Milton-Jones: “What’s the point in playing if you’re not playing for a championship?”

By Nicole Boyett – OGGOA Student Correspondent

The WNBA may not be a professional sport followed by many Florida Gators fans, but it is time for them to start taking notice if they haven’t already as the only woman representing the Orange & Blue in the league, DeLisha Milton-Jones, has been nominated as one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All Time.

During her time at Florida, Milton-Jones led the Gators to four NCAA Tournament appearances (including the 1997 Elite Eight) while earning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and Associated Press All-American honors her senior year. She followed up her stellar collegiate career by playing in the ABL for two years before being was drafted with the No. 4 overall pick in the 1999 WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. Now in her 13th WNBA season, Milton-Jones is one of the most accomplished players to step on the hardwood.

She has won two Olympic gold medals for Team USA (2000, 2008), back-to-back WNBA titles with Los Angeles (2001, 2002) and a pair of Euroleague Championships (2003, 2006) while also having been named a WNBA All-Star twice (2000, 2007).

At of the end of the 2010 season, she was 11th in the WNBA in total points, 10th in total rebounds, ninth in field goals made, 14th in free throws made, sixth in total steals, 13th in total blocks, 11th in minutes per game, and seventh in total minutes played. Despite her impressive career and overwhelming talent on the court, Milton-Jones continues to be overlooked as one of the greatest female basketball players to ever lace up her shoes. The hope is that her talent is recognized on July 23 when the WNBA announces the league’s all-time Top 15 players at the 15th annual All-Star Game in San Antonio, TX.

Milton-Jones sat down with OGGOA’s Nicole Boyett for an exclusive interview just a handful of games into her 13th WNBA season. Averaging 12.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, she continues to lead the Sparks and hopes to be recognized for the impact she has made on women’s basketball in the United States.

NICOLE BOYETT: What does it mean to you to be the only Gator in the WNBA and to have had such a long and successful career?
DELISHA MILTON-JONES: “I am proud that I’m the lone standing Gator in the league, but I’m also sad because I feel like there should definitely be more of us in the league. When [former Florida star] Murriel Page* decided to leave after her achilles injury, that was pretty much it for us, and I think that her and I both did a great job of representing the Gators all these years.”
*Page was selected No. 3 overall in the 1998 WNBA Draft by the Washington Mystics. She is now an assistant coach under Amanda Butler at UF.

NB: As a Gator, you won SEC Player of the Year, were an All-American and went to the NCAA Tournament every year. With all of your accomplishments at Florida, do you get the opportunity to come back and talk to the team or head coach Amanda Butler?
DMJ: “It is difficult to support the team the way I would like to because, in the off-season during their season, is when I leave for Europe. After the WNBA season, I usually have a week, maybe less, to prepare myself for the next eight months in Europe, so there’s really no downtime for me. For the past 11 years, I’ve been playing in Europe as well as the WNBA year-round, so it is very difficult to get back. I wasn’t even able to come back when I was inducted into the WNBA Hall of Fame because it was during an important time in the season in Europe and the team wouldn’t allow me to come back, so I had to miss it. My mother had to go in my place. I’m hoping that – when it’s all said and done and I decide to retire – that they allow me to come back and be able to participate in the ceremony in a different way.”

NB: You’ve won two gold medals with Team USA, two WNBA Championships and two Euroleague titles. How do those compare to each other and how does winning a gold medal compare to winning a championship?
DMJ: “A championship is a championship, but they all feel good. I think the difference is that the gold medals probably have more value to me because it’s on the largest stage possible and I won. I consider myself to be so blessed, lucky, and privileged to have been a participant in several Olympics. That’s just a dream come true and it lets you know that you are in a category that many people would give their arm for just to be able to participate in. To be able to walk into the opening ceremonies and participate in the game is something that was so special that if I hadn’t gotten the gold medal, it wouldn’t matter because the memories will last a lifetime. Any time I think of that feeling, it just sends chills down my spine.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Milton-Jones…after the break!
Continue Reading » Milton-Jones: “What’s the point in playing if you’re not playing for a championship?”

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FOUR BITS: baseball deals, tennis, Ball, Mudd

1 » A trio of now former Florida Gators baseball players signed professional contracts this week. Seniors second baseman Josh Adams and right-handed pitcher Matt Campbell agreed to their deals, and junior left-handed pitcher Nick Maronde gave up his final year of eligibility by choosing to play professionally in 2011. Adams, the No. 403 overall pick in the 13th round by the Florida Marlins, will begin his career with the Class A Jamestown Jammers (New York-Penn League). The No. 751 overall pick in the 24th round, Matt Campbell signed with the Philadelphia Phillies and will report to the rookie league Gulf Coast League Phillies. Maronde was picked the highest out of all his teammates as the Los Angeles Angels selected him with the No. 104 overall pick in the third round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He will head over to the Pioneer League’s Orem Owlz and try to work his way up the ranks.

2 » The 2011 USTA Collegiate Team was announced on Thursday and two Gators made the cut. Juniors No. 4 Lauren Embree and No. 9 Allie Will were selected for the team, which is funded by the USTA and administered in conjunction with the ITA. Players will have the chance to train and develop as they compete on the USTA Pro Circuit. Joining the duo, on the men’s side, is junior Sekou Bangoura, Jr..

3 » Florida sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball, still recovering from an arteriovenous malformation found in his brain in Feb., is expected to sit out the 2011 season as he continues to recover. The Orlando Sentinel’s Rachel George spoke this week with Ball’s brother-in-law, who told her that the player underwent “radial surgery” that was performed with the hope “that the malformation withers up and dies over time.” Having not practiced since the spring and unable to work out with the team, Ball would not be in shape to play in 2011 even if completely cleared by doctors. His brother-in-law confirmed this to the Sentinel but also provided good news about his overall heath. “He’s healthy. He’s fine,” he said. “He’s probably going to miss next season. […] We’re all appreciative to Coach [Will] Muschamp, the doctors, the staff, everybody.”

4 » Former Florida All-American golfer Jessie Mudd has turned in his orange for white after being named assistant men’s golf coach for the Kentucky Wildcats on Thursday. Mudd helped propel the Gators to three top-10 NCAA finishes and won multiple awards including notably being named co-SEC Freshman of the Year.

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Gators C Zunino reels in All-American honors

Florida Gators sophomore catcher Mike Zunino has been named an All-American by all three major voting bodies, though each organization placed him on a different team.

Baseball America announced Wednesday that Zunino was a first-team All-American: “The Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Zunino was a beast against elite SEC competition. In conference games, he led the league in slugging (.750), runs (36), RBIs (33) and doubles (14) and ranked second in batting (.422), OBP (.477) and homers (eight).”

Earlier in the day, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) named Zunino a third-team All-American behind Wichita State’s Chris O’Brien (first team) and James Madison’s Jake Lowery (second team). Lowery joined Zunino on the first team but O’Brien was left off Baseball America’s All-American teams.

Zunino had previously been tabbed as a second-team Louisville Slugger All-American by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper on June 2. That organization picked Lowery for its first team and placed O’Brien alongside Zunino on the second team.

No. 2 Florida baseball (50-17) opens the 2011 College World Series on Saturday at 7 p.m. against No. 7 Texas in Omaha, NE.

Photo Credits: The News-Press, John Korduner/Icon SMI

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UF’s Kelsey Bruder wins Honda Sports Award

Florida Gators senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder was named the 2011 Honda Sports Award winner for softball on Tuesday, an honor which recognizes her as the nation’s top collegiate athlete in the sport. She earned the achievement after a national balloting of the 1,000 NCAA member institutions was conducted by the organization.

“Winning the Honda Award is such an incredible honor. To be recognized as the best player in college softball seems absolutely surreal and I could not be more grateful to be among both the past and present Honda Sports Award nominees and recipients,” Bruder said in an official release from the University of Florida. “Receiving this award would not have been possible without every single one of my teammates. The dedication of our players is extremely admirable and has motivated me to create an even better work ethic. I am so blessed to have played with these tremendous athletes. I’m confident we will continue to build upon the tradition of success associated with the University of Florida.”

Bruder, who finished her final season in the Orange and Blue batting .387 with 19 homers, 71 RBI, 79 runs and 48 walks, is now in contention for the Collegiate Female Athlete of the Year Award and Honda-Broderick Cup (presented to The Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year).

She also captured 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year honors in May after leading the SEC in seven categories (home runs, RBI, hits, runs, doubles, total bases, slugging percentage) and was named to the 2011 Women’s College World Series All-Tournament Team.

With the award, the two-time All-American earned a $5,000 donation from Honda to the general women’s athletic program at UF.

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FOUR BITS: Whitson, Calipari, Pittman, Schintzius

1 » The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on Monday announced that Florida Gators right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson has been named a first-team Freshman All-American. One of 16 standouts to earn the distinction, Whitson is also in line for the National Freshman Pitcher of the Year award, which will be announced Tuesday. With an 8-0 record, 2.45 ERA and 83 strikeouts on the season, he the only player on the first team representing the Southeastern Conference.

2 » Remember when the Kentucky Wildcats and head basketball coach John Calipari defeated Florida in Lexington, KY and the school held a mini 500th victory celebration? Well, according to the NCAA, that should never have happened, and the organization is now taking steps to ensure that Kentucky does what they can to make that information public. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader

Earlier this month, the chairman of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions sent University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. a letter asking the school to publicly acknowledge it was wrong to recognize John Calipari’s 500th coaching victory this past season. Chairman Dennis E. Thomas, the commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, also told Todd that the wording of UK’s statement “must be approved by the office of the Committee on Infractions prior to its release.”

Because the NCAA forced Massachusetts and Memphis to vacate a total of 42 victories achieved under Calipari due to a variety of transgressions, the governing body insists that his victory total was only 458 on that day and now stands at 467 for his career. For more on the matter, click here.

3 » Speaking with The Gainesville Sun after a recent visit to Gainesville, FL for a football camp, Gators four-star 2012 wide receiver commit LaTroy Pittman (Citra, FL) discussed his experience. “It felt great just getting out there, getting a feel for Coach [Aubrey] Hill, how he coaches and how he sees me,” he said. “As far as hands-on and doing drills, that was the first time I really got to see how he would coach me.” Pittman, Florida’s first commit of the 2012 cycle, plans to return for Friday Night Lights.

4 » Surviving a serious leukemia scare last year, former Gators C Dwayne Schintzius made his first major public appearance during a Florida basketball game on Feb. 24 and was in great spirits. Last week he attended a fundraiser for the Tampa Bay Sports Commission with the belief that he would be supporting his father, Ken, who was going to be handed an award from the Hillsborough County Sherrif’s alumni association. Schintzius was instead surprised to learn that he was being honored with a special award for courage. “He wouldn’t have wanted to come to the dinner but after I told him the award was for me, he said he’d come,” Ken told Joe Henderson of The Tampa Tribune. “It worked. We got him. We played it right to the hilt.” Though he has been praised extensively for his strength in fighting his disease, Schintzius wanted the praise to go where it belongs. “People are giving me an award, I guess, for fighting for my life,” he said. “I don’t deserve the award. The people at Moffitt [Cancer Center] are the ones who are the true heroes. They saved my life.” Click here to read more about Schintzius’s battle and the events of the night.

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Former Florida LB Godfrey Myles dead at 42

Former Florida Gators linebacker/safety Godfrey Myles (1968-2011) passed away Friday morning. He was 42-years-old.

Earlier in the week, Myles suffered a massive heart attack and had been in the hospital on life support until a stroke took his life.

The University of Florida has confirmed his passing.

Myles, a Miami, FL native, competed for the Gators as a linebacker 1987-89 before switching to safety for his senior season. He played for head coaches Galen Hall and Steve Spurrier, earned a Sporting News All-American honorable mention as a junior, was named a captain his senior season and earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors at safety prior to entering the NFL as a linebacker.

Selected with the No. 62 overall pick in the third round of the 1991 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys, Myles was with the team for three Super Bowls, amassing more than a hundred tackles, two interceptions and two fumbles recovered in that time. He played for Dallas from 1991-96 as a reserve linebacker and special teams standout.

Myles competed alongside former Florida running back Emmitt Smith for a few years in Gainesville, FL and his entire career in Dallas.

He was recently in the news after being indicted for mortgage fraud in Wellington, FL.

OGGOA sends our deepest condolences to the Myles family.

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Seniors take Gators softball to new heights

Five members of the Florida Gators softball team saw their collegiate careers come to an end Tuesday night in the final game of the 2011 Women’s College World Series. And while they may not have won the national title and are likely returning to Gainesville, FL on Wednesday with heavy hearts, their accomplishments as a senior class are unmatched in school history. Let’s take a look at their impact…

2011 Senior Class
- Compiled a 238-33 record (.878 winning percentage)
- Set a NCAA record with 70 wins in 2008 (freshman year)
- First SEC team to appear in four-straight WCWS
- Played in WCWS Championships Series twice in three years (2009, 2011)
- Won two SEC regular season and two SEC Tournament titles (2008, 2009)
- Won four-straight SEC East division titles (2008-11)

OF Kelsey Bruder
- Hit .357 (221/619) with 52 homers, 195 RBI, 185 runs scored and 103 walks
- School record for career batting average (.357)
- School record for total bases in a single season (152, 2011)
- School record for runs scored in single season (79, 2011)
- Only player in school history to hit two sacrifice flies in a single game
- 2011 NFCA First-Team All-American
- 2011 SEC Player of the Year
- 2011 WCWS All-Tournament Team
- 2009, 2011 All-SEC First Team
- 2009 SEC All-Tournament Team
- 2009 SEC All-Defensive Team

RHP Stephanie Brombacher
- Compiled a 1.50 career ERA; won 97 of 108 decisions and struck out 683 batters
- School record for career winning percentage (.898)
- School record for winning percentage in a single season (1.000 in 2008, 2009)
- Only pitcher in school history to start her career 10+ wins before suffering a loss
- 2010 All-SEC First Team
- 2009 & 2010 NFCA All-Southeast Region First Team
- 2008 SEC All-Freshman Team

1B Megan Bush
- Hit .318 (225/707) with 65 homers, 217 RBI, 138 runs scored and 113 walks
- School record for career home runs (65)
- School record for RBI in a single season (80, 2011)
- 2011 NFCA First-Team All-American
- 2010, 2011 All-SEC First Team
- 2010 SEC All-Tournament Team
- 2009 WCWS All-Tournament Team
- 2009, 2010 NFCA All-Southeast Region First Team
- 2008 SEC All-Freshman Team

C Tiffany DeFelice
- Hit .280 (132/472) with 24 homers, 106 RBI, 70 runs scored and 100 walks
- School record for career fielding percentage
- One of three players in school history to record perfect fielding percentages in a single season and the only player to do so twice
- 2008 SEC All-Freshman Team

2B Aja Paculba
- Hit .340 (279/821) with 35 homers, 176 RBI, 253 runs scored and 160 walks
- School record for career hits (279)
- School record for career runs scored (253)
- School record for career walks (160)
- School record for career stolen bases (67)
- School record for walks in a single season (49, 2009)
- School record for most walks in a single game (four, 2009)
- Longest hitting streak in school history (16, 2010)
- 2009 All-SEC First Team
- 2008-10 SEC All-Defensive Team
- 2009 SEC All-Tournament Team
- 2008 SEC All-Freshman Team

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Alvarez voted to College Football Hall of Fame

Former Florida Gators wide receiver Carlos Alvarez has been voted into the College Football Hall of Fame, the National Football Foundation announced on Tuesday.

One of 79 All-American players and nine coaches made eligible for selection by the voting committee, Alvarez will be one of 16 inductees (14 players, two coaches) who will be officially enshrined in July 2012 after being honored at a dinner in Dec. 2011.

He played on the Gators for three seasons (1969-71) and still holds three school records for career receiving yards (2,563), receptions in a single season (88) and receptions in a game (15). Alvarez also set the then-University of Florida and Southeastern Conference career receptions mark with 172 catches in 1971.

“I’m hardly ever speechless, but I am,’’ he told UF senior writer Scott Carter. “When you look at college football and the number of people who have played…I feel honored just to be mentioned.’’

Alvarez is the third Florida player elected to the Hall of Fame since 2006.

He will the ninth overall representative of the Gators to be enshrined in the hall, joining coaches Charlie Bachman (1978), Doug Dickey (2003) and Ray Graves (1990), and players linebacker Wilber Marshall (2008), running back Emmitt Smith (2006), quarterback Steve Spurrier (1986) and defensive ends Dale Van Sickel (1975) and Jack Youngblood (1992).

“Carlos is a great example of all that is good in college athletics. His tireless work and commitment to excellence translated into success both on and off the field,” athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a school release. “He has maintained his level of commitment and success in his professional career as well. I’ve had the opportunity to see Carlos a number of times when he visits Gainesville and he remains a tremendous ambassador for our program. The honor is well deserved.”

Photo Credit: University of Florida archives

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