Eleven Gator Bites for Monday, July 25th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share with our readers – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» With the NFL lockout now in the books, the Florida Gators four selections in the 2011 NFL Draft will be reporting to work for the first time on Thursday. Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey (first round, No. 15), Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert (second round, No. 63), Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Ahmad Black (fifth round, No. 151 and Washington Redskins guard Maurice Hurt (seventh round, No. 217 are all on teams who will be eligible to workout immediately.

» While that foursome is ready and raring to go, Florida also has a number of undrafted free agents hoping to be picked up by teams looking to supplement their roster. Among those available are defensive linemen Terron Sanders and Justin Trattou, running back Emmanuel Moody and wide receiver Carl Moore. OGGOA will update you if and when these players are picked up by teams.

» The WNBA held its 2011 All-Star game over the weekend and also announced its Top 15 Players of All Time at the event. Though she was nominated and up for selection to the list, former Gators forward DeLisha Milton-Jones was not picked by fans for the honor. The six-time champion (two Olympic gold medals, two WNBA titles, two Euroleague titles) is currently averaging 12.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in 26.6 minutes per game with the Los Angeles Sparks.

There are 11 more Gator Bites including updates on Calathes, UF-FSU, Beal, Alvarez, Wambach, LeCount, ultimate Frisbee and Bostic…after the break!
Continue Reading » Eleven Gator Bites for Monday, July 25th

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FOUR BITS: Beal, Donovan, Kruger at Florida

1 » Named the 2010-11 Gatorade National Player of the Year for men’s basketball on April 4, Florida Gators five-star freshman guard Brad Beal accepted his award on Tuesday in Los Angeles, CA. Beal will be recognized at the 2011 ESPYS Wednesday evening, as will former Florida forward Chandler Parsons, who will be accepting the 2010-11 Capitol One Cup for the University of Florida’s men’s athletic program.

2 » ESPN senior college basketball writer Andy Katz mentioned the Gators and head coach Billy Donovan on his blog Tuesday as he discussed how the team will be backcourt heavy for 2011-12. Donovan told Katz that he is excited about the depth on the perimeter (something Florida has lacked for the last few years) but that he will not task all of his guards with scoring the way they might want to. “We want everyone to understand a good shot,” he said. “I’m excited with the challenges of dealing with the guards.” One of those challenges will be reigning in senior point guard Erving Walker, who Katz says Donovan has challenged to “lead the SEC in assists since there will be more than enough offense on the wings this season.”

3 » Excited that former Gators head coach Lon Kruger has been hired to head up their local Oklahoma Sooners, The Oklahoman printed a pair of stories about Kruger’s time at Florida on Wednesday. The first was focused on his decision to send the 1994 UF basketball team to Australia for two weeks of exhibition games before the season began and how that resulted in solid team chemistry. “We didn’t have any superstars or McDonald’s All-Americans,” former guard Craig Brown told the paper. “We were just a bunch of guys committed to playing tough, hard defense. We believed in the coaching staff. After we got back (from Australia), we knew we had a chance to have a special season.”

4 » The second piece centered on Kruger’s penchant for making student-athletes enjoy playing for him while resurrecting a program recovering from two years of NCAA probation. “When Coach Kruger arrived the program was in disarray,” said former student manager Jeff Guin. “It wasn’t just wins and losses. It was NCAA issues. Few people came to games. No one really cared.” Also included in the latter piece is an interesting statement from Gators basketball historian Bill Koss. “(Rick) Pitino told Billy, ‘Absolutely do not take that job. It’s a football school,’” Koss told the paper. “Billy has told me several times he would not have taken the job if Lon hadn’t accomplished what he accomplished.”

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TWO BITS: Noah to France, Jenkins moving on

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah has decided to play for Team France in the FIBA European Championships in Lithuania, ESPNChicago.com reported on Monday. Noah, who has dual citizenship due to his father being French, will participate in the event from Aug. 31 to as late as Sept. 18. With the NBA lockout in effect, Noah’s is certainly a candidate to play overseas until the 2011 season begins.

2 » Asked why he chose not to enter the NFL Supplemental Draft rather than play his final collegiate season, former Florida Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins told The Florence Times-Daily that striking it rich is not his main concern right now. “It’s not all about the money,” he said. “I went three years without money at the University of Florida, so why can’t I do it another year. I’m not in a rush to get the money. I just wanted to come back and rebuild my image.” Attending North Alabama for a year will also likely provide Jenkins with a larger payday when he eventually gets selected in the 2012 NFL Draft, even if there is a rookie wage scale.

He also said that he realizes he was in the wrong and does not harbor any hard feelings for his head coach of just a few months, Will Muschamp. “Everybody makes mistakes; at the end of the day it’s how you rebuild off that mistake,” Jenkins told the paper. “I made a mistake and got kicked out at Florida, but that’s all behind me. There is no issue between me and Coach Muschamp. I texted him like two weeks ago and asked how he was doing and he texted me back. He did what he had to do and I’m not mad at him. I respect him as a man and as a coach.”

Extra BIT » Gators sophomore safety Matt Elam was named to the watch list for the 2011 Jim Thorpe Award on Monday. Handed out to the nation’s best defensive back, the Thorpe Award’s preseason watch list features 37 players, 10 of whom represent the SEC. Former Florida safety Lawrence Wright won the award in 1996.

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TWO BITS: Murphy deferred, Young in Latvia

1 » Florida Gators junior forward Erik Murphy has agreed to deferred prosecution for misdemeanor criminal trespassing, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Murphy, who will as part of the deal pay $440 in restitution and court costs while also performing 50 hours of community service and completing a substance abuse evaluation, was previously facing more serious charges before prosecutors agreed to reduce them. He will be on probation for alcohol and controlled substances for 12 months and must send a “meaningful” apology letter to the victim as well, the Sentinel reports. Murphy and redshirt freshman F Cody Larson, who also pled not guilty and will face the same charges on July 19, are currently indefinitely suspended from the basketball team. Head coach Billy Donovan said he would evaluate their statuses after their legal situations were settled. Receiving deferred prosecution and probation will likely allow Murphy and Larson (if he signs the same agreement) to return to the team for the 2011-12 season.

2 » Having lost twice during the event, the 2011 USA Basketball U19 Team finished in an uninspiring fifth place at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship in Latvia. In his final game over the weekend, Florida sophomore center Patric Young turned in another efficient performance, going 4-for-5 from the field for nine points with five rebounds in 13 minutes. Team USA defeated Australia 78-77 in the contest, yet another close finish in an event filled with disappointment for the Americans.

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FOUR BITS: O’Dome, summer, Bullard, awards

1 » Having just completed a $900,000 renovation that included – most notably – brand new seats in the lower bowl along with wider aisles and handrails – the Stephen C. O’Connell Center continues to remake itself year after year. Through the brand new seats will be more comfortable for students and season ticket holders, they still do not have seatbacks (an addition that would have cost the arena nearly 1,000 seats, according to O’Dome director Lynda Reinhart). As it stands now, the capacity has been reduced by approximately 200 seats and is now somewhere around 11,800, according to The Gainesville Sun. The paper also reports that “the men’s basketball practice courts inside the arena were re-surfaced” and “gate signs were re-numbered and work was done on the pool deck.” Financing for the project came directly from the arena’s reserve with no additional contributions needed.

2 » Three Florida Gators baseball players – redshirt junior first baseman Vicksah Ramjit, senior infielder Jeff Moyer and redshirt freshman INF Alex Freedman will be playing for the Wilmington Sharks of the Coastal Plain League over the summer. Freedman, who redshirted the 2010-11 season, has been with the team all summer; Ramjit and Moyer joined this week. All three will be back in Orange & Blue next year.

3 » As OGGOA has reported numerous times, former Gators defensive lineman Thaddeus Bullard continues to work toward being a full-time WWE wrestler as he competes with Florida Championship Wrestling, the organization’s primary developmental territory. On Friday, Bullard (who wrestles as Titus O’Neil) will return to Gainesville, FL for a FCW show at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Multipurpose Center.

4 » Florida redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard and junior tackle Xavier Nixon were both named to the 2011 Outland Trophy Watch List on Friday. The Outland Trophy, which is awarded to the best interior lineman in college football, has never been awarded to a Gators player. The closest one has come to winning it was when tackle Jason Odom finished in the top three alongside Ohio State’s Orlando Pace and UCLA’s Jonathan Ogden (the award’s winner) in 1995. Howard was also named to the watch list for the 2011 Bronko Nagurski Trophy, an award presented to the country’s top defensive player.

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SIX BITS: Whitson, Dickey, Wilbekin, Maye

1 » Florida Gators right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson, who concluded his freshman campaign with an 8-1 record, 2.40 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 97.1 innings, was named a first-team Freshman All-American by Baseball America on Wednesday. Starting 19 games for Florida, Whitson was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft and snubbed the San Diego Padres contract offer of nearly $2 million to spend what he hopes are three successful years in college.

2 » Former Gators quarterback and outfielder Gavin Dickey is making strides playing baseball and recently found out that he is on a record hitting streak for the Lincoln Saltdogs of the non-MLB affiliated American Association baseball league. Now on a 21-game hitting streak, Dickey learned of his achievement via a Facebook message from a fan, reports the Tallahassee Democrat. Dickey, who hit .268 as a minor leaguer for the Seattle Mariners (which selected him in the 12th round of the 2006 MLB Draft), signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Braves in the offseason but only lasted with the team for a month. “It’s still about going out and having fun, competing and winning,” he said.

3 » Impressed with what sophomore point guard Scottie Wilbekin accomplished with the Florida basketball team as a 17-year-old true freshman last season? If his brother has his way, the Gators may see a similar output from a number member of the clan in two years. A sophomore at The Rock high school in Gainesville, FL, Mitchell Wilbekin told The Gainesville Sun that he is 100 percent dedicated to playing for Florida…if head coach Billy Donovan offers him a scholarship. “I’d love to be a Gator,” the younger Wilbekin told the paper. “If they offered me, I’d definitely go there.” The Sun describes him as “on track to be the highest-rated Gainesville-area basketball recruit in more than a decade” and notes that the 2014 recruit recently drained six treys and scored 21 points in only three quarters of shooting at a recent showcase.

4 » Four-star safety Marcus Maye (Melbourne, FL) confirmed once again this week that the Gators are his leader, telling ESPNU’s Corey Long that they are above two of Florida’s rivals – Florida State and Alabama. “The fact that I’ve been up there numerous times and have a great relationship with the coaches is what puts them out front,” he said. “I’m excited about the upcoming future of the program and I feel like they are going to have a pretty good year. Being part of the SEC is something I’ve always wanted to do and I think UF is a great place for me to take my next step and that’s the reason it’s the top school on my list. It’s a place where I feel comfortable at.” Maye still wants to take official visits to FSU and UA and will not commit until he has seen more schools.

5 » In a recent poll of 848 Floridians conducted by Public Policy Polling, the Gators received 30 percent of the vote when the respondents were asked to pick their favorite in-state college football program. Behind them, in order, were Florida State (19 percent), Central Florida (11 percent), Miami (nine percent) and South Florida (six percent).

6 » Four Florida football players – senior running back Jeff Demps, redshirt seniors RB Chris Rainey and wide receiver Deonte Thompson, and sophomore RB Trey Burton were announced as part of the offensive watch list for the 2011 College Football Performance Awards. The CFPAs are handed out based on objective scientific analysis rather than voting.

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FOUR BITS: Macklin, Young, planking, Nelson

1 » Though the story is no longer available on the team’s website due to the NBA lockout, the Detroit Pistons had posted an interesting column focusing on their No. 52 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, former Florida Gators center Vernon Macklin. Evaluating his performances in workouts, team vice president Scott Perry raved about Macklin’s potential. “The biggest thing is, he didn’t look out of place,” Perry said. “He was physical, strong, could hold his position in the low post defensively, long arms and he competed. That’s what you want to see.”

Macklin also received support from Detroit personnel director George David, who fueled him during the Portsmouth Invitational. “He said, ‘Are you going to be Joakim Noah or his backup?’” Macklin recalls. “After my first game at PIT, he texted me and said, ‘You were Joakim Noah today.’ And he said the same thing at the end of the workout.”

2 » The 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U19 Team faltered at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championships on Wednesday, dropping a 87-85 contest to Croatia. Just a day earlier, the United States was triumphant in an equally close match, defeating Lithuania 107-105 in overtime. The constant in both games was the play of Florida sophomore center Patric Young, who has turned in some dominant performances after getting off to a slow start. Young went 5/7 both from the field and from the line for 15 points with seven rebounds in 26:24 on Tuesday and followed that up by shooting 7/8 from the floor for 16 points with eight boards in 26:19 on Wednesday. Over his last three international games, Young has shot 85.7 percent and averaged 14.7 points and 7.3 rebounds.

3 » It has been just over a week since Gators redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail went on a planking spree, and OGGOA has had fun following many of Florida’s student-athletes as they take part in the activity. Things seem to have wound down a bit over the last few days and, therefore, we present you with this (potentially final) compilation wrapping up the latest planking attempts. You can view the rest of them here, here and here. The photos below feature Trail and sophomore wide receiver Robert Clark, redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison and softball players Hannah Rogers and Ensley Gammel.

4 » Keeping busy during the NFL’s lockout, Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson was recently in Las Vegas, NV and ended up on stage during a Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood concert. Below is a picture snapped by one of his friends.

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Chandler Parsons – Path to the 2011 NBA Draft: Selected by Houston…then locked out

Through the 2011 NBA Draft, Florida Gators forward and 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Chandler Parsons was with us keeping fans up-to-date on his Path to the Draft via a weekly blog entry exclusively here at OGGOA.

With his travels and workouts completed, Parsons caught up with us last time the day before the draft as he relaxed with family and friends in Orlando.

Selected with the No. 38 overall pick in the second round of the draft by the Houston Rockets, Parsons celebrated for one night and then immediately got on a plane to Houston and got to work. We spoke with him after he arrived back in the Florida on the eve of the NBA’s lockout for the final edition of his Path to the Draft blog.

Leading up to the draft, I knew that my range was somewhere between 20-40. I knew I had done really well in my workouts and very well in my Houston workout. Before the draft, my agent Mark [Bartelstein] was telling me a couple teams that he thought were good possibilities. He said there’s going to be so many trades with this lockout happening that I had to just let him work the phone and talk to people while I enjoyed the process.

I had 20 people come over to my house to watch it, and basically we just sat and watched it like everybody else.

Three picks before [I got chosen], he called me and said, “There is no way you’re getting past 39, but Minnesota may trade the 38th pick because Houston loves you. Just be watching.” He called me a pick later and said, “Golden State just bought the pick from Minnesota; you’re going to Golden State at 38 most likely.” So I’m like, “Alright cool.” I’m watching, getting hyped because I know I’m about to get picked and he texts me, “Houston bought it from Golden State. You’re going to the Rockets.” And then basically a minute later, they announced it. Houston ended up buying it for $1.5 million from them.

One pick before, I’m telling everyone I’m probably going to be next. Right before the 38th pick, they announced a bunch of trades that went down. We were like, “Come on. Come on!” And then after they announced my pick, we all went crazy.

Less than five minutes after the pick, Coach Kevin McHale [and a few of the team’s scouts] called me to congratulate me and tell me that they’re happy to get me. They said they couldn’t wait to get me to Houston.

After I got picked, we started celebrating and partying. I had ordered a 22-passenger super stretch limo to come to my house. I’m about to get in and my parents, who were the last ones to leave the house, start screaming. So I ran inside and that is when Vernon [Macklin] got picked at No. 52 [by the Detroit Pistons]. So we all ran back inside to see Vern’s deal.

After that we went to two places – a club called Bliss and another called Vain downtown. My parents stayed the whole time – I took care of them. My three older brothers went and basically all of my closes friends from Orlando and my family did, too. They were all at the club in VIP and it was really a great time.

The next day was rough. We came back to my house after the bars closed at 2 a.m. and had people over until like 5-6 a.m. Then I had an 11 a.m. flight to Houston the next morning for a press conference.

I met everybody at Houston, did the press conference, worked out. l went to an Astros game and then, Sunday-Wednesday, we had a minicamp with eight-to-10 of the guys working out each day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. My teammates are some cool guys; a lot of young talent, a lot of pieces that can make our team very good.

Having a new coach like Kevin McHale, who is a legend, I can’t wait to learn from him.

They got that camp in there because of the lockout. If there wasn’t a lockout, I’d be there right now getting ready for Summer League in Las Vegas.

We had a couple days to work with the coaches, get the terminology down. They told us, during this lockout, to make sure we’re working out with as many pros as we can and to stay in shape because there’s going to be limited time to do training camp once everyone gets together. And I even got to keep the number 25.

Being in the lower half of the second round, pick No. 38, it’s a really high percentage chance I get a guaranteed contract. There’s also the fact that they bought my pick for $1.5 million. It’s a really good sign. I’m in a really good situation because there’s not a lot of guys in my position at Houston. There’s Chase Budinger who plays small forward, but there are a lot of opportunities there. I worked out really well this week, and the coaching staff really liked me. I just have to get it done.

I love Houston. I’ve been there before. [Former Florida point guard] Jai Lucas is from there, so he happened to be there all week and he showed me around the city. It’s huge. It’s a big city, and it’s hot. It was like 98 degrees when we were there. Being from Florida, you’d think I was used to that. It’s a great spot to be in, and a good opportunity. I’m looking forward to it.

My agent recommended me to take 10 days off, because I’ve been working out non-stop. I’ve been going for a while. Courtney Lee is going to be working out in Orlando, and I’ll also be in Gainesville working out with the team. Hopefully we can get together with some of the [fellow former Gators] players and get some workouts in. Basically it is about staying in good shape and competing against as many NBA guys as I can. There’s a lot of options; basically I’m just going to take two weeks off and then figure that out. I just have to make sure I stay in the gym and my legs get stronger.

To all of the fans in Gator Nation and also those of you who have kept up with my blog here, thanks for supporting me throughout this whole process – throughout my whole four years at the University of Florida and this whole draft process.

Thanks for believing in me.

Remember – hard work pays off. My whole dream as a kid was to go in the NBA, get drafted and be in the situation I am. I’m honored to be in the situation representing Florida, and it is true – hard work really does pay off. I can’t wait for the season to start, and I hope all of my fans support me in the NBA, too.

Go Gators,

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