FOUR BITS: tennis wins SEC, gym, Davis, Hill

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators women’s tennis (22-1, 11-0 SEC) shutout the South Carolina Gamecocks (12-9, 4-7 SEC) 7-0 on Saturday to capture the outright 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship for the regular season at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The victory not only won Florida the SEC title and a No. 1 seed (including a bye) in the upcoming 2011 SEC Tournament, it was also the team’s 102nd consecutive regular season victory and 93rd-straight at home. The No. 8 doubles team of sophomore Allie Will and freshman Alex Cercone took down their No. 32-ranked opponents 8-4. No. 7 Will and No. 51 Cercone each won their singles matches, as did No. 20 sophomore Lauren Embree, No. 37 junior Joanna Mather, No. 49 freshman Olivia Janowicz and No. 104 freshman Sofie Oyen. The No. 43 duo of Embree and Oyen also won their doubles match earlier in the day.

2 » No. 5 Gators gymnastics was not as successful over the weekend, failing to advance to the 2011 NCAA Super Six team final by finishing fourth in Session II of the 2011 NCAA Championships semifinals. Florida finished with 196.125 points behind Alabama (197.05), Nebraska (196.85) and Utah (196.20). Fortunately for the Gators, three of the ladies advanced to the NCAA individual event finals on Sunday. Freshman Alaina Johnson will compete in vault, uneven bars and floor exercise; sophomore Marissa King will try her hand at vault and floor exercise; and senior Maranda Smith will participate in the floor exercise. All three were named to the All-American First Team.

3 » Florida 2012 running back commitment Mike Davis (Stone Mountain, GA) won a Most Valuable Player award for his group at the Nike Football Training Camp in Athens, GA on Friday. “Mike did some incredible things,” Jake Campbell, running backs coach at the camp, told ESPN. “He has great lateral movement and change of direction. He’s terrific in the open field. He’s a true running back where things come so natural to him. He’s versatile and has soft hands. He’s also a strong ball carrier who really seems to understand the position.”

4 » Gators safety Will Hill, waiting to find out who will take a chance on him in the 2011 NFL Draft, participated in a local prospect day for the New York Giants on Thursday. The Newark Star-Ledger’s Mike Garafolo says Hill “has the Giants intrigued” to the point that they have “look[ed] into the personal side of things” regarding his character.

Florida Gators WRs Dunkley, McRoy transferring

A pair of Florida Gators wide receivers have decided to transfer, the University of Florida announced on Friday. Redshirt freshman Chris Dunkley and freshman Javares McRoy will both continue their college careers at other institutions.

Dunkley, who was suspended from team activities this spring for academic reasons, has not announced where he will play.

“It’s been a great learning experience being here at the University of Florida,” he said in a release, “but I feel like it’s in my best interest to get a fresh start somewhere else.“

McRoy, who sat out the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut with what head coach Will Muschamp called a “medical procedure with his lung,” will join his brother on the Texas Tech Red Raiders, a school he initially committed to before switching to Florida.

“I enjoyed my time at Florida, but I really want the chance to play with my brother Ben, who is at Texas Tech,” he said in the release. “Florida has been very understanding and is giving me that opportunity.”

The Gators will enter the 2011 season with only nine scholarship receivers on the roster: redshirt senior Deonte Thompson; redshirt juniors Frankie Hammond, Jr. and Omarius Hines; redshirt sophomores Andre Debose and Stephen Alli; sophomores Robert Clark, Quinton Dunbar and Solomon Patton; and freshman Ja’Juan Story.

The departures of Dunkley and McRoy open up two additional scholarships Florida can use for the 2012 recruiting cycle.

“We wish both of these guys the best of luck in their future endeavors, both on and off the field,” Muschamp said.

Florida grants WR McRoy’s transfer to Texas Tech

The Florida Gators on Friday granted a transfer request from freshman wide receiver Javares McRoy, a four-star 2011 commitment who will leave the program immediately to join his brother with the Texas Tech Red Raiders, according to Rivals.

McRoy, who sat out the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut with what head coach Will Muschamp called a “medical procedure with his lung,” is a Lakeland, FL native who was originally committed to Texas Tech but switched allegiances on June 10. He was one of Florida’s seven early enrollees; the remaining commits enroll this summer.

Three-star commit Ja’Juan Story (Brooksville, FL) is the Gators’ only remaining receiver in their 2011 signing class. McRoy’s departure opens up an additional scholarship Florida can use for the 2012 recruiting cycle.

Photo Credit: Lakeland High School via ESPN

No. 6 Gators lacrosse makes history with 13-11 win over No. 2 Wildcats to win first ALC title

In only the program’s second season, No. 6 Florida Gators lacrosse (13-1, 4-0 ALC) made history by defeating the No. 2 Northwestern Wildcats (12-1, 2-1 ALC) 13-11 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL to capture at least a share of the 2011 ALC Regular Season Championship and the top seed in the 2011 ALC Tournament.

Florida accomplished this feat in front of the second-largest crowd in school history (1,518) just 419 days after beginning their inaugural season while continuing a 13-game winning streak and concluding the regular season an undefeated 11-0 at home.

Gators sophomore attacker and the nation’s leading scorer, Kitty Cullen registered six goals on the evening including a hat trick in each half. She was responsible for three of Florida’s four second-half goals on the way to a signature win for the program.

The Gators started out hot, scoring five-straight goals (including three from Cullen) to take an early 5-1 lead after Wildcats A Erin Fitzgerald notched the contest’s opening score. Florida kept the pressure on Northwestern through the first half, leading 9-4 at the break after sophomore Caroline Chesterman scored with 26 seconds left.

The five-goal deficit was the Wildcats’ largest of the season; Northwestern had only been down at the half on one other occasion all year.

The Wildcats were intense coming out of the locker rooms, with Fitzgerald once again scoring the half’s first goal. She was followed by a pair of scores, giving Northwestern three goals in under two minutes and leaving UF with a quickly reduced 9-7 lead.

Still up two goals, the Gators used a pair of free position shots from Cullen to jump ahead 12-8 with 14:44 left in the game. The Wildcats responded with three more goals to cut their deficit to 12-11 with 6:37 remaining on the clock.

Cullen would have none of it, hitting an unassisted goal with 5:35 to go to give Florida the 13-11 lead that would end the game. Supporting her team-high six goals were scores from Chesterman (three), sophomore Brittany Dashiell (three), sophomore A Ashley Bruns (two) and sophomore A Janine Hillier (two).

“I was just screaming, ‘Oh my God, we just won.’ It was so exciting,’’ Cullen said. “I’m so happy for me and my team. I wouldn’t want to share this with anyone else. This is what we’ve worked so hard for day in and day out.’’

The reigning ALC Defensive Player of the Week, goalkeeper Mikey Meagher was clutch the entire game, saving 10 shots including two in the final minutes with the Gators shorthanded due to a pair of yellow cards given out by the referees. She did not allow the opponent to score a single goal off a turnover and ensured her team was a perfect 22-for-22 on clearances away from the net.

The loss was Northwestern’s first in 2011 and first in the regular season since 2004. Florida never trailed after scoring their first goal and won the turnover battle 10-13.

Leading a team of 20 sophomores, six freshman and only one junior, UF head coach Amanda O’Leary was understandably emotional after the program-defining victory.

“We’re just so excited,” she said with a smile. “I have chills, goosebumps…I just couldn’t be more proud of what we accomplished tonight. We stayed focused when they went on runs. We didn’t let down. The team we are today is certainly not the team who played Northwestern last year.”

The Gators were shelled 19-5 in Evanston, IL one year ago, a win the Wildcats used to help propel them deep into the ALC Tournament. This year is Florida’s turn to capitalize. UF will face Vanderbilt (Apr. 17) and Cornell (May 1) before heading to Nashville, TN to begin the three-day event on May 5.

Photo Credit: Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun

Florida Gators in the 2011 NBA Playoffs

With the regular season wrapping up Wednesday night, the participants in the 2011 NBA Playoffs have now been determined. There are seven Florida Gators with roles on their squad’s active rosters among the 16 teams competing to appear in the 2011 NBA Finals. OGGOA has put together a comprehensive list of these players.

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

(1) Chicago Bulls
No. 13 C Joakim Noah
Season: 4th
Averages: 32.8 mins., 11.7 pts., 10.7 rebs., 2.8 asst., 1.5 blk., .525 FG%, .740 FT%

(2) Miami Heat*
No. 13 SG Mike Miller
Season: 12th
Averages: 20.4 mins., 5.6 pts., 4.5 rebs., 1.2 asst., .401 FG%, .364 3P%, .676 FT%

(5) Atlanta Hawks
No. 15 F/C Al Horford
Season: 4th
Averages: 35.1 mins., 14.3 pts., 9.3 rebs., 3.5 asst., 1.04 blk., .557 FG%, .800 FT%

(7) Philadelphia 76ers
No. 16 C Marreese Speights
Season: 3rd
Averages: 11.5 mins., 5.4 pts., 3.3 rebs., .495 FG%, .750 FT%

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

(1) San Antonio Spurs
No. 15 F Matt Bonner
Season: 7th
Averages: 21.7 mins., 7.3 pts., 3.6 rebs., 0.9 asst., .464 FG%, .457 3P%, .740 FT%

(3) Dallas Mavericks
No. 13 G/F Corey Brewer
Season: 4th
Averages: 11.4 mins., 5.3 pts., 1.8 rebs., 0.85 stl., .490 FG%, .308 3P%, .710 FT%

(8) Memphis Grizzlies
No. 3 PG Jason Williams
Season: 12th
Averages: 11.3 mins., 1.9 pts., 0.7 rebs., 2.5 asst., .310 FG%, .200 3P%

Playoff teams without Gators on their rosters: (3) Boston, (4) Orlando, (6) New York, (8) Indiana, (2) Los Angeles, (4) Oklahoma City, (5) Denver, (6) Portland, (7) New Orleans

* Miami PF Udonis Haslem has been out most of the season with a foot injury. He has not been listed as active for the playoffs.

FOUR BITS: lacrosse, softball, Andrews, Jenkins

1 » The biggest game in the two-year history of University of Florida lacrosse is set for Thursday evening as the No. 6 Florida Gators (12-1, 3-0 ALC) put their 12-game winning streak on the line against the No. 2 Northwestern Wildcats at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Led by sophomore attacker Kitty Cullen, who is tops in the nation in goals (61) and goals per game (4.69), Florida is undefeated (10-0) at home this season and will square off against Northwestern for the No. 1 seed in the 2011 American Lacrosse Conference Tournament. The Gators fell to the Wildcats 19-5 in 2010 but are playing much better in their second season, outscoring opponents 186-95 since losing their season-opening match to No. 3 North Carolina in overtime.

2 » In a game that was rumored to mark the return of senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher, No. 10 Florida softball didn’t end up needing their ace as they routed the Florida International Panthers 8-0 in a run-ruled six innings. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (20-5) has gotten back into stride after two weeks of rough outings. She pitched a complete game and struck out nine batters while only allowing a pair of hits. Senior second baseman Aja Paculba (1-3, 3 RBI) put the game away with a big double in the fourth, but the Gators also received solid offensive contributions from senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (1-2, HR, RBI, R, BB), sophomore pinch hitter Samantha Holle (1-1, HR 2 RBI, R), freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-2, 2 R, BB) and sophomore designated player Kelsey Horton (1-2, RBI, R).

3 » ESPN announced a new set of endorsement guidelines on Wednesday and, based on the language of the memo, former Florida dazzler and network reporter Erin Andrews will be forced to end her deal promoting Reebok’s ZigTech line of shoes and apparel. According to the guidelines, “Any endorsement related to apparel, footwear or athletic equipment used for training, playing or participating in any sport or event ESPN may cover including the companies that manufacture and distribute any such material” are “subject to strict review and a strong presumption that they will not be approved.” The Oregonian reports that Andrews will be allowed to continue her endorsement of the brand through 2011 but forced to end it on Jan. 1.

4 » Gators senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins has been named to the 2011 Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list, as announced by the organization on Wednesday. The Lott Trophy recognizes “student-athletes throughout the nation who have had the biggest impact on their teams both on and off the field.” Linebacker A.J. Jones represented Florida on 2010’s watch list.

LB Peterson: “I’m still in shock and even in awe.”

Back in Gainesville, FL over the weekend to be inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame 2011 class as a Gator Great, former Florida Gators linebacker Mike Peterson is enjoying his offseason while he waits for the NFL lockout situation to be settled so he can play football (hopefully) with the Atlanta Falcons next season.

Working out in Jacksonville, FL, Peterson sat down with OGGOA for a wide-ranging, in-depth interview Tuesday afternoon. A first-team All-American in 1998 and second-team All-Pro selection in 2005 who won a pair of Southeastern Conference Championships (1995-96) and a National Championship (1996) with Florida, he discussed at length his decision to play for the Gators, college career, NFL career, hall of fame induction, recent meeting with the team and foundation he began to help underprivileged families in both Gainesville and Atlanta, GA.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You were born and grew up in Alachua and Gainesville. How long after Florida offered you a scholarship did it take for you to give them your commitment?
MIKE PETERSON: “Not too long. The thing about it is: I never knew that I would go to Florida. I guess being from that area, you always say you’re going to leave home and go somewhere else. At the time, Coach Ron Zook was the linebacker coach and also the recruiting coordinator, so he convinced me to come on a visit. Once I came on a visit, man, it made no sense for me to go anywhere else. I had everything right there in my backyard. Shortly after they offered me the scholarship, I gave them my commitment.”

AS: Was your goal growing up to play for the Gators? Was there ever a time where you thought that might not happen or you might go somewhere else?
MP: “I was high on Michigan. Growing up, I said I wanted to get away. I went to high school there, elementary school, knew everything there, knew everybody there. I just considered I was going somewhere else. I visited Michigan – I was high on Michigan and Clemson – those were probably my top two. I was a quarterback coming out [of high school] and those were the two Division I schools that were going to give me a shot at quarterback. Once I visited Florida, man, it was hands-down where I needed to be.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Mike Peterson…after the break!
Continue Reading » LB Peterson: “I’m still in shock and even in awe.”

The Silver Lining: Billy Donovan’s character makes replacing his assistants effortless

When Larry Shyatt appeared to be the only assistant heading out the door, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan said he wanted to replace him with someone young. Learning over a 40-hour period that his entire staff would be leaving less than a month after reaching the Elite Eight in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, he decided to turn to a friendly face and a familiar colleague.

For Donovan, it was not a stretch to hire the two men he turned to right away. A six-year assistant under Donovan, former Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey brings stability and familiarity to the bench, while former St. Johns head coach Norm Roberts offers experience and vast amounts of knowledge. Both are excellent recruiters and respected coaches who will provide the team with a steadiness and sense of continuity even though the entire staff will be changing.

When you hear Donovan’s contemporaries rave about him, they not only discuss his ability to draw up plays, create game plans or scout opponents. They point to his character, management style and sterling reputation. That is why, before Shyatt was even out the door, Donovan had plenty of options on who he could hire to replace him.

“There’s a lot of good coaches out there,” he said Tuesday. “The one thing that’s been somewhat overwhelming and really positive is the amount of interest there’s been, especially when Larry left.”

Donovan is the type of coach who is not only concerned about winning basketball games but also making sure he develops his players on and off the court. He does the same thing for his assistants.

His track record helping assistants find head coaching jobs is unmistakable. The loyalty his former players and coaches show to him is unwavering. Donovan’s character and demeanor are why guys he has sent off to the NBA or others he has helped compete with him for honors like SEC Coach of the Year still refer back to him with high levels of gratitude and appreciation.

“My job, my responsibility is to help these kids grow, put them in a competitive situation to try to win something, teach them something through winning,” he said with a gleam in his eye. “And then also staff-wise, I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of a lot of guys whose lives got changed in a lot of different ways.”

Those traits he possesses are why – if he calls – Arkansas assistant Brett Nelson or Florida Atlantic assistant Matt McCall would probably fight it out to fill the third position on his new staff. They are why it took promises of coach-in-waiting positions from Texas and Louisville, respectively, to get Rob Lanier and Richard Pitino to leave his side.

“That’s one thing about this profession. Sometimes you never know about timing and opportunities,” Donovan said Tuesday.

One former assistant faced with a great opportunity was Shaka Smart, who was offered the VCU head coaching job after 10 months under Donovan. He was going back-and-forth about accepting the position because of the respect he had for his boss.

“I don’t think Shaka or I ever anticipated him leaving as quickly as he did. Obviously VCU made a great hire. When you get really good people, there’s going to be opportunities,” Donovan said. “There’s a difference when guys are out seeking and hunting jobs. I’ve been very fortunate that the guys I’ve had here haven’t done that.

“To tell you what kind of guy Shaka Smart is, he almost didn’t take the VCU [job] because he felt so guilty only being here 10 months. I pushed him out the door because I told him it was a great job and he needed to go. If he didn’t do it, he wouldn’t have experienced what he did this year.”

Perhaps most importantly, those characteristics Donovan possesses are why he can lose his entire staff in a matter of days and fill his two main assistant positions with top-notch former head coaches without so much as batting an eye.

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