C JOAKIM NOAH, Chicago Bulls: GP/GS (80/80), MIN (35.2), PPG (12.6), RPG (11.3), APG (5.4), SPG (1.2), BPG (1.5), TPG (2.4), FPG (3.1), A/TO (2.3)
» Shooting: FG% (.475), 3P% (.000), FT% (.737)
» Highlights: Four triple-doubles, 47 double-doubles
» Top 25 ranks (season): Triple-doubles (No. 2), total rebounds (No. 4), offensive rebounds (No. 4), offensive rebounds per game (No. 4), double-doubles (No. 5), defensive rebounds (No. 7), defensive rebounds per game (No. 8), total efficiency points (No. 8), blocks (No. 10), blocks per game (No. 12), efficiency ranking (No. 14), minutes played (No. 16), assists (No. 22), assists per game (No. 25)
» Career-highs (season): Games played (80), games started (80), minutes played (2,820), points (1,007, 12.6 per game), offensive rebounds (282), defensive rebounds (618), total rebounds (900, 11.3 per game), assists (431, 5.4 per game), steals (99, 1.2 per game), turnovers (194), fouls (245), field goals made (380), field goals attempted (800), free throws made (247), free throws attempted (335)
» Career-highs (game): Assists (14), minutes played (50)
» Notes: Noah became the fourth center in NBA history with four triple-doubles of points, rebounds and assists in a single season (Wilt Chamberlain, David Robinson, Bill Russell). He was the first Chicago player since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (1992-93) to record four triple-doubles in a single season. Noah also competed in his second-straight NBA All-Star game, is a candidate for league MVP and is almost a sure-fire bet to receive a number of other honors.
» Playoffs: The Bulls are the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and will take on the No. 5 Washington Wizards beginning on Sunday.



Check out how the rest of the Florida Gators in the NBA played this season…
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15 Gator Bites for Tuesday, April 15

From time to time, OnlyGators.com will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons was involved in a card accident before his team’s game on Monday – don’t worry, he’s OK – when a woman ran a red light and hit his sports utility vehicle. What happened next? “She said she ran a red light and it was her fault,” Parsons told the Houston Chronicle. “She had a little car so it kind of messed up the front bumper of my car. She was OK. Asked me to sign her insurance card.” Parsons led Houston with 21 points in 40 minutes on Monday. He entered the game recovering from a hip injury he suffered last week.

» According to Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com, the Philadelphia Eagles have a high level of interest in Gators outside linebacker Ronald Powell. Kempski notes that Philadelphia has a history of selecting high-upside players that were ranked among the top players in the country coming out of high school seeing as the Eagles used a seventh-round selection on running back Bryce Brown in 2012.

» The final USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll came out following the 2014 NCAA Tournament, and the individual ballots of all 32 coaches that voted were released as well. Five coaches – Tim Cluess (Iona), Matt Driscoll (North Florida), Tim Floyd (UTEP), Shaka Smart (VCU) and Don Verlin (Idaho) – voted Florida into the No. 2 spot over Kentucky, while four other coaches picked UF at No. 4 behind Wisconsin. One coach – Mike McConathy of Northwestern State – ranked the Gators fifth in the final poll.

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SIX BITS: Noah, Masters, Alexander, Ridley, Lee

1 » Already in the midst of a Most Valuable Player-caliber campaign, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah on Wednesday became just the fourth center in NBA history to record four triple-doubles consisting of points, rebounds and assists in a single season. The other three? Wilt Chamberlain, David Robinson and Bill Russell. Noah, whose final line was 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, has led the Bulls to a 46-32 record despite the fact that Chicago has been without star point guard Derek Rose nearly the entire season. The “point-center,” who leads his team with 5.2 assists per game, achieved double-digit dimes for the seventh time and also became the first Bulls player since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (1992-93) to record four triple-doubles in a single season. For comparison’s sake, Noah posted just three triple-doubles and two double-digit assists games – combined – during his first six years. Additionally, Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale just last month said Noah “should be the defensive player of the year.” Check out this extensive feature on Noah from USA Today.

2 » A pair of former Florida Gators golfers will compete in The Masters for the first time in their careers as Billy Horschel and Matt Every will be teeing it up at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA over the next 2-4 days. Horschel, who finished sixth in the 2013 FedExCup standings with one win and seven top 10 finishes in 22 events, won the Zurich Classic exactly one year ago. Every, via his first career PGA Tour win just over two weeks ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, is currently ranked eighth in the FedExCup. The golfers will open the first round teeing off back-to-back – Horschel at 8:51 a.m., Every at 9:02 a.m. – while former Florida golfer Andy North will be on the call for ESPN during the first two days of the event on Thursday and Friday.

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Freshman PF Chris Walker announces return to Florida Gators for sophomore season

Freshman power forward Chris Walker announced Wednesday that he intends to skip the 2014 NBA Draft, continue playing college basketball and return to the Florida Gators as a sophomore for the 2014-15 season.

“This year has been a great one, and I’m happy to say I will be joining the gatornation again for one more year!” he wrote Wednesday afternoon on Twitter.

Walker, an athletic frontcourt player who joined the team in mid-December after being declared academically ineligible for the fall semester, did not play his first game until Feb. 4 while serving an NCAA suspension for accepting impermissible benefits.

He averaged 4.8 minutes over the 18 games he did play, amassing a grand total of 34 points, 24 rebounds and eight blocks on the season.

As he neither went through the offseason strength and conditioning program nor spent the summer and fall practicing with the team, Walker was far behind when he eventually became eligible for the Gators.

His length and athleticism were apparent in his rebounding and shot blocking, but he often rushed shots when getting post touches and was considered a liability on defense.

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Florida Gators end 2013-14 season ranked No. 3

The Florida Gators (36-3) were bumped down to No. 3 in the final 2013-14 edition of the USA Today Coaches’ Poll after falling on Saturday to the eventual national champion and new No. 1-ranked Connecticut Huskies (32-8) in the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX.

UF entered the tournament as the No. 1 team in the country and earned the event’s top overall seed, advancing to the Final Four for the first time since 2007 but falling two wins short of the national championship. UConn earned its second victory over Florida this season on the way to its title.

Kentucky (29-11) checked at No. 2 – and even received a first-place vote from the coaches – after falling 60-54 in the title game. The Gators beat the Wildcats three times with Florida winning those games by an average of 10 points.

The Gators at 36-3 finished the 2013-14 season with the best record in program history. Florida also swept the Southeastern Conference Championships, winning the regular-season title for the seventh time and tournament crown for the fourth time.

UF finished 9-3 against teams in the final top 25.


Via TheBigLead.com

Florida’s opponents in italics. Wins in blue; losses in red.

USA TODAY COACHES’ POLL
This Week 1-5: UConn (30), Kentucky (1), Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona
6-10: Michigan, Wichita State, Michigan State, Louisville, Virginia
11-15: Iowa State, San Diego State, Villanova, Kansas, UCLA
16-20: Duke, Syracuse, Baylor, Dayton, Creighton
21-25: North Carolina, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Stanford, Saint Louis

Check out the Gators’ week-to-week top 25 rankings…after the break!
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