FOUR BITS: Noah, basketball, Eckstein, Robinson

1 » Despite being sidelined for a large portion of the preseason with a groin injury, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah told reporters Sunday that he is “100 percent” sure he will be active for his team’s season opener on Tuesday. Noah has not played more than 66 games in an NBA regular season since 2008-09, but he posted career-highs of 11.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.1 blocks last year.

2 » Florida Gators basketball held a “secret” scrimmage on Saturday against Georgia Tech in Valdosta, GA. Though no official score was kept and no one in attendance is allowed to discuss either the outcome or news from the scrimmage, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman (citing a source) reported that both Gators point guards – senior Scottie Wilbekin and freshman Kasey Hill – stood out as the most impressive players on the court. Additionally, as expected, senior forward Will Yeguete (knee) was sidelined while junior guard Eli Carter (leg) saw limited action.

3 » Former Florida shortstop David Eckstein received a shout-out on a recent episode of NBC’s Parks & Recreation, which just so happens to be OnlyGators.com’s favorite active sitcom (though it is unfathomably on hiatus at this time). The law firm plaque utilized in the last episode to air includes a number of sabermetric measurements along with Eckstein’s name. (Image courtesy of Deadspin.com)


And how did Eckstein respond? By making a fake commercial for said law firm, of course.

4 » 2014 five-star forward Devin Robinson (Christchurch, VA) will make his verbal commitment official on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m., and Florida has been after him hard as of late. Not only did Robinson pay a visit to Gainesville, FL, on Oct. 11, head coach Billy Donovan went in-home with the 20th ranked player in the nation just five days later and has definitely made an impression on the young man. Indiana is believed to be UF’s main competitor for Robinson, and head coach Tom Crean (who had assistants visit Robinson previously) smartly delayed his in-home visit with the prospect until night before he makes his decision. Robinson took his official visit to IU on Oct. 4.

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One-handed 2014 guard Zach Hodskins accepts preferred walk-on spot with Florida Gators

Interest extended by the Florida Gators in August came to fruition on Saturday when 2014 guard Zach Hodskins (Alpharetta, GA) committed to join the Gators basketball team after spending the weekend visiting Florida.

Hodskins, a one-handed phenom who was born without the bottom of his left arm (having it cut off at his elbow), took in a practice at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and came away incredibly impressed.

“What an amazing visit to Florida, [their] basketball program is off the charts!” he tweeted on Saturday.

One hour later, Hodskins had made his decision.

“[I’ve] officially committed to the University of Florida basketball. I know God has put me in the right place #GatorNation #GatorBasketball” he wrote.

Hodskins (6-foot-3, 175 pounds) was offered a preferred walk-on spot in August by assistant coach John Pelphrey. A preferred walk-on is guaranteed a place on the roster but does not receive a scholarship.

The opportunity to play for a program like the Gators and a head coach like Billy Donovan was obviously too much for Hodskins to pass up in the long run. The chance to earn a scholarship would not be out of the realm of possibility either.

He is the third guard committed to play for Florida in 2014, joining a pair of four-star, Rivals 100 recruits in Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, FL) and Chris Chiozza.

OnlyGators.com confirmed with Hodskins that the commitment he made was to join the program as a preferred walk-on. Check back Sunday for an update to this story.


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FOUR BITS: Spurrier and Wuerffel, Elam, Francis

1 » Former Florida Gators head coach Steve Spurrier spoke with Yahoo! Sports’ The Postgame recently about former quarterback Danny Wuerffel, who he called “special” and a “perfect team player.” Spurrier discusses his recruitment of Wuerffel, the player’s success at Florida and the 1996 season. Check out the entire feature by clicking here.

2 » A pair of former Gators now playing in the NFL will be playing against their favorite team growing up this weekend when Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam and wide receiver Deonte Thompson head south to take on the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at 1 p.m. “Playing in front of my family will be exciting,” Elam told The Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson. “I can’t wait. It should be a lot of fun.” Elam and Thompson will also get the opportunity to visit with a number of Florida teammates as the Dolphins have four Gators on their roster including center Mike Pouncey, kicker Caleb Sturgis, linebacker Jelani Jenkins and running back Mike Gillislee.

3 » Florida has basketball commitments all the way out until 2016 at this time, but the best of the bunch thus far is four-star 2014 guard Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, FL), a native of the Dominican Republic and one of the top 25 players in the nation, according to Rivals. Below is a recent video of Francis at the 2014 Adidas Invitational.

4 » UF freshman gymnast Silvia Colussi-Pelaez competed as part of the Spanish National Team as an all-arounder at the 2013 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium this week. She did not come away with a medal but perhaps something that was even more of an honor. “I did a sideways aerial on the beam and I did the skill well so technically it is named after me, so that is exciting,” she said, according to the school’s website. “I was pretty focused on hitting that skill well.” Gators gymnastics does not begin competing as a team until Jan. 11, when it will look to defend its first NCAA national title in school history.

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FOUR BITS: NFL, Donovan, Mooney, Parsons

1 » The names of a few former Florida Gators popped up on the NFL transaction wire this week. Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham and wide receiver David Nelson were signed by the San Francisco 49ers and New York Jets, respectively, on Tuesday. Cunningham was released by the New England Patriots after never even suiting up for the team during the offseason, and Nelson was cut by the Cleveland Browns after his knee flared up during the preseason.

On the other side of the coin, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers waived safety Ahmad Black (who started for them this season), and the St. Louis Rams cut offensive tackle Max Starks, who was signed just two weeks ago.

2 » ESPN’s Andy Kats noted on Wednesday that Gators head coach Billy Donovan has decided not to take advantage of the NCAA pushing up the start of basketball practice and will instead begin Florida workouts on Friday, Oct. 11. He opines that the move is being made to give senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin extra time to get back in the team’s good graces. Though that may have an ounce of truth to it, the actuality is Donovan would prefer to have his team practice more in a shorter period of time rather than three total hours per week over an additional month. “[He] likes to hold double sessions over weekends and you only have 30 practices over 42 days before [the] season opener,” correctly noted The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway.

3 » Grabbing a recruit three years before he graduates high school is a risky proposition, but it sounds like the Gators’ latest basketball pledge is in for the long haul. 2016 power forward John Mooney (Altamonte Springs, FL) committed to Florida on Saturday, the school he has always wanted to attend. “I don’t see this being an Austin Rivers situation at all,” Mooney’s head coach at Lake Brantley High School, Mike Cuff, told Brockway. Cuff also said Mooney averaged a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds as a freshman on varsity despite only taking 6-7 shots per game. Brockway also spoke with Mooney’s Nike Team Florida coach Tom Topping, who noted that the player “projects as one of the better basketball players in his class,” something that is “not just my opinion.”

4 » Grantland.com’s Juliet Litman takes a closer look at Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons and his incredibly busy summer, which she concludes is an “aggressive attempt to become a famous athlete/fashion icon,” something she personally finds “strangely endearing.” OnlyGators.com will be speaking with Parsons prior to the start of the 2013-14 NBA season.

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2016 PF John Mooney commits to Florida Gators

Florida Gators basketball picked up its first verbal commitment for the Class of 2016 on Saturday when power forward John Mooney (Altamonte Springs, FL) pledged to continue his career in Gainesville, FL.

At 6’7” and 210 pounds (as of July), Mooney is a sophomore in high school and likely still has some growing to do before he steps foot on campus in three years.

He averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds as a freshman at Lake Brantley High School and was just the third freshman in the last nine years to play on varsity, according to head coach Mike Cuff.

Mooney also plays for the Nike Team Florida travel program, which had former Gators Chandler Parsons and Nick Calathes on its roster while they were in high school.

His brother, Brendan Mooney, committed to Spring Hill College to play basketball as a member of the school’s 2013 recruiting class.

Mooney was recruited by Florida assistant Matt McCall and committed to the Gators following an unofficial visit. UF hopes he continues to grow and projects that he will resemble David Lee by the time he gets to college.

Florida now has basketball pledges in each of the next three recruiting cycles. Four-stars guard Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, FL) and point guard Chris Chiozza (Memphis, TN) are committed for 2014, while three-star power forward Kevarrius Hayes (Live Oak, FL) has decided to join the team in 2015.


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15 Gator Bites for Wednesday, September 11

From time to time, OGGOA 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.

» Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Jeff Demps missed the entire offseason while running track but officially joined the team on Monday in hopes of earning a roster spot and playing football in 2013. The Buccaneers have a roster exemption or Demps, who will have one full week to prove his worth and take one of the 53 available spots or else be released by Tampa Bay. Though the Bucs will certainly see what Demps can do for them, head coach Greg Schiano was perturbed a few weeks ago when asked where Demps was in the world and why he had not reported at the time.

» Former Florida Gators forward Cody Larson, who lost his scholarship and then quit the basketball team before the 2012-13 season but remained at Florida for academics, transferred to play for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in May and had a waiver to play immediately accepted by the NCAA this month. “We want to thank the committee and the NCAA for taking the time to look at Cody’s waiver,” head coach Scott Nagy said in a school release. “We appreciate the fact that this ruling allows him the opportunity to be eligible to compete immediately.” Larson will have two years of NCAA eligibility remaining but has not played college basketball in two full seasons.

» One of the greatest tennis players in school history, Jill Craybas has decided to retire at age 39 after spending the last 18 years playing professional tennis. One of two Florida women to win the NCAA Singles Championship, Craybas captured the title in 1996 while leading the Gators women’s program to the team NCAA Championship that same season. Inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame as a Gator Great in 2008, Craybas never won a Grand Slam title but advanced to the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2005 after shocking Serena Williams 6-3, 7-6 in the Round of 16 that year. She also represented the United States in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “It’s a really tough decision to make because it’s been part of your life for so long. But I feel like lately my priorities have been starting to change, I’ve been starting to want other things in my life,” she told Tennis Panorama about her retirement decision. “I really struggled this past year with my tennis and how I was doing. I started pursuing some other things and started getting interested in other things, but it’s never an easy decision. You never know when you want to stop, but you kind of come to terms with it sooner or later.”

Check out 12 more Gator Bites…after the break!
Continue Reading » 15 Gator Bites for Wednesday, September 11

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2014 OT Benjamin Knox decommits from Florida

In a move that seemed to be in the works for months, three-star 2014 offensive tackle Benjamin Knox (Deland, FL) officially announced Tuesday evening that he has decommitted from the Florida Gators.

A three-star prospect according to Rivals who is listed as a four-star player and the No. 269 player in the country by ESPN, Knox originally committed to Florida during the program’s first Junior Day of 2013 on Feb. 16.

“At this very moment I am decommitting,” he told InsidetheGators.com’s Blake Alderman ($) in a text message. “Reason why [is] because I haven’t heard from them in a month.”

Knox is the fifth 2014 prospect to pledge and decommit from the Gators this recruiting cycle and the second who originally committed on Feb. 16. Florida also lost a pledge from four-star linebacker Christian Miller (Columbia, SC), the 58th ranked player in the nation, on May 17.

The other three former commitments no longer a part of UF’s 2014 recruiting class include the program’s first pledge of the cycle – Ryeshene Bronson (Fort Myers, FL) – and a pair of four-star defensive tackles in Anthony Moten (Fort Lauderdale, FL) and Travonte Valentine (Palm Bay, FL).

Knox says Louisville leads for his services. Miller (Alabama), Bronson (South Florida) and Valentine (Miami) have since committed elsewhere while Moten remain undecided.

The Gators are down to 14 commitments for 2014 including seven members of the Rivals250 and nine four-star prospects. Check out the updated class by clicking here.

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Seven Gators commits in third Rivals250 for 2014

Released Tuesday, the third edition of the Rivals250 for the class of 2014 is filled with players verbally committed to play for the Florida Gators next season. Though three Florida commits are part of the top 100 players in the group (list released Monday), four more are ranked among the top 250 recruits in the nation.

Below is a breakdown of where the Gators’ commits are ranked:

25 4 – QB Will Grier (Davidson, NC)
28 4 – RB Dalvin Cook (Miami, FL)
34 2 – WR Ermon Lane^ (Homestead, FL)
137 2 – DT Khairi Clark (Hollywood, FL)
148 2 – CB Quincy Wilson^ (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
158 74 – DB Duke Dawson (Cross City, FL)
249 5 – CB J.C. Jackson (Immokalee, FL)

^ New commitment since last update.

Notes:

» Dawson’s jump of 74 spots was the largest gain in the new rankings.
» Adjustments to non-Rivals250 players’ star ratings will be released Wednesday.

CommitmentPos.RivalsESPNOverall
» Washington, D.C. | Story
» Height: 6'1" | Weight: 186 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 1/9/2013
CB*10|11
» Davidson, NC | Story
» Height: 6'3" | Weight: 171 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 12/19/2012
QB*46|44
» Brooklyn, NY | Story
» Height: 6'4" | Weight: 299 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 1/15/2014
DT56|51
» New Orleans, LA | Story
» Height: 6'4" | Weight: 247 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 1/2/2014
DE83|42
» Cross City, FL | Story
» Height: 5'11" | Weight: 195 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 1/8/2013
CB*148|207
» Fort Lauderdale, FL | Story
» Height: 6'2" | Weight: 195 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 8/12/2013
CB172|292
» Perry, FL | Story
» Height: 6'3" | Weight: 205 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 12/12/2013
TE199|201
» Deerfield Beach, FL | Story
» Height: 5'9" | Weight: 167 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 1/10/2014
RB*200|267
» Immokalee, FL | Story
» Height: 5'10" | Weight: 175 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 6/8/2013
CB243|79
» Jacksonville, FL | Story
» Height: 6'8" | Weight: 295 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 12/12/2013
OLNR|20
» Hollywood, FL | Story
» Height: 6'2" | Weight: 325 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 6/22/2013
DTNR|211
» Clearwater, FL | Story
» Height: 6'5" | Weight: 235 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 7/25/2013
DENR|285
» Mount Pleasant, SC | Story
» Height: 6'6" | Weight: 303 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 8/10/2013
OL*NR
» Orlando, FL | Story
» Height: 6'0" | Weight: 180 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 12/2/2013
WRNR
» Jacksonville, FL | Story
» Height: 6'5" | Weight: 269 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 1/5/2014
OL*NR
» Casper, WY | Story
» Height: 6'5" | Weight: 275 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 6/10/2013
DE*NR
» Derby, KS | Story
» Height: 6'4" | Weight: 225 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 11/8/2013
TE*NR
» Jacksonville, FL | Story
» Height: 6'3" | Weight: 314 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 2/16/2013
OLNR
» Tampa, FL | Story
» Height: 6'0" | Weight: 163 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 1/20/2014
ATHNR
» Tuscaloosa, AL | Story
» Height: 6'5" | Weight: 212 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 5/23/2013
TENR
» Tallahassee, FL | Story
» Height: 6'6" | Weight: 310 lbs.
» Commitment Date: 12/18/2013
OL*JUCO

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