Gator Bites for Wednesday, May 23

From time to time, OGGOA 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. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Former Florida Gators forward Chandler Parsons of the Houston Rockets was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie second team on Tuesday, falling just seven points short of earning a first-team nod. Parsons averaged 9.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals while starting 57 of 63 games for Houston in his rookie season.

» Hoping to achieve a similar feat in his rookie season, Florida freshman guard Bradley Beal is currently getting ready to work out for teams as he prepares for the 2012 NBA Draft. He will have some help towards that goal thanks to the league, which invited him to be one of 60 players who will compete at the 2012 NBA Combine in Chicago, IL. Gators senior point guard Erving Walker was not included on the list.

» Florida head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease made it a point to note that they plan to bring on a quarterback commitment each and every year. To that end a pair of three-star 2013 signal callers, Ryan Buchanan (Jackson, MS) and Tim Boyle (Middleton, CT), will be visiting Gainesville, FL over the weekend. Though UF has struck out with some big name quarterbacks this recruiting cycle and has four signal callers that will be on the roster for at least the next two years, the coaches have not changed their minds about brining another one into the fold. “It’s a very difficult position to evaluate and then take the right guy,” Muschamp said at a Gator Gathering on Tuesday, according to InsidetheGators.com. “Guys that worry about depth charts, we don’t want them. You hit it with them one time, if they ask you to go over it a second time. If they ask a third time, you need to move on.” If the Gators have their way, either Buchanan or Boyle will put an end to their search for a 2013 quarterback.

» Speaking of recruiting, things are getting interesting (or aggravating, if you prefer) for Florida basketball as the team looks to add at least one more player before heading into the 2012-13 season. South Carolina transfer power forward Damontre Harris, a former four-star recruit who averaged 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while playing 25.9 minutes per game last season, was supposed to make his decision between UF, Kansas or staying at USC last week but has yet to make a call. The Gators are also under consideration by Virginia Tech transfer F Dorian Finney-Smith, another former four-star recruit who averaged 6.3 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 36.6 percent from three last season. Finney-Smith has only “narrowed” his list to Florida, Georgetown, Iowa State, Louisville, Marquette, Ohio State and Texas. He will take visits and speak to coaches before making his decision.

» Joining the undecided party is 2012 four-star PF Montrezl Harrell (Tarboro, VA). Formerly a VT signee, Harrell decided to pursue other opportunities after the team fired head coach Seth Greenberg and is heavily considering playing for UF, which is one of a handful of schools on his short list (Alabama, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, South Carolina are the others). The Gators may have an inside track on Harrell due to head coach Billy Donovan being the head coach for the USA Basketball U18 National Team during training camp from June 5-12 in Colorado Springs, CO. Harrell will be playing on the team and have the opportunity to see first-hand what it would be like to practice and play for Donovan. Some are of the opinion that Louisville, a team he did not list when mentioning his top five, has an opportunity to be his eventual destination.

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Wednesday, May 23

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FOUR BITS: Ellis, Haslem, Tebow, Leak

1 » Former Florida Gators baseball player Mark Ellis, currently a second baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers, had emergency surgery to relieve pressure on his left leg after injuring it during the seventh inning of his team’s game on Friday. Ellis, who was upended on a takeout slide while trying to complete a fielder’s choice groundout, “was sent to the hospital, and testing showed elevated pressure in several compartments of the lower leg,” Dodgers trainer Sue Falsone told reporters, according to the Associated Press. “There was trauma to the area where everything kind of swells up, so you have to open up the fascia and basically release that pressure. They will keep an eye on it and most likely close that wound up on Tuesday.” ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted Sunday that Ellis “might have lost his leg” should the doctors have “waited another 4-5 hours to make [the] cut to relieve [the] pressure.” He has been placed on the 15-day disabled list and should return to action in his 11th MLB season. Ellis, Florida’s all-time hits leader for the last 13 years, was surpassed by senior right fielder Preston Tucker on Thursday.

2 » Former Gators power forward Udonis Haslem had his best game of the 2012 NBA Playoffs and arguably his best quarter of the season on Sunday, going 5-of-6 from the field and 4-for-4 from the free throw line for 14 points (third-most on the team) to go along with four rebounds. Haslem, who went 4-for-4 from the floor in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter for the Miami Heat, suffered a gash over his right eye earlier in the game that required nine stitches following the contest. “Sometimes we need other guys to step up and tonight was my turn. Next time it might be somebody else,” he said.

3 » Considering he is a NFL player, it should come as no surprise that New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow will be in the new Madden NFL 13 video game. However, what may be interesting to some fans is that the game will also have a “Tebowing” celebration in the newest version of the popular title, according to creative director Mike Young. “Tebowing is in for #madden13,” he tweeted on Friday evening. It is unknown exactly how the move will be incorporated into the game (whether it will be an automatic celebration for Tebow’s character, a gesture that can be executed by the player or something that randomly occurs) but more information should be available once the game’s release date draws closer. Tebow was believed to be the finalist out of Denver for the Madden NFL 13 cover voting but was removed from the process after being traded.

4 » In his first game as starting QB for the AFL’s Orlando Predators, former Florida signal caller Chris Leak went 25-for-42 for 357 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Orlando lost to New Orleans 68-61 and fell to 1-8 on the season.

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FOUR BITS: Lochte, Leak, Tucker, Jaguars

1 » Former Florida Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte, set to be one of the primary faces/athletes representing the United States in the upcoming 2012 London Olympics was announced as the fourth male to ever grace the cover of American Vogue magazine when the June cover was released on Monday. Lochte appears on the cover alongside women’s soccer goalie Hope Solo and tennis phenom Serena Williams. The three men that were previously featured on the cover of Vogue – Richard Gere, George Clooney and LeBron James – each appeared alongside a female model “Cindy Crawford, Gisele, and Gisele again, respectively,” the magazine notes.

2 » Traded to the Orlando Predators recently after falling out of grace with the Jacksonville Sharks, former Florida quarterback Chris Leak will start his first game with his new team on Friday. Leak, who has already appeared in two games for Orlando as a backup and has amassed 78 yards and three touchdowns on 9-of-17 passing, hopes to turnaround the season for a team that has started a paltry 1-7. The Predators hope Leak can be the team’s starter for a long time and have plans for him to be a franchise player as long as he succeeds.

3 » Gators senior right fielder Preston Tucker will begin his final regular season series in the orange and blue looking, in part, to set the school record for career hits. Smacking a single on Tuesday, Tucker tied former Florida outfielder Mark Ellis for the career mark with 319 hits; one more and the record is all his. UF is set to face Auburn in a three-game road series Thursday-Saturday before beginning postseason competition.

4 » As part of an outreach program that will attempt to generate “excitement and energy” for the team heading into the 2012 season, the Jacksonville Jaguars will be visiting Gainesville, FL with a “Jaguars Caravan” including players, coaches, cheerleaders and other team representatives, according to The Gainesville Sun. As part of the event, which will take place on June 6 at Tioga Town Center from 6-8 p.m., Gators fans will be able to see some familiar faces in former Florida tight end Mike Mularkey (Jacksonville’s head coach), current Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey and former Jacksonville running back Fred Taylor.

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FOUR BITS: Noah, Leak, Tebow, Meyer

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, acting team leader with point guard Derrick Rose sidelined for the remainder of the season, looked very much like his young teammate during Game 2 on Tuesday when he performed a quick crossover and broke the ankles (figuratively) of Philadelphia’s Thaddeus Young.

2 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak, the new starter for the AFL’s Orlando Predators, has also decided to continue his career as an analyst and sports commentator by accepting a new gig. Leak will join Chris Childers as a co-host for College Sports Coast-to-Coast on SiriusXM’s College Sports Nation, the company announced via press release on Tuesday. The show airs weeknights from 7-10 p.m. and Leak will appear on the program multiple nights each week. “SiriusXM College Sports Nation offers college sports fans outstanding coverage of their favorite conferences, schools and players all year long and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Leak said in the release. “I still get amped up every spring, like I did when I was at UF, knowing a new college football season isn’t far off. I look forward to talking directly with the fans about the BCS, this year’s national title contenders and the teams and players that you’re going to want to keep an eye on from now through the upcoming season.”

3 » New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan told ESPNNewYork.com’s Rich Cimini on Tuesday while at a charity event that he is thrilled about having QB Tim Tebow on the team and thinks he brings a lot to the table. “It’s exciting to have a young guy that has experience in the playoffs and is learning the system,” he said. “I think he’s an excellent backup quarterback. I think he’s an outstanding football player. We’ll see what we can come up with.” Ryan expanded on his “football player” comments as well. “Everybody recognizes the competitiveness. The guy’s a winner, no question. People get tired of me saying it, but how do you not describe this guy as a football player? That’s what he is. He’s got size, he’s got strength, he’s got speed and he can throw the football.”

4 » With former Florida head coach Urban Meyer going to Ohio State, there should be no doubt that plenty of comparisons and parallels will be made throughout his tenure with his new employer. One thing that will not be the same is that Meyer plans to use a no-huddle offense at OSU, something that he sent former Gators offensive coordinator Dan Mullen to Missouri to learn but never implemented at Florida. “The minute you go no-huddle, you lose the intangibles and the immeasurable leadership of guys like Tebow and Mike Pouncey,” he told ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach. Meyer, during his year off from coaching, travelled across the country and picked up plenty from all the other head coaches he visited while working for ESPN. The no-huddle, up-tempo offense he is installing may be similar to another school that has recently gained prominence. “All you’ve got to do is look at Oregon,” he said. “We’re committed to it. We’re going to pop a huddle once in a while, but we’re committed to it.”

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FOUR BITS: baseball, Leak, Parsons, Horford

1 » No. 2 Florida Gators baseball (32-10) got back to its winning ways on Wednesday, taking down the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (24-18) in the team’s second meeting of the season. Florida won 10-1 behind plenty of hitting and a reassuring start from sophomore right-hander Karsten Whitson (3-0, 4.0 IP, 4 H, K). The Gators only hit two homers in the game – a two-run shot by senior right fielder Preston Tucker (2/4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB) in the bottom of the sixth and a solo shot by freshman pinch hitter Brandon Sedell (the first of his young career) – but still managed to manufacture seven more runs. Junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (0/1, 2 RBI, R, BB) and freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon (3/4, RBI, 2 R) also had big nights at the plate. Florida will conclude its nine-game homestand (4-2) with a weekend series against Arkansas.

2 » Two days after announcing his signing, the AFL’s Orlando Predators finally obtained quarterback Chris Leak in a trade with the Jacksonville Sharks. Leak, who went 21-of-31 for 196 yards with five touchdowns and an interception in the season opener for Jacksonville, was moved to a reserve role the next week in practice and refused to continue playing for the team. The Predators tried to sign him on Monday and make him the “face of the franchise,” but he was still under contract to the Sharks, which refused to cut him outright. Instead Jacksonville and Orlando (with the managing partner of each team brothers with the other) swapped Leak for offensive lineman/fullback Ailao Eliapo to complete the transaction.

3 » A second-round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, former Gators forward Chandler Parsons knew he could impact the Houston Rockets as a rookie but not even he could be sure how much he would be able to do for the team this season. Parsons’s rookie campaign was so impressive that he has landed at No. 7 on Grantland.com’s final list of “best rookies of the NBA season.” Writes Sebastian Pruiti:

Chandler Parsons is another player who was drafted late but who was productive as soon as he stepped on an NBA court. He was best when defending isolation possessions. According to Synergy Sports, Parsons held opponents to 26 percent shooting and a PPP of 0.648 in one-on-one situations, placing him in the top 20 percent of all NBA players. The key to Parsons’s defensive game is his length. His long arms allow him to back off quicker offensive players and contain their dribble penetration while still being able to contest their shots.

Parsons also has the potential to be a very versatile offensive player. I say potential because he struggles in some situations, especially as the ball handler in pick-and-roll plays. Parsons just doesn’t have a feel for the pick-and-roll game yet, and he commits turnovers 25 percent of the time in these situations. As he becomes more comfortable as a ball handler and learns to read defenses, he should improve.

4 » Despite telling OGGOA last week that it was “realistic” he would be able to return for the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs and mentioning the same thing to media in his local market, Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford will indeed miss his team’s series against Boston as he continues to recover from a torn pectoral that has sidelined him basically the entire season. Horford told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he hopes to play in his team’s second round series should they make it that far.

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FOUR BITS: Leak, Demps, lacrosse, Tebow

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak supposedly signed with the Orlando Predators of the AFL on Monday and the team wants to name him their starter for Saturday’s game, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “We would like to bring him in as the face of the franchise, and I hope he ends up as our starting quarterback,” team general partner Brett Bouchy told the paper. Unfortunately for both sides, Leak was not able to join the team Monday or Tuesday thanks to his former squad the Jacksonville Sharks. According to the Florida Times-Union, even though Leak refuses to play for Jacksonville and the team does not want him back the Sharks have not released him from his contract and still retain his rights. “If the Predators want Leak, they have coach [Les] Moss’ number and we will be more than happy to trade him,” Jacksonville managing partner Jeff Bouchy (Brett Bouchy’s brother) said. “We cannot see any scenario in which Leak will wear a Sharks uniform again.” Leak’s future is now in limbo as he waits to find out if one Bouchy will trade the other something for his services. He has bounced around the CFL and AFL since being passed over by the NFL and actually played for the Jacksonville franchise this season before being replaced as starting quarterback after a five-touchdown performance. “It was an unfortunate situation in Jacksonville, but I’ve moved on,” Leak said. “I’m just very excited about the opportunity to play at home.”

2 » With the 2012 NFL Draft approaching, one name that continues to be notably absent is former Gators running back and current Florida sprinter Jeff Demps, who chose after the season to bypass the NFL in order to concentrate on running track and the 2012 London Olympics. Demps likely would have been a third- or fourth-round pick in the draft but chose an uncertain path that he enjoys over a certain future that did not hold the top spot in his heart. “Just, during the football season, I enjoyed football, but I just felt I had to be on the track,” he told FOX Sports in in yet another article about his decision and future in sports. “I had to follow my heart, and my heart said to be with track. It’s a career decision.”

3 » Gators lacrosse swept the ALC weekly awards on Monday. Junior atacker Gabi Wiegand won Offensive Player of the Week, junior defender Sam Farrell picked up Defensive Player of the Week and midfielder Nora Barry was named Rookie of the Week. It is the first time since the ALC expanded to three weekly awards that one team has swept all three in a single week.

4 » Could QB Tim Tebow already be winning over New York Jets players through a few days of offseason camp? According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Jets No. 2 wide receiver Jeremy Kerley was pleasantly surprised how well Tebow has been performing already and offered up some praise for his new teammate. “Different than Mark, different than Mark,” he said of Tebow as a quarterback. “His ball comes out a little bit stronger, but he’s accurate, he’s more accurate than what I thought he was going to be. But he’s a good dude, he has a great personality, he’ll bring a lot of personality to the team.” The Ledger asked him how much more velocity Tebow throws with as compared to Mark Sanchez. Kerley’s answer: “A LOT, a lot more velocity. No dis to Mark, he brings it man.”

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FOUR BITS: Beal, Leak, Parsons, Tebow

1 » Already in Phoenix, AZ preparing for their Sweet 16 game against the No. 3-seed Marquette Golden Eagles, the Florida Gators have been going through practices while also reflecting on the 2011-12 season. One hot topic of conversation has been the emergence of freshman guard Bradley Beal, who responded to a recent request from head coach Billy Donovan and has made the most out of his new opportunity. “The thing I tried to get through to him [was] stop worrying about your shot. Freshmen are going to have peaks and valleys shooting the basketball,” Donovan said, according to GatorZone.com. “I told him, ‘You do too many other things as a player that impact our team,’ and to start stepping up and trying to be more aggressive.” Beal has done just that after spending most of his season somewhat deffering to his more experienced teammates. He has begun been taking the ball to the hole more while simultaneously working on both his defense and rebounding; that in turn has helped increase his overall production. In fact, even his three-point shooting has improved. “I really took it upon myself to bear down and start guarding guys and crashing the boards,” he said. “My shot just ended up coming out of nowhere, really. Coach told me it was just a matter of me playing and getting my rhythm. Sure enough, it came.”

2 » Former Florida quarterback Chris Leak took a job with the AFL’s Jacksonville Sharks this year and was almost universally expected to be the team’s starting quarterback for the duration of the season. However, just days after throwing for five touchdowns in the team’s season opener, Leak was informed that he would no longer be the team’s starter. He was supplanted by Omar Jacobs, a player that was on the team as a backup last season, on Tuesday and reacted by skipping practice on Wednesday. According to the Florida Times-Union, Leak was immediately suspended by the Sharks; FOX 30 WAWS TV reported Wednesday that Jacksonville has already signed another signal caller, which makes it appear as if Leak will no longer be with the club.

3 » Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons was tasked with guarding Kobe Bryant down the stretch in a game with the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. Parsons did an exceptionally good job defending Bryant late in the fourth quarter and Houston wound up winning the contest by three. After the game, Bryant was asked about Parsons’s defense and – after first deflecting a bit – not only praised his effort in that situation but also this season in general.

4 » Quarterback Tim Tebow received some perhaps unexpected support from former Denver Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski, who told Yahoo! Sports Radio this week that he thinks executive vice president John Elway has made a mistake in deciding to trade the former Gators star. “To me, you had the answer. You just need more talent around a guy like Tim Tebow,” he said. “The kid’s a winner. I don’t care where he ends up. Cream rises to the top. That kid is beyond cream. He will rise. [...] He’ll do the same that he did last season – and probably better.”

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FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, gymnastics, Leak

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (17-1, 1-0 SEC) extended their winning streak to a school-record 15 games on Friday by toppling the Vanderbilt Commodores (7-11, 0-1 SEC) 10-2 in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (3-0, 6.2 IP) matched a season-high with six strikeouts while allowing two earned runs on six hits. Behind 2-0 through 4.5 innings, Florida rallied for a five-run bottom of the fifth as eight batters stepped to the plate. The Gators added four more runs in the bottom of the seventh and another in the eighth to pull away for the decisive victory. Senior right fielder Preston Tucker (2/5, 3 RBI, R) and freshman first baseman Taylor Gushue (1-4, 2 RBI) led the way offensively but junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (1-4, RBI) and senior outfielder Daniel Pigott (3-5, RBI) each crossed the plate twice for Florida. Game two against the Commodores is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday (CSS), and the Gators will conclude the series on Sunday at 1 p.m. (FSF).

2 » No. 4 Florida softball (24-2, 5-1 SEC) got back to their winning ways on Friday with 9-1 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks (19-10, 2-4 SEC) at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (13-1) put together a complete game in a run-ruled five-inning outing, giving up one earned run while striking out two, walking two and scattering four hits. Freshmen 1B Lauren Haeger (2-3) and designated hitter Bailey Castro (1-1, HR, R, 2 BB) each notched three RBIs to help fuel the Gators’ offense. UF will wrap-up their three-game series USC by hosting them twice more on Saturday (Sun Sports) and Sunday at 1 p.m.

3 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics (11-1) posted the second-highest total in the nation this season to conclude the 2012 regular season with a 197.900-196.475 victory over the No. 7 Utah Utes (7-3) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville. Sophomore Alaina Johnson captured event titles in the vault (9.90), uneven bars (9.95) and balance beam (9.925) while also winning the all-around (39.675). She split two of her titles with teammates as juniors Ashanée Dickerson (uneven bars) and Marissa King (balance beam) matched her scores. King also split the floor exercise event title with freshman Kytra Hunter (9.95). The Gators will next compete in the 2012 SEC Championships on March 24 before moving on to the NCAA Regionals on April 7.

4 » In his first game as starting quarterback of the AFL’s Jacksonville Sharks, former Florida signal caller Chris Leak completed 21 of 31 passes for 196 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. Jacksonville, the league’s defending champion, scored 38 unanswered points in the second half to pull away for a 52-28 victory.

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