Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2010 (check out our post tomorrow), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players signing huge contracts to current team members being a part of some of the biggest news stories in sports this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

10 » FIVE BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2010 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon and suddenly in all but one case. Lamar Abel (21), a walk-on defensive lineman, suffered cardiac arrest while volunteering at a roadside cleanup event with his fraternity in Gainesville, FL. Former safety John Curtis (24) committed suicide in Bellvue, WA. Hall of fame safety Jarvis Williams (45) passed away after an acute asthma attack. Former Gators basketball player and friend to the program Augie Greiner (76) died in his home. And long-time donor and Bull Gator George Steinbrenner (80), most famously known as the owner of the New York Yankees, passed away in a Tampa, FL, hospital. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

9 » ERIN ANDREWS GETS JUSTICE, STARS ON TV, RE-SIGNS WITH ESPN

Former Florida dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews had a much better go of it in 2010. Though her stalker plead guilty to his charges in court in December 2009, she spent a good portion of 2010 making sure he was brought to justice (27-month prison term) while also spreading word across the country that violence against women from sexual predators cannot and should not be tolerated. Simultaneously, Andrews participated in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and even dropped a few Gator Chomps along the way. She ended up finishing third in the competition but parlayed her talent on the sidelines into an enhanced gig with the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Andrews signed a new two-year deal with ESPN, which included a role hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU, appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America and more of a presence on the family of networks. She also spoke with OGGOA on two occasions, first in a wide-ranging interview that received significant publicity and later to share her thoughts on the resignation of head coach Urban Meyer.

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12/20: Donovan dismayed by competitiveness

No. 19/20 Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his latest media availability in the following post. Suffice to say Donovan was none-too-pleased with his team’s performance against the Jacksonville Dolphins.

GATORS LACK COMPETITIVENESS AGAINST OPPONENTS

One of the main things that stood out to Donovan after Monday’s embarrassing loss to Jacksonville is the fact that his team plays down to its competition and does not get up for “smaller” games the same way it does for big-time showdowns.

“Clearly for the people that watched us play against Kansas State – two totally different teams. One team unable to handle the human element,” he said. “We were riped to be beat. We were totally riped to be beat. I’m not so sure we could have beat anybody tonight. And that’s not to take anything away from Jacksonville because their kids did a great job. […] We don’t handle that human element part of it well. You talk about being a great team? The great teams are able to do that.”

Donovan provided a thought-provoking example. “Can we be a team that is almost playing like a faceless opponent, a nameless opponent? We would have been better off tonight playing the Los Angeles Lakers,” he said. “That would have been better for us. If you’re a competitor, it doesn’t make a difference who you’re lining up and playing against. That’s an internal make-up, and I don’t know if you can all of a sudden instill that in guys. Our guys are competitive. But can you be competitive when there is no reason to be competitive? We don’t have that mentality. And I have to find a way to help them get it.”

Who exactly has that mentality? “There are certain guys that I would [say] are just killers. When they line up, competition doesn’t make a difference,” Donovan said. “You talk about Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant; there’s just a certain kind of guy that it doesn’t make a difference what happened yesterday. They do not live in any level of success. They are just focused about competing and putting their reputation on the line every time they play or compete. That’s what [Al] Horford and [Joakim] Noah, [Udonis] Haslem, [Matt] Bonner – those guys had the ability to move from one thing to the next.”

WHO IS GOING TO SHOW UP FOR FLORIDA?

Another issue Donovan says the team is facing is a relatively simple concept. “I don’t know who’s going to show up necessarily from game-to-game. So [I’m always] trying to find combinations and pieces to throw out there,” he said adamantly.

Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton showed up big against Kansas State on Saturday and redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin was the man over the last few games. Aside from junior point guard Erving Walker, who put up a lot of points out of necessity, no one truly stepped up on Monday.

“I made the comment after the Kansas State game that I was very anxious to see our guys’ level of maturity coming into a game like this,” Donovan said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever, ever sat over there in 15 years and seen a team that I’ve coached effort-wise and playing-wise and awareness-wise…forget about playing good or bad…just [being] in the game. We have 13 turnovers in the first half. I’m not so sure we ran a play.”

BLAMING HIMSELF FOR PREPAREDNESS

“I certainly did not do a good enough job in a quick turnaround in 36 hours getting them prepared to play,” Donovan admitted early in his post-game press conference. “I’m the head coach and I did not do a good enough job getting them prepared to handle Saturday-to-Monday. I did not.”

He went on to compare Florida’s faltering to how it played Central Florida coming after the tough and competitive victory against Florida State just a few days before.

“The one thing that happens during the course of the season is you’re dealing with either prosperity or adversity. We’re dealing with adversity. Our guys handle adversity pretty well. They really are a resilient group. They bounce back pretty quickly. They fight. They try to improve,” he said. “In order to be a great, great team you have to be able to handle prosperity. Because if you’re really good that means you’re winning a lot.”

THEY’RE NOT “THERE” YET…

Donovan made it a point before the season to tell the media that he did not have the high expectations for his team that were thrown on them by all of the analysts surrounding college basketball. He reiterated that statement on Monday. “I think you know why [before the season I said] I’m ‘optimistically cautious.’ And I’m probably not even optimistic right now; I’m really cautious,” he said.

Much more from head coach Billy Donovan can be read…after the break!
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Checking in on former Florida Gators in the NBA

With the 2010-11 NBA season still in full swing, a number of Florida Gators have been making strong impressions on the league with a few having a significant impact on their team’s game-to-game performance. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores for approximately the first third of the season to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished thus far. Figures below are per-game averages:

F/C AL HORFORD, Atlanta Hawks: 17.0 points* [57.1% shooting – team-best], 9.8 rebounds [team-high], 3.3 assists, 0.85 blocks, 0.81 steals, 83% FT …in 33.4 minutes with 26-of-26 starts

C JOAKIM NOAH, Chicago Bulls: 14.0 points [51.4% shooting], 11.7 rebounds [team-high], 2.7 assists, 1.63 blocks [team-high], 1.17 steals, 73% FT …in 36.8 minutes with 24-of-24 starts

F/C DAVID LEE, Golden State Warriors: 14.8 points [44.6% shooting], 10.1 rebounds [team-high], 3.8 assists, 0.18 blocks, 1.00 steals, 72% FT …in 35.9 minutes with 17-of-25 starts [17 games played~]

PF UDONIS HASLEM, Miami Heat: 8.0 points [51.2% shooting], 8.2 rebounds [team-high], 0.5 assists, 0.23 blocks, 0.54 steals, 80% FT …in 26.5 minutes with 0-of-27 starts [13 games played`]

G/F COREY BREWER, Minnesota Timberwolves: 9.6 points [36.9% shooting, 28.3% downtown], 3.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.19 blocks, 1.81 steals [team-high], 75% FT …in 25.1 minutes with 3-of-26 starts

F/C MATT BONNER, San Antonio Spurs: 6.9 points [43.3% shooting, 51.5% downtown (team-best)], 3.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.28 blocks, 0.33 steals, 75% FT …in 21.4 minutes with 0-of-24 starts [18 games played]

C MARREESE SPEIGHTS, Philadelphia 76ers: 4.9 points [45.0% shooting], 3.6 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.33 blocks, 0.19 steals, 65% FT …in 12.5 minutes with 0-of-25 starts [21 games played]

PG JASON WILLIAMS, Orlando Magic: 2.4 points [37.1% shooting, 31.8% downtown], 1.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.5 steals …in 11.4 minutes with 0-of-25 starts [14 games played]

G/F MIKE MILLER, Miami Heat: Has yet to play this season after breaking his thumb during preseason practice; is expected to return to his team soon.

NOTES
* SG Joe Johnson averages 17.1 points per game for Atlanta, 0.1 more than Horford.
~ Lee has missed eight games after suffering a serious infection in his elbow.
` Haslem is out for the season after tearing a ligament in his foot.

Photo Credit: Atlanta Hawks

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Gainesville native returning home with Kent State

For most players and fans, the Florida Gators squaring off against the Kent State Golden Flashes is just another out-of-conference game against a mid-major opponent before the Southeastern Conference slate begins. However, for Kent State walk-on and Gainesville, FL, native Brian Frank, Thursday’s game is a dream realized.

Growing up in Gainesville before going off to prep school, Frank never thought he would play college basketball. With encouragement from his brother and the Oh Fours, Frank wound up playing Division III hoops for the College of Wooster before deciding to transfer to Kent State – where his father is a provost – last year.

And even though he broke his wrist last week and will be unable to play on Thursday, just being on the court at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center dressed in a college uniform means the world to this driven young man.

OGGOA spoke with Frank on Tuesday (thanks to the good people of the Kent State athletic department) and asked him what it meant to him to be returning to his hometown on a college basketball team.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Thanks a lot for sitting down with us tonight. I know you guys are in the middle of finals while simultaneously preparing for Florida in a few days. Let’s start with how it all began for you. What was it like growing up in Gainesville?

BRIAN FRANK: “It was awesome. I was really growing into my love for the game right around the time the Oh Fours came to UF. My brother is good friends with them and, being a kid in high school, having Taurean Green and Joakim Noah and Al Horford sitting in the stands to watch you play is really something. I think what really made me want to follow basketball was my brother’s close relationship with them. Growing up, my brother was always my inspiration and he continues to be the reason I play, but he would always try to bring the Florida players around me to give me a good look at what college basketball was all about.”

AS: Spending so much time with those guys, did they say something in particular that resonated with you or gave you that little extra push to give college basketball a shot?

BF: “They were just always real supportive of me. To give you an example, I was on Facebook today and Taurean messaged me to check how things were going. When the [Atlanta] Hawks came to Cleveland, Al got me a couple tickets to see them play. Little things like knowing they care about how I’m doing really means a lot. But if you’re looking for a quote… When Joakim was at my [Bucholtz] high school games, he would always yell, ‘Take it to the baja little Frankie!’ That was fun.”

Read the rest of our interview with Kent State’s Brian Frank…after the break!
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Florida bounces back to rout N.C. A&T 105-55

Just two days after suffering a tough loss at home to No. 4/5 Ohio State, the No. 9/10 Florida Gators (2-1) rebounded with a dominating 105-55 victory over the North Carolina A&T Aggies (1-3) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Senior forward Chandler Parsons and sophomore guard Kenny Boynton led the Gators with 16 points apiece and were just two of eight Florida players to score in double figures on the evening. Freshman F Will Yeguete proved to be a dominating presence down low, grabbing 15 rebounds (nine offensive) while also scoring seven points, dishing four assists and stealing the ball thrice.

Yeguete’s 15 boards were the most by a freshman since Al Horford (18 vs. Alabama in 2005), but he was not the only first-year player to have a big night. Center Patric Young posted 11 points, six rebounds, four steals and two blocks, G Casey Prather scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting (2-of-4 from downtown), and point guard Scottie Wilbekin finished with 11 points and six assists.

Rounding out the starting five for the Gators were senior C Vernon Macklin (10 points, six rebounds, two blocks), PG Erving Walker (11 points, six assists, no turnovers) and sophomore F Erik Murphy (11 points, four rebounds, two blocks). Murphy started the first game of his young career in place of senior F Alex Tyus, who missed the contest with a mild concussion but is expected to return to action on Sunday.

Up 28 points late in the first half and eventually winning the game by 50, Florida scored 52 points in the paint, 35 off turnovers and 25 on second chances. The Gators’ bench produced 41 points, which helped UF score more than 100 for the first time since defeating North Florida by 102 in 2007. Florida also notched 26 assists, 16 steals and eight blocks while turning the ball over 11 times as a team.

Though most of the team was solid defensively, head coach Billy Donovan had to sit Boynton early on due to a poor defensive effort. He returned to the court after a quick talking to and helped hold North Carolina A&T to 34.5 percent shooting on the evening.

The Gators are back in action in less than 72 hours, taking on Morehead State in the O’Dome on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. The game will air live on Sun Sports.

POST-GAME NOTES & QUOTES (After the break…)
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TWO BITS: Noah featured in major publiations

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, featured both in the latest issue of ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated is just beginning his fourth NBA season. Signing a five-year, $60 million extension over the summer, the former Florida Gators star and two-time national champion finally feels at peace in the NBA and is making a case to be known as one of the best centers in the league. ESPN The Magazine‘s feature story focuses on Noah’s living arrangements, comfort in Chicago and acceptance by the fans, while Sports Illustrated‘s article concentrates on Noah’s ascension within the NBA, struggles since joining the league and turn from draft-day pariah to fan favorite.

Below is a video ESPN.com shot to accompany the Noah story as published online.

2 » With Noah and former Florida teammate, Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford, signing nearly identical five-year, $60 million extensions, comparisons between the two players continue to be made in the NBA just like they were in college. Horford, who was taken No. 3 in the 2007 NBA Draft compared to Noah who was drafted in the No. 7 slot, was considered by many to be the better pro prospect coming out of college. However, when looking closely at their numbers and production since joining the league, many executives might take Noah over Horford if given the opportunity.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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Horford, Hawks agree on 5-year, $60M extension

Less than one month after former Florida Gators teammate center Joakim Noah agreed in principal to a five-year, $60 million contract extension with the Chicago Bulls, forward/center Al Horford has decided to accept a similar deal with the Atlanta Hawks.

Atlanta had been feverishly working over the last two months to sign the back-to-back national champion and No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft to an extension.

“From the moment he arrived in Atlanta, Al has been a large part of our success,” executive vice president Rick Sund said in an official release from the team. “The winning tradition he brought to the franchise as a rookie out of Florida has extended to three consecutive playoff seasons in a Hawks uniform. In addition, he was deservedly recognized as an All-Star last year, and we certainly look forward to his continued development as we move forward.”

Last season, Horford was selected to his first NBA All-Star team after averaging career-highs in points (14.2), rebounds (9.9), field goal percentage (55.1%), free throw percentage (75.3%) and minutes (35.1) while starting all of the Hawks’ games.

“It happened like I’ve been predicting – down to the wire,” Horford told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday. “When we finally kind of agreed on everything, I was super excited. It’s great to be able to get it done and have peace of mind. It makes me able to come out and just focus on basketball, which is my priority to begin with. So I’m happy about that part.”

He was named a team captain this offseason and has incentives in his new contact, according to ESPN, that could add an additional $8 million to the deal. ESPN also reports that Horford will earn a flat $12 million annually, higher than Noah’s $10 million.

Photo Credit: Atlanta Hawks

OGGOA Related: Bulls, Noah agree to five-year, $60M extension

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NBA season begins, Gators look to make impact

The 2010-11 NBA season tipped off Tuesday night with nine former Florida Gators standouts on professional rosters. Some won National Championships while wearing the Orange & Blue, others went undrafted, but all want to prove that the Florida basketball program has and can produce legitimate NBA stars.

Al Horford, F/C, Atlanta Hawks
2009-10: Averaging career highs in points (14.2), rebounds (9.9), field goal percentage (55.1), free throw percentage (78.9) and minutes (35.1), Horford also contributed 2.3 assists and 1.1 blocks per game last year. For the second-straight season he led his team to the second round of the NBA Playoffs where, like in 2008-09, they were swept.
2010-11: The Godfather was named a captain in Atlanta during the preseason and will be a restricted free agent when the year ends. The Hawks are believed to be making a concerted effort to resign the first-time NBA All-Star and No. 3 overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft to a five-year deal worth $50-60 million.

Joakim Noah, F/C, Chicago Bulls
2009-10: Averaging a double-double with career highs in points (10.7), rebounds (11.0), blocks (1.6), assists (2.1), free throw percentage (74.4) and minutes (30.1), Noah was also good for 2.1 assists per game and shot 50.4 percent from the field. He missed 28 games with a plantar fasciitis injury but regained his form before the playoffs, which saw Chicago fall in the first round.
2010-11: Noah was rewarded by the Bulls for his hard work with a five-year, $60 million extension in the offseason. His defense and shot blocking makes him an elite big man in the league and, with Chicago adding All-Star forward Carlos Boozer to the frontcourt, some of the pressure he felt to do everything for the team defensively may be relived.

David Lee, F/C, Golden State Warriors
2009-10: Averaging a double-double for the second-straight season with the New York Knicks, Lee posted career-highs in points (20.2), assists (3.6), blocks (0.5) and free throw percentage (81.2) along with 11.7 rebounds while shooting 54.5 percent. A fan favorite who was a victim of circumstance due to the blockbuster free agents available this summer, Lee was moved to the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade.
2010-11: Agreeing a six-year, $80 million contract with Golden State, Lee will once again play for an up-tempo offense in which he will be able to shine. Though he will not be relied upon as heavily with the Warriors as he was with the Knicks, Lee will have ample opportunities to showcase his talent on the left coast.

Profiles for six more former Gators basketball players…after the jump!
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