Pictures, tweets, videos: Florida Gators former and current discuss the Final Four

Support for the (1) Florida Gators (36-3) was riding high on Saturday as the team prepared to play in the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the AT&T Center in Arlington, TX. There was so much written about the team by former and current student-athletes, in fact, that this post had to be limited to those either with ties to the basketball program or in attendance at the game.

Though the (7) UConn Huskies (31-8) were victorious and eliminated Florida from the event, there was still plenty of well-wishers after the contest. Check out the pictures, tweets and videos below for a comprehensive look at what former and current Gators had to say before, during and after the game.

PRE-GAME

Continue Reading » Pictures, tweets, videos: Florida Gators former and current discuss the Final Four

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SIX BITS: WNBA, Parsons, Dunlap, Starks, Wuerffel

1 » The 2013 WNBA season opens this week with two former Florida Gators players and two more former coaches spread across the league. Forward DeLisha Milton-Jones will be entering her 15th season as a professional but first with the San Antonio Silver Stars. Guard Aneika Henry joins the Atlanta Dream for her second season after averaging 4.8 points and 4.1 rebounds while shooting .468 as a rookie in 2012. Former Florida head coach Carol Ross returns to the same position with the Los Angeles Sparks, and former Gators head coach Mickie DeMoss comes back as an assistant with the Indiana Fever. Gators center Jennifer George, who was selected in the third round of the 2013 WNBA Draft by the Fever, is not on the team’s roster.

2 » Second-year Houston Rockets F Chandler Parsons was asked to prom by a high schooler named Stephanie Flores in May. Though he had to decline her invitation as he was not in Houston, TX at the time, Parsons ensured that the student and her friends had a great time. He and the Rockets sent a party bus to escort Flores and her friends to and from the event, leading her to take the picture below.

Check out four more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: WNBA, Parsons, Dunlap, Starks, Wuerffel

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FOUR BITS: Milton-Jones, James, Walker, MLB

1 » Former Florida Gators forward DeLisha Milton-Jones – a two-time WNBA champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time WNBA All-Star – became just the ninth player in league history to eclipse 5,000 career points after scoring seven in the Los Angeles Sparks 91-75 loss to Tulsa on Tuesday. Currently participating in her 14th WNBA season, Milton-Jones has spent most of her career with Los Angeles after coming out of Florida in 1999. She is a member of the UF Athletic Hall of Fame and was also named the SEC Player of the Year in 1997.

2 » It was a tough decision for him to make but former Gators running back/returner Brandon James eventually decided to hang up his cleats a few months ago and become a high school football coach. James got the opportunity to serve as an assistant coach for St. Joseph’s High School in St. Augustine, FL when his former youth baseball coach Bernie Packo hired him to join his new staff on April 4. However, following an unforeseen change of events, Packo was fired just 22 days later and James was promoted to head coach by the school administration last Thursday. In an exclusive interview with me published as a feature story on InsidetheGators.com (which you can read for FREE by clicking here), James discussed his decision to turn in his helmet for a whistle and give back to the community that once did so much for him.

3 » The No. 6 player in the country according to Rivals.com and the top remaining target on Florida head coach Billy Donovan’s radar as it pertains to the 2013 recruiting class, five-star power forward Chris Walker had some positive things to say about the Gators when interviewed Tuesday about his recruitment. Walker told Rivals ($) that his top five as of right now is Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio State and Louisville but that one team stands out at this point in time. “I guess you could say that [the Gators] are in the driver’s seat,” he said when asked if UF leads for his services. “I’m still open of course and maybe a few visits could change my mind.” Though he listed a top five, Walker is believed by many to eventually choose Florida and Kansas as his final two schools.

4 » A pair of Gators juniors – left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson and shortstop Nolan Fontana – officially signed their MLB rookie contracts on Tuesday, forgoing their final season of collegiate eligibility to turn pro. The final selection in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox (No. 31 overall), Johnson signed a deal Tuesday worth more than $1.5 million. Fontana, the first pick in the second round of the draft (No. 61 overall), signed his contract with the Houston Astros and reportedly received a little more than his slot value of $875,000. Houston decided that he will report directly to Lexington (Class A), skipping all three short-season leagues that many rookies play in before joining the minors. WEEI Sportsradio out of Boston, MA also reports that Florida junior right-hander and third-round selection Austin Maddox is set to sign with the Red Sox for $350,000, which is $50,000 under his slot allotment of $400,000. It is unknown as of press time where Johnson and Maddox will begin their careers.

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FOUR BITS: Alajajian, Spurrier, Tebow, Stewart

1 » Though junior Buck linebacker Ronald Powell’s injury was more serious and detrimental to the Florida Gators considering he is an entrenched starter on defense, the unit also lost another player to surgery recently. Florida announced Wednesday that senior defensive tackle Nick Alajajian had successful surgery on his right wrist on Tuesday. Alajajian, who moved over to defense after spending three years with the Gators as an offensive lineman, is expected to be healthy enough to return for fall camp.

2 » South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier opened up to ESPN.com recently about a number of topics including his team’s game against Georgia being moved back four weeks (“I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.”), Nick Saban (“If he wants to be the greatest coach or one of the greatest coaches in college football, to me, he has to go somewhere besides Alabama and win, because they’ve always won there at Alabama.”) and how his career might come to an end (“When I leave, they’re not going to pay me $4 million because I had another five years on the deal and got fired. I ain’t going to be one of those guys.). But he also spoke about Florida and a conversation he had with head coach Will Muschamp upon him taking over the Gators in 2011.

“I told Will that he had one of the hardest jobs in America because of what’s happened down there prior to him coming. I don’t know that they have that much greater a team than most others in the SEC now. They’re pretty good. But it’s a tough job because of what Urban [Meyer] has done and prior history. Those fans are expecting 10 to 12 wins every year. Our fans are going to expect nine to 11, which is fair, and that’s good. I hope our players expect it, too.”

3 » Unlike a number of current and former Denver Broncos expressing their support and faith in quarterback Tim Tebow following his trade to the New York Jets, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (who had some of his best games with Tebow behind center) told 790 The Zone out of Atlanta, GA that he is not said to see him go elsewhere. “I ain’t going to say I was sad because the only thing they remember is that pass,” he said. “You gotta go back and look at the rest of the games. I wasn’t getting no balls and you had to make some of these plays where some players were open and he is not making the throws, but I don’t want to talk bad about Tim, but hey I am happy we got Peyton.” Thomas went on to praise Tebow for being a tireless worker and said there was no real tension in the locker room; he added that his former teammate has to learn how to read defenses better and recognize open receivers.

4 » Florida center and London, England native Azania Stewart was one of 20 players invited in April to a women’s basketball camp hosted by Great Britain that will help determine the 12 players that will represent the union in the 2012 London Olympics. Stewart has plenty of European basketball experience and that should give her chances of making the team a boost. Should she do so, Stewart would be the third Gators women’s basketball player in school history to represent her country in the Olympics following in the footsteps of Tammy Jackson (1992) and DeLisha Milton-Jones (2000, 2008).

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FOUR BITS: Grant, Manuel, Henry, OL transfer

1 » The No. 12/14 Florida Gators pulled off a 61-52 win Tuesday night against the Alabama Crimson Tide mostly due to an explosive start to the second half in which Florida scored 16-straight points. Though the Gators were without two primary reserves in the game, the Crimson Tide had two starters indefinitely suspended, a move that head coach Anthony Grant felt he had to make. As Grant and Florida head coach Billy Donovan communicated both before and after the game, suspending players is a hard decision for a coach to make but usually a smart run because the long-term health if the team is much more important than shot-term gains. The Associated Press’ Jim Litke gave Grant kudos for his decision in this column on Wednesday.

For the price of a ticket Tuesday night in Tuscaloosa, you could see something rare in college sports anymore: a coach putting his foot down. [...] Grant is doing exactly what the NCAA high-handedly promotes as its core mission – holding himself and his players accountable – but the selection committee isn’t about to cut him any slack for doing the right thing. Every loss still counts as a loss, never mind that it occurred because the coach volunteered to tie one hand behind his back. Grant gets that, too. He won’t change a thing because of it.

2 » Former Florida safety Marquand Manuel, an eight-year NFL who spent last year as an intern with the Gators, has been hired as the Seattle Seahawks’ new assistant special teams coach. A two-year starter for Seattle, Manuel also played in the Super Bowl with the Seahawks and is obviously hoping to begin his climb up the coaching ladder with this move.

3 » Former Florida forward Aneika Henry was signed to a training camp contract on Monday by the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA. Currently playing in Poland and ranking fifth in the EuroLeague in rebounding and eighth in double-doubles (averaging 13.6 points and 9.1 boards per game), Henry spent two years with the Gators and tallied 110 blocks while shooting 53.7 percent from the field. Should she be added to the squad for the regular season, Henry will be just the second former Florida player currently playing in the league, joining DeLisha Milton-Jones of the Los Angeles Sparks.

4 » As they did a year ago, the Gators are hoping that an experienced offensive lineman will decide to transfer to Florida and boost the team’s unit. In fact, UF is currently pursuing a pair of players looking to continue their careers at a different school. The Gators are one of a number of top teams going after three-star JUCO guard Fehoko Fanaika (San Mateo, CA), who visited the school recently and has also received offers from Georgia and LSU. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Florida is also interested in Maryland transfer three-star tackle Max Garcia (Norcorss, GA), who is leaving the program but restricted from transferring to any ACC school, Connecticut, Temple, Vanderbilt or West Virginia. Unlike Fanaika, Garcia would be forced to redshirt the 2012 season before joining any team in 2013. A Georgia native, it is believed that he would strongly consider playing close to home if he gets an offer from UGA.

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FOUR BITS: Bell, Spikes, Tebow / D1, Ross

1 » OGGOA learned Thursday from a source close to the head coach that the Jacksonville DolphinsKerwin Bell has not received any offer from the Florida Gators to either be the team’s quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator, despite reports to the contrary. Bell, who has maintained privately that he would not leave his post at Jacksonville solely for a position coach job, has however been contacted by at least one other institution on a preliminary basis. A former Florida quarterback, Bell has made quite the impression in the coaching profession after building the Trinity Catholic High School football program from the ground up and winning two Pioneer Football League titles in five years with the Dolphins. The Florida Times-Union reported Thursday evening, citing “multiple sources familiar with Florida’s interest” in Bell, that he is “no longer under consideration” for a job with the Gators.

2 » Out for seven games (and eight weeks) with a sprained MCL, New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes (notoriously media shy) met with reporters Thursday and spoke about how he is playing since returning to the field. “I never really got hurt like that [before], so it was kind of a burden,” he said. “But with my teammates pushing me every day, I just had to come out and do what I do and when my number’s called, I just want to come out and perform.”

3 » Having trained at D1 Sports Training prior to participating in his NFL workouts and being selected in the 2010 NFL Draft, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is set to invest in the organization’s first location inside the state of Florida. According to the Tampa Bay Times, talks between D1 and Tebow are ongoing and things “are nearly wrapped up to sign him at or near the end of the Broncos’ season.” Tebow, who purchased a stake in a D1 location in Savannah, GA last year, will be joined by Chipper Jones, Chris Jericho and Derrick Brooks in this new venture, the Times reports. The Florida location of D1 will be in Citrus Park in what was once a Circuit City; the company has spent approximately $1.7 million renovating the facility with membership costing $150-250 per month.

4 » Former Florida women’s basketball coach Carol Ross has been selected as the next head coach of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks. Ross, who led the Gators from 1990-2002, will be reunited with former Florida great and 14-year veteran forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, who will play her 11th season with the Sparks divided over two stints with the team. Ross was an assistant with the Atlanta Dream for the last three seasons and helped the team reach consecutive WNBA Finals (2010-11). “Carol is a proven winner with an incredible track record at both the collegiate and pro levels. She has groomed many women for great WNBA careers,” Los Angeles general manager Penny Toler said in the press release announcing the hire. “We’re confident Carol is the ideal coach to lead the Sparks to our next championship.”

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FOUR BITS: Moore, Tebow, soccer, interviews

1 » Former Florida Gators running back Kestahn Moore received some good news Thursday evening when he learned that the Tennessee Titans decided to sign him and bring him into camp as a free agent. Moore, who was signed with Kansas City in training camp a year ago and was worked out by Tennessee last November, is back with the team on a trial basis and could play as soon as Saturday against St. Louis. He told The Tennessean that he originally thought he was heading to Nashville, TN just to work out for the team. “That’s why you have to stay ready and working out,” he said. “I’ve got a chance now and I am ready.”

2 » Speaking with the Associated Press on Thursday, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow found humor in the alleged $5,000 bounty placed on his head by a Miami Hurricanes booster. “I didn’t know about that,” Tebow said. “It’s funny, though.” Tebow, who said he had “good memories” from his one game against Miami, is confident that no one went after him during the game. “That’s never what you want in sports. You’re playing to win,” he said. “You go hard. I mean, it’s a violent game, people get hit, people get hurt. But to go out there and purposely try to hurt someone? I don’t believe in that at all. That’s not why we play the game. So, that’s unfortunate if some people would go [such extremes]. But I don’t think all the Miami Hurricanes went out there trying to hurt me or anything because I had quite a few friends, as well. So, I think there were a lot of good players on that team, good kids on that team.”

3 » Just like the volleyball team, Florida soccer received plenty of praise from Southeastern Conference coaches this week. Surveyed in preseason poll, 11 of the 12 league coaches chose the Gators to win the 2011 SEC title. Additionally, two Florida soccer players – senior midfielder/forward Tahnai Annis and redshirt junior defender Kathryn Williamson – were named to the watch list for the 2011 Hermann Trophy, the highest individual award in NCAA soccer.

4 »

Over the last few weeks, OGGOA has conducted a number of interviews and posted them throughout the site. Due to the large amount of content posted each day, we wanted to make sure you did not miss any of them. Below are all of the the interviews that have been conducted since early July. A list of all of our exclusive interviews is available as a widget on the right sidebar of every page.

- Defensive lineman Kevin CarterPart I | Part II
The three-time SEC champion, first-team All-SEC member, first-team All-American selection, No. 6 overall draft pick, two-time Pro Bowler, Super Bowl champion and UF Athletic Hall of Fame member spoke to us about his time with the Gators, extensive NFL career, charity work and new job as a television analyst while also providing some unique insight on head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

- Center/forward Al Horford8/17/11
The two-time national champion and two-time NBA All-Star, who was also a member of the 2008 NBA All-Rookie Team caught up with OGGOA for the second time to discuss his new contract, relationship with the Oh Fours, thoughts on the NBA lockout and decision to play for the Dominican Republic National Team.

- Punter Chas Henry8/12/11
Just days after being signed as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles, Henry spoke with us about NFL lockout ending, his fantastic opportunity in Philadelphia, winning the Ray Guy Award and, of course, his game-winning field goal against Georgia.

- Forward DeLisha Milton-Jones7/8/11
A two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time WNBA champion and two-time Euroleague champion who is also a two-time WNBA All-Star, was a No. 4 overall draft pick and was up for inclusion on her league’s Top 15 Players of All-Time list, Milton-Jones talked with OGGOA student correspondent Nicole Boyett about her time at Florida, extensive career, desire to come back and help the lady Gators and more.

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Eleven Gator Bites for Monday, July 25th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share with our readers – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» With the NFL lockout now in the books, the Florida Gators four selections in the 2011 NFL Draft will be reporting to work for the first time on Thursday. Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey (first round, No. 15), Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert (second round, No. 63), Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Ahmad Black (fifth round, No. 151 and Washington Redskins guard Maurice Hurt (seventh round, No. 217 are all on teams who will be eligible to workout immediately.

» While that foursome is ready and raring to go, Florida also has a number of undrafted free agents hoping to be picked up by teams looking to supplement their roster. Among those available are defensive linemen Terron Sanders and Justin Trattou, running back Emmanuel Moody and wide receiver Carl Moore. OGGOA will update you if and when these players are picked up by teams.

» The WNBA held its 2011 All-Star game over the weekend and also announced its Top 15 Players of All Time at the event. Though she was nominated and up for selection to the list, former Gators forward DeLisha Milton-Jones was not picked by fans for the honor. The six-time champion (two Olympic gold medals, two WNBA titles, two Euroleague titles) is currently averaging 12.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in 26.6 minutes per game with the Los Angeles Sparks.

There are 11 more Gator Bites including updates on Calathes, UF-FSU, Beal, Alvarez, Wambach, LeCount, ultimate Frisbee and Bostic…after the break!
Continue Reading » Eleven Gator Bites for Monday, July 25th

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