Gator Bites for Thursday, July 15th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share with our readers. In those instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» Former Florida Gators forward/center David Lee of the Golden State Warriors has been invited to try out for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team and will be trying to prove his worth during a training camp next week in Las Vegas, NV.

» Twilight actress Ashley Greene is a huge Gators fan, even recently discussing the team on Jimmy Kimmel Live! (watch video). Here is a picture of her Wednesday night with Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow at the ESPYs in Los Angeles, CA. Looks like a happy (and beautiful) young lady.

» Speaking of the ESPYs and Tebow, host Seth Meyers of Saturday Night Live joked about the Heisman Trophy winner during a small portion of his opening monologue. “Tim Tebow is here. Tim’s jersey is already one of the top selling jerseys in the NFL. I heard that and thought: ‘Jesus…who does this guy know? … Oh right, Jesus.’ Just kidding, Tim. And I hope this goes without saying but…just kidding, Jesus.”

» One more… Playing a slight joke on Tebow on the ride back to the hotel Wednesday night after the ESPYs was ESPN‘s NFL insider Chris Mortensen. Sitting next to him on the hotel shuttle, Mortensen told him, “You’re gonna make a heckuva H-back.” Tebow “had a good laugh.” Also confirmed in attendance were Minnesota Timberwolves forward Corey Brewer and sideline reporters Erin Andrews and Jenn Brown.

» Ranking his top six basketball players of the 2011 recruiting class, FOX Sports’ Jeff Goodman has Florida five-star commit Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) taking the last spot. “[He] reminds me so much of Ray Allen. He’s silky smooth and can really shoot the ball from deep. Beal is also a winner,” Goodman notes.

» Three former Gators golfers – Camilo Villegas, Brian Gay and Mark Calcavecchia – are participating in The Open Championship at St. Andrews this weekend. In opening round action, the three men are T17 (-4), T46 (-2) and T73 (E), respectively.

» Sophomore jumper Christian Taylor, who had a great track & field season with Florida, won his second gold medal at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Under-23 Championships at Ansin Sports Complex in Miramar, FL, on Sunday. Winning the men’s triple jump to go along with his men’s long jump crown over the weekend, he is also a three-time NCAA Champion.

» The University of Florida‘s Stephen C. O’Connell Center has been named the host of the 2013 NCAA Gymnastics Southeast Regional.

» If you love recruiting and would like a quick update as to where the Gators are right now in putting together their 2011 class, check out this piece by ESPN recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg. Most if not all of this has already been written about here on OGGOA, but Newberg’s article is a nice recap and does provide some interesting tidbits.

FOUR BITS: Offer, future, sneakers, Spikes

1 » Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan has given a verbal scholarship offer to four-star 2012 shooting guard Michael Frazier (Tampa, FL), according to the St. Petersburg Times. Frazier, who currently boasts offers from 13 other schools ranging from Michigan to Harvard, has a 4.0 GPA and is “open to everybody right now.”

2 » Taking a look at Florida basketball on Thursday, Jeff Goodman of FOX Sports believes the Gators are in position to do something they have not done 2007 – make some serious noise in the NCAA Tournament. “Florida may not be what it was a few years back when the Gators won back-to-back national titles, but they are now in a position to make a deep tournament run over the next few years,” he writes. “In two years, the perimeter down in Gainesville will feature [Erving] Walker, [Kenny] Boynton, [Brad] Beal and Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario with a backcourt of [Patric] Young, [Erik] Murphy, [Cody] Larson and [Will] Yeguete.”

3 » To help promote the release of EA SportsNCAA Football 11 video game, the company teamed up with Nike to release a signature Nike Trainer for the occasion. Blue with orange and white accents, the sneaker features reminders of former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow’s “Promise” speech on Sept. 27, 2008, a company logo and mention of the video game. One picture can be seen here, but the rest can be found at SoleCollector.com. The site reports that the shoe will be released in “extremely limited quantities in the very near future.” In other words…if you have the ability to buy them…pick up an extra size 11-11.5 for OGGOA…or we’re not friends anymore.

4 » Answering readers’ questions about the New England Patriotsyouth movement, Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe touched on how some former Florida players are progressing. About linebacker Brandon Spikes specifically, Young says he “was already being asked to call signals in the huddle with the second unit during spring camps and could well challenge incumbent Gary Guyton” for the job. The coaching staff also values the versatility that tight end Aaron Hernandez brings to the table; he will mostly be used as a receiver and H-back and could end up being a starter.

Contract details for Mike Miller and Matt Bonner

Reported by OGGOA on July 9 and July 13, respectively, former Florida Gators guard/forward Mike Miller has decided to join the Miami Heat and power forward Matt Bonner has chosen to re-sign with the San Antonio Spurs.

Contract specifics for both players were made available Wednesday night.

Miller is set to sign a five-year, $29.8 million contract with the Heat on Thursday, according to FOX Sports. He will becoming the second former Florida player on the team alongside PF Udonis Haslem; the two Gators were also teammates in Gainesville, FL.

The Spurs have signed Bonner, a bench player for the team since 2006, to a four-year, $16 million deal that will help San Antonio maintain consistency in the front court.

OGGOA RELATED: Miller, Heat agree on five-year, $30 million deal
OGGOA RELATED: Matt Bonner agrees to return to San Antonio

Matt Bonner agrees to return to San Antonio

Former Florida Gators power forward Matt Bonner agreed to contract terms with the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.

After short stints with Italy’s Sicilia Messina (2003-04) and the Toronto Raptors (2004-06), he has spent the last four seasons with San Antonio after the team traded for him in 2006. A three-point specialist, Bonner shot 39 percent from downtown in 2009-10 and averaged 7.0 points per game as a bench player.

He was a member of the 2006-07 NBA Champion Spurs and is only one of two players (center Tiago Splitter) the team has signed so far this offseason.

Terms of his deal have not been disclosed per team policy.

Eagles sign WR Riley Cooper to four-year deal

The Philadelphia Eagles and former Florida Gators wide receiver Riley Cooper agreed to terms Tuesday on a four-year rookie contract. Selected in the 159th overall pick in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Cooper is the third of nine University of Florida players selected in April to officially sign his NFL deal. His contract is worth $1.962 million, and Cooper will receive a $171,500 signing bonus.

“The guy’s a ball player. I’m not surprised he came up and had a great mini camp,” former Gators tight end and Eagles teammate Cornelius Ingram told OGGOA about watching Cooper workout last month. “I’m pretty excited for what he has going on, too.”

Cooper will try to earn a spot as one of the team’s reserve receivers during training camp; he will likely fill Philadelphia’s No. 4 receiver slot or end up playing special teams if he is beat out by another player. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant have all locked down starting jobs this season.

Safety Major Wright, drafted by the Chicago Bears in the third round, and tight end Aaron Hernandez, picked up by the New England Patriots in the fourth round, have each already agreed to terms with their respective clubs.

OGGOA will update this story as more information is made available.

Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

TWO BITS: Gators joke, Crowder speaks (Videos)

1 » While watching Last Comic Standing on NBC Monday night, OGGOA stumbled across a Florida Gators-centric joke that we thought you might enjoy. Check out the video below (hint: raise your volume):

2 » Brought to our attention Tuesday is an interview that Miami Dolphins starting inside linebacker Channing Crowder gave to ESPN 760 AM in South Florida. The former Gators star speaks about his team’s chances for the upcoming season among other topics like whether or not he is a “Bill Parcells guy.”

FOUR BITS: Chapman, Parsons, Macklin, Brown

1 » Drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals, Florida Gators junior closer Kevin Chapman realized his dream and solidified his future by officially signing with the team on Monday. Posting a 1.64 ERA and 3-0 record with 11 saves in 43.2 innings last season, Chapman struck out 44 batters and only walked seven. He has been assigned to the Royals’ Class A affiliate Wilmington Blue Rocks of the Carolina League and will do his best to work his way through the minor leagues and into the majors soon.

2 » While a number of the NBA’s top free agents were deciding their futures last week, some of college basketball and high school basketball’s top players participated in the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron, OH. ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla was on-site and had this to report about the two Gators who were invited:

Redshirt senior forward/center Vernon Macklin
Macklin is not a fluid athlete but is tough around the basket and gives a very good effort. He’s a big key for a Gator resurgence this season.

Senior forward Chandler Parsons
Parsons played well at the camp, showing an ability to slash to the rim and make jump shots, as well. For a right-hander, he’s a very dominant left-handed driver. I would work on that right hand the rest of the summer if I were Parsons.

An interview with Jenn Brown and update on Dwayne Schintzius…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Chapman, Parsons, Macklin, Brown

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, a Florida Gators booster, passes away at 80

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner has passed away. He was 80.

Steinbrenner, who will be remembered for leading the Yankees to 11 American League pennants and seven World Series victories as its principal owner, ceded day-to-day control of the team to his sons Hank and Hal Steinbrenner in 2006 as his health began to fail and he spent more time in Tampa, FL.

Purchasing the team for $8.7 million in 1973, Steinbrenner’s shrewd business acumen, tough decision making and unparalleled demand for success raised the Yankees’ value to over a $1.5 billion at the time of his passing.

He had notable disagreements with the commissioner’s office, fellow owners, managers and even his own players but also made significant and game-changing baseball moves in his career including being the first owner to sell his team’s television rights, turning the Yankees into a worldwide brand, signing free agents like Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield and Alex Rodriguez, and building the most lavish stadium in baseball history.

Steinbrenner’s son Hal, the franchise’s co-chairperson, general partner and de facto public face who earned a Master’s degree in business administration from the University of Florida in 1994, is one of the reasons his father decided to become a full-fledged Bull Gator and generous contributor to the Florida Gators program.

Though Steinbrenner did donate the lights at McKethan Stadium to the school in 1977, his largest contribution is the Steinbrenner Band Building, which was made possible by a generous gift commitment (believed to be in the seven-figures) from the family in 2002. Completed in the spring of 2008, it is located adjacent to the Music Building and serves a number of purposes for The Pride of the Sunshine, The University of Florida Fightin’ Gator Marching Band.

He also donated $260,000 in 1989 to help UF build the College of Veterinary Medicine’s large animal hospital and another $400,000 in 2005 which went toward the purchase of an equine imaging machine. Steinbrenner owned stables and horses.

Recently, George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL, hosted The Florida Four, a two-game baseball tournament featuring arguably the four best schools in the state including the Gators. It was something Steinbrenner had hoped to see before he passed on, and he had the chance to do just that on March 2.

“As a past collegiate coach, it is George Steinbrenner’s dream to create this event for Tampa,” said Felix Lopez, the Yankees’ senior vice president.

A native of Ohio, the only time Steinbrenner did not root for Florida was during the 2006 BCS National Championship; instead, he cheered on his Ohio State Buckeyes.

“I wish the University of Florida luck in the championship game,” Steinbrenner said at the time, “but I have to say that I’m rooting for Ohio State.”

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