Pictures, tweets, videos: Florida Gators former and current discuss the Final Four

Support for the (1) Florida Gators (36-3) was riding high on Saturday as the team prepared to play in the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the AT&T Center in Arlington, TX. There was so much written about the team by former and current student-athletes, in fact, that this post had to be limited to those either with ties to the basketball program or in attendance at the game.

Though the (7) UConn Huskies (31-8) were victorious and eliminated Florida from the event, there was still plenty of well-wishers after the contest. Check out the pictures, tweets and videos below for a comprehensive look at what former and current Gators had to say before, during and after the game.

PRE-GAME

Continue Reading » Pictures, tweets, videos: Florida Gators former and current discuss the Final Four

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FOUR BITS: lacrosse, tennis, Moss, Sloan

1 » After having just player receive an individual honor in 2012, Florida Gators lacrosse swept the positional awards and took home a major coaching honor from the American Lacrosse Conference in 2013. Seniors Kitty Cullen (Offensive Player of the Year), Sam Farrell (Defensive Player of the Year), Brittany Dashiell (Midfielder of the Year) and Mikey Meagher (Goalie of the Year) each won the individual awards while head coach Amanda O’Leary was named Coach of the Year. Florida also saw five players – the aforementioned plus sophomore Shannon Gilroy named to the All-ALC First Team – with senior Ashley Bruns and senior Emily Dohony earning Second Team honors. Next up for the Gators is the 2013 ALC Tournament, which starts for Florida in the semifinals on Friday at 4 p.m.

2 » No. 1 Gators women’s tennis (22-2) was named the top overall seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament and will host first- and second-round action in Gainesville, FL from May 11-12 as it looks to advance to the NCAA Round of 16. Florida opens up against Marist College (11-7) in the first round and will face the winner of No. 22 Georgia Tech (14-9) vs. No. 37 Yale (17-3). This will be the 15th consecutive year that UF is hosting the opening rounds of the tournament. Also announced this week were the three women’s tennis players who have earned the opportunity to compete for the 2013 NCAA Singles Championship; competition begins at the conclusion of the team tournament. Senior Lauren Embree (No. 1 overall seed), junior Alex Cercone and junior Sofie Oyen will all play in the 64-player draw with Embree and Oyen also teaming up for the 32-team 2013 NCAA Doubles Championship tournament.

Read two more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
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SIX BITS: Brantley, Donovan, Moss, Tebow, Rainey

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback John Brantley was cut by the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday after being signed by the team as an undrafted free agent in April. It was unlikely that Brantley would have made the team to begin with though he likely would have remained in training camp longer had Baltimore not needed to sign a free agent tight end as an injury replacement. He could rejoin the Ravens at any time, be added to their practice squad after the preseason or be picked up by another team. Former Florida wide receiver Deonte Thompson, also signed as an undrafted free agent, remains with Baltimore despite recently “displaying shaky hands,” according to Carroll County Times reporter Aaron Wilson.

2 » One of the hot conversation pieces ongoing as some of the NBA’s brightest stars compete in the 2012 London Olympics is if the league’s owners will get their wish that all Olympic basketball competitors will have to be 23 years of age or younger starting in 2016. CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman took a look at what a U23 team might look like in 2016; he believes that Gators guard Bradley Beal would be featured on the squad and that Florida head coach Billy Donovan could be one of two choices to replace Coach Mike Krzyewski, citing his success with the U18 team this summer.

3 » Former Florida forward Adrian Moss informed OGGOA on Wednesday that he has signed a one-year contract with EESM Le Portel of the French Pro B league. Moss averaged 15.4 points on 53.3 percent shooting (35.6 percent from downtown) and grabbed 6.1 rebounds per game last year in Spain. He has also previously played professional basketball in Israel and Germany.

4 » New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow may have had a rough start to training camp with his new team, but ESPN’s Ron Jaworski remarked on SportsCenter early this week that he saw improvement from the player in one very important area. “The one thing I’ve noticed about Tim Tebow – and it’s a small sampling thus far – is his [throwing] stroke is much better,” he said. “It’s cleaner. It’s not as elongated. He’s not dropping the football [down to his hip]. That means the ball will come out quicker.” Jaworski did see some room for improvement, however. “I’d still like to see Tebow drive off his back leg a little more,” he added. “Sometimes he has that dead leg and he loses energy at the end of the throw on the deeper throws. It’s fine in the short to intermediate area. But downfield those throws, when they hang in the air, will get knocked down or batted down by the very athletic secondary players in this league.”

5 » Though Pittsburgh Steelers running back Chris Rainey is already coming on strong with his new team, some of his teammates and coaches are noticing that he needs to be pushed hard during practice. According to Scout.com, Rainey has been ragged on by everyone including good friend center Maurkice Pouncey. “He probably needs it. Heck yeah,” he said. “Oh, [the coaches] love him. They really, really love him. I hope it stays that way. I hope he stays here with me as long as he can.” The ribbing Rainey is taking may be good-natured, but head coach Mike Tomlin has reportedly been using a version of the unfortunate text message that got Rainey arrested as part of that motivation. “OK, 22, time to die!” he apparently yelled during the first full-contact practice. “I hear it every day, about five times a day,” Rainey said. “It’s all good. I made a bad mistake in the past but I moved on. It’s funny now. I’m glad I’m here.”

6 » Three members of the Gators lacrosse team were awarded training team spots with the U.S. National Team over the weekend. Seniors midfielder Brittany Dashiell and goalkeeper Mikey Meagher, along with assistant coach (and MF) Caitlyn McFadden, will join the 36-player pool that will eventually be whittled down to 18 (in February 2013) before the United States defends its title at the 2013 FIL World Cup. McFadden was a member of Team USA in 2009 and helped bring home the championship.

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Taurean Green: “We knew nobody could beat us.”

Overseas in Spain starting every game for C.B. Gran Canaria 2014 of the ACB, former Florida Gators two-time National Championship-winning point guard Taurean Green took some nearly 45 minutes out of his busy schedule to sit down with OGGOA for a wide-ranging, in-depth interview late Tuesday evening.

Green, one of the four members of the Oh Fours and an integral part to the team’s success from 2005-07, discussed at length his college career and continuing relationship with his Gators teammates and coaches. He also provided some insight into what the current team is going through during their 2011 NCAA Tournament run and how they can improve going forward and make the most out of their opportunity.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: With your father being a former NBA player and college coach as your adviser, what was it about Florida and Billy Donovan that had you winding up playing for the Gators out of high school?
TAUREAN GREEN: “Obviously Coach Donovan was a huge factor, the style of play, Coach [Anthony] Grant was a huge factor, too. It was just basically the style of play, how they get up-and-down [the court], and he’s a guard’s coach. I knew that he played for a great coach in Rick Pitino at Providence, and then he played some years in the NBA. Just from what everybody told me and from what I heard, he’s a guard’s coach and you’ll definitely get better [playing for him]. He’ll give you freedom out there but along with the freedom comes responsibility in running the team.”

AS: Your first year at Florida was obviously an adjustment as there were still a bunch of upperclassmen holding starting roles on the team. How was it walking into a team with established guys like David Lee, Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson already comfortable with each other and running the show?
TG: “That was good for me. Some guys can adapt – you see freshmen get thrown into the fire right away nowadays. I felt like I needed that year to go against Anthony Roberson and all those guys just to get my feet wet. At the same time, I knew that I was going to be getting better going against Peep every day in practice. They led the way, and we just tried to contribute in whatever way we could.”

AS: You won the SEC Tournament that season and were a No. 4-seed going into the NCAA Tournament. What was it like playing at such a big stage so early in your career?
TG: “It was fun! When I was at Florida, the main thing was we just lived in the moment. We took it game-by-game. We wanted to do stuff that no other team really had done at Florida. We knew that we had David, Matt and Anthony, and we just wanted to contribute in any way we could. The main thing was just going out and playing hard, doing whatever it took to win.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Taurean Green…after the break!
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F/C Chris Richard: “All I can do is give my best.”

Former Florida Gators forward/center Chris Richard is a busy man. Entering his fourth season of playing professional basketball, Richard just returned from summer league action and was in his hometown of Lakeland, FL, when OGGOA caught up with him for an exclusive interview covering his college career, professional future and charitable efforts.

Though he is headed back to Chicago soon to workout and attempt to earn a contract, Richard has been concentrating on getting his foundation, The Rich Kids Project, off the ground.

Designed to help and provide opportunities for underprivileged and at-risk youth in the Polk County area, the organization aims at assisting children financially while, at the same time, ensuring that they are building a foundation for their future. “I want to teach substance and individuality through education, arts and just basic knowledge,” Richard told us. And even though the charity is based in Lakeland, he hopes it can grow big over time – with your help. More information on Richard’s charity will be available in the future.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Coming out of high school as Mr. Basketball in the state of Florida, you chose to sign with the Gators. What other schools were you considering and why did you end up picking Florida?
CHRIS RICHARD: “At the time I came out of high school, I could have went to just about any school in the country. I got recruited by everybody from North Carolina to Maryland to Indiana … all of the Florida schools. I only wanted to go to Florida. Growing up, once I got into basketball and once I got into sports, for whatever reason, Florida just stood out to me. I was a big Florida basketball fan. I grew up kind of liking Florida State and Miami football-wise. I [also] have family that actually lives in Alachua, outside of Gainesville, so going up there every summer – it kind of grew on me. I chose [Florida] over Florida State and Alabama.”

AS: You did get some playing time early on in your Gators career, but last two years is when your role increased. Losing its three top veterans, the team was significantly underrated going into the 2005-06 season. At what point did you guys realize that you had something special going on?
CR: “You know what, honestly, I know it sounds cliché and everybody says it, but once we got together that summer … Everybody went home for summer break and we came back to start working out for the season, and once we got back and started playing with each other, that was our first time playing together without David [Lee], Matt [Walsh] and Peep [Anthony Roberson]. So we never really saw what each person was capable of doing because everybody’s role was a little bit different that previous year. Just coming in and playing pick up, it was just a lot different. And we saw that on any given night that it can be anybody’s night. So we kind of took that and kind of embraced that and thought it was an advantage for us because we knew that we didn’t have any selfishness on the team. So nobody minded playing backseat … everybody just helped each other and kept it going.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Chris Richard…after the break!
Continue Reading » F/C Chris Richard: “All I can do is give my best.”

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Kadji transfers from Gainesville to Coral Gables

Former Florida Gators sophomore center Kenny Kadji will not have a long trip ahead of him after packing up his belongings as, according to FOX Sports’ Jeff Goodman, he has decided to transfer to the Miami Hurricanes.

Kadji, who was given a medical redshirt from the NCAA after only logging 45 total minutes of game time in 2009-10 before ending his season due to a nagging back injury, will be forced to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules.

He had back surgery in February to repair a bulging disk, a procedure similar to what former Florida forward Adrian Moss had done in 2005. Reports were that Kadji had healed nicely from the surgery; he was expected to back-up redshirt junior center Vernon Macklin next season, a job that will probably now be filled by four-star incoming freshman forward Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL).

“I want to thank my coaches and teammates for my two years at the University of Florida,” Kadji said on July 23. “While I’m sad that my time here at Florida is ending, UF will always be special to me. I have goals that I hope to reach and only a short window of my life to make those things happen.”

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Gators center Kenny Kadji granted a transfer

Florida Gators sophomore center Kenny Kadji has requested and received a transfer from the University of Florida and will be released from his scholarship.

“After re-evaluating his situation, Kenny and I had the opportunity to sit down and talk about his future,” head coach Billy Donovan said in a statement. “Kenny has made a decision that it’s in his best interest to start new somewhere else. He’s still recovering from back surgery and working hard to get himself healthy. I wish him the best in his future.”

Kadji, who was given a medical redshirt from the NCAA after only logging 45 total minutes of game time in 2009-10 before ending his season due to a nagging back injury, will have redshirt sophomore status next season if he chooses to remain in college but will also have to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules.

He had back surgery in February to repair a bulging disk, a procedure similar to what former Florida forward Adrian Moss had done in 2005. Reports were that Kadji had healed nicely from the surgery; he was expected to back-up redshirt junior center Vernon Macklin next season, a job that will probably now be filled by four-star incoming freshman forward Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL).

In March, the Orlando Sentinel caught up with Kadji’s AAU coach Matt Ramker, who said that he was “happy at UF” and was “looking forward to next season.”

Now, he has changed his tune.

“I want to thank my coaches and teammates for my two years at the University of Florida,” Kadji said. “While I’m sad that my time here at Florida is ending, UF will always be special to me. I have goals that I hope to reach and only a short window of my life to make those things happen.”

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TWO BITS: Kadji gets redshirt, Lee loves New York

1 » Florida Gators center Kenny Kadji, who logged 45 total minutes of game time in 2009-10 before ending his season due to a nagging back injury, has been granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA, according to the University of Florida. This exemption will allow Kadji to enter the 2010-11 season as a redshirt sophomore, giving him three additional years of eligibility with the Gators. Kadji had back surgery in February to repair a bulging disk; the procedure was similar to what former Florida forward Adrian Moss had done in 2005. Reports are that Kadji has healed nicely from the surgery; if healthy, he will likely be redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin‘s primary back-up next season.

2 » Though he is now a free agent who can sign with any team in the NBA, former Gators forward/center David Lee loved his time with the New York Knicks and hopes to remain with the franchise next year. “This is where I want to be,” Lee told New York Post. “I enjoy it here. I love the city. I have a lot of friends in the franchise. I do have ties here. They say the two hardest things to deal with [in New York] are the media and the fans, but I’ve found that to be the exact opposite. Having a following here is gonna make the Knicks want to sign me more and makes me want to be in New York.” The Knicks hope to make a splash by signing two maximum contract free agents beginning on July 1, which may leave Lee by the wayside. However, New York fans and the team’s front office both love Lee, who averaged 20.2 points and 11.7 rebounds in 2009-10, and there is certainly a chance that he can get his wish to remain with the franchise.

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