4 BITS: Wilbekin, McDonald, Murphy, Hernandez

1 » Florida Gators point guard Scottie Wilbekin has led the Cairns Taipans to the Grand Finals in Australia’s National Basketball League. WIibekin, who registered team-highs of 19 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in the team’s semifinal-clinching victory on Sunday, is a serious contender for league Most Valuable Player honors. (He was recently named the Taipans’ MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.) Cairns will take on the New Zealand Breakers in the best-of-three Grand Finals, beginning on Friday. As first reported by OnlyGators.com last week, Wilbekin will immediately leave Australia and the United States to participate in the NBA D-League, regardless of the outcome.

2 » Facing a variety of domestic-related allegations, former Florida defensive tackle Ray McDonald will avoid all charges, agent Tom Condon told teams, according to NFL.com‘s Ian Rapoport. McDonald, a long-time starter for the San Francisco 49ers, was cut by the team after a second domestic incident in a matter of months put him under a negative spotlight. McDonald was accused of domestic violence early in the 2014 season but was never charged with a crime with the accusation eventually thrown out. Then, in mid-December, he was investigated on suspicion of sexual assault, another allegation that will not result in charges.

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4 BITS: Desir-Jones, Hernandez, Rowe, Culpepper

1 » Three-star offensive lineman Richerd Desir-Jones is one of two players the Florida Gators acquired out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, last week. But while Desir-Jones may be the more unheralded of those prospects – compared to four-star running back Jordan Scarlett – that does not make his story any less special. Check out this feature on Desir-Jones and his family from NBC6 and do your best not to shed a tear. (h/t Thomas Goldkamp)

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2 BITS: SEC/Big 12 Challenge, Miller, Hernandez

1 » The Southeastern Conference and Big 12 announced Thursday that the annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge, which began last season, will undergo a significant format change. Instead of being 10 games played over three days in the fall, it will now be 10 games played in one day early in the spring. That date has been set for next season with all 10 games tipping off on Saturday, January 30, 2016, though match-ups have not yet been determined at this time. “Moving the Big 12/SEC Challenge later int he season will raise the profile of this event and give our coaches, student-athletes and fans the attention that it deserves,” said Mike Slive, the SEC’s commissioner. The 10 games will all be played on ESPN networks with the four SEC teams not given match-ups going head-to-head against each other on the SEC Network that day.

The Florida Gators wound up playing a home-and-home series against Kansas in the first two iterations of the event, hosting the Jayhawks last season and travelling to Lawrence, Kansas, this fall. Florida is expected to host an SEC/Big 12 Challenge game in 2015-16, though renovations to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center would have proved that difficult if the game was played during its previously-scheduled window. Whether the event was moved to help accommodate UF remains to be seen, but the scheduling adjustment was not just made for next season but for the duration of the event’s existence.

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2 BITS: Tebow wins at golf, Hernandez trial begins

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was a hit on Wednesday during a pro-am event at the 2015 Phoenix Open as he earned $40,000 for his charity by winning a closest-to-the-pin contest on the famed par-3 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale. Tebow’s shot fell approximately 11 feet away from the hole and drew solid applause from the crowd in attendance. Participating in the event alongside former Florida coach Urban Meyer and professional golfer Patrick Reed, Tebow was a favorite of many in attendance, including former Gators running back Emmitt Smith. Smith’s group (fourth) finished one spot ahead of Tebow’s team (tied for fifth) in the pro-am.



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SIX BITS: Young, Noah, Miles, Tyus, Hernandez

1 » Former Florida Gators center Patric Young is playing his first NBA preseason with the New Orleans Pelicans and is already dropping some highlights. On Monday, New Orleans fell 93-87 to Atlanta, but not before Young could deliver this put-back dunk (skip to 1:35). Young finished the contest with four points and four boards in 11:20. Against Miami in his team’s preseason opener, Young made his only field goal, scoringtwo points to go along with eight rebounds, a block and two turnovers in 21 minutes.

2 » Also on Monday, Chicago Bulls C Joakim Noah got into a heated exchange with Washington’s Paul Pierce during their teams’ preseason game. Noah was relatively calm about the situation until Pierce stuck his pointer finger into Noah’s forehead. Coming back from knee surgery, Noah looked even less fluid than normal during the game and is expected to skip Tuesday’s contest as a precaution.

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4 BITS: Nelson, Andrews, Jordan, Summer League

1 » During an interview with the Boomer and Carton Show on WFAN and CBS Sports Radio, New York Jets wide receiver David Nelson was asked about former teammate Aaron Hernandez and whether he ever had an inkling that the former tight end was be capable of going off the rails. “You know, there was definitely some tendencies – I’d be lying to you if I said there wasn’t – but it was a huge surprise,” he said. “It really shocked me. Because this is a guy I saw get into a fight in practice and [he was] crying 15 minutes later because he had just hurt his teammate. So this was a guy who was extremely sensitive, he was extremely vulnerable, but the thing is, he was who he hung out with. So if he was hanging out with somebody he was very influenced.

Nelson corroborated what has been reported elsewhere, that members of the Florida Gators were worried about Hernandez going home to Connecticut and hanging out with his old crowd. He also noted that head coach Urban Meyer purposely put Hernandez around himself and Tim Tebow to help improve his character. “You saw some issues with him in college, but they were minor – some drug stuff and that was about it – but nothing to this extreme,” Nelson added. “So he started to hang out with the wrong crowd, get a lot of fame, a lot of money, start to get that ‘I can do whatever I want’ invincible kind of mentality a lot of NFL guys get. And I think you saw him make a really bad mistake.”

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Breakdown: 2008 Florida Gators – one of the greatest teams in college football history

Former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer opined during a football camp last week that his 2008 squad, winners of the 2009 BCS Championship, were the best team in the history of college football.

Though measuring such a claim is near-impossible, Meyer can rightly boast that his 2008 roster and coaching staff were supremely special.

One-fourth of the Gators’ official 120-man roster – which includes walk-ons – has either played a game in the NFL or is currently under contract with a team in the league.

Florida’s roster had 19 players eventually selected in the NFL Draft including six first-round picks, five second-round picks, a third-round pick, two fourth-round picks, four fifth-round picks and a seventh-round pick. Only three of those draft selections are no longer in the league (for a variety of reasons, see table).

Additionally, a total of 11 players signed after the process as undrafted free agents have either played in the NFL or are currently a member of an NFL roster.

UF’s success did not stop at the players on the field.

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13 Gator Bites for Friday, June 13: Graham, Dendy, Harvin, Haslem, softball, MLB, Parsons

From time to time, OnlyGators.com 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.

» Florida Gators redshirt sophomore guard Dillon Graham on Friday tweeted that he has “finally [been] cleared” by team doctors after missing most of the 2013-14 season following surgery to repair bone spurs in his hips. Less than a month ago, head coach Billy Donovan said he did not expect Graham to be cleared for contact until August or September. Doctors are likely allowing Graham to work out and practice in non-contact situations at this time. “He’s missed a whole entire year of development and now you’re talking about an entire summer and into the fall without it,” Donovan said on May 22. “So, when he does get back, what is he like as a player and maybe how long does it take to get him back to maybe where he was? I think that’s going to be a long process for him.”

» Florida junior jumper Marquis Dendy on Thursday captured the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championship in men’s long jump. The outdoor long jump title in school history, Dendy’s 8.00m/26-3 championship-winning mark was his best of the season. Actually, all three of his jumps would have won the crown for Dendy, who previously won the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championship in the same event. He did not even need to take the last jump but chose to do so because he was “in the moment” and also wanted to qualify nationally in the event. He returns to the field on Saturday for the men’s triple jump, an event UF has dominated in recent years.

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