FOUR BITS: Young, Noah, Wambach, Lochte

1 » Waiving two players on Friday, the New Orleans Pelicans whittled their roster down to 15 ahead of the start of the 2014-15 NBA season. Former Florida Gators center Patric Young, an undrafted free agent who was picked up by New Orleans and impressed during training camp, continued to flash during preseason action and earned a spot on the Pelicans’ regular-season roster. Young will be New Orleans’ fourth center (behind Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca and Jeff Withey) but may be able to work his way up the depth chart if he continues giving tremendous effort like he did last Thursday. On the floor as the clock ticked down against Dallas, Young slammed home a dunk with 2.1 seconds remaining to help his team pull out an 88-85 victory. “As far as having another guy that can come off the bench and doesn’t need the ball in his hands, I think I can step into that role right away,” he told The Times-Picayune. “My goal is just to come here with a great attitude and stay humble. I’m going to chase after rebounds with the mentality of, ‘If I don’t get this rebound then I’m out the league.’ It may be a little extreme, but I want it more than the next guy.”

2 » Former Gators C Joakim Noah has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Chicago Bulls for the last few seasons, but his body has held him back on numerous occasions. A multitude of injuries, primarily to his lower body, have either kept Noah off the court or – more often – forced him to play through pain that most players would not. With another NBA slate starting Tuesday, Noah admitted through gritted teeth that he “still ha[s] a ways to go” in recovering from left knee surgery. “It’s fine. It’s a work in progress. It’s getting better. I’m happy with where it’s at. Let me live, man. Geez,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times, trying to keep his situation close to the vest. A source close to Noah told the paper that his “knee is going to be an issue all season long,” and the Bulls appear prepared to limit his minutes on a game-by-game basis. “There’s a plan,” Noah explained. “We take it day by day and se how it feels, see if there are any setbacks.”

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Top 13 for 2013: Florida’s best moments of the year

For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2013 (see the Not Top 13 for 2013), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to earning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2013. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 13 for 2013.

13 » A NEW TRADITION
Florida’s football program did not get much right in 2013, but instituting a new pre-game tradition – a “celebrity” serving as Mr. Two Bits in honor of the original, George Edmondson – was absolutely a bright spot. The Gators also picked the perfect person to kick off the new tradition with former running back Errict Rhett performing as if he was made for the role. Others had trouble stepping up to the high benchmark set by Rhett, but the honorary Mr. Two Bits was nevertheless a great sight for fans all season long…even if the team was not. OnlyGators.com sat down with Rhett after his appearance for an extensive interview about the experience and his career.

12 » 15-INNING MARATHON
In the fourth-longest game ever played at the Women’s College Series (longest since 1992), Florida softball prevailed 9-8 over Nebraska in a night game that lasted 15 innings and more than five hours, spanning into the early morning of the next day. The Gators lost two separate leads in the contest before rallying to score two runs in the top of the 15th; UF conceded a run in the latter half of the inning but held on for the victory. Unfortunately for Florida, it had to suit up just hours later for an elimination game against Texas at 1 p.m., one it lost 3-0. The Gators were ranked No. 2 entering the 2013 NCAA Tournament but fell short of a title.

11 » ALL HE WANTED WAS A CHANCE


Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy waited patiently as he got overlooked time and time again, most recently by head coach Will Muschamp and his offensive coordinators in favor of younger players with higher ratings coming out of high school. When junior QB Jeff Driskel went down with a fractured fibula against Tennessee, Murphy finally got his shot and made the most of it. Over a three-game stretch including games on Sept. 21, Sept. 28 (at Kentucky) and Oct. 5 (vs. Arkansas), Murphy completed 39-of-54 passes (72.2 percent) for 530 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception. (He also gained 135 yards and picked up two more scores with his legs.) Unfortunately for him, Murphy injured his shoulder on Oct. 12 against LSU and was simply not the same player as he took the field in more pain than he or the coaching staff decided to admit publicly. Murphy missed the final three games of the season due to that injury and ultimately transferred, feeling Muschamp would not give him a fair chance to win the starting job in 2014.

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Review – SEC Storied: Abby Head On

Abby Head On, the eighth SEC Storied documentary aired by ESPNU and first focused solely on a former Florida Gators student-athlete, will debut on Wednesday at 8 p.m. OGGOA was afforded the opportunity to watch an advanced copy of the documentary, which takes a close look at the rise of soccer striker Abby Wambach.

Toughness, grittiness and attitude are just a few of Wambach’s hallmark characteristics, ones she developed as a child, enhanced as a standout at Florida and fully realized as a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team. The decision by co-directors Erin Leyden and Gentry Kirby to choose former Gators defensive end Jack Youngblood to narrate parts of the documentary was not only a nice touch for Florida and SEC fans but also a deft choice as it set the tone for the feature early.

Abby Head On begins with a look at Wambach’s game-winning goal in the 2004 Athens Olympics (and her boisterous personality) but quickly moves on to her upbringing in Rochester, NY and how toughness, intensity and competitiveness were all instilled in her at a young age. Having to compete with a bunch of brothers for her parents’ attention made participating in sports attractive from the get go.

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SEC Storied film to feature UF’s Abby Wambach

Former Florida Gators striker Abby Wambach will be the subject of ESPNU‘s eighth SEC Storied documentary, OGGOA has learned.

Abby Head On, which is set to premiere on May 15 at 8 p.m. on ESPNU, will be officially announced by the network later Monday. The film chronicles Wambach’s collegiate career with the Gators, international accomplishments with the U.S. Women’s National Team and quest to break Mia Hamm’s international scoring record.

After surprising the soccer community by choosing to attend Florida over powerhouse North Carolina, Wambach led the Gators to four-straight SEC Championships (1998-2001), two Final Fours (1998, 2001) and an NCAA Championship (1998), which remains the soccer program’s only national title to this day.

Individually while playing for UF, she was a two-time SEC Player of the Year (2000-01) and SEC Freshman of the Year (1998) who was also a four-time All-SEC First Team selection and three-time first-team All-American.

Wambach left Florida upon graduation as the school record holder in goals (96), game-winning goals (24), points (242), assists (49) and hat tricks (10); she maintains the No. 1 spot in each of those categories to this day.

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Abby Wambach wins FIFA World Player of the Year

U.S. Women’s National Team striker Abby Wambach, a former Florida Gators standout, earned her sport’s biggest honor on Monday when she was named the winner of the 2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or for Women’s World Player of the Year.

The first American to win the award since Mia Hamm in 2002, Wambach did so by posting 27 international goals and leading the United States to its third-straight gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics. Her 152 career international goals rank second all-time to Hamm (158), who she will likely surpass in 2013.

Wambach scored in each of the first five matches of the Olympics and posted the second-best international scoring total of her career over the course of the year.

She edged five-time Ballon d’Or winner Marta (Brazil) and Alex Morgan (United States) for the award. Wambach received 20.67 percent of the vote compared to 13.50 percent for Marta and 10.87 percent for Morgan, according to the Associated Press.

Coaches, team captains and select media voted for the award, which is the first of Wambach’s career. She finished third for the honor just last year.

The Ballon d’Or is the highest honor of Wambach’s 13-year professional career. She is also a five-time winner of U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year and was named Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in 2011.

Wambach took home the Bronze Boot and Silver Ball following the 2011 Women’s World Cup and was also the recipient of the 2011 ESPY Award for Best Play.

She was a two-time SEC Player of the Year for Florida and led the Gators to their only national title in 1998. Wambach was inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame this past spring and still holds Florida career records in goals (96), assists (50) and points (242).

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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