ABC: Mike Miller’s Greatest Gift (Video)

Ending what was undoubtedly a stressful episode for the family, Miami Heat and former Florida Gators guard/forward Mike Miller and his wife Jennifer were able to bring their newborn daughter, Jaelyn, home from a South Florida hospital last Saturday.

Jaylen had spent just under two weeks in a pediatric intensive care unit because doctors found that she had five holes in her heart upon being born. Even with Jaylen on his mind, Miller has been playing a big role for Miami, which is up 2-1 in the 2011 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.

In an interesting twist to the story, Miller and his wife actually donated $1 million to a children’s hospital in his South Dakota hometown in 2007. There is a wing of the hospital called the Mike and Jennifer Miller Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. ABC told this story in a piece that ran at halftime of Sunday night’s game.

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Gators return to Florida Citrus Sports Shootout

Florida Gators men’s basketball has agreed to participate in its fourth event of the 2011-12 season, announcing Thursday that they will face the Stetson Hatters in the second annual Florida Citrus Sports Shootout at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL

It will be the second-straight season the Gators will be playing in the game; Florida lost to Central Florida 57-54 last year.

UF will begin next season by participating in the five-team Global Sports Shootout along with Ohio State, North Florida, Jackson State and Wright State. The event is a collection of games played at different arenas. Florida will face Ohio State on the road, Wright State at a neutral site (Tampa, FL) and both North Florida and Jackson State at home in Gainesville, FL.

The Gators will square-off against Syracuse in Syracuse, NY as part of the 2011 BIG EAST/SEC Challenge on Dec. 2 and are also set to participate in the 2011 Orange Bowl Basketball Classic in Sunrise, FL on Dec. 17.

TBD – vs. North Florida – Global Sports Shootout (Gainesville, FL)
TBD – vs. Jackson State – Global Sports Shootout (Gainesville, FL)
Nov. 15 – at Ohio State – Global Sports Shootout (Columbus, OH)
Nov. 21 – vs. Wright State – Global Sports Shootout (Tampa, FL)
Nov. 28 – vs. Stetson – Florida Citrus Sports Shootout (Orlando, FL)
Dec. 2 – at Syracuse – BIG EAST/SEC Challenge (Syracuse, NY)
Dec. 17 – vs. TBD – Orange Bowl Basketball Classic (Sunrise, FL)

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FOUR BITS: Boynton, Hill, Collinsworth, Crowder

1 » Florida Gators junior guard Kenny Boynton has always viewed himself as a scorer, someone who was able to do everything in the high school and has liked to put the ball in from long range in college. The truth, at least as head coach Billy Donovan sees it, is that Boynton’s best characteristic right now is his defense. Boynton was a lock-down defender in 2011, forcing some of the best college basketball players in the country to struggle against Florida in big games. Going forward, his defense (especially if his offense does not improve) could be what gets him onto a NBA bench.

“He has the ability to be the best defensive player in our league, no question,” Donovan said Wednesday at the 2011 SEC Spring Meetings. “And I’m not saying his role’s going to change just to be a defender, but when you talk about him really leading us in scoring and then the fact that he’s got to guard John Jenkins twice a year, he’s guarding Jimmer Fredette, he’s guarding [Scottie] Hopson from Tennessee, he’s guarding Brandon Knight. […] If there’s one thing about Kenny that I think he’s right now is I think he’s an NBA defender. He can really guard anybody on the perimeter. I think the next step for him is decision making, assist-to-turnover ratio, being a better finisher in the lane, those kinds of things. But I think he’s working to get better.”

2 » Former Gators safety Will Hill, who declared for the 2011 NFL Draft as a junior and was not selected during the seven-round event in April, was arrested Thursday by Alachua County Police and booked at 2 p.m. on an out-of-county warrant stemming from having been cited for driving with a suspended license in Lake County. Hill had his bond set at $2,000 for the misdemeanor charge.

3 » Former Florida wide receiver Cris Collinsworth, who played in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals and is currently a color commentator for NBC’s Sunday Night Football, has been looking for something to keep him busy while the league’s lockout remains in effect. With that in mind, Collinsworth has decided to coach the wide receivers at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, KY, where his son Jac is currently playing. Highlands has won four consecutive titles (including a 50-0 victory last year) and went 14-1 in 2010. “I just got the playbook and I feel like a first year rookie all over again,” he said on his FootballProsLive.com blog. “The plays are scrambled eggs in my brain, and I feel a little anxious. But, I love coaching. I coached many of these kids in the junior football league, and they always kept me entertained.”

4 » Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder spoke with the media recently and provided his thoughts on a number of topics concerning the current NFL lockout. Crowder, who in our opinion provides the best sound bites and quotes in sports, even comments on Raw Lewis’s opinion that crime would increase nationally if football isn’t played. You can check out Crowder’s comments in this piece from the Sun-Sentinel.

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Men’s basketball says SEC-ya to divisions

Southeastern Conference men’s basketball coaches recommended to athletic directors and university presidents on Wednesday at the 2011 SEC Spring Meetings that the conference scrap the current East-West division model for their sport and institute a 12-team, single-league format going forward. Wednesday evening the athletic directors agreed, and the changes will take place beginning in the 2011-12 season.

“It’s done,” Florida Gators AD Jeremy Foley told ESPN’s Andy Katz after the meetings concluded for the day. “The presidents don’t have to sign off on this. This is an AD decision. We will be one league effective next year.”

Under the new alignment, the SEC Tournament will be seeded 1-12 based on conference record. No longer will the top two teams in each division (regardless of record) receive byes; the advantage will instead be given to the four best teams overall.

The SEC also plans to adjust the schedule, though it is unknown exactly what changes will be made. There are options for 16-game (currently used), 18-game and 22-game conference schedules on the table that will be discussed at a later date.

SEC teams currently take on opponents in their own division twice (home/away) and teams in the other division once (site determined by rotation). An 18-game schedule would have teams facing their traditional division rivals twice, two “other division” teams twice and four “other division” teams once, while a 22-game schedule would allow every team to square off twice during the regular season.

Because the schedule for the 2011-12 season is already set, no changes will be made until 2012-13 at the earliest. Tournament seedings will be handled by the new rules.

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari said Tuesday that one of the main goals in making these adjustments is to help more SEC teams earn NCAA Tournament berths going forward. The conference believes that the new alignment will help it appear stronger as a whole nationally; no longer will there be one dominant division that makes the other look inferior by comparison.

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Chandler Parsons – Path to the 2011 NBA Draft: First week of workouts begins in Miami

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

Hanging out in his hotel room in Miami, FL across from the AmericanAirlines Arena, Parsons got in touch with us Tuesday just before game one of the 2011 NBA Finals got underway. Too tired to go out after yet another flight, Parsons was resting up for his Wednesday workout with the Miami Heat and a number of other trips he will be taking over the next three weeks. He will be all over the country throughout the next month but will continue checking in with us each week.

After the Minnesota workout, I spent a couple days in Chicago – I always go back there to get ready with the same guys – [trainer] Josh Oppenheimer and [strength coach] Ryan Thompson. We basically just trained and went over the same things: sharpened up my shot, getting a lot of shots up, keeping my conditioning up. Nothing crazy.

The training part of things kind of slows down now, especially with my schedule coming up. Basically I’m just staying in the gym, going to bed early and eating right.

I had my workout with the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, so I left for Texas on Thursday. It went really well. Out of all my workouts so far, I think that was the best. I shot the ball really well, competed really well. It was me, DeAndre Liggins from Kentucky and Nikola Vucevic from Southern Cal against Marcus Morris (of Kansas), Iman Shelpert from Georgia Tech and Jimmy Butler from Marquette. We won every game, went 5-0 in the three-on-three games and [I] really shot the ball well. I had the best shooting numbers there and just really thought I played all-around great that workout.

Each workout is very similar in the stuff we do, but some teams keep you longer and others do more stuff. You basically stretch, play a lot of one-on-one, two-on-two and three-on-three – a lot of competitive stuff. In San Antonio, we played three-on-three but you can’t dribble, then three-on-three with one dribble, then three-on-three unlimited dribbles. There’s a lot of spot shooting, on-the-move shooting and things like that.

My Oklahoma City [workout] was only 45 minutes, but the San Antonio one was double that. It’s fun because you’re competing and you’re playing; it’s not boring drills, you’re actually going out there and playing. So it is fun, but some last longer than others.

After that, my agent told me I had the weekend off until the Miami Heat workout on Wednesday, so I went back to Gainesville and worked out with the coaching staff there until it was time to head south.

The next two weeks for me are going to be brutal [with six workouts in 10 days]. From now until the 10th, I won’t stop traveling. It’s definitely going to be tough but, like I’ve said before, this is what I’ve been working for…it’s a situation that I want to be in, so it’s definitely fun and exciting at the same time.

OGGOA FAN QUESTION OF THE WEEK

NICOLE S.: Through all of the workouts and events you have been participating in while getting ready for the NBA Draft, have you met anyone that has made you awe-struck or thought back to watching them on television growing up?
PARSONS: There’s been a few. When I walked into the hotel room in Chicago to check in [for the NBA Combine], I turn around and Larry Bird is behind me in line. Six other Indiana Pacers are signed with the same agency as I am, so my agent knows them real well. I got to meet him and talk to him. That was really cool; he’s obviously one of the best players ever. That was a “wow.” To even hear him say my name and hear him say “good job” and stuff was cool. I’m working out with the wings and Scottie Pippen is right there on the sideline, Mike D’Antoni is right there on the sideline. When I met with the [Boston] Celtics, Danny Ainge was in there. My agent just called me before I got here and told me Pat Riley will 100 percent be at my workout [Wednesday].

Go Gators,

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2011 SEC Spring Meetings Recap – Day One

Head coaches, athletic directors and support staff gather in Destin, FL each year for the Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings, which provide an opportunity to discuss rule changes, new procedures and much more. Florida Gators head football coach Will Muschamp and head basketball coach Billy Donovan were both in attendance on Tuesday and made waves with their stances on some of the hot topics of the week.

WILL MUSCHAMP

» He once again took a hard line on oversigning (accepting national letters of intent for more players than open scholarships you have in a given year) and greyshirting (denying scholarships to oversigned players and forcing them to enroll in the following spring or fall), saying emphatically that Florida does not believe in either method of recruiting. “We don’t over-sign. That’s a policy we have at the university,” he said. “We’ve been successful, so it’s not an issue for us.”

» On the SEC’s live Internet show streaming short interviews with some of the league’s coaches, Muschamp stressed that what separates this league from the rest of the country is the strong defenses, specifically up front on the line. “I’ve seen teams in this league with average quarterbacks win national championships because they’re really good on defense,” he said.

» One quarterback who he thinks is well above average is redshirt senior John Brantley, who Muschamp said needs to have the players around him step up in order to be successful. He related a conversation he had with Brantley when he told him that offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has a lot of confidence in him going forward and how “that should tell you a lot” about the type of talent he possesses.

» Muschamp said that dismissing senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins after his second marijuana arrest in less than 90 days was not about making an example out of him but rather making sure he did what was in the best interests of the rest of the team. “I don’t look at it as trying to send a message; I look at it from a standpoint of doing what’s right for the program,” he said, according to the Palm Beach Post. “Guys are going to be expected to act a certain way and have a certain behavior, and if they don’t do that then they’re not going to be a part of our football team.”

» Addressing his decision to allow freshman running back Mike Blakely to transfer within the SEC to Auburn, he said it is not something he will normally allow. “It’s not my policy to clear a kid to leave for another conference school,” Muschamp said per the Montgomery Advertiser. “I don’t want to face our players on the field. I know how good they are. They signed with Florida for a reason, so that’s a situation I’m going to avoid.” He did not provide an exact reason for making an exception in this case, simply saying that “this was the right thing to do.”

Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, the beneficiary of Blakely’s services, agrees. “That was an extremely classy move on Will’s part to give him that chance to come back to Auburn,” Chizik said. “It says something about the kind of person Will is.”

BILLY DONOVAN

» The league’s basketball coaches are going to take on two separate but related issues this week – potentially removing the conference’s divisions and ways to reseed the SEC Tournament so it is more fair to the teams that perform at a high level all year. A move to a 12-team format (rather than two six-team divisions) would benefit the East, which feels it often gets a raw deal when the tournament comes around and West teams get undeserved byes. Options include seeding the tournament 1-12 by conference record (with tiebreakers) or using a model similar to the baseball format with division winners getting byes and the rest of the teams being slotted 3-12.

» Donovan, proposing a solution that could work whether or not divisions are retained, believes the tournament should seed teams by RPI. This would force coaches and ADs to schedule better non-conference opponents, which would also improve the SEC’s overall standing nationally. Commissioner Mike Slive said Donovan’s suggestion will not be one of the methods considered.

» The vote on the topic of reseeding was tied 6-6 last year but should have more steam on Wednesday due to Slive being publicly in favor of some type of change. Scrapping the divisions is a long-term topic that, even if approved of by a majority, would not occur next season. However, adjustments to tournament seeding procedures could be worked out this week.

OTHER NOTES

» Not everyone agrees that oversigning and greyshirting are bad things. Those who are happy with the way things are (28 maximum scholarships per signing class – a rule adjusted just one year ago) include Chizik, Houston Nutt (Ole Miss), Bobby Petrino (Arkansas) and Mark Richt (Georgia). “Everybody has a right to manage their own numbers,” Richt said.

» Petrino also took the opportunity to criticize the NCAA for allowing Ohio State to delay the suspensions of five players deemed to have taken illegal benefits before the 2011 Sugar Bowl. “They kind of changed the rules for that bowl game,” he said.

» Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley plans to submit a formal proposal requesting that the SEC increase the staff sizes for its football programs. Dooley believes the player-to-coach ratio (12-to-1) in football is significantly worse in football than other collegiate sports (or the NFL, which is 3-to-1) and thinks that hiring additional staff members will also help combat off-the-field issues.

» Alabama head coach Nick Saban admitted Tuesday that he made a “mistake” not hiring Muschamp as the defensive coordinator when he took the Miami Dolphins job after leaving LSU. “When I went to Miami as the Dolphins coach, I didn’t want to put guys that were college coaches in coordinator positions until they’d coached in the league and got some experience,” Saban said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “I had coached in the league for two years at Houston and became the (defensive) coordinator at Cleveland and it was really, really difficult, only being in the league two years and understanding the league, the personnel, match-ups and a lot of things.
“I should have made Will the coordinator. Dom [Capers] did a wonderful job, but Will probably deserved to get that job. It was me trying to protect him. I wanted to give him another year before he was out there. I was trying to protect people that were important to me. I don’t think we have any issues or problems.”

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FOUR BITS: Tyus, Parsons, NBA Finals, Dunker

1 » Florida Gators forward Alex Tyus may not have been invited to the 2011 NBA Combine, but teams have taken an interest in him. According to Tyus, who has been writing diaries for TheHoopsReport.com, he will be working out for Oklahoma City on Wednesday and will be traveling to New Jersey and Phoenix next week to see if he can earn a second-round selection or a spot on one of their summer league teams.

2 » Gators F and OGGOA blogger Chandler Parsons, who will be checking in with us late Tuesday from Miami, FL, was part of a Prospect Profile video produced by NBA.com. Parsons discusses growing up around basketball with his family, his ability to play in the NBA and more in the feature, which can be viewed here.

3 » Florida, as is probably known now by most fans, boasts more former players in the 2011 NBA Finals than any other school with F Corey Brewer on the Dallas Mavericks and both power forward Udonis Haslem and guard Mike Miller on the Miami Heat. The Finals, which will air live on ABC, begin with game one Tuesday at 9 p.m.

4 » The Wall Street Journal published a column Tuesday looking into how much high school football players believe they should be paid (in addition to a scholarship) to play college football. One of the players the paper interviewed, Gators four-star offensive lineman commit Jessamen Dunker (Boynton Beach, FL) “says he’d like to see schools offer ‘a little pocket change’ to the tune of $5,000 a semester.” Of the six players the WSJ spoke to, one said no additional money was necessarily while the rest provided figures ranging from $2,000-10,000 per year.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Johnson, Heat, Macklin

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow’s new memoir, Through My Eyes was released Tuesday, but the number of fans who camped outside (yes, spent the night) waiting for him at a Books-A-Million absolutely stunned the Heisman Trophy winner. “It’s extremely humbling,” he told The Florida Times-Union. “I take it as a huge responsibility that people care that much about me and [I] really try to make it worth it for them, really try to make them feel special for doing it.” Tebow also spoke with the paper a little bit about the content of the book, which OGGOA should receive from the publisher for review on Tuesday. “It wasn’t just about football stories,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s more about inspiring kids to go out there and try to live their dream, and go after it and live with passion. That’s a lot of what it’s about, so hopefully, people will take it that way.”

2 » Back in Gainesville, FL after suffering a minor concussion during the No. 2 Florida Gators baseball team’s elimination game in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament in Hoover, AL, sophomore left-handed pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson is doing his best to recover quickly and get back on the field. Speaking with Florida Today, Johnson’s father said his son “is fine” and underwent a number of tests on Monday to evaluate his post-concussion symptoms. He is considered day-to-day for the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, which begins on Thursday. The paper reports

He had base line testing while playing for a U.S. all-star team last summer so doctors are able to do comparisons, to make sure he returns to normal before playing again. UF is also consulting with noted Pittsburgh neuropsychologist Michael Collins.

3 » Discussing with Miami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem and guard Mike Miller their time playing for Florida, the Palm Beach Post’s Ethan Skolnick got the duo to open up about how head coach Billy Donovan ended up helping them form a bond. It all started when he called both players into his office. “Coach Donovan, was like, ‘You know, if the season started today, I couldn’t play neither one of you guys,'” Haslem told Skolnick. “That wasn’t the exact words he used. You got to get your, um, ‘S’ together. Because I just thought I was doing the best academic job in the world, and obviously I wasn’t. And neither was [Miller]. I don’t know what his excuse was. But, at that point, Mike and I bonded from there.”

Haslem even had Miller’s back when an incident occurred with an unnamed football player. “I had a football player that, um, that didn’t really like me,” Miller said with a smile. “For unknown reasons. And UD put an end to that.” Haslem remembered, “Yeah, I just let the guy know, if you got a problem with Mike, you got a problem with me. The guy never bothered Mike again.”

4 » Talk surrounding the 2011 NBA Draft from a Gators perspective has mostly focused on forward Chandler Parsons, who could be picked anywhere from the teens to the mid-second round. Parsons, who has been going around the country doing private workouts after successfully competing in the NBA Combine and select group camp in Minnesota, is not the only former Florida player eligible to be selected. Center Vernon Macklin, according to the Indianapolis Star, is one of six former college players working out for the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. Macklin is projected to be a late second-round pick or go undrafted.

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