FOUR BITS: Beal, Mitts, Howard, U.S. Open

1 » Preparing for the 2012 NBA Draft, Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal is up in Chicago, IL training with former college coach Josh Oppenheimer, the same trainer that Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons used one year ago. Beal, who like Parsons also signed with agent Mark Bartelstein of Prioirty Sports, told SLAMonline that he is working on his game in hopes of impressing scouts and being selected as high as possible. “I’m looking to really focus on creating my own shot offensively,” he said. “Just beating guys off of the dribble then finishing with a floater or pull-up in the lane. [I] just have to continue having high IQ for the game, focus in on ball handling and work on creating more space off the dribble.” Ironically enough, Parsons will be in New York, NY on Wednesday representing Houston on stage at the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery. The Rockets only have a 1.81 percent change of receiving a top-three pick (lowest amongst the 13 teams) so it is quite likely that Beal winds up elsewhere.

2 » Former Gators soccer star and current U.S. Women’s National Team defender Heather Mitts (34) told NBC on Sunday that the 2012 London Olympics this summer (her third appearance on the Olympic team) will be the end of the road for her as a soccer player. “Feeling the way I feel, it’s kind of weird to say that, but it’s always been my plan to hopefully play in one last Olympics and step away from the game kind of on my own terms,” she said. “I do love the game, and I am going to miss it, but I also have other things that I want to do. I just feel like I want to go out at the right time.” Mitts seems to excel Olympic years with her best performances coming in 2004 and 2008. Though she started all eight of the United States’ Olympic matches in 2008, she did not play in the 2011 Women’s World Cup and may not step on the pitch this time around either. “Ideally I want for our team to go over there and win gold,” Mitts said. “It would be great to play, but if I don’t play, I’ve been through that once before to be there and be supportive.” Despite her decision to hang up her cleats, Mitts says she is “probably the fittest I’ve ever been,” is completely healthy and still loves playing. “I feel so sharp and strong,” she added. Mitts has made 123 career appearances in the red, white and blue. Check out NBC‘s video interview with Mitts from this week.

3 » In an interview with his new team’s website, Seattle Seahawks rookie defensive tackle Jaye Howard expressed his excitement about finally being in the NFL and playing alongside some guys he grew up watching. “It’s been an unreal experience,” he said. “Walking into the same locker room and seeing Marshawn Lynch – a player that I look up to – and now I’m actually in the same locker room. It’s a great feeling. So I’m just embracing this moment right now.” There were also positive comments directed at Howard from head coach Pete Carroll and defensive line coach Todd Wash. “Jaye Howard showed up. He did some good things. He showed up on pass rush a couple of times. I know Todd mentioned that he was surprised at his quickness. That’s a really good sign,” Carroll said. Wash added, “Jaye is an explosive player. He’s learning that this level is a little bit different once our veterans got here. But we’re very excited about his progress. He’s eager to learn. He wants to know exactly what he can do better. He does a great job in the classroom, too. So we’re really pleased with what we’ve got so far.”

4 » According to The Florida Times-Union, seven former and current Florida golfers “will play in a 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualifier Monday at Black Diamond Ranch Quarry Course in Lecanto.” Among those players competing will be junior T.J. Vogel, freshman J.D. Tomlinson, redshirt senior Zach Lee and former players Tyson Alexander, Andres Echavarria, Brett Stegmaier and Bank Vongvanij. With the Gators competing for the 2012 NCAA Championship this week, Vogel, Tomlinson and Lee could have a tight window to get into town for the qualifier depending how well Florida does at the event.

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Florida golf: men advance with NCAA regional win; women tie for 10th in NCAA Championship

By Nicole Boyett – OGGOA Special Contributor

No. 3 Florida Gators men’s golf earned a six-stroke victory in the 2011 NCAA Southeast Regional at Golden Ocala by finishing 18-under par. Florida’s win sends them to the 2011 NCAA Championship in Stillwater, OK beginning May 31.

Senior Andres Echavarria led the Gators with three rounds under par, finishing 9-under and in fourth place to complete his fourth top-five performance the season.

Florida had to overcome a four-shot deficit Saturday after a 13-under performance from Augusta State on Friday earned them the overall lead. The Gators covered more than four shots, posting an 11-under total Saturday while Augusta State fell flat to finish 1-under for the day. Senior Bank Vongvanij tied for sixth place at 7-under with sophomore Phillip Choi not far behind (-4, T-12). Sophomore Tommy Mou completed Florida’s lineup at +2.

The top five finishers in each of the six regionals advance to the championship. Moving on from the Southeast Regional were Florida (-18), Augusta State (-12), Kennesaw State (-11), North Carolina State (-9) and Arkansas (-8). Four other Southeastern Conference teams have also advanced: Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Tennessee.

The No. 24 women’s golf team finished 44-over par and tied for 10th with Vanderbilt at the 2011 NCAA Championship at Traditions Club in Bryan, TX. After a rain delay and eventual postponement due to darkness on Friday, golfers had to finish their third round before beginning the fourth and final round Saturday.

Junior Andrea Watts was the top-performing Gator, finishing tied for 15th at +5. After two rounds, sophomore Mia Piccio was 2-under par. By carding two 4-over rounds, Piccio finished T-19 at 6-over. Junior Evan Jensen totaled 13-over, and sophomore Isabelle Lendl struggled with her swing changes and finished a rough 29-over. Senior Jessica Yadloczky completed her final tournament in the orange and blue at +28.

UCLA (+21) wound up capturing the NCAA Championship in women’s golf. Defending champion Purdue (+25) finished in second place followed by LSU (+29), Virginia (+34) and top-ranked Southern California (+38).

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Gators rack up five titles over the weekend

The weekend of April 15-17, 2011 was a good one for the Florida Gators as University of Florida student-athletes brought home five separate titles for the school.

No. 3/5 Gators men’s golf won the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship, leading after every single round of the event. Florida finished with a combined 848 (+8), five strokes ahead of second-place Alabama to win the school’s 200th all-time SEC title.

Competing for the Gators in the event, redshirt senior golfer Andres Echavarria also won the 2011 SEC Men’s Individual Championship with a three-round total of 209 (-1).

With No. 7 Florida gymnastics failing to advance to the 2011 NCAA Super Six, the team had three student-athletes competing individually. One came through as sophomore Marissa King claimed the 2011 NCAA Championship in the vault on Sunday. King scored a 9.8750 in the vault and became UF’s first NCAA event winner since 1998.

Two other Gators teams clinched outright conference titles over the weekend.

No. 5/6 Florida lacrosse (14-1, 5-0 ALC) defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores (7-7, 1-4 ALC) 8-7 Sunday to continue a 14-game winning streak and take sole possession of the regular season 2011 ALC Championship. No. 1 Gators women’s tennis (22-1, 11-0 SEC) followed suit, shutting out the South Carolina Gamecocks (12-9, 4-7 SEC) 7-0 on Saturday to go undefeated in conference play and capture the 2011 SEC title.

Photo Credit: Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun

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Perfect game, SEC records top Gators’ weekend

The season may have just begun for No. 5/5 Florida Gators softball, but the ladies did not waste time getting off to a fast 5-0 start at the USF Wilson DeMarini Tournament in over the weekend. Florida defeated Marshall, Florida Gulf Coast, Long Island, North Carolina State and USF by a combined 53-3 score; the Gators shut out three of their five opponents and scored 17 runs in the first four innings of their season-opener.

The highlight of the weekend for softball came Saturday when senior pitcher Stephanie Brombacher tossed the second perfect game of her career to send Florida to a 9-0 shutout victory over N.C. State. Brombacher needed only 67 pitches to do the deed; she struck out six in her five innings of work. Ending up 3-0 at the tournament’s conclusion, Brombacher struck out 19 in 14 innings of work, did not give up a single earned run and only allowed four hits in her final game of the weekend against USF.

Softball may have won five games in three days, but a veteran diver did her best to earn all of the weekend’s accolades for herself.

Not to be overshadowed was the Gators women’s diving team, led by senior Monica Dodson, who broke two Southeastern Conference records and won two gold medals in the diving portion of the 2011 SEC Swimming and Diving Championships at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Dodson, a three-time All-American, won the three-meter event (six dives) with a score of 373.85 on Friday; she followed that up with a victory in the platform event (five dives) with a score of 325.20 at the final day of competition on Sunday. For her efforts and achievements this season, Dodson was named the 2011 SEC Women’s Diver of the Year. Florida diving coach Donnie Craine was honored after the event with his second-straight SEC Women’s Diving Coach of the Year award, an honor that puts him second all-time in conference history.

Check out the other UF sports that had a successful weekend…after the break!
Continue Reading » Perfect game, SEC records top Gators’ weekend

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SIX BITS: A.C. Leonard, golf, tennis, b-ball, softball

1 » ESPN has taken to praising 2011 athlete recruit A.C. Leonard (Interlachen, FL), a current Florida Gators commitment. Called “a jack-of-all-trades in high school,” Leonard is projected as a tight end or defensive end in college and worked out extensively at the former position during the Jacksonville, FL, Under Armour combine over the weekend. Leonard continues to impress and remains a solid verbal commitment.

2 » No. 4 Florida men’s golf took home its seventh straight SunTrust Gator Invitational title on Sunday, shooting a team score of 279 (-1) in the final round at the Mark Bostik Golf Course. Up nine strokes going into the final round, the Gators doubled it up and won by 18. Seniors Tyson Alexander and Tim McKenney, along with redshirt junior Andres Echavarria, tied for third place with a total score of 212 (+2).

Four more BITS on tennis, women’s b-ball and softball’s rebound after the jump!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: A.C. Leonard, golf, tennis, b-ball, softball

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