FOUR BITS: Okine, McElwain, Noah, Arnold

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive lineman Earl Okine signed with the Indianapolis Colts this week after spending time in both the Arena Football League and Fall Experimental Football League last season. Okine, who was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Houston Texans last May, did not make the team’s regular-season roster. He picked up 28 tackles and 5.5 sacks for the AFL’s Orlando Predators.

2 » Florida head coach Jim McElwain made a statement with his 2015 recruiting class, proving that the Gators were not only able to close strong but also add some out-of-state commitments to the fold. Overall, UF locked up five players from the state of Georgia – including rising athlete Chris Williamson – last cycle after not grabbing a single Peach State prospect in 2014. McElwain this week told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Michael Carvell why he has made Georgia such a priority. “I think [it was due to a] couple things,” McElwain said of why UF had success recruiting the area. “There were pre-existing relationships with some guys on our staff who recruited the area in the past. That obviously helps. But for us, our thought is [to lock down] a five-hour radius around Gainesville. And with that being said, that goes up into Georgia, and that will be something that we’ll try to continue to make Gator Country.”

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Okine, McElwain, Noah, Arnold

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FOUR BITS: Horschel, Jenkins, Noah, Speights

1 » Former Florida Gators golfer Billy Horschel exploded on the scene last season, winning the 2014 FedEx Cup and bringing home a cool $14.8 million for his efforts. Horschel, who also had a baby girl just days after the most successful four-week stretch of his career, was apparently in a sharing mood and decided to be quite generous with his newfound wealth. In a profile by Golfweek, Horschel admits that he gave $10,000 to split among the locker-room attendants at the TOUR Championship and gifted his caddie with a $1 million bonus. He also splurged on his former Gators golf coach, Buddy Alexander.

Hours after winning the BMW Championship playoff in Denver, Horschel called Alexander. Horschel asked about tickets to the Florida-Alabama football game in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Alexander said he thought he could come through.

“I’ve got a little extra jingle in my pocket,” Horschel said. “If you get the tickets, I’ll get the plane.”

Horschel hired a private jet.

2 » According to the Miami Herald, Miami Dolphins linebacker Jelani Jenkins – whose breakout 2014 campaign included him being the NFL‘s leading tackler for a portion of the season – is currently back at Florida “taking five classes” during the spring semester as he attempts to earn his degree in applied physiology and kinesiology. Jenkins left school as a redshirt junior and was largely ineffective for the Dolphins as a rookie but came on in a major way last season. He told the Herald‘s Adam Beasley that he always came back to finish his degree and has seen some familiar faces while in town but is mostly staying to himself with four of the classes he’s enrolled in taking place online. Miami’s leading tackler with 108 in 2014, Jenkins is focused on improving his consistency during organized team activities this summer.

3 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah helped produce this video, You’re Not Alone, about stopping street violence in the Illinois city and across the country.

4 » Last month, Golden State Warriors center Marreese Speights had a gun pulled on him outside a San Francisco night club but was unharmed, running away when “a group of gang members” tried to steal his gold chains, according to KTVU FOX 2. Speights is having a career year for the Warriors, shooting a career-best 50.3 percent from the field and averaging a career-high 12.0 points per game. He is also bringing down 5.1 boards per contest and playing 18.1 minutes on average for the best team in the NBA at 42-9 near the midpoint in the season.

Extra BIT » Here’s Horschel chilling with Albert on Feb. 6.


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Top 14 for 2014: Florida Gators best moments of the year

For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2014 (see the Not Top 14 for 2014), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2014. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 14 for 2014.

14 » RARE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL UPSET

Gators women’s basketball has struggled to find relevancy but there was no question Florida had its engines running on Jan. 5 when it pulled off one of the biggest victories in program history, an 83-73 upset win over No. 6 Kentucky. The win broke a six-game losing streak for UF against UK and was head coach Amanda Butler’s first win over a top-10 ranked opponent after going 0-17 previously in such games. Florida had lost 19-straight regular-season games against top 10-ranked opponents, earning its last victory to such a team in Feb. 2006.

13 » TEBOW TIME ALL THE TIME

Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow had a life-changing 2014 after agreeing to sign a long-term broadcasting deal with ESPN. Tebow was featured on the network’s national title broadcast that season and was later assigned to the SEC Network where he served as one of three analysts for the channel’s Saturday pre-game show, SEC Nation. Tebow has drawn rave reviews throughout 2014 for his passionate opinions and consistent on-air knowledge. He also proved to be unbiased, lambasting the leadership on Florida’s offense when the team struggled during the middle of the season. One Tebow moment – a spot-on impersonation of former Gators head coach Steve Spurrier – was OnlyGators.com’s most-watched Vine with 1.3 million loops as of press time.

Tebow also closed 2014 with a brilliant on-air prediction, which you can check out below.

Continue Reading » Top 14 for 2014: Florida Gators best moments of the year

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FOUR BITS: Young waived, Noah almost bitten, Parsons gets weird, Speights goes off

1 » The New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday waived former Florida Gators center Patric Young, who signed with the team as an undrafted free agent this summer. Young inked a two-year deal with New Orleans after impressing Pelicans officials during the NBA Summer League. He was guaranteed an invitation to New Orleans training camp and earned his way onto the team’s regular-season roster from there. It is unknown why specifically the Pelicans decided to waive Young, who was on the active roster on Saturday but has yet to get an opportunity to play in a regular-season game. There were a number of teams interested in Young’s services following the 2014 NBA Draft, so it would not be a surprise to see him get another chance elsewhere in the near future.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Young waived, Noah almost bitten, Parsons gets weird, Speights goes off

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2014-15 NBA season begins with 12 former Florida Gators spread across 11 teams

The 2014-15 NBA season tips off on Tuesday night with 12 former Florida Gators on active rosters, tied with Arizona for sixth-most across the league.

Those players are spread out over 11 teams with only the Golden State Warriors employing more than one former Gators star on their roster.

Below is a primer on all 12 Florida players (five starters, seven reserves) ahead of the 2014-15 season.

STARTERS

C JOAKIM NOAH, Chicago Bulls
Drafted: 2007: 1st round, No. 9 overall pick
Height: 6’11” | Weight: 232 lbs.
Year: Eighth | All-Star: Twice (2013-14)

Already a popular player and stalwart in Chicago, Noah broke through during his seventh season to capture the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award and earn nominations to the All-NBA First Team and NBA All-Defensive First Team. He averaged career-highs of 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.2 steals, earning a trip to his second-straight All-Star game in the process. One year after becoming the seventh player in NBA history to record a triple-double with double-digit blocks, Noah became just the fourth center in NBA history to register four triple-doubles consisting of points, rebounds and assists in a single season. He was also the first Bulls player since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (1992-93) to record four in a single season. Noah enters the 2014-15 campaign coming off knee surgery and is expected to be limited at times during the season.

PF/C AL HORFORD, Atlanta Hawks
Drafted: 2007: 1st round, No. 3 overall pick
Height: 6’10” | Weight: 250 lbs.
Year: Eighth | All-Star: Twice (2010-11)

One of the most underrated players in the league, due in large part to his team (Atlanta) and in ability to stay on the court, Horford has become the Hawks’ unquestioned leader and go-to player. In just 29 games last season, the second in three that has been cut short early due to a torn pectoral, Horford averaged a career-high 18.6 points per game on a career-best .567 shooting. Though he has not been selected to an NBA All-Star team since 2001, Horford plans to make his way back this year with his eyes set on a 20-10 average.

Continue Reading » 2014-15 NBA season begins with 12 former Florida Gators spread across 11 teams

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FOUR BITS: Young, Noah, Wambach, Lochte

1 » Waiving two players on Friday, the New Orleans Pelicans whittled their roster down to 15 ahead of the start of the 2014-15 NBA season. Former Florida Gators center Patric Young, an undrafted free agent who was picked up by New Orleans and impressed during training camp, continued to flash during preseason action and earned a spot on the Pelicans’ regular-season roster. Young will be New Orleans’ fourth center (behind Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca and Jeff Withey) but may be able to work his way up the depth chart if he continues giving tremendous effort like he did last Thursday. On the floor as the clock ticked down against Dallas, Young slammed home a dunk with 2.1 seconds remaining to help his team pull out an 88-85 victory. “As far as having another guy that can come off the bench and doesn’t need the ball in his hands, I think I can step into that role right away,” he told The Times-Picayune. “My goal is just to come here with a great attitude and stay humble. I’m going to chase after rebounds with the mentality of, ‘If I don’t get this rebound then I’m out the league.’ It may be a little extreme, but I want it more than the next guy.”

2 » Former Gators C Joakim Noah has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Chicago Bulls for the last few seasons, but his body has held him back on numerous occasions. A multitude of injuries, primarily to his lower body, have either kept Noah off the court or – more often – forced him to play through pain that most players would not. With another NBA slate starting Tuesday, Noah admitted through gritted teeth that he “still ha[s] a ways to go” in recovering from left knee surgery. “It’s fine. It’s a work in progress. It’s getting better. I’m happy with where it’s at. Let me live, man. Geez,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times, trying to keep his situation close to the vest. A source close to Noah told the paper that his “knee is going to be an issue all season long,” and the Bulls appear prepared to limit his minutes on a game-by-game basis. “There’s a plan,” Noah explained. “We take it day by day and se how it feels, see if there are any setbacks.”

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Young, Noah, Wambach, Lochte

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SIX BITS: Young, Noah, Miles, Tyus, Hernandez

1 » Former Florida Gators center Patric Young is playing his first NBA preseason with the New Orleans Pelicans and is already dropping some highlights. On Monday, New Orleans fell 93-87 to Atlanta, but not before Young could deliver this put-back dunk (skip to 1:35). Young finished the contest with four points and four boards in 11:20. Against Miami in his team’s preseason opener, Young made his only field goal, scoringtwo points to go along with eight rebounds, a block and two turnovers in 21 minutes.

2 » Also on Monday, Chicago Bulls C Joakim Noah got into a heated exchange with Washington’s Paul Pierce during their teams’ preseason game. Noah was relatively calm about the situation until Pierce stuck his pointer finger into Noah’s forehead. Coming back from knee surgery, Noah looked even less fluid than normal during the game and is expected to skip Tuesday’s contest as a precaution.

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Young, Noah, Miles, Tyus, Hernandez

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TWO BITS: Gators in NBA, Horford improving

1 » Training camp for many NBA teams begins on Tuesday and there are currently 15 former Florida Gators on rosters with 12 assured of making the cut out of training camp this season. Guard Bradley Beal (Washington), forward Matt Bonner (San Antonio), F Corey Brewer (Minnesota), point guard Nick Calathes (Memphis), power forward Udonis Haslem (Miami), PF Al Horford (Atlanta), PF David Lee (Golden State), F Mike Miller (Cleveland), center Joakim Noah (Chicago), F Chandler Parsons (Dallas), PF Marreese Speights (Golden State) and C Patric Young (New Orleans) will all certainly find their way onto regular-season rosters. Also competing in training camp right now are PF Vernon Macklin (New Orleans), F Erik Murphy (Boston) and F Casey Prather (Phoenix). Murphy has barely played since being selected in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft and will be on his fourth team in just over one full season. Macklin and Prather both received non-guaranteed, league-minimum training camp contracts.

Continue Reading » TWO BITS: Gators in NBA, Horford improving

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