2 BITS: SEC/Big 12 Challenge, Miller, Hernandez

1 » The Southeastern Conference and Big 12 announced Thursday that the annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge, which began last season, will undergo a significant format change. Instead of being 10 games played over three days in the fall, it will now be 10 games played in one day early in the spring. That date has been set for next season with all 10 games tipping off on Saturday, January 30, 2016, though match-ups have not yet been determined at this time. “Moving the Big 12/SEC Challenge later int he season will raise the profile of this event and give our coaches, student-athletes and fans the attention that it deserves,” said Mike Slive, the SEC’s commissioner. The 10 games will all be played on ESPN networks with the four SEC teams not given match-ups going head-to-head against each other on the SEC Network that day.

The Florida Gators wound up playing a home-and-home series against Kansas in the first two iterations of the event, hosting the Jayhawks last season and travelling to Lawrence, Kansas, this fall. Florida is expected to host an SEC/Big 12 Challenge game in 2015-16, though renovations to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center would have proved that difficult if the game was played during its previously-scheduled window. Whether the event was moved to help accommodate UF remains to be seen, but the scheduling adjustment was not just made for next season but for the duration of the event’s existence.

Continue Reading » 2 BITS: SEC/Big 12 Challenge, Miller, Hernandez

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FOUR BITS: Hinds, Senior Bowl, Horford, Lee

1 » According to CoachingSearch.com, the Florida Gators will add Justin Hinds to their coaching staff as a defensive graduate assistant. Hinds, who worked under defensive coordinator Geoff Collins at Mississippi State, had high praise for his boss during an October interview with ESPN.com.

Justin Hinds says there’s a genius to Collins’ eccentricity. Behind those wild blue eyes — the kind that stare at you with so much intensity they seem to shake — is a coach who knows how to fire up his players, and more important, gets them to understand what can be a complex system by boiling down the most intricate details into easily digestible parts.

“It’s like ‘A Beautiful Mind,'” Hinds says, gesturing toward a wall-to-wall white board filled with coverages and blitzes diagrammed on every available inch of space. “He’s a unique thinker.”

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Hinds, Senior Bowl, Horford, Lee

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2014-15 NBA season begins with 12 former Florida Gators spread across 11 teams

The 2014-15 NBA season tips off on Tuesday night with 12 former Florida Gators on active rosters, tied with Arizona for sixth-most across the league.

Those players are spread out over 11 teams with only the Golden State Warriors employing more than one former Gators star on their roster.

Below is a primer on all 12 Florida players (five starters, seven reserves) ahead of the 2014-15 season.

STARTERS

C JOAKIM NOAH, Chicago Bulls
Drafted: 2007: 1st round, No. 9 overall pick
Height: 6’11” | Weight: 232 lbs.
Year: Eighth | All-Star: Twice (2013-14)

Already a popular player and stalwart in Chicago, Noah broke through during his seventh season to capture the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award and earn nominations to the All-NBA First Team and NBA All-Defensive First Team. He averaged career-highs of 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.2 steals, earning a trip to his second-straight All-Star game in the process. One year after becoming the seventh player in NBA history to record a triple-double with double-digit blocks, Noah became just the fourth center in NBA history to register four triple-doubles consisting of points, rebounds and assists in a single season. He was also the first Bulls player since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (1992-93) to record four in a single season. Noah enters the 2014-15 campaign coming off knee surgery and is expected to be limited at times during the season.

PF/C AL HORFORD, Atlanta Hawks
Drafted: 2007: 1st round, No. 3 overall pick
Height: 6’10” | Weight: 250 lbs.
Year: Eighth | All-Star: Twice (2010-11)

One of the most underrated players in the league, due in large part to his team (Atlanta) and in ability to stay on the court, Horford has become the Hawks’ unquestioned leader and go-to player. In just 29 games last season, the second in three that has been cut short early due to a torn pectoral, Horford averaged a career-high 18.6 points per game on a career-best .567 shooting. Though he has not been selected to an NBA All-Star team since 2001, Horford plans to make his way back this year with his eyes set on a 20-10 average.

Continue Reading » 2014-15 NBA season begins with 12 former Florida Gators spread across 11 teams

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4 BITS: Driskel, Baker, Demps, Patton, Murphy

1 » Florida Gators redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel reportedly missed at least some portion of practice ahead of the Missouri game while dealing with a right ankle injury, which became more apparent last Saturday when his ankle was heavily taped before the contest. Driskel also hardly ran the ball in the game, just one week after carrying it 21 times. While it is currently unknown whether the still-imploding Driskel will get the start against Georgia on Nov. 1 – head coach Will Muschamp may address that very topic during his only media appearance of the week, the SEC teleconference on Wednesday – it looks like he is still missing some practice time.

OnlyGators.com reader Jeremy sent in the following photo, which he snapped Tuesday on his way to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center for an event. In the photo below, freshmen Treon Harris and Will Grier (dressed in full pads) are leading the pack of quarterbacks out to the practice field while Driskel is bringing up the rear, holding his helmet but neither wearing pads nor football pants.

I was taking my kids to see Sesame Street Live at the O’Dome tonight. When we parked, we noticed the football team going to the practice field. The players were upbeat and giving my kids high-fives. Then the quarterbacks walked by. Treon Harris and Will Grier led the way and looked focused. Driskel was at the back. No pads, no pants. He looked like a player who wasn’t practicing. Muschamp walked by, smiled and looked like a beaten soul.

Continue Reading » 4 BITS: Driskel, Baker, Demps, Patton, Murphy

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TWO BITS: Murphy to Celtics, Reed still injured

1 » Former Florida Gators forward Erik Murphy, who was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers just this offseason, will be shipped from Cleveland to the Boston Celtics as part of a four-player deal that results in the Cavs acquiring F Keith Bogans. ESPN.com‘s Marc Stein and Jeff Goodman reported the deal Thursday evening. As a result of the move, Murphy will be on his fourth NBA franchise before the start of his second professional season. He was selected with the No. 49 overall pick in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls but saw just 2.6 minutes per game in 24 contests before the team waived him on April 3. Two days later, the Utah Jazz claimed Murphy, but he never suited up for the franchise. On July 22, Utah shipped Murphy and two other players to Cleveland for a 2015 second-round draft selection and cash. Murphy spent the summer playing for Finland in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. He averaged 6.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, shooting 38.7 percent from the field, 27.3 percent from downtown and 63.6 percent from the charity stripe. The good news for Murphy? The Rhode Island native played high school basketball in Southborough, Massachusetts, and grew up a Celtics fan.

Continue Reading » TWO BITS: Murphy to Celtics, Reed still injured

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The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 6

Looking for more gold in Cleveland

Giving up more money, more years and a starting role, former Florida Gators forward Mike Miller officially inked a two-year contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, returning to the side of LeBron James for the second time in his career.

Miller will continue his career at a rate of $5.6 million with the Cavaliers. Cleveland gave the 34-year-old a player option for the 2015-16 season for the second year of that deal as well as a 15 percent trade kicker should it try to move him.

A two-time NBA Champion, the 2001 NBA Rookie of the Year and 2006 NBA Sixth Man of the Year has put together an exceedingly successful career since being selected with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic. In fact, he may very well be the most successful former Gators player in NBA history when his total list of accomplishments is taken into account.

Now with his sixth team, Miller will spend his fourth season next to James. During the first nine seasons of his career, Miller’s teams won just 46.2 percent of their games; however, over the last four, he’s been winning games at a 68.3 percent clip. Miller no doubt expects that that trend to continue with the Cavaliers.

Continue Reading » The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 6

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The Silver Lining for Wednesday, July 23

What is this?

In case you missed it last week, The Silver Lining is a new weekly column exclusively on OnlyGators.com that combines news, opinion and entertainment. The format may change as the concept develops, and suggestions are both respected and appreciated.

DeVon Walker: A season over before it started

Breaking news came through Saturday afternoon that Florida Gators junior guard/forward DeVon Walker, a rotation player who made headlines last year for transferring in the offseason only to change course and return to school, tore his ACL on Friday and is consequently expected to miss the entire 2014-15 season.

Walker, who originally transferred due to playing time concerns, wound up making seven starts and playing in 35 games last year as his teammates dealt with injuries and suspensions. His energy and defense were bright spots – as was his three-point shooting on occasion (he drained 8-of-14 threes over a five-game stretch in league play) – but Walker still averaged just 2.4 points and 1.2 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per game.

It is for that reason that his injury does not strike a major blow for Florida basketball. The Gators will get along fine without Walker next season. Junior Michael Frazier II will start at shooting guard, and five-star freshman Devin Robinson has a great shot to play major minutes at small forward with redshirt junior Alex Murphy currently not cleared to play until the spring semester (pending an NCAA waiver).

Nevertheless, it is interesting that Walker’s serious injury – which a UF spokesman eventually confirmed to OnlyGators.com on Monday – has not even been mentioned publicly by the university. Walker may only be a role player but he is a scholarship student-athlete in a major sport and had an impact on the team last season.

Continue Reading » The Silver Lining for Wednesday, July 23

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2 BITS: Erik Murphy traded, Darrin Kitchens cut

1 » Former Florida Gators forward Erik Murphy is in the process of being traded from the Utah Jazz to the Cleveland Cavaliers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, who reports that he will be one piece of a four-player transaction between the teams. Cleveland will receive Murphy, John Lucas and Malcom Thomas in exchange for Carrick Felix, a future second-round pick and $1 million. The Cavaliers are in the process of acquiring non-guaranteed contracts in hopes of eventually trading for Minnesota Timberwolves F Kevin Love, meaning Murphy could wind up being moved and/or waived again in the near future.

Murphy, who signed a two-year, $1.31 million rookie contract, is due a non-guaranteed salary of $816,482 in 2014-15 with a team option for $1.15 million in 2015-16. He was originally selected with the No. 49 overall pick in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls but was waived on April 3 as the team hoped to clear cap space. Utah nabbed him off the waiver wire two days later. While his NBA future is completely up in the air, Murphy will spend the summer competing for the Finnish national team in the 2014 World Cup of Basketball.

Murphy played just 62 minutes over 24 games during his rookie season, averaging .231 on 13 field goal attempts and failing to drain any of his three attempts from beyond the arc. Playing for Utah in NBA Summer League action in Las Vegas, Nevada, Murphy was .333 from the field and .250 from long range.

2 » One day after injuring his leg during training camp, former Gators linebacker Darrin Kitchens was waived-injured by the Buffalo Bills. Kitchens, a long shot to make the team anyway, was signed as an undrafted free agent after the 2014 NFL Draft.

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