WR Cornelius: “I just tried to do whatever I could.”

Former Florida Gators wide receiver Jemalle Cornelius has one of the biggest smiles you will ever see. And he has plenty to be happy about these days. Having settled down in his hometown of Fort Meade, FL, Cornelius is the head coach of his high school team and is continuing the legacy of his former coach, whose retirement two years ago gave him the opportunity to take the reigns.

Married with three children, Corenlius chose stability over chasing his original dream – playing in the NFL. Speaking with me last week for a feature published on InsideTheGators.com, he opened up about choosing to attend Florida, going through two coaching changes, how his coaches developed him as a player and person, putting the desire to play professionally in his rear view mirror and doing what he can to improve the play and character of his student-athletes.

Check out the feature I wrote last week (subscription required) and supplement it with the remainder of my 45-minute interview with Cornelius found here:

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Talk about growing up in Fort Meade and how that experience is different from how other people you know grew up.
JEMALLE CORNELIUS: “It was different. I grew up in a real small town, not much to do. All we had as kids was sports. We didn’t have no movies or much stuff to do for entertainment. So we played sandlot football during football season, played baseball during baseball season. Year-round we were just playing sports; that’s pretty much all we had. My dad was a pastor at a church, so he was always involved in the community. He coached me when I was growing up – every sport I played. He was always there. I saw [sports] as my way out, my opportunity.”

AS: Was football always your best sport?
JC: “I started off playing baseball. I was a good baseball player. In Fort Meade, it was crazy, when I was coming up we didn’t even have little league football. We had to go to another city just to play. When I grew up, I played a lot of sandlot football, but it was baseball because we had a baseball team. I first got involved with football in seventh grade. When I got to high school, I just got tired of playing baseball because that’s all I did. It just kind of got boring and football was more exciting, so I leaned towards that.”

AS: You were a standout wide receiver your junior year of high school, but senior year you did it all: starting quarterback, defensive back and punt returner. What was it like being asked to do so much?
JC: “My junior year, we had a real good team. We were stacked. We had a lot of guys coming back; we just didn’t have as many athletes. Coach just kind of pulled me to the side and told me he was going to put me at quarterback. I was the back-up quarterback the year before. At that time, all I wanted to do was win a state championship, so I felt like that was the best thing for me to do. I went over to quarterback. I played defensive back. I returned punts and kicks. I just tried to do whatever I could to, first of all, win a state championship, and then being recruited as a player, the more you can do the better you look to a college coach.”

AS: It must have been tough losing those three title games…
JC: “We went three years in a row – my sophomore year, junior year and senior year – we went to state and lost to North Florida Christian. They had [Florida State linebacker] Ernie Sims at the time, and every year he beat me. Every single year.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Jemalle Cornelius…after the break!
Continue Reading » WR Cornelius: “I just tried to do whatever I could.”

Florida shares SEC lead after Vanderbilt series

Fighting and clawing their way through a three-game road series against the No. 2 Vanderbilt Commodores over the weekend, No. 5 Florida Gators baseball won two of three games over a four-day span that included an extra-inning finale to create a three-way tie for first place in the Southeastern Conference regular season standings.

FRIDAY: Florida hit the road hoping to take advantage of Vanderbilt early and often. They had no such luck during their first day as sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall drew the start and gave up four runs (two earned) on eight hits in five innings without striking out a single batter. The Gators trailed the Commodores 4-2 through five innings before rain and lightning suspended the game until Saturday.

SATURDAY: The second half of the game begin with a pair of scoreless frames. Then Florida tied it up 4-4 in the top of the seventh. With one out and redshirt sophomore first baseman Vickash Ramjit (1-2, R) on base after smacking a lead-off single up the middle, sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, R, BB) homered to right field to even up the contest. Vanderbilt took a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth, but UF did what they could to take advantage of their three remaining outs.

Senior second baseman Josh Adams (1-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) led off the inning with a solo shot to left to tie the game. Then, after junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (1-4, R) singled to left field with one out and advanced to second on a wild pitch, senior center fielder Bryson Smith (1-5, RBI) doubled to right to score Pigott before the frame ended two batters later. Junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani (5-2) picked up the win after getting the final two outs of the eighth, and sophomore RHP Austin Maddox earned his second save of the season by pitching a hitless ninth.

Just a few hours later, the Gators and Commodores went at it again. Florida took an early 1-0 lead in the second game of the series after Smith (1-4, HR, RBI, R) homered in the top of the third, but Vanderbilt piled it on from there scoring two runs in the bottom of the inning, six in the fifth, two in the sixth and four more in the seventh to annihilate UF 14-1. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (7-3) had the worst start of his career, allowing eight earned runs on nine hits in 4.1 innings of work. If that wasn’t enough, freshman LHP Daniel Gibson, the second reliever out of the bullpen, coughed up five earned runs on five hits in two-thirds of an inning.

SUNDAY: With the series even and VU still holding down first place in the SEC, the Gators had their work cut out for them in the rubber match. Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson got the call for Florida but only lasted 4.1 innings after giving up three earned runs on five hits while striking out five. Vanderbilt led 3-1 through the first four innings with UF’s sole run coming on a solo homer by Maddox in the top of the second.

Junior LHP Nick Maronde relieved Whitson and played top-notch ball for the Gators, striking out three and only allowing a single hit in 3.1 innings. His efforts allowed Florida to tie the game with single runs in the seventh and eighth inning. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino smacked a solo shot to start the seventh, and the Gators rallied in the eighth to get Fontana (3-5, 2 R) home from third base. With the bases loaded and one out, Zunino hit a sacrifice fly to left field to tie the game 3-3.

The Commodores blew a chance in the ninth by stranding a pair of runners, and both teams left two on base with one out in their portion of the 10th. Vanderbilt got Florida to ground out thrice in the 11th, and junior RHP Tommy Toledo struck out back-to-back batters with the winning run on third base in the bottom of the inning.

The Gators took a breath and entered the 12th hoping to bring the game home. Fontana walked on a full count to start the inning, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and was joined on base by Tucker, who was intentionally walked. The Commodores called for a pitching change, replacing Jack Armstrong with Navery Moore. After working Moore to a full count, Zunino (2-5, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 R) hit a three-run homer to right field to give UF (39-13, 20-7 SEC) a 6-3 lead and clinch the series at VU (42-8, 20-7 SEC). Toledo (3-3) picked up the win after striking out three in two full innings.

The victory propels Florida into a three-way tie for the SEC lead with Vanderbilt and South Carolina. Each team sports a 20-7 conference record and is set for a separate three-game series next weekend. UF will host Kentucky Thursday-Saturday at home after facing Jacksonville on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Gators tennis teams advance to Sweet 16

Sunday was a special day for the Florida Gators tennis program as both the No. 8 men’s and No. 2 women’s teams advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament after sweeping their opponents on a sunny day at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL.

After a weather delay forced their contest to continue Sunday, the Florida men (20-8) got the day started early and shut out the No. 27 Miami Hurricanes (15-9) 4-0.

The No. 17 duo of senior Alexandre Lacroix and sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr. led the doubles teams, winning their match 8-2. Joining them to cinch the doubles point was junior Nassim Slilam and sophomore Billy Federhofer (7-6).

No. 7 Lacroix (6-1, 6-1), No. 89 Slilam (6-2, 6-2) and freshman Spencer Newman (6-0, 6-4) all won their singles matches; Newman’s victory clinched the contest for the Gators. Lacroix’s singles win propelled him to historic status. He is now the all-time overall wins leader in school history with 209 career victories.

The Florida women (27-1) wrapped up the afternoon in similar form, shutting out the South Carolina Gamecocks (14-11) 4-0 behind a strong team performance.

The 45th-ranked team of sophomore Lauren Embree and freshman Sofie Oyen made short work of their opponents, beating them 8-2 for the Gators’ first doubles win. Freshman Olivia Janowicz and junior Joanna Mather followed them with an 8-3 victory, clinching the doubles point for Florida.

No. 7 sophomore Allie Will absolutely trounced No. 44 Anya Morgina of South Carolina, stifling her in straight sets (6-0, 6-0). Helping her complete the sweep for the Gators were No. 42 Mather (6-2, 6-2) and No. 54 freshman Alex Cercone (6-0, 6-3); the latter victory clinched the match.

Florida men’s and women’s tennis will play later this week in Stanford, CA. The men compete on Thursday at 3 p.m., while the women take the court on Friday at 3 p.m.

Florida lacrosse tops Stanford 13-11 in NCAAs

The first program in the history of the sport to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament in only its second year of existence, No. 4 Florida Gators lacrosse (16-3) defeated the Stanford Cardinal (16-3) 13-11 on Saturday evening in the first round of the 2011 event at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Led by sophomores attacker Kitty Cullen and midfielder Janine Hillier, who had four goals apiece, Florida went back-and-forth with Stanford after multiple weather delays that pushed the start time back to 6 p.m.

The Gators jumped ahead 4-0 less than six minutes into the game, but the Cardinal evened things up with a 4-0 run spanning 17:55. Hillier snuck a goal in via an assist from sophomore M Brittany Dashiell to put UF ahead 5-4 going into the break.

Florida took a three-goal lead with scores from Hillier and Dashiell in the first minute of the second half, but another 4-0 run by Stanford gave them an 8-7 advantage.

After Dashiel tied things up for the Gators with 20:01 to play, the Cardinal went back on top 9-8. Florida outscored Stanford 5-2 over the final 16:45 of the game to prevail, running out the final 10:15 after Cullen scored the team’s final goal.

UF advances to face the winner of No. 5 Duke/Pennsylvania in NCAA Tournament second-round action on Sat., May 21 at 3:00 p.m. The University of Florida will once again host the contest.

OGGOA EXTRA: 2011 NCAA Tournament Bracket (PDF)

Chandler Parsons to guest blog for OGGOA

With the Florida Gators in the process of wrapping up their spring sports and a few months remaining until football season actually begins, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive is making a concerted effort to provide our readers as much additional content as possible over the next few sweltering summer months.

On Monday, 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and former Florida forward Chandler Parsons agreed to join OGGOA as a guest blogger through the 2011 NBA Draft set for June 23 at 7 p.m.

Parsons will check in with us each week to discuss what he is up to in his quest to become the first Gators basketball player to be drafted since teammate Nick Calathes was picked with the No. 45 overall pick in the second round in 2009.

Readers will be able to tag along as Parsons trains to improve his game, competes at the 2011 NBA Combine and meets with individual teams interested in selecting him in late June. Projections for Parsons have him being selected anywhere from the mid-teens in the first round to early in the second round of the draft.

Leaving Florida with a degree in telecommunications, he led the Gators in both rebounding and assists last season. Florida went on to capture the 2011 SEC regular season title and reached the Elite Eight in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

He finished his career as the 12th leading scorer in school history (1,452 points) and just the sixth with more than 500 career field goals. Upon playing his last game in March, Parsons was the only active player in Division I with over 1,300 points, 800 rebounds, 300 assists and 125 steals for his career.

Parsons is the second former Gators player to guest blog for this website. He follows Danny Wuerffel, a national champion and 1996 Heisman Trophy winner, who wrote five columns evaluating the football team in Sept. and Oct. 2010.

Keep a look out for his contributions exclusively here on OGGOA!

OGGOA RELATED: Exclusive interview with Chandler Parsons

Florida releases salaries of basketball assistants

Having to hire an entire new coaching staff after all three of his former assistants departed early in the offseason, Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan brought in two familiar faces and an established veteran in a relatively short period of time.

On Friday, Florida released the assistants’ salaries via records requests obtained by The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway and the Orlando Sentinel’s Rachel George.

A look at the coaching staff’s 2011 salaries:

2011 Coach2011 Salary2010 Coach2010 Salary
Billy Donovan
Head Coach
$3.3M
(3 years)
Billy Donovan
Head Coach
$3.2M
(4 years)
Norm Roberts
Assistant Coach
$235,000
(1 year)
Larry Shyatt
Assistant Coach
$250,000
(1 year)
John Pelphrey
Assistant Coach
$180,000
(1 year)
Rob Lanier
Assistant Coach
-
(1 year)
Matt McCall
Assistant Coach
$100,000
(1 year)
Richard Pitino
Assistant Coach
-
(1 year)

Pelphrey’s salary will help offset the $1.8 million Arkansas owes him for firing him with three years remaining on his head coaching contract. The school was set to pay him $600,000 annually for three years but will instead contribute just $420,000 per season.

Contract notes:
– All coaches receive a $10,000 bonus from Florida’s contract with Nike
– All coaches receive a car and other tangible incentives
– All coaches are eligible for performance-based bonuses

FOUR BITS: tennis, Jenkins, Pounceys, Horn

1 » No. 8 Florida Gators men’s tennis advanced in the 2011 NCAA Tournament on Friday, shutting out the South Carolina State Bulldogs 4-0 in opening round action. Florida will move on to face Miami at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL.

2 » A source close to the player told OGGOA on Friday that former Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins has already visited North Alabama and does indeed have them as a leader for his services though he has yet to officially begin the transfer process. Jenkins would be able to play immediately as transferring to a Division II program would not require him to sit out a year.

3 » Former Florida centers Maurkice and Mike Pouncey will be appearing at a charity event benefiting victims of the Alabama tornadoes on Friday from 5-8 p.m. Hosted by the Legacy Entertainment and Arts Foundation in Orlando, FL, the event is free to the public, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

4 » Gators senior decathlete Gray Horn captured the Southeastern Conference Championship in the decathlon for the third-consecutive year on Friday, making him only the second athlete in SEC history to accomplish that task. Horn’s 7,828 points in the event was a school record.

FOUR BITS: softball falls, Horford, Jenkins, USA

1 » No. 3 Florida Gators softball (47-9, 21-7 SEC) was shocked Thursday as they were upset 6-2 by the Auburn Tigers (39-16, 15-13 SEC) in the first round of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament. The No. 2 seed going into the event, Florida fell behind 3-0 in the first inning before cutting the lead to 3-1 on a RBI single by senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (1-2, RBI) in the bottom of the fourth. No. 7-seed Auburn responded immediately, scoring three runs in the next frame to jump ahead 6-1 and hold on for the victory. Senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (17-2) got the start but was pulled after giving up three runs (one earned) in the first inning. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers came on for the final six innings and struck out three while similarly giving up three runs (one earned). UF committed three errors on the day.

2 » Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford, currently fighting to stay alive against the Chicago Bulls in the 2011 NBA Playoffs, was named to the All-NBA Third Team on Thursday. It is Horford’s first career All-NBA selection and the first ever for a former Gators basketball player.

3 » Former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins has had a not guilty plea submitted by his attorney on his behalf for his most recent charge of misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Attorney Huntley Johnson, who spoke with The Gainesville Sun about the plea, also said that Jenkins will likely transfer to either North Alabama or Valdosta State to play football next season. A report Wednesday stated that Jenkins to North Alabama was a done deal; however, it appears that Jenkins is at least still considering his options.

4 » Seventeen of the top young basketball players in the nation were invited to attend the 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U19 World Championship training camp held June 17-24 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. Two of those 17 players selected Thursday are Gators freshman center Patric Young and 2011 signee guard Brad Beal; each accepted his respective invitation. Twelve of the 17 invitees will be picked for the team. Young and Beal each have a great chance of being selected at the end of the camp. “I know Patric and Brad are both excited about this invitation,” Florida head coach Billy Donovan said in a team-released statement. “It’s a unique opportunity for a player, so it’s an honor for them to be a part of this group.” The 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship will be held June 30 to July 10 in Latvia. The United States is in Group D with China, Egypt and Serbia.

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