FOUR BITS: tennis wins SEC, Bush breaks record

1 » No. 2 Florida Gators women’s tennis (21-1, 10-0 SEC) captured at least a share of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship for their efforts during the regular season on Sunday by defeating the No. 14 Tennessee Volunteers (16-5, 8-1 SEC) 4-0 at home. The SEC title is the program’s 25th in 32 years and is the University of Florida’s 199th all-time. Florida still has South Carolina to contend with on Saturday before entering the 2011 SEC Tournament beginning April 21.

2 » Senior first baseman Megan Bush of the No. 10/11 Gators softball team set the SEC’s career home run record over the weekend. First tying and then surpassing former Florida outfielder Francesca Enea, Bush smacked her 61st homer on Saturday and her record-breaking 62nd on Sunday. She has now hit 18 on the season and has been a source of consistent offense all season for the Gators.

3 » Competing in the 2011 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Florida redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and senior forward Alex Tyus both impressed NBA scouts with their respective performances. Macklin finished the event as the third leading scorer with 57 points and seventh-place rebounder with 24 boards in three games. Tyus posted 41 points over the weekend, was third in rebounding (27) with 16 offensive boards and blocked six shots.

4 » The Philadelphia Inquirer took an in-depth look at new Temple Owls head coach Steve Addazio over the weekend, publishing a feature story about his coaching methods, personality and life journey that landed him in Philadelphia, PA.

Extra BIT » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah’s father, former tennis player now musician Yannick Noah, was the subject of death threats and racist slurs from neo-Nazis in central France last week. Read more on the story in translated form from the French newspaper France Soir.

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Update: Murphy, Larson arrested in St. Augustine

This post was updated on 4/11 at 11 a.m.

Three members of the Florida Gators basketball team were arrested for burglary Sunday morning in St. Augustine, FL and released on $5,000 bond.

Forwards sophomore Erik Murphy and freshman Cody Larson face third-degree felony burglary charges after allegedly breaking into a car near Scarlett O’Hara’s Bar and Restaurant at approximately 2 a.m. Team manager Joshua Adel was also arrested for principal to burglary because police say he served as a lookout.

No items were reported missing from the vehicle.

According to the police report, Murphy and Larson were looking for a lost wallet when they were kicked out of the establishment by bouncers. Minutes later, the bouncers noticed the duo were breaking into a co-worker’s car across the street, chased them away and notified the police.

The police apprehended Adel, who called Murphy and convinced him to turn himself in. While both men were in the back of the police cruiser, Larson called multiple times and, according to the Orlando Sentinel, discussed on speaker phone how they were going to get out of trouble. A device in the vehicle recorded the conversation, which ended with the duo convincing Larson to come back to the scene and turn himself in.

The three men cooperated once in custody.

“It seems like they just did something stupid and got caught,” Sgt. Jason Etheredge of the St. Augustine Police Department told the Sentinel.

Larson, who will be listed as a redshirt freshman after sitting out his first season with the Gators, committed to Florida and head coach Billy Donovan one year ago while dealing with legal issues in his home state of South Dakota. He received a suspended 120-day jail sentence and is currently on two years of probation for a drug charge he incurred during his senior year of high school.

“I’m aware of Cody and Erik’s situation and very disappointed with the news,’’ Donovan said on Monday. “The two are currently suspended from basketball-related activities. I’m not going to comment further until I have more information and get a chance to meet with both student-athletes.”

The story was first reported by Channel 4 News in Jacksonville.

OGGOA will continue updating this story as more information is made available.

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FOUR BITS: Macklin, Poyner, Portis, Shipman

1 » Florida Gators redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, currently participating in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament with forward Alex Tyus, scored 19 points on 50 percent shooting and notched 12 rebounds in his first game at the event on Thursday. NBA.com wrote a profile piece about him on Friday, looking about his entire career as well as strengths and weaknesses that may – or may not – find him a spot on a NBA roster this upcoming season. The feature also has a blurb about Tyus, who has scored a combined 25 points and grabbed 21 total rebounds in two PIT games, at the end.

2 » Left-handed pitcher and dynamic hitter Bobby Poyner, a Florida baseball commitment, tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder and will miss the remainderof his high school career. According to the Palm Beach Post, Poyner went 6-1 as a senior with a 1.91 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 40.1 innings to go along with a .404 batting average. In his last full season, he finished 9-3 with a 1.86 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 64 innings.

3 » Former Gators quarterback Josh Portis, who transferred away from the team early in his career and has spent six years in college, will be up for grabs in the 2011 NFL Draft in late April. In an interview with the Post, Portis said he is not running from his past but instead explaining it as well as he can and hoping teams understand that with age (he’s 23) comes experience and maturity. “I have nothing to hide,” he said. “Teams are going to know about it. Teams know everything. I feel, just be honest and up-front, and hopefully they’ll say, ‘Look, this kid made a mistake, and he’ll learn from it.’” The former four-star recruit transferred to Maryland after Tim Tebow was signed to be Florida’s QB of the future. While sitting out his transfer season, Portis cheated on a quiz and ruled ineligible for the following season. Finally able to play, Portis was stuck as a back-up and transferred a second time to Division II California University of Pennsylvania, where he combined for 69 passing touchdowns in two seasons and impressed with his athleticism. Getting ready for the NFL, Portis was arrested for using a stolen credit card but claims he wasn’t his. He explained that situation to the Post in a story that you can read here.

4 » Though Gators basketball had plenty of success without him this year, former Florida guard/forward Ray Shipman is thrilled that he decided to transfer to play football for the Central Florida Knights. After spending his first season on UCF’s scout team in order to get into football shape after playing basketball for two years, Shipman is now listed on the team’s spring depth chart as a starting outside linebacker. Part of the reason for his success is his praiseworthy dedication, which he planned to give since the moment he stepped back on the gridiron. “[The coaches] get tired of seeing me,” Shipman told the Orlando Sentinel. “I told [the linebackers coach] when I first got here, ‘Coach, I’m going to be nagging you. I’m going to be in your office every day right after class. If you’re here at night, I’m going to be here, too.”

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FOUR BITS: T. Burton, paintball, Beal, Lee

1 » Florida Gators sophomore athlete Trey Burton may be limited in the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut on Saturday after suffering an undisclosed injury during practice recently, according to the Palm Beach Post. With coaches and players being unavailable to the media from Tuesday evening until the conclusion of the game this weekend, no further information is currently known. Burton, who is/was expected to see snaps in the backfield behind redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey due to Florida’s injury problems, may put the Gators in an even bigger hole offensively during the public scrimmage.

2 » Head coach Will Muschamp and his staff surprised the team on Thursday by cancelling scheduled team meetings and weight lifting to take the entire group on a paintball trip. In addition to squaring off in paintball action, the team played cornhole and tug-of-war in what Muschamp referred to as “team building exercise[s].” Joining in on the fun was Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, who has been in Gainesville, FL all spring. The players all seemed to have a fantastic time at the event, and OGGOA has learned that the vibe was great on-site. Below is a team picture (courtesy of UF Sports Information’s Scott Carter) of the group after the festivities concluded.

3 » Though the difference is marginal, Gators incoming five-star guard Brad Beal was moved up from No. 7 to No. 4 on ESPNU‘s Top 100 rankings for basketball players in the 2011 recruiting cycle. Beal was named the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year this week and can next be seen participating in the Nike Hoops Summit on Saturday at 10 p.m. The game will air live on FOX Sports Network, so be sure to check your availability if planning to watch.

4 » Golden State Warriors center David Lee is on a bit of a hot streak right now, having scored 20 or more points in five of his last seven games with four double-doubles in that time. In six games since March 27, Lee is averaging 22.7 points and 13.5 board. Even more impressive is his last two performances, where he put up totals of 29 points/20 rebounds and 22 points/17 rebounds. Unfortunately for Lee, he won’t have much time to continue that streak as Golden State is 9.5 games out of playoff contention with only three more to play in the regular season.

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Peterson, Emrick highlight 2011 Hall of Fame class

Seven letterwinners, including Gator Greats Mike Peterson (football) and Bob Emrick (men’s basketball), will be inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame 2011 class on Friday. The F Club and Gator Boosters, Inc. will hand out these prestigious honors to the group of Florida Gators at the Hall of Fame Banquet on April 8, 2011, in the Holloway Touchdown Terrace at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

According to UF, “inductees are divided into three different categories: Gator Greats, Distinguished Letterwinners and Honorary Letterwinners.” The remainder of the induction class includes Gator Greats Dawn Buth (women’s tennis), Judd Davis (football), Michelle Freeman (women’s track & field), Mimosa McNerney (women’s swimming), Distinguished Letterwinner Keith Tribble (football), and Honorary Letterwinner Dr. Richard Shaara (team physician).

More about each inductee and their career accomplishments after the break.
Continue Reading » Peterson, Emrick highlight 2011 Hall of Fame class

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FOUR BITS: Miller, Young, Bre. Beal, J. Powell

1 » When Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James came together over the summer and decided to play for the Miami Heat, each made concessions in their maximum contracts in order to sign two others players – former Florida Gators power forward Udonis Haslem and guard/forward Mike Miller. Haslem, who injured his foot early in the season, has yet to play since and is a much-needed piece for Miami in the middle. Miller, who recovered from an offseason injury and has been seeing plenty of minutes with the Heat, is simply not playing up to snuff. His 5.6 points per game, 39.9 field goal percentage and 69.7 free throw percentage are career lows, and he is also hitting only 36.4 percent of his three-point attempts (second-worst of his career). What Miller has done is stepped up his rebounding and defense, but Miami will need his shooting stroke to improve if they hope to make a title run.

2 » There is no doubting Florida defensive line coach Bryant Young’s 14-year NFL career. He’s played in the Super Bowl, been named to multiple Pro Bowls and has garnered numerous other honors throughout his career. But as a football coach? Young is just getting started and told University of Florida senior writer Scott Carter that he specifically wanted to coach in college rather than the pros. “Being on this level, you really have a chance to help shape and mold a young man,’’ Young said. “That was really intriguing to me. The game is a little different but still competitive. We are all trying to win, but the message could be a little different in terms of steering a young man in the right direction and helping them realize they have a bright future ahead of them. They are able to go to school and their athletic ability has afforded them a free education. I think the message that needs to be clear is that it’s important that they understand that they need to secure their future by getting their degree.’’

You can check out the rest of the feature story by clicking here, though some choice quotes from Young have been republished below:

Q: What have you learned in your first two years as a college coach that’s different from the NFL?
A: Definitely patience [laughter]. I think on any level you need patience, more so in high school than in college, but on the college level you still have to have patience. In the league, you expect the guys to know it a little bit more. But in college you are really teaching them some things they may not already know or reinforcing some things they might know a little.

Q: What’s your initial impression of the Gators’ defensive linemen?
A: Young and not a veteran group. The guys are eager to learn and they are doing everything that you ask them. They are coachable and they want it. I’m excited for them. It’s a fresh start for them and just learning each guy in the group and understanding who I am and building that trust. It’s a fun group.

3 » Transferring from the Gators after last season, linebacker Brendan Beal immediately found a home with the Minnesota Gophers and is getting ready to finally step on the field this fall. In an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Beal said his experience at Florida will help him at Minnesota. “I was around the best,” he said. “I’ve been around guys like [Tim Tebow] and Brandon Spikes. I was there for the national championship. I know what it takes. I know we have the ingredients to be successful. I just want to fill that middle linebacker role and be the quarterback of the defense.” He also spoke about trying to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Gainesville, FL. “I had never experienced a traumatic injury like that; I never got hurt in high school,” Beal said. “I was doubting myself. I didn’t know what I was going to do. So, yeah, a sports psychologist helped me out a lot. I took a whole new different approach to life.”

4 » According to Rivals Florida recruiting analyst Chris Nee, the Alabama Crimson Tide and head coach Nick Saban are heavily pursuing Gators four-star 2012 linebacker commitment Jeremi Powell (Largo, FL). Powell is also receiving a lot of interest from the Tennessee Volunteers and will probably take trips to both schools even though he remains solid to Florida at this time.

Late Wednesday, Powell spoke with Mark Wheeler of InsideTheGators.com and had this to say about his commitment: “I’m about 99% committed to Florida. I’m going to go to Alabama to see a game, because they want me to, but like I told them, I’m Florida, I’m all Florida. I’ve never been out of the state of Florida in my life. Ever. I’m going to go on my visits if they are going to pay for them. Why wouldn’t I go on a free trip? It’s an opportunity to travel and see other places.”

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Beal wins Gatorade National Player of the Year

Florida Gators five-star signee Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) was named the 2010-11 Gatorade National Player of the Year on Monday.

Standing 6’4” and 205 lbs., Beal averaged 32.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.7 steals per game this season while shooting 73 percent from the field for Chaminade College Preparatory School. He led his team to a 27-1 record in his senior year and concluded his career with 2,634 points.

In addition to being a fantastic basketball player, Beal is also a model student. He has a 91.7 average in the classroom and does plenty of volunteer work when he’s not studying or playing.

“This was a year full of outstanding candidates for Gatorade Player of the Year, so Bradley Beal winning says a lot about how perfectly he exemplifies everything the award is about,” said ESPN’s national director of recruiting for basketball, Paul Biancardi, in an official release. “As a player, he’s one of the best shooters in all of high school basketball, and beyond that, he’s improved his game so he can use dribble-penetration to shake defenders, he’s rebounding at a high margin, his passing is improved and, as a result, he’s become one of the best all-around guards in the country. When you look at his makeup, he has a unique ability to help his team win. There’s not a greater complement than that.”

Beal, who won the Gatorade Player of the Year award for the state of Missouri in 2009-10 and 2010-11, is the first Florida commitment to earn the national honor.

Photo Credit: Wiley Price/The St. Louis American

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McCall a top candidate for vacant assistant job

Florida Atlantic Owls assistant coach Matt McCall is a top candidate for the vacant position on Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan’s coaching staff, two sources close to the team told OGGOA over the weekend.

The University of Florida’s director of basketball operations from 2004-08, McCall spent seven years under Donovan also serving as a team manager, head manager and graduate assistant. Donovan, who said last week that he wanted a young assistant to fill the spot vacated when Larry Shyatt departed for the head coaching job with the Wyoming Cowboys, has always held McCall in high regard.

Back in 2008, Donovan called him “a tireless worker and a first-class person” who “knows the state of Florida,” brings “the energy and passion necessary to be successful” and is someone he views “as one of the bright young minds” in coaching.

McCall has worked at FAU since 2008 and is one of head coach Mike Jarvis’s top assistants. He is responsible for bringing in the Owls’ best player, Gainesville native Greg Gantt, who averaged a team-high 14 points per game as a sophomore.

Should McCall be the one chosen for the position, the Ocala native and former all-area player would be returning home to North-Central Florida. If he joins the team, he would likely be Donovan’s third assistant on the bench with Rob Lanier taking over Shyatt’s duties and Richard Pitino continuing in his role.

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