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.

Milton-Jones: “What’s the point in playing if you’re not playing for a championship?”

By Nicole Boyett – OGGOA Student Correspondent

The WNBA may not be a professional sport followed by many Florida Gators fans, but it is time for them to start taking notice if they haven’t already as the only woman representing the Orange & Blue in the league, DeLisha Milton-Jones, has been nominated as one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All Time.

During her time at Florida, Milton-Jones led the Gators to four NCAA Tournament appearances (including the 1997 Elite Eight) while earning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and Associated Press All-American honors her senior year. She followed up her stellar collegiate career by playing in the ABL for two years before being was drafted with the No. 4 overall pick in the 1999 WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. Now in her 13th WNBA season, Milton-Jones is one of the most accomplished players to step on the hardwood.

She has won two Olympic gold medals for Team USA (2000, 2008), back-to-back WNBA titles with Los Angeles (2001, 2002) and a pair of Euroleague Championships (2003, 2006) while also having been named a WNBA All-Star twice (2000, 2007).

At of the end of the 2010 season, she was 11th in the WNBA in total points, 10th in total rebounds, ninth in field goals made, 14th in free throws made, sixth in total steals, 13th in total blocks, 11th in minutes per game, and seventh in total minutes played. Despite her impressive career and overwhelming talent on the court, Milton-Jones continues to be overlooked as one of the greatest female basketball players to ever lace up her shoes. The hope is that her talent is recognized on July 23 when the WNBA announces the league’s all-time Top 15 players at the 15th annual All-Star Game in San Antonio, TX.

Milton-Jones sat down with OGGOA’s Nicole Boyett for an exclusive interview just a handful of games into her 13th WNBA season. Averaging 12.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, she continues to lead the Sparks and hopes to be recognized for the impact she has made on women’s basketball in the United States.

NICOLE BOYETT: What does it mean to you to be the only Gator in the WNBA and to have had such a long and successful career?
DELISHA MILTON-JONES: “I am proud that I’m the lone standing Gator in the league, but I’m also sad because I feel like there should definitely be more of us in the league. When [former Florida star] Murriel Page* decided to leave after her achilles injury, that was pretty much it for us, and I think that her and I both did a great job of representing the Gators all these years.”
*Page was selected No. 3 overall in the 1998 WNBA Draft by the Washington Mystics. She is now an assistant coach under Amanda Butler at UF.

NB: As a Gator, you won SEC Player of the Year, were an All-American and went to the NCAA Tournament every year. With all of your accomplishments at Florida, do you get the opportunity to come back and talk to the team or head coach Amanda Butler?
DMJ: “It is difficult to support the team the way I would like to because, in the off-season during their season, is when I leave for Europe. After the WNBA season, I usually have a week, maybe less, to prepare myself for the next eight months in Europe, so there’s really no downtime for me. For the past 11 years, I’ve been playing in Europe as well as the WNBA year-round, so it is very difficult to get back. I wasn’t even able to come back when I was inducted into the WNBA Hall of Fame because it was during an important time in the season in Europe and the team wouldn’t allow me to come back, so I had to miss it. My mother had to go in my place. I’m hoping that – when it’s all said and done and I decide to retire – that they allow me to come back and be able to participate in the ceremony in a different way.”

NB: You’ve won two gold medals with Team USA, two WNBA Championships and two Euroleague titles. How do those compare to each other and how does winning a gold medal compare to winning a championship?
DMJ: “A championship is a championship, but they all feel good. I think the difference is that the gold medals probably have more value to me because it’s on the largest stage possible and I won. I consider myself to be so blessed, lucky, and privileged to have been a participant in several Olympics. That’s just a dream come true and it lets you know that you are in a category that many people would give their arm for just to be able to participate in. To be able to walk into the opening ceremonies and participate in the game is something that was so special that if I hadn’t gotten the gold medal, it wouldn’t matter because the memories will last a lifetime. Any time I think of that feeling, it just sends chills down my spine.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Milton-Jones…after the break!
Continue Reading » Milton-Jones: “What’s the point in playing if you’re not playing for a championship?”

FOUR BITS: baseball deals, tennis, Ball, Mudd

1 » A trio of now former Florida Gators baseball players signed professional contracts this week. Seniors second baseman Josh Adams and right-handed pitcher Matt Campbell agreed to their deals, and junior left-handed pitcher Nick Maronde gave up his final year of eligibility by choosing to play professionally in 2011. Adams, the No. 403 overall pick in the 13th round by the Florida Marlins, will begin his career with the Class A Jamestown Jammers (New York-Penn League). The No. 751 overall pick in the 24th round, Matt Campbell signed with the Philadelphia Phillies and will report to the rookie league Gulf Coast League Phillies. Maronde was picked the highest out of all his teammates as the Los Angeles Angels selected him with the No. 104 overall pick in the third round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He will head over to the Pioneer League’s Orem Owlz and try to work his way up the ranks.

2 » The 2011 USTA Collegiate Team was announced on Thursday and two Gators made the cut. Juniors No. 4 Lauren Embree and No. 9 Allie Will were selected for the team, which is funded by the USTA and administered in conjunction with the ITA. Players will have the chance to train and develop as they compete on the USTA Pro Circuit. Joining the duo, on the men’s side, is junior Sekou Bangoura, Jr..

3 » Florida sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball, still recovering from an arteriovenous malformation found in his brain in Feb., is expected to sit out the 2011 season as he continues to recover. The Orlando Sentinel’s Rachel George spoke this week with Ball’s brother-in-law, who told her that the player underwent “radial surgery” that was performed with the hope “that the malformation withers up and dies over time.” Having not practiced since the spring and unable to work out with the team, Ball would not be in shape to play in 2011 even if completely cleared by doctors. His brother-in-law confirmed this to the Sentinel but also provided good news about his overall heath. “He’s healthy. He’s fine,” he said. “He’s probably going to miss next season. […] We’re all appreciative to Coach [Will] Muschamp, the doctors, the staff, everybody.”

4 » Former Florida All-American golfer Jessie Mudd has turned in his orange for white after being named assistant men’s golf coach for the Kentucky Wildcats on Thursday. Mudd helped propel the Gators to three top-10 NCAA finishes and won multiple awards including notably being named co-SEC Freshman of the Year.

Gators’ 2011 freshmen pick uniform numbers

Athletes care about their uniform numbers, and now that Florida Gators football is preparing to begin practice for the 2011-12 season in just about a month, it was time for the team’s newest members to choose theirs. The freshman roster as of May 2011, according to the University of Florida‘s media guide, is as follows:

» No. 5 – Marcus Roberson (Fort Lauderdale, FL), four-star cornerback
» No. 15Louchiez Purifoy (Pensacola, FL), four-star cornerback
» No. 16 – Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL), five-star quarterback
» No. 17 – Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL), four-star quarterback
» No. 20 – Valdez Showers (Madison Heights, MI), three-star cornerback
» No. 21 – Jabari Gorman (Miami, FL), four-star safety
» No. 26 – De’Ante Saunders (Deland, FL), four-star cornerback
» No. 33 – Chris Johnson (Ocala, FL), three-star safety
» No. 41 – Hunter Joyer (Wesley Chapel, FL), three-star fullback
» No. 44 – Kyle Christy (Brownsburg, IN), three-star punter
» No. 55 – Graham Stewart (Middletown, CT), four-star linebacker
» No. 63 – Trip Thurman (Dover, DE), four-star guard
» No. 65 – Tommy Jordan (Ridgefield, CT), three-star guard
» No. 80 – Ja’Juan Story (Brooksville, FL), four-star wide receiver
» No. 81 – A.C. Leonoard (Jacksonville, FL), four-star tight end
» No. 86 – Clay Burton (Venice, FL), three-star defensive end
» No. 97 – Tevin Westbrook (Coconut Creek, FL), three-star defensive end

There have also been a number of uniform number changes for current Gators:

» No. 1 – Chris Rainey, redshirt senior running back (formerly No. 3)
» No. 2 – Dominique Easley, sophomore defensive tackle (formerly No. 58)
» No. 3 – Jelani Jenkins, redshirt sophomore linebacker (formerly No. 43)
» No. 4 – Sharrif Floyd, sophomore defensive tackle (formerly No. 73)
» No. 92 – Lynden Trail, redshirt freshman defensive end (formerly No. 85)

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.

Danny Wuerffel continues to get stronger

A few weeks ago, Florida Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel was diagnosed with and hospitalized for Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder in which, as the Mayo Clinc puts it, “your body’s immune system attacks your nerves.” Though he is not forced to stay in the hospital overnight, Wuerffel has been undergoing extensive treatment for the disease in an effort to recover from it as quickly as possible.

He continues to receive outpatient treatment and is on the road to recovery. Wednesday morning, Wuerffel released the following message to friends and fans through Desire Street Ministries, of which he is the executive director.

Dear Friends,

As I move into the second month of my battle with Guillain Barre, I’m finally starting to feel more like a person and less like a patient. And I’m getting stronger.

I can get around the house pretty well and have started rehab. I’m doing some push-ups, knee bends (which is the medical term for wimpy squats without any weight), and have been able to ride the stationary bike a little (for all you folks who think now is the time to finally beat me at something, you better hurry up cause I’m coming back strong, baby! :)

But in addition to getting stronger, I’m also learning a lot about strength. And this morning at 5:45am, my teacher was a turtle.

As he slowly walked across the yard, I wondered how long it would take for him to get to the bushes 10 feet away. But he stopped walking, stuck his head up and just sat still, like he was waiting for something. After about 30 minutes of watching a still turtle make no progress, I began a morning devotion.

[…]

Pray for me that while my body begins to regain its physical strength, I’ll continue to sit and wait, drawing from the well that overflows with everlasting strength.

At 7:05am, I could hear my kids crying inside, and my official day had begun. The turtle still hadn’t moved…he out-waited me.

God bless you,
Danny

Wuerffel has requested that any gifts, donations or letters of support be made to DSM rather than him personally. Should you wish to send any of the aforementioned, please direct them to adam@onlygators.com, and I will forward them to the appropriate contact.

The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (89-80)

With the 2010-11 athletic season now in the books and the 2011-12 season about to begin, the focus has shifted from some of the school’s smaller sports to, of course, Florida Gators football. In this new series, OGGOA will take a look at every player of substance on the roster, counting down by jersey number, until the season begins.

89 – Stephen Alli (Toronto, ON)
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver
6’5” 220 lbs.

Quick Bio: A social & behavioral sciences major, Alli is a SEC Freshman Academic Honor Roll member who did not see the field in 2009 but played in all 13 games last season. He is also the only Canadian on the team.

Career Stats/2010 Season: Played in all 13 games, registering three receptions for 17 yards. He spent most of his time on the kickoff return and punt block teams.

2011 Outlook: Singled out as a leader by head coach Will Muschamp during spring practice, Alli was listed as the second X-receiver on the depth chart behind redshirt junior Frankie Hammond, Jr.. He is one of nine scholarship receivers on the roster entering the 2011 season.

86 – Clay Burton (Venice, FL)
Freshman defensive end/linebacker
6’4” 234 lbs.

Quick Bio: The younger brother of Florida standout sophomore Trey Burton, Clay is an early enrollee who was a three-star defensive end coming out of high school.

2011 Outlook: Previously penciled in as a third-string defensive end behind senior William Green and redshirt freshman Chris Martin, Burton will likely move up into the back-up role unless the Gators move another defensive lineman into the position.

86 – Josh Postell (Atlanta, GA)
Redshirt junior tight end
6’4” 218 lbs.

Quick Bio: Originally enrolled to compete with the track & field team while studying health education and behavior, Postell walked on to the Florida football team in the fall of 2009. He participated on the scout team that year before finally seeing game action in 2010.

Career Stats (two games): Two receptions for 16 yards

2010 Season: Postell caught a pair of balls against Vanderbilt and stepped on the field against Appalachian State but did not play the rest of the year.

2011 Outlook: Listed on offensive coordinator Charlie Weis’s early depth chart as a back-up at the F-12 position (when the team features one halfback and two tight ends), Postell saw his other competition for the job (redshirt freshman Michael McFarland) transfer in early July. If he does see the field, his work will mostly be limited to blocking duties, though he could haul in a ball or two.

85 – Frankie Hammond, Jr. (Hollywood, FL)
Redshirt junior wide receiver
6’1” 176 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star wideout, Hammond is a dual-sport athlete who is also a jumper with the track team. He majors in social & behavioral sciences and earned his way back on scholarship this year after being arrested for driving under the influence in June 2010.

Career Stats (26 games): 26 receptions for 333 yards, three touchdowns; five punt returns for 16 yards; one kick return for 23 yards

2010 Season: Catching just four balls during his redshirt freshman year in 2009, Hammond missed the first two games of 2010 due to suspension but played in the 11 remaining contests. He posted career highs in receptions (five) and yards (69) against Mississippi State and was Florida’s leading receiver that game.

2011 Outlook: Hammond steps into a starting role this season and will likely see time as X-receiver during most offensive possessions. Possessing impressive speed and soft hands, he will be catching passes from redshirt senior John Brantley for the second-straight season and should provide a bit of familiarity for the quarterback.

84 – Quinton Dunbar (Miami, FL)
Sophomore wide receiver
6’1” 170 lbs.

Quick Bio: Teammates with redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail at Booker T. Washington in Miami, Dunbar was also a four-star recruit who, like his teammate, majors in social and behavioral sciences.

2010 Season: Saw action against Miami and LSU.

2011 Outlook: Poised to be one of the Gators’ breakout players this season, Dunbar received high praise from Muschamp and Weis during the spring. He dropped a gift of a pass in the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut but really opened the eyes of his coaches and teammates during practice. “You can’t take away from what Quinton Dunbar has done vertically down the field through the entire body of work of spring,” Muschamp said after the scrimmage. “Dunbar has made more big plays than anybody else.”

83 – Solomon Patton (Mobile, AL)
Sophomore wide receiver
5’9” 175 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star prospect coming out of high school, Patton badly wanted to play for UF and chose Florida over his hometown team of Alabama during the recruiting process. A social & behavioral sciences major, Patton was one of a handful of freshman to see meaningful time on the field one year ago.

Career Stats/2010 Season: Patton reeled in four balls for 27 yards and returned seven kickoffs for 196 yards last season. He appeared in 10 games and was a special teams standout who not only brought the ball back on occasion but also blocked one punt and returned another block punt for a touchdown. His 48-yard kickoff return and blocked punt in the Outback Bowl were two of the most memorable plays of the season.

2011 Outlook: Though the Gators have plenty of speedsters, Weis plans to utilize Patton at F-11 during one halfback and one tight end sets. He looked good running the reverse during the Orange & Blue Debut and is excited about the direction of the team. “The coaching staff that we have this year, I’m really enjoying it,” he said. “I just feel like our swag is back. This coaching staff is so laid back, but at the same time they’re coaching us hard. They’re letting us play how we’ve been recruited to play. I’m really excited.”

82 – Omarius Hines (Corsicana, TX)
Redshirt junior wide receiver
6’2” 211 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star wide receiver, Hines majors in social & behavioral sciences like many of his teammates and has been moved around a lot during his collegiate career. He used his redshirt in 2008 after dressing but not playing in four games.

Career Stats (17 games): 34 receptions for 453 yards, two touchdowns; 12 carries for 152 yards, two touchdowns

2010 Season: After seeing the field in small bursts one year earlier, Hines started seven contests in 2010 and played in every game. He ended the year with 20 receptions for 281 yards but was moved around a lot due based on others’ injuries and suspensions. He went into the year slotted to play tight end but saw time at receiver and running back. Hines caught a career-high four balls against Georgia and led the team in rushing against Mississippi State (six carries for 58 yards and a TD). He also converted a 36-yard fake punt run against Tennessee.

2011 Outlook: A do-everything player who has soft enough hands to play wideout, Hines will fall back into that role as he is slated to be the team’s starting Z-receiver this season. Muschamp called him the most versatile and consistent pass catcher on the team, noting that he can play in the backfield in the F position and also line up at X-receiver.

81 – A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, FL)
Freshman tight end
6’4” 245 lbs.

Quick Bio: Considered a top-five player at his position nationally coming out of high school, Leonard was a four-star prospect who was part of both the Rivals100 and ESPNU 150. He enrolled early for 2011 and was a bit homesick but eventually got over it and quickly impressed his teammates and coaches on the field.

2011 Outlook: Listed as the back-up to redshirt sophomore Jordan Reed, Leonard made some nice catches during the Orange & Blue Debut. Muschamp spent some one-on-one time with him in the spring and has a good handle on what he can do for the team in the future. “As he ended the offseason program, he really started to mature and grow up,” the coach said. “I’m very proud of where he is right now. He’s doing a nice job academically. He’s a guy that can really help us in the fall as he continues to mature. Another guy that this time of the year is very important for.”

THE COUNTDOWN: 99-90 | 89-80 | 79-70 | 69-60 | 59-50 | 49-40 |
39-30 | 29-20 | 19-10 | 9-1

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.

 Page 462 of 745  « First  ... « 460  461  462  463  464 » ...  Last »