FOUR BITS: Beal, Young, Sampson, Bennett

1 » ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford ranked Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal and sophomore center Patric Young as the No. 1 and No. 2 (respectively) NBA prospects in the West Region of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Ford noted shooting and athleticism as Beal’s positives but said his struggles from beyond the arc are an obvious negative. He also said that “NBA teams expect him to thrive” in a true NBA lineup and that he could move all the way up from top six to No. 2 overall behind Anthony Davis if he performs at a high level in the tournament. Ford added that “NBA scouts are convinced Young has the potential to be a dominant defensive big man” no matter what he does offensively in college or the NBA. For further details click here (subscription required).

UPDATE: Young reaffirmed Thursday that he plans to remain at UF for 2012-13.

2 » Still looking to add a big man to their 2012 recruiting class, Florida basketball missed out on another this week when four-star power forward Jakarr Sampson (Akron, OH) decided to play for St. John’s next season. Sampson, who was originally committed to SJU before being forced to spend a year in prep school to improve his grades, recommitted to St. John’s on Wednesday over UF, Kansas and Providence. Sampson recently said he was getting prepared to visit the Gators but will no longer make that trip. “They always had my heart,” Sampson told Rivals.com about his new team. “Even when I left my heart was still here. I got to know the coaches, the players and I couldn’t leave them like that because my heart is still with them.”

3 » Florida’s primary focal point in the frontcourt has always been five-star PF Anthony Bennett (Henderson, NV), who has yet to decide what school he will attend. UF, which stands a good chance of landing him, is in his top five along with Kentucky, UNLV, Washington and Oregon. “The coaching staff is really cool,” he told Rivals of the Gators in January. “My mom likes them a lot and they say that they will develop me into a three/four type player. Also, if Patric Young doesn’t go pro, I would be able to practice every day against one of the best big men in the country.”

4 » No. 2 Florida women’s tennis and No. 5/6 lacrosse were both victorious in a pair of mid-week matches in Gainesville, FL on Wednesday. Gators tennis (10-1) earned a shutout 5-0 win over the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils (11-1) while Florida lacrosse (7-2) gained a dominant 17-4 victory over the Stony Brook Seawolves (5-2). Weather ended the tennis match early, good news for junior No. 1 Allie Will who was down one set and losing in the second to No. 2 Beatrice Capra. Junior No. 14 Lauren Embree, senior No. 19 Joanna Mather and sophomore No. 39 Sofie Oyen won their singles matches as No. 3 Will/Oyen and No. 11 Embree/Mather also picked up doubles victories. Across campus junior attacker Caroline Chesterman led the way for the Gators by netting all five of her shots for goals. Midfielders junior Brittany Dashiell and freshman Nora Barry each scored two goals, and junior As Kitty Cullen and Gabi Wiegand added two apiece. Janine Hillier, who transferred was Florida’s fourth-leading scoreer a year ago but transferred in the offseason, did not score for Stony Brook.

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2012 Florida Gators lacrosse primer: Title or bust?

Entering the program’s third year, No. 4 Florida Gators lacrosse is looking to continue their record pace and become the fastest team in the sport’s history to win the NCAA Championship. The Gators progressed from new kids on the block in 2010 to one of the elite teams in the country in 2011 and hope to continue that progress.

Florida opens their 2012 campaign on the road Saturday at No. 3 North Carolina for the second-straight year and is looking to avenge a tough 10-9 overtime loss.

Following the defeat in their 2011 opener, the Gators went on 14-match winning streak that spanned two months. Florida lost their final regular season game 9-6 to Cornell; however, UF still finished 11-0 at home and captured the 2011 ALC regular season title. The Gators then fell in the conference’s tournament to Northwestern and were ousted in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament by a talented Duke team.

Continue Reading » 2012 Florida Gators lacrosse primer: Title or bust?

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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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FOUR BITS: All-Americans, Tebowmania, Hillier

1 » Five Florida Gators baseball players were named to the 2012 NCBWA Pro-Line Athletic Preseason All-American Team on Wednesday. Juniors catcher Mike Zunino and pitcher/first baseman Brian Johnson earned first team recognition, while senior infielder/outfielder Preston Tucker and junior P Austin Maddox were named to the second team. Sophomore P Karsten Whitson, coming off of a stellar freshman season (8-1, 2.40 ERA), was given a third-team nod.

2 » A pair of Florida senior volleyball players – right-side/setter Kelly Murphy and outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel were named Wednesday to the 2011 AVCA All-American Team. Murphy, who according to UF “started every match and set of her career,” earned first-team recognition; her cohort Jaeckel was named to the second team. Murphy and Jaeckel led the Gators to the Elite Eight of the 2011 NCAA Tournament this year.

3 » If you were thinking Tebowmania was going to slow down any time soon, then you were obviously kidding yourself. According to the Denver Post, Bonfire Brewing in Eagle, CO will be releasing a brand new beer inspired by Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow called the Tebrew Sunday Sipper. The company explains that the beer will be made available to the masses once the signature 10 oz. glasses it ordered arrive. It is expected to sold locally only, so chances are that you’ll have to contact Bonfire directly if interested in sampling some of their brew.

In other Tebow-related news, Fathead on Tuesday released a “Tebowing” edition of their signature product, which quickly became the site’s No. 1 seller. The No. 2 Fathead sold Tuesday? The normal version of Tebow.

4 » Florida midfielder Janine Hillier, the lacrosse team’s fourth leading scorer one year ago, has decided to transfer to Stony Brook for her junior season. Hiller, a part of the Gators’ inaugural recruiting class, scored 34 goals along with six assists in 2011. She chose to transfer due to “personal reasons,” as cited by Inside Lacrosse, which notes that Stony Brook is “closer to Hillier’s hometown and her sister, Kim Hillier” is an assistant coach on the team.

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Florida lacrosse ends second season with 13-9 home loss to Duke in NCAA Elite Eight

A dream season for the young No. 4 Florida Gators lacrosse team (16-4) came to an end in the Elite Eight round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament on Saturday as the second-year program was defeated 13-9 by the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils (15-4) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

The 2011 ALC regular season champions, Florida became the first program in the history of the sport to earn a berth in the NCAAs in only its second year of existence. The Gators defeated some of the top teams in the country this season, had a 14-game winning streak at one point and were undefeated at home until their loss to the Blue Devils on Saturday.

Florida scored right out of the gate, taking a 1-0 lead as sophomore attacker/midfielder Kitty Cullen put one in the net off an assist from sophomore A Ashley Bruns. However, Duke responded with a 6-2 run and led 6-3 at the half, forcing UF to face its second-largest deficit of the season.

The Gators came out of the break on fire. Bruns scored via an assist from Cullen less than a minute into the second half, and the team took off on a 6-2 run of their own to retake the lead 9-8 with 17:26 remaining in the contest. Cullen added her second goal of the game and M Janine Hillier scored back-to-back goals at the end of the run.

Florida looked to be in control of the match at that point, but Duke would have none of it. The Blue Devils tied the game 9-9 at 14:16, took the lead at 13:13 and ran nine minutes off of the clock before scoring again with 4:13 left. The Gators failed to control the ball in the waning minutes, allowing Duke to score twice more, end the match on a 5-0 scoring run and advance to the Final Four.

The loss was Florida’s third in the month of May; the team had not dropped a single game after falling to North Carolina in their season opener back in February. The Gators lost their regular season finale 9-6 to Cornell on May 1 and fell 10-9 to Northwestern in the 2011 ALC Tournament Championship on May 7.

UF will remain intact heading into the 2012 season as the young team is composed of one junior, 16 sophomores, four redshirt freshmen and six true freshmen.

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Florida lacrosse tops Stanford 13-11 in NCAAs

The first program in the history of the sport to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament in only its second year of existence, No. 4 Florida Gators lacrosse (16-3) defeated the Stanford Cardinal (16-3) 13-11 on Saturday evening in the first round of the 2011 event at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Led by sophomores attacker Kitty Cullen and midfielder Janine Hillier, who had four goals apiece, Florida went back-and-forth with Stanford after multiple weather delays that pushed the start time back to 6 p.m.

The Gators jumped ahead 4-0 less than six minutes into the game, but the Cardinal evened things up with a 4-0 run spanning 17:55. Hillier snuck a goal in via an assist from sophomore M Brittany Dashiell to put UF ahead 5-4 going into the break.

Florida took a three-goal lead with scores from Hillier and Dashiell in the first minute of the second half, but another 4-0 run by Stanford gave them an 8-7 advantage.

After Dashiel tied things up for the Gators with 20:01 to play, the Cardinal went back on top 9-8. Florida outscored Stanford 5-2 over the final 16:45 of the game to prevail, running out the final 10:15 after Cullen scored the team’s final goal.

UF advances to face the winner of No. 5 Duke/Pennsylvania in NCAA Tournament second-round action on Sat., May 21 at 3:00 p.m. The University of Florida will once again host the contest.

OGGOA EXTRA: 2011 NCAA Tournament Bracket (PDF)

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FOUR BITS: Brantley; lacrosse wins big awards

1 » Taking a second look at spring practices across the country, ESPN Insider’s KC Joyner has come to a conclusion that may surprise some Florida Gators fans: redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley played well. Here is what he saw by watching the film. To read the rest of The Football Scientist’s observations, click here (subscription req.).

It might seem a bit odd to be touting Brantley after a 4-for-14, 45-yard performance in the Orange and Blue game, but consider this: In a three-game sample review of Brantley’s 2010 season, he threw a stretch vertical pass (defined as thrown 20 or more yards downfield) only 5 percent of the time. This is a very low number and indicates the Gators were not very effective at even threatening the long pass.

In the spring game, four of Brantley’s aerials fell under the “stretch vertical” designation and one would have been completed for 40 yards had it not been for a very good defensive play. Brantley also did not force any of these downfield passes into coverage, so the downside on these throws was limited. It bodes well for what the Florida vertical game will be able to do in 2011 — not just for Brantley and Charlie Weis’ new downfield passing game, but for the playmakers in the Gators’ running game as well.

2 » No. 2/3 Florida lacrosse (14-2, 5-0 ALC) is getting prepared for the 2011 ALC Tournament set to begin on Thursday, but in the meantime the conference announced its awards on Tuesday and honored seven different Gators. Florida sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen was named Player of the Year and head coach Amanda O’Leary earned Coach of the Year honors. Also singled out by the conference were All-ALC First Team members Cullen, sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns and sophomore defender Sam Farrell as well as Second Team members sophomore M Janine Hillier, sophomore D Haydon Judge and sophomore goalkeeper Mikey Meagher.

3 » Moving on with his professional career, Gators forward Chandler Parsons is currently working out in Los Angeles, CA and training for camps that he will compete in prior to the 2011 NBA Draft on June 23. The University of Florida’s website caught up with him to pick his brain on a number of topics including the realization that his college career has come to an end. “I can’t believe how fast everything went, it feels like I was just a freshman and now I’m graduated and trying to make a career out this,” he said. “It was a great experience; my time at UF was the best four years of my life. The relationships with my teammates and coaches, the entire staff, those memories will last a lifetime. […] A lot of people look at the NBA Draft night as an end point. For me it’s just a starting point. I know I have things to work on, but I’ve gotten good feedback from people, I’m going to work as hard as I can and do everything possible over these six weeks or so to put myself in the best position.”

4 » Another Gator has had a run-in with the law, but this one went head-on with an Alachua County deputy police officer.

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No. 6 Gators lacrosse makes history with 13-11 win over No. 2 Wildcats to win first ALC title

In only the program’s second season, No. 6 Florida Gators lacrosse (13-1, 4-0 ALC) made history by defeating the No. 2 Northwestern Wildcats (12-1, 2-1 ALC) 13-11 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL to capture at least a share of the 2011 ALC Regular Season Championship and the top seed in the 2011 ALC Tournament.

Florida accomplished this feat in front of the second-largest crowd in school history (1,518) just 419 days after beginning their inaugural season while continuing a 13-game winning streak and concluding the regular season an undefeated 11-0 at home.

Gators sophomore attacker and the nation’s leading scorer, Kitty Cullen registered six goals on the evening including a hat trick in each half. She was responsible for three of Florida’s four second-half goals on the way to a signature win for the program.

The Gators started out hot, scoring five-straight goals (including three from Cullen) to take an early 5-1 lead after Wildcats A Erin Fitzgerald notched the contest’s opening score. Florida kept the pressure on Northwestern through the first half, leading 9-4 at the break after sophomore Caroline Chesterman scored with 26 seconds left.

The five-goal deficit was the Wildcats’ largest of the season; Northwestern had only been down at the half on one other occasion all year.

The Wildcats were intense coming out of the locker rooms, with Fitzgerald once again scoring the half’s first goal. She was followed by a pair of scores, giving Northwestern three goals in under two minutes and leaving UF with a quickly reduced 9-7 lead.

Still up two goals, the Gators used a pair of free position shots from Cullen to jump ahead 12-8 with 14:44 left in the game. The Wildcats responded with three more goals to cut their deficit to 12-11 with 6:37 remaining on the clock.

Cullen would have none of it, hitting an unassisted goal with 5:35 to go to give Florida the 13-11 lead that would end the game. Supporting her team-high six goals were scores from Chesterman (three), sophomore Brittany Dashiell (three), sophomore A Ashley Bruns (two) and sophomore A Janine Hillier (two).

“I was just screaming, ‘Oh my God, we just won.’ It was so exciting,’’ Cullen said. “I’m so happy for me and my team. I wouldn’t want to share this with anyone else. This is what we’ve worked so hard for day in and day out.’’

The reigning ALC Defensive Player of the Week, goalkeeper Mikey Meagher was clutch the entire game, saving 10 shots including two in the final minutes with the Gators shorthanded due to a pair of yellow cards given out by the referees. She did not allow the opponent to score a single goal off a turnover and ensured her team was a perfect 22-for-22 on clearances away from the net.

The loss was Northwestern’s first in 2011 and first in the regular season since 2004. Florida never trailed after scoring their first goal and won the turnover battle 10-13.

Leading a team of 20 sophomores, six freshman and only one junior, UF head coach Amanda O’Leary was understandably emotional after the program-defining victory.

“We’re just so excited,” she said with a smile. “I have chills, goosebumps…I just couldn’t be more proud of what we accomplished tonight. We stayed focused when they went on runs. We didn’t let down. The team we are today is certainly not the team who played Northwestern last year.”

The Gators were shelled 19-5 in Evanston, IL one year ago, a win the Wildcats used to help propel them deep into the ALC Tournament. This year is Florida’s turn to capitalize. UF will face Vanderbilt (Apr. 17) and Cornell (May 1) before heading to Nashville, TN to begin the three-day event on May 5.

Photo Credit: Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun

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