Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2011 (check out Saturday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players ending their accomplished careers to coaches and current players being part of some of the biggest news stories this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2011. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 11 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

11 » LEGAL ISSUES/EMBARRASSMENTS HANG OVER PROGRAM
Like 2009 and 2010, Florida could not escape its share of unfortunate arrests and embarrassing incidents in 2011. It started simply enough early in February when a pair of Gators swimmers – Lily Ramirez and Daniela Victoria – were arrested and indefinitely suspended from the team after being accused of shoplifting from Nordstrom at the Orlando Mall. Next up was Florida senior outfielder Bryson Smith, who was picked up on March 13 for driving under the influence. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy was arrested in Gainesville, FL three weeks later and charged with a trio of misdemeanors for failing to obey a police officer, possession of a drug (Viagra) without a valid prescription and resisting arrest without violence. The month of April was a tough one for the basketball team. Forwards Erik Murphy and Cody Larson were arrested in St. Augustine, FL and charged with third-degree felony burglary charges after allegedly breaking into a car, and team manager Josh Adel was also arrested for principal to burglary for allegedly serving as a lookout. Charges against the players were eventually reduced and each settled their respective case, while Adel had all charges against him dropped. Additionally, former Florida F Dan Wener was charged with a DUI even though he blew below the legal limit (0.08) on the Breathalyzer twice. The State Attorney’s Office eventually dropped his charges due to insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.

Unfortunately the year of brushes with the law was just getting started for the Gators. It surfaced on April 24 via a news report that both linebacker Chris Martin and defensive end Kendric Johnson were cited with misdemeanors for possessing approximately two grams of marijuana each in their respective vehicles on separate occasions. Former Florida WR Reche Caldwell was arrested one month later for possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license. Gators runner Andries Dumisane Hlaselo had the darkest arrest of the year, being picked up in June after being accused of rape and sexual assault. He was immediately dismissed from the team. The Florida football team had the remainder of the year’s arrests. Sophomore safety Matt Elam was cited for underage drinking for the second time in as many years in July, and an August report noted that freshman defensive back De’Ante Saunders was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in May. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finely was arrested on Sept. 13 on a first-degree misdemeanor for driving a scooter with a suspended license as well as a third-degree felony for resisting arrest without violence, and freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson was served with a written arrest for underage drinking just one day later. Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley had the last brush with the law of 2011 as he was accused of attacking a former Alabama player early in October but was cleared of the charges one month later. All-in-all, for every positive thing accomplished by the Gators in 2011, there always seemed to be something negative about the program just around the corner.

10 » SIX BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY; THREE SUFFER SERIOUS MEDICAL ISSUES DURING THE YEAR
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2011 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place or suffered through serious medical issues in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon or had plenty to deal with as the year went on. Jimmy Carnes (76), a former Gators track and field coach, passed away in March after losing a four-year battle with prostate cancer. Former linebacker/safety and three-time Super Bowl winner Godfrey Myles (42) suffered a massive heart attack in June and, while in the hospital on life support, had a stroke that took his life. Former punter and 12-year NFL veteran Don Chandler (76) also lost a long battle with cancer in August. Mike Heimerdinger (58), who was diagnosed with cancer early in the year, passed away in October. He was a former graduate assistant and wide receivers coach at Florida and won consecutive SEC titles with the team from 1984-85. Ending the year on a sad note, beloved Gainesville, FL businessman and former Gators long snapper Harold Monk III (42) died suddenly in December. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

Florida freshman linebacker Neiron Ball was the first of three members of the Gators family to suffer serious health issues during the year. He was rushed to the hospital in February after a blood vessel in his brain ruptured as part of a congenital vascular condition. The doctors were able to stop the bleeding and Ball was released from the hospital four days later, but he was forced to miss the entire season for recovery purposes. In the middle of the year, Miami Heat guard/forward Mike Miller was lucky enough to have his wife give birth to a daughter named Jaylen. Unfortunately for the family, she was forced to spend two weeks in a pediatric intensive care unit after doctors found that she had five holes in her heart upon being born. The Millers eventually brought Jaylen home with them in a bit of a coincidence considering they actually donated $1 million to a pediatric intensive care unit at children’s hospital in his home town in 2007. Later that month, former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which he is currently still recovering from and will continue to do so over the next few months.

Continue Reading » Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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TWO BITS: Werner DUI dropped, recruits drafted

1 » Former Florida Gators forward Dan Werner, arrested by Gainesville police on April 12 for driving under the influence, had his case dismissed by the State Attorney’s Office. Werner passed two breath tests, blowing below the legal limit of 0.08 twice, but officers on site said he failed field sobriety tests and arrested him on site. After reviewing video of Werner’s tests, available here courtesy of First Coast News, state attorneys determined there was not enough evidence to pursue the case further. “The case was dropped due to insufficient evidence to sustain conviction,” SAO spokesman Spencer Mann told FCN. “The video doesn’t support what we believe could sustain a conviction. We think he did pretty well on the field sobriety test.” Werner was initially pulled over while driving his girlfriend’s car, which had a tail light out and its high beams on.

2 » Though no Gators were selected Monday in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft, two of Florida’s signees were chosen in the compensation round. Right-handed pitcher Michael Kelly (Boca Raton, FL) was picked No. 48 overall by the San Diego Padres, and RHP Hudson Boyd (Fort Myers, FL) went No. 55 to the Minnesota Twins. It is unknown if either will sign with their respective MLB club, though selections that high in the draft are often offered a significant sum of money to skip college for minor league and – hopefully eventually – major league ball.

In addition to the UF’s other signees, 12 Gators are currently eligible to be drafted. Junior pitchers Nick Maronde and Anthony DeSclafani – and junior right fielder Preston Tucker – should be selected the highest out of the remaining pool. Other Florida players who could be picked include seniors second baseman Josh Adams and center fielder Bryson Smith and juniors RHP Matt Campbell, RHP Greg Larson, left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis, RHP Justin Poovey, RHP Tommy Toledo and left fielder Tyler Thompson.

Below is a video of Kelly courtesy of MLB.com:

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Former Gators F Dan Werner offered plea deal

Arrested in the early morning on April 12 in Gainesville, FL for driving under the influence, former Florida Gators forward Dan Werner has been offered a plea deal by the State Attorney’s Office and is expected to accept it sooner than later.

According to First Coast News, Werner’s punishment would include one year of supervised probation, a six-month license suspension, $500 fine and 50 hours of community service. He must also take and pass a DUI education course and could have his charged reduced to reckless driving.

Werner, who played professional basketball last season for Virtus Bologna of Italian Serie A, was pulled over in a Silver Kia with a tail light out and its high beams on. He told the officer he was driving for his intoxicated girlfriend but failed field sobriety tests when administered. Werner also submitted to a breath test and blew below the legal limit (0.08) twice but was arrested anyway.

First Coast News obtained a video copy of the DUI arrest from the SAO in Gainesville:

The Gainesville Sun reported last month that Werner admitted to playing beer pong and “drinking at least two drinks containing whiskey” at some point during the evening.

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Former Gators F Dan Werner arrested for DUI

Former Florida Gators forward Dan Werner, back in Gainesville, FL after a season of playing professional basketball for Virtus Bologna of Italian Serie A, was arrested and booked on charges of driving under the influence at 2:50 a.m. Tuesday.

According to the police report, Werner was pulled over in a Silver Kia with a tail light out and its high beams on. He told the officer he was driving for his intoxicated girlfriend but failed field sobriety tests when administered. Werner also submitted to a breath test and blew below the legal limit (0.08) but was arrested anyway.

The Gainesville Sun reports that Werner admitted to playing beer pong and “drinking at least two drinks containing whiskey” at some point during the evening.

OGGOA will continue updating this story as it develops.

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Contributions from Young, Wilbekin make impact

By Malik Grady – OGGOA Columnist

Comparing the 2010-11 version of Florida Gators basketball with the team as it was constituted in 2009-10, it is quite obvious the group as a whole is drastically improved. In addition to playing better defense, something Adam previously touched on, Florida is shooting better and turning the ball over less.

Up 1.6 percent from the field (46-44.4 percent) and 3.3 percent from downtown (34.6-31.3 percent), the Gators are more efficient than they were last year, making approximately the same number of baskets per game in fewer attempts.

Where and why has this slight but integral positive change come from? For one, the returning players are showing a newfound cohesiveness. Then there is the departure of guard Ray Shipman (transferred to Central Florida) and forward Dan Werner (graduated). Sophomore F Erik Murphy and some of the other young reserves have stepped up to replace the minutes previously occupied by Shipman.

Statistics show that the greatest difference is the combination of losing nearly 30 minutes per game from Werner and adding the 35 combined minutes that emerging freshmen Patric Young and point guard Scottie Wilbekin have contributed.

Neither Werner last season nor Young and Wilbekin this year shoot the ball often, but the duo’s shot selection and efficiency have made their production markedly different.

Werner Young Wilbekin Young/Wilbekin
3PT 19/73 (26%) N/A 11/37 (30%) 11/37 (30%)
2PT 34/87 (39%) 40/69 (58%) 16/36 (44%) 56/105 (53%)
FG 53/160 (33%) 40/69 (58%) 27/73 (37%) 67/142 (47%)

In 30 games, Young and Wilbekin combined for 64.7 percent more two-point baskets (56) than Werner did (34) in 34 games; the duo has also hit 26.4 percent more overall field goals (67-53). From three-point range, though Werner made eight more than Wilbekin has so far, it took him 36 additional attempts to do so.

In the other aspects of their games, the Young-Wilbekin combo has eerily similar production to Werner’s last year:

Werner Young/Wilbekin
PTS 4.6 5.8
REB 4.1 5.0
AST 2.0 2.1
TO 1.5 1.4
STL 1.3 1.6

Standing out the most is Young’s penchant for blocking shots. He has 26 rejections in 30 games, which easily dwarf’s Werner’s five in 34 contests.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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Top 10 for 2010: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2010, the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From game-winning baskets to displays of pure emotion, Florida experienced some unique athletic moments in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 On the Field Moments of the Year.

OGGOA RELATED: Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

10 » FLORIDA WINS INAUGURAL LACROSSE GAME (2/20/10)
When Florida decided it wanted to start another women’s athletics program, the University Athletic Association did extensive research and found out that women’s lacrosse would be the perfect fit. In preparation for their first season, the Gators and head coach Amanda O’Leary secured the country’s No. 1 recruiting class (according to Inside Lacrosse Magazine). All the hard work and preparation to get the team ready paid off on Feb. 20 when lacrosse debuted in the brand new Donald R. Dizney Stadium to a boisterous crowd of 2,114 spectators. Florida defeated Jacksonville 16-6 behind four goals and four assists from freshman sensation Ashley Bruns. All-in-all the Gators faced 16 championship-caliber teams and played so well that they reached the 2010 ALC Tournament semifinals. In just their second year of existence, Florida women’s lacrosse is ranked as the No. 17 team in the country going into the 2011 season.

9 » NEAR VICTORIES/HEARTBREAKING LOSSES (5/25/10 * 3/18/10 * 10/9/10)

It is rare for teams to go undefeated and even less likely that an entire athletic program can go through a season without its share of close losses and nail biting finishes. Such was the case for the Gators in 2010. On May 25, No. 3 women’s tennis was barely defeated by the No. 8 Stanford Cardinal for the 2010 NCAA National Championship. Stanford won 4-3 after Florida rallied when they were just two individual games away from being defeated. The Gators forced third sets in two singles matches; sophomore Joanna Mather took down her opponent but senior No. 65 Marrit Boonstra was not as lucky. Losing her first set 6-4, Boonstra fought back to even her match with No. 33 Mallory Burdette by taking the second set 6-7 (4). Down 2-0 in the third, she pushed ahead with a valiant effort to take a 5-4 lead but ended up losing her final three games, the match itself and the championship.

Returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons, No. 10-seed Florida got in a bit easier than some might have expected. Matched up against the No. 7-seed Brigham Young Cougars in the event’s opening game, the Gators fought hard but could not stop Cougars star guard Jimmer Fredette. Allowing BYU to jump ahead 59-46 in the second half, UF came back behind freshman G Kenny Boynton and junior forward Chandler Parsons. Florida missed potential game-winners during regulation (Parsons) and the first overtime (Boynton) and eventually fell to Brigham Young 99-92 in a double-overtime heartbreaker with Fredette adding to his game-high 37 points.

Though losing a national championship and NCAA Tournament game are both difficult, Gators fans will probably look back on No. 12/14 Florida’s shocking loss to the No. 9/12 LSU Tigers on Oct. 10 as the worst near-victory of the season. Wearing orange jerseys for the first time since 1989, the Gators came back from a 12-point deficit when freshman wide receiver Andre Debose returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, sophomore running back Mike Gillislee rumbled in for a touchdown and redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley completed a two-point conversion to sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. to cap a 10-play, 80-yard drive. All Florida wanted when its defense came out was a stop, but LSU put together a 62-yard game-winning drive that included numerous third down conversions and a converted fake field goal attempt on fourth down from UF’s 36-yard line with 35 seconds remaining. Back-to-back passes to WR Terrence Toliver (of 28 and 3 yards, respectively) and the Tigers left The Swamp with a 33-29 victory. Players have noted that the loss was a negative turning point in the season, one that may or may not have led to the team dropping their third-straight game one week later at home to Mississippi State.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: On the Field Moments of the Year

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12/16: Donovan discusses team, Kansas State

No. 24 Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his latest media availability in the following post.

TIME OFF A MUCH-NEEDED BREAK FOR FLORIDA

With their longest stretch off between games this season coming to a close, the Gators have been trying to improve while simultaneously studying for finals over the last week. Nevertheless, Donovan believes the time off has been a positive for the team, which has plenty to improve on through its first nine games this year.

“That’s been good for us,” he said. “It’s been pretty productive. We practiced on Sunday and Monday, took Tuesday off and then Wednesday was a pretty big day for our guys academically. It’s always a balance. There’s so much demand on them academically in terms of papers and finals and things like that. We were able to get some work done on things we need to. Practice time has been good for our team. We have been able to address and work on some things we need to improve on.”

What exactly has the team made adjustments to over the last week? “Offensively just our ability to move the ball, catch the ball, pass it,” Donovan said. “Being a little bit more cohesive on offense. Trying to take advantage of our personnel. We’re getting better in that area. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think we’ve made some positive strides.

“The last four games we’ve done a pretty good job in terms of field goal percentage, defense, the number of points allowed. I’d like to see us defend the three-point line a little bit better than we are, but we got better there. The next step is: Can we put it all together? Can we defend like we need to and can we execute offensively in terms of taking advantage the five guys on the floor – them making decisions to make the game easy for each other.”

SHOOTING ISSUES ARE CONCERNING BUT CORRECTABLE

As a team Florida has really struggled shooting from, well, all over the floor. Though everyone is having issues, no one is performing worse right now while putting up shots than sophomore guard Kenny Boynton. Donovan, though concerned with his recent performances, believes confidence is the way Boynton can improve.

“That’s a really hard thing. One of the things I try to do as a coach is give our guys confidence. The worst thing is when a guy has an open shot and is tentative. That’s a real hard thing,” he said. “I think Dan Werner a little bit last year went through that. He wasn’t really sure when to shoot, when not to shoot. And you’re trying to instill confidence and give that confidence. At the end of the day, when a guy is shooting the basketball, as much as I can tell them to shoot that basketball, ‘I believe in you,’ the confidence still has to be internally that they believe it’s going in. And I try to help in that area.

“Kenny, in the last couple of games, has played phenomenal. He’s played great floor game. He’s defended very well; he’s been a much better help defender. He’s helped on the backboard and obviously his assist-to-turnover ratio has been much better. When you focus on things that you can do and you have control over, you have a better chance of making shots.”

To his credit, Boynton is doing exactly what Donovan is asking him to do. “You just keep shooting until you know, one game, it gets on, and then everything else will fall in place,” he said. “Not really too much in my head. Other than [three-point range] I’m shooting the ball 50 percent from the field. I just got to find other ways to score.”

Read much, much more from Donovan and UF basketball…after the break!
Continue Reading » 12/16: Donovan discusses team, Kansas State

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TWO BITS: Harvin’s sleep apnea, Donovan’s 9/11

1 » Three weeks ago, former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin collapsed on the Minnesota Vikings practice field due to complications from his chronic migraine headaches along with an adverse reaction to medication. After undergoing additional tests a week later that appeared to have found the root of his problems, Harvin was diagnosed by doctors with sleep apnea. Before his team’s season opener Thursday, Harvin explained to NBC’s Andrea Kremer that doctors noticed his heart stopped beating for 10 seconds during his hospital stay in August, which prompted them to have him tested for sleep apnea. During that test, his heart stopped beating on eight different occasions; he now uses an air regulation device while sleeping and is no longer taking any medication. Doctors believe Harvin is on the road to solving his health problems but cannot rule out a reoccurrence from time-to-time.

2 » Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan was in the middle of a recruiting trip when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York, NY, on Sept. 11, 2001. In fact, Donovan was on a plane flying into Boston, MA, when he first found out; he was subsequently grounded in Buffalo, NY, and was forced to begin a recruiting odyssey on the road after he was unable to visit his family. “It was a scary, scary time,” Donovan told UF’s Scott Carter. “In terms of country, it obviously had an incredible impact. But I think for people that grew up in New York and were born and raised on Wall Street, lower Manhattan, it’s something that will always be with us. […] When you think of lower Manhattan, if you are from New York, the two things you think of are the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center. It’s amazing, even now when you fly by lower Manhattan, [the towers] are no longer there.” Read the GatorZone.com’s feature in full right here.

Extra BIT » Former Gators forward Dan Werner, who graduated from the University of Florida in August, has signed a four-year deal with Virtus Bologna, an Italian professional basketball team in the league’s Serie A division. Italy likely granted Werner dual citizenship, something he had been trying to receive for months so a club team could acquire him without using up one of their slots reserved for Americans.

Photo Credit: Unknown

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