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.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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Top recruit Brad Beal signs LOI with Florida

Five-star shooting guard recruit Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) officially committed to play basketball for the Florida Gators on Wednesday, signing his letter of intent with the University of Florida on National Signing Day. He is the sole member of the Gators’ 2011 signing class.

Beal, who is considered by most analysts to be the best pure shooter in the 2011 recruiting cycle, is an impact player with a high basketball IQ, good ball handling skills and impressive defensive abilities. He has even drawn comparisons to Ray Allen.

“Clearly, I feel like we signed one of the best guards in the country,” head coach Billy Donovan said Wednesday. “We’re extremely excited about adding Brad, we believe he’s a special player and a winner, and excited that he’s going to be a part of our program.”

ESPNU, Scout and Rivals all have Beal ranked as the No. 7 overall recruit in the country. At 6’3” and 180 lbs., he could very well play right away for Florida and be part of a starting backcourt with sophomore SG Kenny Boynton and redshirt junior G Mike Rosario next season that could be the nation’s best.

Beal is the second player from Chaminade College Prep School to play for the Gators, following in the footsteps of current NBA All-Star forward/center David Lee of the Golden State Warriors, who spent four successful years with Florida.

Photo Credit: Wiley Price/The St. Louis American

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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!
Continue Reading » NBA season begins, Gators look to make impact

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FOUR BITS: Horford, Richard, Lawrence, LSU

1 » Over the last month two sources have told OGGOA that the Atlanta Hawks are working feverishly to sign former Florida Gators two-time National Championship-winning forward/center Al Horford to a long-term extension. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, Horford was selected to his first NBA All-Star team last season. He averaged 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 Atlanta’s games in 2009-10. Horford was named a team captain this offseason and should receive a deal for more than the five years and $60 million given to former teammate F/C Joakim Noah by the Chicago Bulls early this week.

2 » On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Bulls announced Wednesday that they have waived former Gators F/C Chris Richard after re-signing him on Sept. 27. Richard filled in for Noah while he was nursing a plantar faciitis injury last season, playing in 18 games and averaging 2.1 points and 3.3 rebounds. OGGOA spoke to Richard early this summer in an exclusive interview, which you can read here.

3 » Former Florida wide receiver T.J. Lawrence, now playing for the Florida A&M Rattlers, is finally happy as he has been seeing the field and getting plenty of playing time. On Wednesday he told The Famuan that he wanted to leave the Gators a full year before he actually did. “I guess I wasn’t happy,” Lawrence said. “I wanted to leave a year earlier, but I said I’d stick it out another year. I had to make the decision to leave because I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t playing as much as I wanted to.” Now Lawrence feels he is “being utilized how I want to be utilized.” He has 11 receptions for 166 yards this season, both team-highs.

4 » During the SEC conference call on Wednesday, LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles noted that starting defensive end Sam Montgomery will miss the remainder of the season after tearing ligaments in his right knee. Montgomery will likely undergo reconstructive surgery.

Photo Credit: Atlanta Hawks

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

Former Florida Gators center Joakim Noah, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, agreed in principle to a five-year, $60 million extension with the Chicago Bulls over the weekend.

The winner of back-to-back national championships at the University of Florida, Noah’s new deal includes a number of added bonuses, according to ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher who spoke with Dan Fegan, one of Noah’s agents.

“Joakim is such an integral member of our team, and we are very pleased to have reached an agreement with him,” team general manager Gar Forman said in a statement on Monday. “His presence, both on and off of the court, is immeasurable and we look forward to him to continue to improve and develop his game.”

Only playing 22 minutes per game during his first two seasons in the league, Noah posted averages of 6.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks, leading many to believe he may have been overrated coming out of college.

That all turned around last year as Noah averaged 10.7 points, 11 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 30.1 minutes per game while playing through a nagging plantar fasciitis injury.

The Bulls now covet him as the team’s literal centerpiece for the future. In fact, Chicago turned down overtures for Noah from the Denver Nuggets, which hoped the team would include him as a piece in a trade for All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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Knicks send Lee to Warriors via sign and trade

After waiting with bated breath for six-time NBA All-Star LeBron James to announce the destination of his choosing and being dejected when he selected the Miami Heat, the New York Knicks have agreed to send former Florida Gators forward/center David Lee to the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade that will earn the former New York fan favorite $80 million over six years.

Lee – who met and spoke with a number of teams including the Heat, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors and Phoenix Suns – will be a key frontcourt starter for the Warriors alongside Andris Biedrins.

In return, the Knicks are expected to receive a package of players including former LSU Tigers power forward Anthony Randolph, former Kentucky Wildcats guard/forward Kelenna Azubuike and and power forward Ronny Turiaf.

“David’s excited,” Lee’s agent Mark Bartelstein said. “[Golden State] put a lot of effort into trying to get him. It was a very difficult and complicated process that we went through. […] I think he’ll fit in great with that style. They have a really interesting team. With Monta Ellis, Steph[on] Curry and David, they can make a run for the playoffs.”

Over the last two seasons, Lee has averaged 18.1 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.

Photo Credit: Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

OGGOA RELATED: Miller leaning toward signing with Heat for less

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Hawks’ Al Horford graces cover of SLAM Magazine

Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford completing the third season of what will hopefully be a lengthy NBA career. Averaging career highs in minutes, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and points per game, he was selected as a reserve for the 2010 NBA All-Star Game for the first time in his professional career. OGGOA interviewed him back in February, has posted a few clips of his exciting plays this year and now presents you with the cover of the June 2010 edition of SLAM Magazine, which Horford graces along with teammates Joe Johnson and Josh Smith.

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