Noah’s historic game leads Gators to huge Friday

Five of the six former Florida Gators basketball players that participated in NBA games on Friday put together incredibly strong performances with Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah’s historic evening undoubtedly leading the way.

Noah, playing a team-high 43 minutes, went 12-for-19 from the field and 6-for-7 from the charity stripe to lead the Bulls with career-highs of 30 points and 23 rebounds for his fourth double-double in the last five games. He became just the sixth player since 1985 to hit those scoring and rebounding marks while dishing six assists in a single game.

Noah also added two blocks and two steals to his total as he put together the single best all-around game of his career.

By the time the night was over, he was one of three former Gators to post double-doubles and one of five to score double digits on the evening.

Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee had a monster game in his own right, matching Noah with 30 points while grabbing a season-high 15 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the year (all of which have come within the last 15 games). Lee has also been one or two boards shy of four more double-doubles this year.

Continuing his stellar season on Friday was Atlanta Hawks C Al Horford, who registered his fourth-straight double-double and eighth of the campaign with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Horford played against the Washington Wizards and rookie guard Bradley Beal, who filled up the stat sheet with 18 points, three boards, three assists, two steals and a block.

Completing the circuit was forward Corey Brewer, the fifth player to post double-digit points on his evening. Brewer scored a team-high 20 points off the bench for the Denver Nuggets on 9-of-16 shooting with four rebounds, a dime, a steal and a block.

Houston Rockets F Chandler Parsons also played on Friday but had one of his least productive games of the season, scoring seven points on just 3-of-10 shooting (0-for-4 from downtown) in 24 minutes.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Gaffney, Brewer, LaCaze, ESPNU

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, an 11-year NFL veteran who was cut by the New England Patriots during the preseason, signed with the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday and officially joined his fifth professional franchise. Gaffney has only missed five regular season games while employed (all in 2006) and is the type of durable, veteran presence that Miami has desperately needed. He is also coming off the best two years production-wise. Gaffney set career-highs with 65 receptions for 875 yards with Denver in 2010 and eclipsed those numbers with 68 receptions for 947 yards (and a career-high-tying five touchdowns) with Washington last season.

2 » Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (and some of his teammates) made their acting debuts this year by making cameos as football players during the acclaimed film “The Dark Knight Rises.” As it turns out, Denver Nuggets guard/forward Corey Brewer will also be featured in a movie though his is set to be released on Jan. 25, 2013. In a new trailer for the ensemble comedy “Movie 43” released by Comedy Central, Brewer is shown as a basketball player being coached up by Terrence Howard. The film – which features a start-studded cast including names like Hugh Jackman, Gerard Butler, Richard Gere, Uma Thurman and Kate Winslet (along with some well-known comedy stars) – will undoubtedly receive at least an R rating for language, nudity, sexual situations, etc. The “red band” trailer below, which features a line from Brewer, contains adult content and explicit language. (Hat tip to John B.)

3 » It appears as if Florida has added a second competitor from the 2012 London Olympics to its coaching staffs as former Gators steeplechaser Genevieve LaCaze announced on Twitter that she has signed up to be a volunteer coach with the track & field program. LaCaze, who raced for Australia but did not medal in the Olympics, joins British swimmer and world record holder Gemma Spofforth, who was announced as a volunteer assistant by Florida last week. Spofforth, who graduated in 2010, competed in two Olympics and is now retired from the sport. LaCaze graduated this past spring and is planning to make a go of it for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

4 » ESPNU on Tuesday aired a special All Access program that took a look at the Gators football team as it worked through its bye last week. If you missed the show, ESPN informed OGGOA that it will re-air twice more this week on Oct. 5 at 4:30 p.m. and Oct. 7 at 6:30 a.m. Though the program did not provide much in the way of new information (similar clips have been featured in previous ESPN specials), it was an interesting look behind the scenes this season.

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Brewer steps up, Horford and Noah eliminated

Three of the seven former Florida Gators players participating in the 2012 NBA Playoffs made national news on Thursday night for completely different reasons.

Denver Nuggets forward Corey Brewer got to experience major success while Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford felt the agony of defeat and Chicago Bulls C Joakim Noah was forced to sit idly by while dealing with an ankle injury.

Coming off the bench for Denver, Brewer was extremely efficient, starting 8-of-9 (and finishing 8-of-12) from the field (2-of-3 from downtown) for 18 points with three rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in 19 minutes.

He scored 11-straight points to begin the fourth quarter and extended his team’s lead to a game-high 18 points, helping lead the Nuggets to an important 113-96 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers that forced a seventh game in their first-round series.

Horford played in his third (and started his second-straight) game since coming back from rehabbing a torn pectoral, continuing to be an effective player for Atlanta. Though he did not see much action offensively in the first three quarers, Horford went 6-of-9 from the floor for 15 points with nine rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block. Unfortunately his performance not without some negatives for the Hawks. He turned the ball over a game- and career-high seven times and had an opportunity to tie the game from the free throw line with two seconds left but only made one-of-two attempts.

After seriously spraining his ankle in Game 3, Noah found himself on the bench for Game 4 and 5, helpless as Chicago fell behind 3-2 in their opening-round series against Philadelphia. He hoped to get back on the court for Game 6 and even participated in layup drills prior to the contest but was unable to go once again and watched the Bulls drop yet another game.

Both Horford and Noah’s teams were eliminated from the playoffs in a pair of nail-biters with Atlanta falling 83-80 to Boston and Chicago losing 79-78 to Philadelphia. Florida began the postseason with seven former players in uniform, tied for the most of any school (Kansas); five players remain in action following Thursday’s games.

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FOUR BITS: lacrosse, Noah, Horford, Brewer

1 » Florida Gators lacrosse continues to make history as, in just the third season of the program’s existence, it was announced Sunday that the team received the No. 1 overall seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Florida, which won the ALC regular season title for the second-straight year and captured the first ALC Tournament Championship in team history on Saturday, is on a 13-match winning streak heading into the tournament. The Gators will receive a tremendous homefield advantage in the first two rounds (should they advance) before being forced to travel to Stony Brook, NY for the Final Four. Florida is looking to become the fastest program in the sport’s history to go from inception to national title but has a long road ahead of them beginning on Saturday, May 12 at 1 p.m. against Albany at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

2 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was knocked out of Game 3 of his team’s first-round series against Philadelphia after severely spraining his ankle midway through the contest. Noah did his best to continue playing but was badly limping and eventually headed back to the locker room where he was told he would be unable to return to the court. He sat on the bench in a suit and air cast during Game 4 on Sunday and is also expected to miss Game 5 (as well as the remainder of the series should it advance past that point). Noah’s injury is a tough blow for a Chicago team already without point guard Derrick Rose. The top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls may wind up eliminated in the first round while playing without their two biggest stars.

3 » The polar opposite of Noah, Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford came off a major injury and returned to action this weekend just as his former teammate appears to be going on the shelf for the rest of the season. Horford, who tore his right pectoral on Jan. 11 and has not played since, was an active participant in Atlanta’s Game 4 on Sunday. He posted 12 points and grabbed five rebounds in 20 minutes of action, not showing much rust despite missing almost the entire season. Horford may only see one more game in 2012 as the Hawks are set to face an elimination Game 5 on Tuesday.

4 » Denver Nuggets F Corey Brewer may have been trending on Twitter during his game Sunday while fans were joking about his hairline, but Brewer is taking his team’s first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers very seriously. According to the Denver Post, Brewer has been “finding fuel” to play hard by thinking about his father who passed away during the season. “He always used to smile when I’d do something good,” he said. “Every time he’d see me, he was always happy. Everybody says we have the same smile. He had it rough. He didn’t have legs. He was blind. But every time I’d see him, he was smiling. He can’t walk, he can’t see and he’s happy every day – so I got to be happy.” Head coach George Karl called Brewer his team’s “energizer, offensively and defensively” and has praised his ability to make an impact especially on the defensive end of the court. Like Noah and Horford, Brewer’s team is also facing an elimination Game 5 on Tuesday.

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SIX BITS: Tebow, Jenkins, Brewer, Thomas

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was named Wednesday to TIME Magazine’s 2012 list of The 100 Most Influential People in the World. Tebow can be found among names like President Barack Obama, Warren Buffett, Louis CK and New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, who penned a few paragraphs on Tebow.

Watching Tim Tebow play football, you can observe many things about his character. You see his fierce competitiveness, his strong work ethic and how he is a leader that his teammates trust and respect.

But it is the qualities that Tim, 24, embodies in his life off the field that truly set him apart. He is unashamed of his convictions and faith, and he lives a life that consistently reflects his values, day in and day out. Through his foundation, he constantly reaches out to people and communities in need of hope. He realizes what he has been blessed with and seeks to help those who are worse off. As athletes, we pour our hearts into winning games. Tim is a reminder that life is about much more than that.

2 » Denying reports that he continued smoking marijuana after being dismissed by Florida, cornerback Janoris Jenkins is emphatic that he has turned the corner in both his life and career. “I wasn’t smoking marijuana at North Alabama,” he told Scout.com’s Aaron Wilson. “If anybody wants to know, they can give my coaches a call. I wasn’t partying. They’ve been saying a lot of things about me that aren’t true without getting my side of the story. It’s been a humbling experience. You’ve got to be a man; you’ve got to be honest and straightforward. I’ve matured. My past is my past. People can judge me for how far I’ve come. I want to know why all of a sudden this is out there about me. Why didn’t it come out after the combine when I was straightforward with the scouts? The timing is very interesting to me.”

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Tebow, Jenkins, Brewer, Thomas

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TWO BITS: Brewer’s ring, Tebow’s service

1 » Not longer with the Dallas Mavericks, former Florida Gators guard/forward Corey Brewer did not receive his NBA Championship ring with his teammates when the ceremony took place at the AmericanAirlines Center early in the season. With his new team, the Denver Nuggets, in town to face Dallas on Feb. 15, the Mavericks held a special mini-ring ceremony to honor Brewer’s contributions to the team. You can check it out in the video below (hat tip to Rob K.):

2 » If you thought Tebowmania had died down at all with the 2011 season having come to a close, you would most certainly be wrong. According to the Associated Press, nearly 20,000 people attended a speaking engagement with Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow at the Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV over the weekend. During the service, Tebow discussed the Tebowing phenomenon and why he does it before, during and after games. “One of the reasons I get on a knee is because that’s a form of humbling yourself,” he explained. “I want to humble myself before the Lord and say thank you for this opportunity. Thank you for letting me play the game I love.” Senior pastor Kevin Odor also told the AP that “more than 1,000 people had logged on to the church’s website to watch a live feed of the Saturday night service, hailing from far-flung countires including Afghanistan and Bangladesh.” Tebow also donated his speaking fee to the Tim Tebow Foundation for the purposes of building a hospital in the Philippines.

Extra BIT » Former Florida basketball player Donnell Harvey, a first-round pick in 2000 who spent five seasons in the NBA from 2000-05, is now playing for the Tropang Texters of the Philippine Basketball Association after spending time off of United States soil in professional leagues in Turkey, Puerto Rico, Bosnia and China. In his debut game with his new club, Harvey posted 21 points and a league season-high 28 rebounds in a losing effort for his team (hat tip to Marco J.).

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SIX BITS: Noah, baseball, Demps, Speights, Brewer

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah registered his first career triple-double (13 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) on Wednesday in just three quarters of action (and 30 total minutes) against Milwaukee. Noah’s 10 dimes were a career-high and he became the first Chicago center to achieve a triple-double since Artis Gilmore did so in 1977. After a slow start to the year, Noah is averaging almost a double-double per game this season with 9.4 points and 9.8 boards.

2 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (4-1) shut out the No. 19 Central Florida Knights (3-0) on Wednesday for the first time since 1977, outscoring their visitors 8-0 as sophomore right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford (1-1) picked up his first victory of the season. Crawford (2 H, 3 BB, 4 K) pitched 4.1 no-hit innings before being pulled after five scoreless frames. Sophomore left-hander Daniel Gibson (2.0 IP, H), freshman LHP Bobby Poyner (1.0 IP, H) and freshman RHP Ryan Harris (1.0 IP, 2 H, BB, 2 K) finished out the game on the hill. Florida scored in each of the first three innings and five of the eight frames they went to the plate. Senior center fielder Daniel Pigott hit a solo shot in the first and finished 2/3 with two RBIs, two runs and a pair of walks. The Gators rallied for three runs in the bottom of the third, and senior right fielder Preston Tucker (2/4, RBI, BB) led off a two-run fifth with a solo homer of his own. Tucker’s dinger tied him with former UF All-American Brad Wilkerson (1996-98) for the school’s career RBI record of 214. Florida added another in the seventh and cruised to victory. UF will not get much rest as a series against William & Mary begins on Friday at 7 p.m. with game two and three set for Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m., respectively.

3 » Deciding to run track instead of compete for a spot on a NFL roster may be a tough choice for some, but former running back Jeff Demps knows what he is doing. In a feature on Yahoo! Sports’ ThePostGame, Demps and head track coach Mike Holloway discuss his future in the sport. “At the bottom of my heart, I just love running,” Demps said. “He can become one of the best,” Holloway added. “Jeff believes that or we wouldn’t be doing this.” Holloway, who will also be an assistant coach on the U.S. Men’s National Team in the 2012 London Olympics, believes that Demps can go all the way in the sport. “He has that potential down the road. There’s no doubt about that,” Holloway said of Demps potentially medaling at the Olympics. “It’s just a matter of us getting the proper training model and getting the proper steps taken to keep him healthy.”

4 » Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford was named the 2012 Sportsperson of the Year by the Atlanta Sports Council on Monday for making a positive impact on sports in the local community. “Playing for the Atlanta Hawks is an honor and has afforded me the opportunity to make an impact on organizations and causes in the Atlanta community that I am extremely passionate about,” Horford said in a statement. “I am committed to these efforts and the individuals that they serve, and I thank the Atlanta Sports Council for recognizing my involvement and dedication.” Horford played in the first 11 games of the 2011-12 season before suffering a torn labrum, which will keep him out of action until the end of April at the earliest.

5 » Memphis Grizzlies F/C Marreese Speights has been on quite a tear recently and is fitting in nicely with his new team. Starting in 26 of the 28 games he has played for Memphis this season, Speights is playing a career-high 23.0 minutes and averaging career-highs in points (8.6), rebounds (6.5) and free throw percentage (.816). He has scored double-digit points in five-straight games and had back-to-back double-doubles on Feb. 15 (20 points, 18 boards) and Feb. 17 (12 points, 10 boards). “It’s been one of the best moves of my life,” he said of getting traded to Memphis, according to the Philadelphia Enquirer. “It’s been great. We have a good team and we’re winning. They gave me a chance to come over here and play and show the things that I can do.”

6 » In a similar boat as Speights, it seems all Denver Nuggets F Corey Brewer needed was a change of scenery. Since returning to Denver after taking a sabbatical due to the death of his father, Brewer has scored double-digit points in five of seven games (he posted nine points in the other two). He’s been a bright spot for the Nuggets this season and may have finally found a comfortable home after moving from Minnesota to New York and then to Dallas one year ago. He is averaging 9.4 points (a career-high for minutes played) and shooting a career-best 36.0 percent from beyond the arc while grabbing 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, NBA, Tebow

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (1-0) played like the top team in the country during their season opener on Friday, fighting back every time they were down and eventually toppling the No. 16 Cal State Fullerton Titans (0-1) 7-3 at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Down a run after a throwing error in the top of the second, the Gators tied the game when freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue (1-4) turned on his first collegiate pitch and belted a homer to left field. Behind 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Florida used another solo shot – this time from senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-3) – to even things up again. The Gators’ clutch hitting continued as a four-run seventh inning – including to pair of RBI singles by juniors catcher Mike Zunino (1-4) and first baseman Brian Johnson (2-4) – to jump ahead 7-3 and hold on for the victory. Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall got the start for UF but gave up three earned runs on five hits with only one strikeout in 5.2 innings for the no decision. Coming on in relief with his team down a run, junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez (1-0) struck out three and gave up just one hit in 2.1 innings before senior RHP Greg Larson tossed the final inning to clinch the victory. Florida’s series with Cal State Fullerton continues Saturday and Sunday though neither game is being televised.

2 » No. 1 Florida softball (7-0) continued its hot start to the 2012 season with yet another run-rule victory as the Gators shut out the Michigan State Spartans (1-5) 8-0 in five innings Friday night at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville. Florida took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth but crossed the plate five times in the inning to take a 7-0 lead. A RBI single by sophomore left fielder Kasey Fagan (1-2) in the bottom of the fifth wound up being a walk-off hit as it became the game-deciding run. Freshman 1B Lauren Haeger (2-2) led the way for the Gators with four RBIs, and junior C Brittany Schutte supported her with a 3-3 performance and a RBI of her own. Freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2-3) also plated two runs and crossed home once herself. Continuing to prove her dominance on the mound, sophomore pitcher Hannah Rogers (5-0) tossed a complete game one-hitter with four strikeouts and a walk in 5.0 innings. UF will take on Michigan State twice more before the weekend concludes.

3 » It was a big night in the NBA for four former Gators stars. Friday night’s standout performance came from Denver Nuggets guard/forward Corey Brewer, who scored a team-high 26 points (10-of-14 shooting) with five rebounds, a steal and a block in 32 minutes. Joining him at the top of their team’s respective box scores were Golden State Warriors forward/center David Lee with a team-high 23 points (8-of-17 shooting) and eight boards in a team-high 30 minutes; Houston Rockets F Chandler Parsons with a team-high 18 points (8-of-15 shooting), a team-high six rebounds and three assists in a team-high 40 minutes; and Memphis Grizzlies C Marreese Speights with a double-double of 12 points (5-of-8 shooting) and 10 boards with two blocks in 35 minutes.

Parsons also learned Friday that he will be participating in the NBA’s All-Star Weekend as one of three players representing Houston in the Shooting Stars competition.

4 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has officially scheduled his “experience” event at the new D1 Sports Training and Therapy facility in Citrus Park, FL. Tebow will hold a special training session at D1 on March 10 where members and special guests will have the opportunity to train alongside him while checking out the new workout center. For more information on D1 and Tebow’s involvement with the company (he’s a part-owner of two facilities), check out OGGOA‘s post from Jan. 17.

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