FOUR VIDEO BITS: Williams, Noah, Taylor

1 » Former Florida Gators point guard Jason Williams, a 12-year NBA veteran, retired during the 2010-11 season but is still displaying his signature flare in exhibition games. Competing in China during a USA Legends Tour game this month, Williams looked like the young “White Chocolate” when he successfully made a fastbreak elbow pass for a dunk, just like he did during the 2000 NBA Rookie Game.


2 » Competing in the Steve Nash Foundation Showdown in Chinatown on June 26 in New York, NY – a celebrity soccer event that benefits underserved children affected by poverty, illness, abuse or neglect – Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah scored the game-winning goal and celebrated in typical fashion. (Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons will participate in the west coast version of the game on Sunday, July 14.) Speaking of Noah, he and Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford will participate in the 2013 Basketball Without Borders program this summer. Noah, Horford and six other players will visit Johannesburg, South Africa, from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1 to coach and lead life seminars.

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Parsons helped sway Howard to Rockets

After a surprising rookie season and breakout sophomore campaign, forward Chandler Parsons has made plenty of Houston Rockets fans happy by scoring more than his fair share of points and dishing some important dimes over the last two years.

But his biggest assist to date came this past week when Parsons played a major role in recruiting free agent center Dwight Howard to Houston, sources confirmed to OnlyGators.com and FORBES on Saturday.

A source close to the situation spoke with FORBES sports business writer Darren Heitner on Saturday and confirmed that not only was Parsons involved in the Rockets’ initial pitch to Howard, he went above and beyond following that meeting to ensure that Howard picked Houston when he came to his final decision.

“Chandler was relentless,” the source said. “[Chandler] called and texted [Dwight] every day, even face-timed and would answer every question Dwight could potentially have. We would drive to his house in the hills and talk to him. Basically Chandler Parsons recruited him like Nick Saban and a five-star defensive tackle; they hardly knew each other at the beginning of the process.”

That source contends “there is no one on the Rockets more responsible for [Dwight] in Houston than Chandler,” noting that Parsons’s outlined to Howard how he would have the best chance to win with the Rockets compared to his other suitors.

Parsons, who is away on vacation in Mexico and therefore did not return a text message seeking comment from OnlyGators.com, was simply an acquaintance of Howard prior to free agency. Growing up in Orlando, FL, Parsons would bump into Howard when he returned home in the offseason, so the two were familiar with each other.

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FOUR BITS: NBA free agents, USA, Tyus, Parsons

1 » Center Marreese Speights is not the only former Florida Gators player making news at the start of free agency for the 2013-14 NBA season. According to Yahoo! Sports‘ Adrian Wojnarowski, the Golden State Warriors have put power forward David Lee on the trading block. Though Lee had a fantastic season for Golden State, averaging 18.5 points and 11.2 rebounds per game on his way to the second All-Star nod of his career, he has three years and $44 million left on a maximum contract he signed two years ago. Joining Speights on the market early Monday morning was F Corey Brewer, who averaged 12.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 24.4 minutes per game during the 2012-13 season with the Denver Nuggets. The Houston Chronicle reported Monday that the Houston Rockets will be meeting with Brewer soon in Los Angeles, CA. Also likely on the move this offseason is point guard Nick Calathes, who has yet to play in the NBA but still has his rights held by the Dallas Mavericks, which drafted him with a second-round pick in 2009. Dallas recently signed an Israeli player at Calathes’s position, making “it very likely” that his rights will be traded, according to ESPNDallas.com’s Tim MacMahon.

2 » USA Basketball started competing in the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship over the weekend, finishing 3-0 in the preliminary round with three blowout victories. The Americans, led by Gators head coach Billy Donovan, defeated Ivory Coast 88-29 on Thursday, China 113-57 on Friday and Russia 115-47 on Saturday. Donovan is now 8-0 all-time in international competitions with last week’s 61-point average margin of victory leading the United States to a win in Group D and a spot in the second group stage. Florida rising sophomore guard Michael Frazier II struggled with his shooting a bit during the three games. In 17:49 against Ivory Coast, Frazier went 1-for-8 (0-for-4 from three) for two points with five rebounds. In 19:24 against China, he had his best game by going 5-of-13 (4-of-11 from downtown) for 15 points. Facing Russia, Frazier finished 5-for-12 (2-for-8 from long range) with 12 points, three boards and two assists.

3 » Former Gators F Alex Tyus on Monday inked a three-year, $1.1 million deal with Maccabi Tel Aviv and will return to Israel (where he is a member of the national team) after a one-season stint in Russia with Pallacanestro Cantu. He averaged 8.1 points and 3.7 rebounds during the 2012-13 campaign but fared better in the Israeli League as he posted averages of 12.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks during the 2011-12 season. Tyus, who converted to Judaism in 2011 before signing with Maccabi Ashdod out of college, could remain with Maccabi Tel Aviv through the 2015-16 season as the third year of the contract is a club option.

4 » The Rockets are believed to be the front runners to land C Dwight Howard, the top free agent available during the 2013 offseason, and Houston is using former Florida F Chandler Parsons as a big part of its pitch. According to the Houston Chronicle, Parsons “speaks often with Howard” and discusses not just the Rockets’ success on the court but also the chemistry in the locker room. “We have great guys,” Parsons told the paper. “We don’t have any egos. We don’t’ have any cocky, arrogant guys. We have guys with the same mindset and same attitude. We genuinely all like each other and enjoy playing together. All of us text back and forth pretty much every day. Whether it’s us joking around or us talking about what we’re doing to get better or trying to get together in the same city for group workouts, we’re always looking for ways to get better and stay in touch and keep that relationship most teams don’t have. We’re all friends. We’re all thinking about each other.”

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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!

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Erik Murphy – Path to 2013 NBA Draft: Workouts II

Through the 2013 NBA Draft on June 27, former Florida Gators forward Erik Murphy, the team’s leading three-point shooter last season (.453), will be keeping you up-to-date on his Path to the Draft via a weekly blog entry here on OGGOA.

Murphy got in touch with OGGOA on Friday to discuss three more workouts he participated in over the last week. He has at least five more to go, possibly more, before the process concludes next week.

Picking back up from last time I checked in, last Friday I had a workout with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It followed the same format that most of the others did, but it was definitely the hardest one due to the length, intensity and the type of drills they had us running. The focus was mostly on skill work with some shooting at the end. What stood out the most from Cleveland was that it was the nicest facility I have been in so far.

After the workout, I met with Žydrūnas Ilgauskas – the Cavs’ assistant general manager – and other members of the front office. It was a good experience all-around; I definitely had a good experience there.

I got back to Las Vegas, NV, later on Friday and took Saturday off. [Editor’s Note: Murphy is training with Impact Basketball in Las Vegas.]

On Sunday and Monday, I did some light workouts, nothing too strenuous, because I found out I was flying to Portland, OR, Monday night for a workout with the Portland Trailblazers that was added to my schedule for Tuesday.

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SIX BITS: USA, Tebow, Spikes, Pouncey, Sturgis

1 » Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons are two of 27 players that have accepted invitations to participate in the 2013 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Mini-Camp from July 22-25 in Las Vegas, NV. Though Parsons does not have much experience competing internationally, Beal was involved with USA Basketball as a high schooler and has represented his country before. Both men will have the opportunity to impress head coach Mike Krzyzewski during the mini-camp in hopes of earning placement on the 2013-16 U.S. Men’s National Team that will participate in international competitions, qualifiers and eventually the 2016 Rio Olympics. Eight of the players that participated in USA Basketball’s mini-camp in 2009 went on to make the 2009-12 team and eventually win gold in the 2012 London Olympics.

2 » Quarterback Tim Tebow is not the only member of the New England Patriots making waves in minicamp. Linebacker Brandon Spikes, who missed all of the team’s organized team activities while training on his own in Florida, arrived on Monday and began working with his New England teammates on Tuesday. “Honestly, I just felt like I was trying to put myself in the best position to compete for a spot on the team and also help this team win a championship,” Spikes told the Boston Globe. “I mean, you guys know me. I frequently do things a little bit different from everybody else. I don’t think they’re bad, or a shocker. Honestly, if everybody in the world was a conformist, it would be a boring place.” Spikes offered a “no comment” when asked about being in the last year of his rookie contract and also addressed the team bringing in Tebow.

“I was happy for him [when I heard he’d been signed],” Spikes said. “He got to get his job back and come out here and compete. So that’s good to see him smile, you know that big smile I’m used to seeing for the last few years down in Florida. … He’s a hard worker, a competitor, and he loves the game and you need guys like that.”

Check out four more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
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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!
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Erik Murphy – Path to 2013 NBA Draft: Combine

Through the 2013 NBA Draft on June 27, former Florida Gators forward Erik Murphy, the team’s leading three-point shooter last season (.453), will be keeping you up-to-date on his Path to the Draft via a weekly blog entry here on OGGOA.

Between workouts in Las Vegas, NV on Thursday, Murphy got in touch with OGGOA to discuss his experience and performance at the 2013 NBA Combine and what he has been doing to get ready for the draft over the last week.

The week leading into the combine, we kept doing what we were doing at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas. We practiced drills that we knew they would test us on at the combine and just tried to make those become second nature. I flew up there Tuesday night and by the time we got to the JW Marriott, I just relaxed and went to sleep.

Wednesday was the first day of the combine, when everybody started to arrive. I got up early in the morning and basically did all kinds of media stuff. By the time I got done with the 10-15 interviews, it was the middle of the afternoon. Some guys had team interviews afterward but that was not on my schedule for the day. I hung out, saw a bunch of guys I met and knew from over the years (Peyton Siva, Deshaun Thomas, Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee, Gorgui Dieng, etc.), and then went to the gym to get some shots up and get a workout in before Thursday. It is kind of a long, boring day overall.

On Thursday we woke up around 6:30 a.m. and went downstairs to a ballroom. The first thing we did was take a urine test and then we had our blood drawn – a lot of blood. Then they took all of our measurements, a process that took about a half hour. We did a quick workout and then had breakfast before actually beginning the major workout part of the combine. There were a lot of drills, some of them specific by position – ball-handling, quick shots, one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three, transition drills, catch-and-shoot, finishing at the rim. The workout probably lasted 60-75 minutes, and it was definitely a tough because you’re out there with a bunch of talented players.

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