SIX BITS: Noah, Murphy, Delta, volleyball, Tebow

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah has long held up former South African president Nelson Mandela as one of his idols. So for Noah to easily have his best game of the 2013-14 season on the day of Mandela’s passing was certainly no surprise. On Thursday, Noah posted his second-straight double-double with 17 points (on 6-of-9 shooting) and a season-high 15 rebounds in a 107-87 win over Miami. After the contest, he was interviewed by TNT’s Craig Sager and ended the conversation like this:

2 » The Florida Gators are expected to have major frontcourt troubles next season with big-bodied seniors – center Patric Young and forwards Casey Prather and Will Yeguete – all scheduled to graduate. One of its other big men is on shaky ground and a fifth, who has yet to enroll, could be a one-and-done player. Facing a potential roster that would have its two tallest players – current redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith and five-star incoming F Devin Robinson (Christchurch, VA) listed as 6-foot-8 – the Gators may have found some help in the form of current Duke redshirt sophomore F Alex Murphy. The brother of Erik Murphy, Alex has decided to leave the Blue Devils at the end of the fall 2013 semester and may very well be headed to Gainesville, FL. He would have to sit out two semesters per NCAA rules and would not be eligible until next spring, but Alex Murphy would nevertheless be a much-needed addition for UF. OnlyGators.com is still working to confirm his transfer destination as of press time.

3 » Florida found another way to disappoint its fans this week. In a story overlooked for the last few days by OnlyGators.com, UF’s basketball team made headlines by displacing 50 passengers on an Atlanta, GA-bound Sunday flight when Delta decided to help the Gators by chartering a new plane for the team to Storrs, CT for its showdown with UConn. According to The Gainesville Sun, a maintenance delay grounded the plane that the team usually charters, so Delta stepped in to help at the expense of customers that had already purchased tickets on the flight. “Passengers from flight 5059 were accommodated on other flights and given vouchers valid for use through Delta for future trips,” a spokesman told the paper. Florida has gone above and beyond to try and deflect any blame heading its way. The Gators have claimed ignorance regarding Delta’s decision, which he company took completely on its own shoulders.

Check out the statement and three more BITS…after the break!

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Noah, Murphy, Delta, volleyball, Tebow

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Ross hits game-winning RBI in World Series win

Boston Red Sox catcher David Ross, a spot starter for Game 5 of the 2013 World Series, came through in the clutch with an RBI double in the seventh inning that later became the difference maker for the road team on Monday evening in St. Louis, MO.

Tied 1-1 in the top of the seventh, Boston jumped ahead by a run when Ross hit a ground rule double to left to score what would become his team’s game-winning run. He was thrown out at home two plays later after trying to tack on an insurance run for the Red Sox following a single to center by center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ross has become left-handed pitcher Jon Lester’s personal catcher and led the hurler, from behind he plate, to a terrific performance on Monday (7.2 IP, 4 H, ER, 7 K).

He only spent one year as a member of the Florida Gators baseball team, joining the program as a junior transfer in 1998 after two seasons with Auburn.

Following the 1998 College World Series (the Gators were the No. 1 overall seed but lost in the first round), Ross decided to forgo his final year of eligibility. He was subsequently selected in the seventh round of the 1998 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ross has played for seven different teams over his 12-year MLB career and is currently in his second stint with Boston (2008). A .237 hitter who has spent most of his career as a reserve, he played in his 13th postseason game on Monday, seven of which have come this season with the Red Sox.

After the 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, Ross was interviewed on the field by FOX Sports reporter Erin Andrews, who was a sophomore at Florida in 1998.

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FOUR BITS: Noah, basketball, Eckstein, Robinson

1 » Despite being sidelined for a large portion of the preseason with a groin injury, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah told reporters Sunday that he is “100 percent” sure he will be active for his team’s season opener on Tuesday. Noah has not played more than 66 games in an NBA regular season since 2008-09, but he posted career-highs of 11.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.1 blocks last year.

2 » Florida Gators basketball held a “secret” scrimmage on Saturday against Georgia Tech in Valdosta, GA. Though no official score was kept and no one in attendance is allowed to discuss either the outcome or news from the scrimmage, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman (citing a source) reported that both Gators point guards – senior Scottie Wilbekin and freshman Kasey Hill – stood out as the most impressive players on the court. Additionally, as expected, senior forward Will Yeguete (knee) was sidelined while junior guard Eli Carter (leg) saw limited action.

3 » Former Florida shortstop David Eckstein received a shout-out on a recent episode of NBC’s Parks & Recreation, which just so happens to be OnlyGators.com’s favorite active sitcom (though it is unfathomably on hiatus at this time). The law firm plaque utilized in the last episode to air includes a number of sabermetric measurements along with Eckstein’s name. (Image courtesy of Deadspin.com)


And how did Eckstein respond? By making a fake commercial for said law firm, of course.

4 » 2014 five-star forward Devin Robinson (Christchurch, VA) will make his verbal commitment official on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m., and Florida has been after him hard as of late. Not only did Robinson pay a visit to Gainesville, FL, on Oct. 11, head coach Billy Donovan went in-home with the 20th ranked player in the nation just five days later and has definitely made an impression on the young man. Indiana is believed to be UF’s main competitor for Robinson, and head coach Tom Crean (who had assistants visit Robinson previously) smartly delayed his in-home visit with the prospect until night before he makes his decision. Robinson took his official visit to IU on Oct. 4.

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SIX BITS: Cooper, ESPN, Jeroloman, Tebow, Miami

1 » It has been three weeks since Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper (due to the vile word he uttered) has been in the news, but he made headlines on Thursday for getting into a fight with cornerback Cary Williams during practice. The two began to scuffle following a tackle with Williams going after Cooper again after the teammates were separated. Starting quarterback Michael Vick stepped between the two and Williams was escorted away. After the incident, Cooper said he did not believe the fight had anything to do with the prior controversy surrounding him. Williams refused to speak with reporters and noticeably ignored Cooper in the locker room later that day.

The video below – annoyingly – auto-starts, so be sure to pause / mute as necessary.

2 » The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson investigated the reason that such a high profile game between the No. 9/12 Florida Gators and No. 24 Miami Hurricanes was being played in the extreme heat of high noon when so many other television slots that day were filled with sub-standard games. The reason? As hard as ESPN tried, the network simply could not fulfill Miami’s request to have the game at any other time – even on a different station – due to a number of different restrictions.

3 » Former Gators catcher Brian Jeroloman got absolutely crushed during a recent minor league game. Playing for the Harrisburg Senators, a Double-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, Jeroloman was waiting at home plate for a relay throw when Brandon Douglas plowed through him and knocked the ball free.

Check out three more BITS (and a bonus video)…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Cooper, ESPN, Jeroloman, Tebow, Miami

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FOUR BITS: USA Basketball, Tebow, Hernandez

1 » Rookie left-handed pitcher Alex Wood has been getting hazed by his Atlanta Braves teammates since being promoted to the majors. One tactic his teammates are using to embarrass Wood is forcing him to carry a plush Florida Gators backpack out to the bullpen when he warms up. “His fellow relievers brought as much attention to the prank as they could,” MLB.com explains, “making Wood lead the group into the outfield and taking turns playing with the snout of the plush gator mascot on the back of the backpack.” The former Georgia standout only faced Florida twice during his three years in college with the Gators beating him both times.

2 » By defeating Serbia 71-62 on Wednesday, USA Basketball earned the No. 1 overall seed in the quarterfinal round of the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship and will open up the bracket portion of the event on Friday at 2:15 p.m. when the Americans take on their neighbors to the north, Canada. Florida rising sophomore guard Michael Frazier II barely saw the court in the United States’ last game, playing only the final 1:37 of the first half and not leaving the bench in the second half. Head coach Billy Donovan did not sit Frazier without good reason; he had shot 8-of-36 (.222) from downtown in the first five games. ESPN3.com has picked up the quarterfinals of the event and will air the Americans’ showdown with the Canadians at 2:15 p.m. on Friday.

3 » Green Bay Packers rookie running back Jonathan Franklin was born in Los Angeles, CA, and attended UCLA but did not name a Californian his role model when asked during an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “I Love Tim Tebow because of his spiritual walk,” Franklin explained. “Through all that he’s been through he still stays strong in his walk and that’s very encouraging. My pastor and my mom (Pamela) have also been great role models for me.”

Check out Aaron Hernandez murder investigation updates…after the break.
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: USA Basketball, Tebow, Hernandez

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Red Sox sign Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel

Florida Gators junior quarterback Jeff Driskel will enter the 2013 season as the starter after leading Florida to an 11-2 record last year, but should his football career turn south on the college or professional level, he now has a fallback option.

According to WEEI.com’s Alex Speier, the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday signed Driskel, the franchise’s 29th round selection (No. 863 overall) in the 2013 MLB Draft.

His mother, Mary Driskel, initially denied that her son inked an MLB deal, telling the Orlando Sentinel that “he hasn’t done anything since he was drafted.” However, his father, Jerry Driskel, later told the Sun-Sentinel‘s Dieter Kurtenbach that his son has indeed signed with the Red Sox but will still play for the Gators next season.

On Thursday, Driskel confirmed the decision himself via his Twitter account. “Yes I signed with the Red Sox. Nothing changes,” he tweeted. “I am still a full time student athlete at UF, fully committed to playing football. #GoGators”

He later released a statement through Florida.

“I plan on focusing on football and finishing my college career with the Gators,” Driskel said. “After my college football career is over, I want to pursue a professional career in the NFL. If I ever decide I want to play baseball, I want to play with the Boston Red Sox, who drafted me in the recent draft.”

Boston understands that he will continue playing football at UF and not immediately join the Red Sox’s farm system.

By signing Driskel, Boston owns his MLB rights for six years. Should he choose to play baseball after college or not succeed in the NFL, his back-up plan is in place.

He is not be the first college quarterback to take this action.

Continue Reading » Red Sox sign Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel

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TWO BITS: Van Aman’s DUI, Zunino’s walk-off

1 » Florida Gators redshirt freshman walk-on punter Grant Van Aman was arrested by Gainesville Police early Saturday morning for driving under the influence. According to the police report, Van Aman was pulled over at 2:29 a.m. on the 1200 block of Southwest 8th Avenue in Gainesville, FL, for failing to stop at a stop sign while riding his red scooter. Van Aman cut off the officer, who happened to be at the scene, when he missed the stop sign, forcing the officer to suddenly “hit the breaks” on his car to avoid an accident. Van Aman then “jerked the handle bars on his scooter causing it to swerve and almost lose control.” The officer noticed “a very strong odor of alcoholic beverages” on Van Aman, describing his eyes as “watery, blood shot and extremely dilated” and his face as “flush and pale.” Furthermore, Van Aman was slurring his speech and mumbling his words, which led the officer to conduct a DUI investigation. Van Aman was not forthright about his drinking that evening, refused to submit to a field sobriety test and twice refused breath tests. He remains locked up in Alachua County Jail.

2 » Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino, just 11 games into his MLB career, registered his first walk-off hit on Friday night as he led Seattle to a 5-4 win (10 innings) over the Chicago Cubs. With the bases loaded and the count full, Zunino smacked a one-out single up the middle to send his team to victory. Zunino is currently batting .237 with one home run, two RBI and two walks. [Watch]

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15 Gator Bites for Friday, June 21

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Texas Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski, a die-hard Florida Gators fan, does the Gator Chomp after hitting a double off St. Louis Cardinals left-handed pitcher Randy Choate, a former Florida State player, on Friday night. [Special thanks to OGGOA reader Mitchell M. for sending this in.]

» Sports Illustrated soccer columnist Grant Wahl penned a terrific column on former Florida striker Abby Wambach, who passed Mia Hamm and set a new career international goals record on Thursday.

» A total of 21 Gators (10 former and 11 current) are presently in Des Moines, IA, competing in the 2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships and USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Athletes participating in the event from June 19-23 have the opportunity to qualify for the 2013 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Moscow, Russia from Aug. 10-18.

Omar Craddock and Will Claye became the first two Florida representatives to qualify on Thursday when they finished one-two in the men’s triple jump. Craddock took the American title with a mark of 17.15m/56-4.25, while Claye finished second with a 17.04m/55-11 jump. Also advancing to Moscow was Ugonna Ndu, who participated at the All-Nigeria Athletics Championships, winning the 100-meter hurdles in 13.4 seconds. Numerous other Gators advanced in their respective disciplines, and OGGOA will provide updates as each event finishes.

» Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, still sidelined with a stress fracture in his right fibula, is finally expected to return to the court in just over a week. According to the Washington Post, Beal will likely be cleared by doctors on July 1, three months after his injury was initially diagnosed. The Wizards were originally hoping Beal would be able to participate in the NBA Summer League games, but it is unlikely that the team takes the risk of putting him into action so soon after he returns from injury. It is more likely that Beal will next play meaningful basketball alongside Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons during 2013 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Mini-Camp from July 22-25 in Las Vegas, NV.

Check out 11 more bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!

Continue Reading » 15 Gator Bites for Friday, June 21

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