FOUR BITS: NCAA, volleyball, Mularkey, Dillman

1 » The NCAA on Tuesday chose to recognize some of the top players and teams that have participated in NCAA Tournaments, as well as many of the top moments to occur in those events, over the last 75 years. The organization picked the 2006-07 incarnation of the Florida Gators as one of the top-25 teams and also recognized center Joakim Noah as one of the top-75 players ever to participate in the tournament. Noah was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2006 tourney after he registered a then-record 29 blocked shots in the event and averaged 13.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. Both Noah and the 2006-07 UF team are finalists in their respective categories, which will be voted on before awards are presented at the 2013 NCAA Final Four in Atlanta, GA.

2 » Florida junior middle back Chloe Mann, who put together an impressive 2012 campaign for a Gators volleyball program that exceeded its preseason expectations, was named a First Team All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) on Wednesday. Mann was honored along with outside hitter Ziva Recek, who was named Freshman of the Year by the organization. Florida as a team lasted until the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament where it fell to three-seed Texas. The Gators concluded the season with a 27-5 record and their first SEC Championship since 2010.

3 » Former Florida tight end Mike Mularkey, now head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, was hospitalized on Monday on the advice of a team trainer after feeling ill at his team’s facility. He was released shortly after being admitted and was healthy enough to return to practice on Tuesday. Mularkey’s first year with Jacksonville has been anything but productive as the Jaguars are currently 2-11 and have lost nine of their last 10 games. This is his second NFL head coaching stint as he previously led the Buffalo Bills to a 14-18 combined record from 2004-05.

4 » As much as head coach Will Muschamp has been credited with turning around the Gators football program, strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman is in many ways equally deserving of praise. Dilliman recently sat down with his hometown paper, the Richmond County Daily Journal, and discussed both how he arrived at Florida and what he thinks of what the team has accomplished this season. Throughout the year, Dillman received plenty of credit for the team’s performance against LSU and how it stood up to the long season from a conditioning perspective. In the interview, he turned around and put the praise back on Muschamp for how the team was run this year. “At the end of the day, it’s the program,” he said. “It goes back to Coach Muschamp and the kids because they worked their butts off. We all have a job to do and Coach Muschamp lets me do my job. All the kids come in and believe in what we are trying to accomplish. Coach is big on keeping it real. My staff and I will be honest with a player, but we also want to keep a positive environment. I have a philosophy of actions trigger feelings and feelings trigger actions. Good things come out of being positive and negative things come out of being negative. I always try to be positive while training an athlete.”

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Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd, Caleb Sturgis, Kyle Christy named to 2012 AP All-American teams

Florida Gators junior safety Matt Elam, voted the team’s most valuable defender at its annual award banquet on Saturday, was named a First Team All-American by the Associated Press on Tuesday.

Elam, a unanimous First Team All-SEC selection earlier this month, is the first member of Florida’s secondary to receive the honor since 2009 (Joe Haden) and the first Gators player to be named to the first team since 2010 (Chas Henry).

Florida junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis and sophomore punter Kyle Christy earned Third Team All-American honors on Tuesday. Like Elam, all three were also unanimous First Team All-SEC selections.

Photo Credit: USA Today

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Brad Wilkerson becomes first Florida Gators player inducted into College Baseball Hall of Fame

A three-time All-American and the 1998 National Player of the Year, Brad Wilkerson was inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming the first Florida Gators player to receive the prestigious honor.

A unanimous first-team All-American as a junior in 1998, Wilkerson’s abilities at the plate and on the mound were some of the main reasons why Florida won two Southeastern Conference Championships in three years and advanced to the College World Series in both 1996 and 1998. His grand slam home run to defeat Florida State in the CWS is one of the standout plays in Gators baseball history, and he became the first player in NCAA history to hit 20 homers, steal 20 bases and earn 10 wins as a pitcher (which he accomplished in 1998).

Wilkerson is first in school history to this day in career batting average (.381), slugging percentage (.714), on-base percentage (.531) and walks (224); he is second in home runs (55), runs batted in (214), runs (239) and total bases (499). He is also listed as part of the top-10 in seven other categories including notables like pitching wins (third with 26), strikeouts as a pitcher (fifth with 292) and hits (sixth with 266).

Following his time at Florida, Wilkerson was selected with the No. 33 overall pick by the Montreal Expos in the 1998 MLB Draft and following three years in the minor leagues spent eight playing in the majors. He earned Rookie of the Year honors from Sporting News, hit 32 home runs in 2004, smacked the last home run in Expos team history, jacked the first grand slam in Washington Nationals team history, hit for the natural cycle (in four plate appearances) and hit three home runs in a single game (2007).

Wilkerson also played for the Texas Rangers (2006-07) and spent time as a member of both the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays in 2008. He signed a minor league contract with Boston in 2009 but quickly decided to retire before attempting a comeback in 2010 with Philadelphia that only lasted one month.

Wilkerson is a member of the seventh class of the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, which began honoring players in 2006, and was inducted in a ceremony that took place Saturday in Lubbock, TX. He is one of four members of the 2012 class, which also includes Nomar Garciaparra, Lou Brock and Frank Sancet (coach).

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Zunino is Baseball America’s Player of the Year

Florida Gators junior catcher Mike Zunino received his second major national award in the last two weeks after being officially named Baseball America’s 2012 College Player of the Year and a first-team All-American on Friday.

Zunino, who also brought home the Dick Howser Trophy (considered to be the “Heisman Trophy” of collegiate baseball) on June 15 for the first time in school history, had an outstanding season for the Gators in which he batted .322 and led the team in homers (19), RBIs (67), sacrifice flies (11) and total bases (164). He also registered 53 runs and 31 walks while fielding his position at a .994 clip.

His combination of offensive production, quality defense, superb leadership and remarkable durability (he started all 66 of Florida’s games, including 62 at catcher) made Zunino the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, and it makes him the 2012 Baseball America College Player of the Year.

The No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners, Zunino was the highest-drafted player in team history. He was also named to the All-SEC First Team for the second consecutive year and is a back-to-back finalist for the Johnny Bench Award (college baseball’s top catcher) as well as a finalist this season for the prestigious Golden Spikes Award (best amateur baseball player).

Photo Credits: The News-Press, John Korduner

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FOUR BITS: All-Americans, The Swamp, Harvin

1 » Four Florida Gators were named to various All-American teams on Thursday. Junior baseball players catcher Mike Zunino and left-handed pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson were both honored as Louisville Slugger All-Americans by Collegiate Baseball newspaper, while softball’s senior centerfielder Michelle Moultrie and sophomore right-hander Hannah Rogers were awarded by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. Zunino and Moultrie earned first-team honors, and Johnson and Rogers were named to the second team.

2 » A press release issued on Thursday announced that the University of Florida and LIDS® Sports Group have reached an agreement for the retailer “to operate and manage the official team stores” located within Ben Hill Griffin Stadium “as well as other special event concessions for the University’s baseball, basketball, and gymnastics athletic programs, among others.” The now-former Florida Gators Sports Shop will be re-branded as the Gator Locker Room, a name similar to the LIDS Locker Room storefronts that can be found throughout the state of Florida. The two stores inside The Swamp “will be equipped with custom embroidery and screen printing capabilities…which will allow fans to personalize their game day apparel.” There will also be a loyalty card available that “provides points with every purchase that earns rewards such as exclusive discounts and promotional offers, as well as access to special products and events.” LIDS also plans to leverage Gators merchandise in existing locations throughout the state, which will give Florida fans a greater choice of merchandise outside of Gainesville, FL. “We wanted a company that offered what Gator fans are looking for – a vast variety of quality merchandise available at convenient store locations around the state,” athletic director Jeremy Foley said in the release. “LIDS fits those requirements, as it is among the nation’s premier sports retailers. We are confident Florida fans will find just what they are looking for at the Gator Locker Room or at LIDS Locker Room locations.”

3 » Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin explained that he is sitting out of organized team activities as a precaution not because his recently operated upon shoulder is requiring him avoid physical activity. “I feel great. No limitations. Got all my strength back. It’s just precaution,” Harvin said, according to the Associated Press. “They don’t want me to fall or do anything crazy right now during these drills. Hopefully next week I should be back out here.” Even less stressed about Harvin’s absence from the field (he is still at the facility running and exercising) is head coach Leslie Frazier. “I gave him a big hug when he showed up,” Frazier said. “He texted me Monday night, Memorial Day, because I wasn’t sure what his flight schedule was going to be. He said, ‘I’m in town, what doctors do I have to see tomorrow morning?’ I texted him back, ‘Is this the Percy Harvin? The real Percy Harvin?’ So just great for our meetings, great for our coaches to see him around.”

4 » In a new edition of the Gatorade online series Inside the Edge, former Florida striker and current U.S. Women’s National Team member Abby Wambach is filmed at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute as she learns “how to properly prepare her body from the inside out before hitting the field.”

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FOUR BITS: Parsons, Beal, lacrosse, baseball

1 » Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons is back in Gainesville, FL continuing rehabilitation on a partially torn right labrum he suffered during the season. OGGOA learned of Parsons’s injury on Friday and was told that he has already been rehabbing the shoulder for a month and is not allowed to have any contact until June at the earliest. He did not undergo shoulder surgery as it was not required by doctors. Houston plans to have Parsons, a 2012 NBA All-Rookie second team member, in action during their summer league games. He will likely participate in one or two contests and spend the rest of the time practicing and working out with his teammates.

2 » Just over a month away from the 2012 NBA Draft, Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal continues to be a hot name amongst scouts and front office executives. Not only is he almost cemented in to be a top-five overall selection, Beal is seen by many to be one of the three best players available and could go as high as No. 2 overall according to ESPN’s Andy Katz, who notes that his “physical stature and his ability to make shots mean he’s ready to contribute.” Continued…

NBA.com’s David Aldridge:

Beal, who finished second on the Gators in scoring last season, is the choice of just about every pro scout and evaluator I’ve spoken with, and there isn’t one of them who believes he won’t be taken in the top five or higher in June’s Draft.

“I’m not comparing him to Ray [Allen], but he’s the best I’ve seen since Ray in terms of being able to catch and shoot,” said an official from a Southeast Division team — who, indeed, just compared the 6-foot-3 Beal to Allen, the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers. [...]

“He has a chance to be really good,” said a Central Division personnel man. “Super high-character guy, too. He can do a lot more than he’s shown. Works his tail off. Just all of the things you want. He’s like the flavor of the month.”

Said a Northwest Division scout: “He’s not tall, but he’s big and thick and strong. He has a lot of poise to him. I think he has upside. He didn’t have an elite shooting year, but it’ll get better. His stroke is good. It’s just a matter of taking more shots and making them.” [...]

“The one thing that hindered him was Boynton and Walker were chuckers,” said a Southwest Division scout. “I saw him against Arizona and I wanted Bradley to get (ticked): ‘Why don’t y’all pass the ball?’ But he stayed in his lane. If Bradley had played with a better point guard, he probably would have had better numbers.” [...]

“I think he can guard people,” the Northwest scout said. “He’s really, really strong, very physical. I think he takes it personally. He wants to guard. And if you’re going to play for Billy (Donovan) you have to have some of that in you.”

3 » Set to participate in their first Final Four on Friday, members of No. 1 Florida lacrosse learned earlier in the day that they had been awarded prestigious honors by WomensLax.com. The organization, one of three nationally that hands out awards each postseason for women’s lacrosse, named Amanda O’Leary the Coach of the Year, junior Mikey Meagher the Goalie of the Year and placed four Gators – Meagher, junior attacker Kitty Cullen, junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell and freshman M Shannon Gilroy – on their list of All-Americans. Cullen is the only player who was honored in the same way last season and becomes the first player in team history to earn consecutive All-America selections.

4 » Two members of No. 2 Florida baseball – juniors Brian Johnson and Austin Maddox have been named to the watch list for the 2012 John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award. Johnson (6-4, 3.88 ERA, .310 avg., 5 HR, 34 RBI) has done more two-way work than Maddox has this season, earning 45 starts as a hitter and 14 as a pitcher. Maddox (3-2, 12 S, 1.43 ERA, .265 avg., 5 RBI) has appeared in 28 contests as a closer/reliever but has only hit in 25 games with 18 of those coming as a starter.

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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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Brad Wilkerson becomes first Florida Gators player named to College Baseball Hall of Fame

A three-time All-American and the 1998 National Player of the Year, Brad Wilkerson was announced Friday as the first player in Florida Gators history to be named to the National College Baseball Hall of Fame.

A unanimous first-team All-American as a junior in 1998, Wilkerson’s abilities at the plate and on the mound were some of the main reasons why Florida won two Southeastern Conference Championships in three years and advanced to the College World Series in both 1996 and 1998. His grand slam home run to defeat Florida State in the CWS is one of the standout plays in Gators baseball history, and he became the first player in NCAA history to hit 20 homers, steal 20 bases and earn 10 wins as a pitcher (which he accomplished in 1998).

Wilkerson remains first in school history in career batting average (.381), slugging percentage (.714), on-base percentage (.531) and walks (224) and is second in four more categories including home runs (55), runs batted in (214), runs (239) and total bases (499). He is also listed as part of the top-10 in seven other categories including notables like pitching wins (third with 26), strikeouts as a pitcher (fifth with 292) and hits (sixth with 266).

Following his time at Florida, Wilkerson (the No. 33 overall pick by the Montreal Expos in the 1998 MLB Draft) spent three years in the minor leagues and eight in the majors. Some career highlights include earning Rookie of the Year honors from Sporting News, hitting 32 home runs in 2004, smacking the last home run in Expos team history, jacking the first grand slam in Washington Nationals team history, hitting for the natural cycle (in four plate appearances) and hitting three home runs in a single game (2007).

Wilkerson will be officially inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, which began honoring players in 2006, in a ceremony set to take place in Lubbock, TX from June 29-30. He is one of four members of a 2012 class that also includes Nomar Garciaparra, Lou Brock and Frank Sancet (coach).

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