FOUR BITS: Tebow, Dunlap, Jenkins, Horford

1 » Just because Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow earned the starting nod for the team’s final three games last season does not mean he is guaranteed to retain that job next year, new team president John Elway said this past week. “Kyle [Orton] is definitely in the equation,” he said. “It’s not a foregone conclusion that we’re going to trade Kyle Orton. At all. We still have to evaluate that. A lot of people think it’s an automatic, but it’s not.” With player trades not able to be completed until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is signed, Orton would not be traded any time soon no matter what Elway and new head coach John Fox decide is best for the team.

2 » ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Saturday that Cincinnati Bengals rookie defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who concluded the 2010 season with an impressive 9.5 sacks (a franchise rookie record), has left agent Todd France and signed with Drew Rosenhaus. He currently has three years remaining on a four-year, $3.01 million contract with Cincinnati that included a $1.22 million signing bonus, $1.779 million in guaranteed cash and an additional $649,000 available through incentives.

3 » Receiving a commitment from four-star QB Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) on Friday, the Florida Gators were only awaiting word from one more potential signee. That wait is now over as four-star junior college defensive tackle John Jenkins (Perkinston, MS) officially committed to the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. Florida has now finished the 2011 recruiting cycle with 19 commitments . Their class (not yet updated to include Brissett) is ranked No. 14 by Rivals, No. 18 by Scout and No. 12 by ESPNU.

4 » Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford was provided an opportunity to live up to his NBA All-Star billing as he was tested with the game on the line Friday. With nearly no time remaining and his team down one, Horford drove the lane and was met by Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, who impeded his track to the rim with a flagrant foul. Landing on and injuring his back, Horford was slow to get up but eventually reached the line and hit both free throws to propel Atlanta to a 101-100 victory.

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Horford earns second-straight NBA All-Star nod

Former Florida Gators forward/center Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks has been named a reserve for the Eastern Conference in the 2011 NBA All-Star Game.

His second-straight All-Star selection, Horford also played in the 2010 game along with then-New York Knicks F/C David Lee. He scored eight points on 4-for-5 shooting and accounted for four rebounds in 12 minutes of action in the game.

“It’s a real honor to be nominated to that game,” he told OGGOA in an exclusive interview last year. “The coaches really have a lot of weight into that decision, and I felt really special that they picked me over a lot of other guys.”

Horford continues to improve each year and is currently riding career-highs in points (16.1), rebounds (9.9), assists (3.6) field goal percentage (56.7) and free throw percentage (81.3). He has 24 double-doubles on the season and is fifth in his conference in field goal percentage.

The No. 3 overall selection in the 2007 NBA Draft, he was named a team captain this season and signed a five-year, $60 million contract extension in November 2010.

Al Horford for ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive

Photo Credit: Unknown

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SIX BITS: Tebow, Pouncey, Wright, Noah, Horford

1 » After head coach Josh McDaniels was fired, murmurs surrounded the Denver Broncos specifically about whether or not his replacement would be a fan of rookie quarterback Tim Tebow. Now that John Fox has been hired as the team’s new head coach, questions about Tebow’s safety in Mile High have been quieted. The issue now is whether or not he will be tabbed as the team’s starter in 2011. “Just like any position, they’ll compete and we’ll go from there,” said Fox on the Dan Patrick Show when discussing Tebow and veteran Kyle Orton. “It’s too early for me to say. I’m going to evaluate guys on grass and we’ll have to see when we get those opportunities.” Most of Denver is calling for Tebow to be given the reigns to the offense after he started the final three games of the 2010 season; Fox hopes to be convinced of the same next year.

2 » The Beaver County Times sat down with Pittsburgh Steelers starting center Maurkice Pouncey and pick his brain about the team’s playoff run. One of two Florida Gators rookies remaining in the NFL Playoffs, Pouncey was candid in his answers. “It’s so much better,” he said of winning an NFL playoff game compared to playing in big games at Florida. “There is so much more on the line. In college, it was awesome. We had a great group of guys. But it was amazing. It was unbelievable. Man, our fans were awesome. For them to be out there with that much energy, it was crazy.” Pouncey also said winning a Super Bowl would be “the greatest accomplishment ever.”

3 » Chicago Bears safety Chris Harris injured his hip in the third quarter of Sunday’s game, paving the way for Major Wright to see extensive playing time against the Seattle Seahawks. Though Harris will be back against the Green Bay Packers, Wright is expected to see more playing time than usual in relief of his teammate.

4 » Catching up with injured Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, who is currently on the outside looking in, NBA.com reports that the former Gators star will have a pin removed from his injured right thumb in a week’s time and will finally begin rehabilitation on the thumb shortly after. “It’s been long and sometimes frustrating not being able to be out there with my teammates,” Noah said on Monday. “Physically, I feel pretty good. I’ve been doing a lot of cardio and working out. I feel strong and I’ll be ready to get back and help the team. I’m just trying to control what I can control right now. I’m all about getting this pin out of my finger and getting my hand back to 100 percent. Hopefully it’s before that because I would love to play in that game.” The article also discusses Noah inviting a dozen children to a game on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, his thoughts on point guard Derrick Rose and how good he believes the team can be this season.

5 » Speaking of former Florida stars in the NBA, Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford is once again having an impressive season. In addition to averaging a career-high 16.5 points per game, Horford set a new career-high in blocks with seven on Monday night. He also scored 23 points (on 10-of-16 shooting), grabbed nine rebounds and dished six assists in his team’s victory against the Sacramento Kings.

6 » Swimmers Gemma Spofforth (who graduated in December) and senior Conor Dwyer have been named the 2010 recipients of the Ben Hill Griffin Award. Recognizing and honoring the top female and male student-athlete who excels in both athletic and academic achievement as well as extra-curricular involvement, the award is presented by the University Athletic Association. Spofforth is the third woman to win the award in back-to-back seasons (Angie McGinnis-2006-07, Nicole Haislett-1992-93); she and Tebow (only three-time winner) were honored in 2009. Dwyer is the third men’s swimmer to get the award (Ryan Lochte-2004, Greg Burgess-1993).

Photo Credit: NBA.com

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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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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!
Continue Reading » Gainesville native returning home with Kent State

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

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