FOUR BITS: Miller, Young, Bre. Beal, J. Powell

1 » When Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James came together over the summer and decided to play for the Miami Heat, each made concessions in their maximum contracts in order to sign two others players – former Florida Gators power forward Udonis Haslem and guard/forward Mike Miller. Haslem, who injured his foot early in the season, has yet to play since and is a much-needed piece for Miami in the middle. Miller, who recovered from an offseason injury and has been seeing plenty of minutes with the Heat, is simply not playing up to snuff. His 5.6 points per game, 39.9 field goal percentage and 69.7 free throw percentage are career lows, and he is also hitting only 36.4 percent of his three-point attempts (second-worst of his career). What Miller has done is stepped up his rebounding and defense, but Miami will need his shooting stroke to improve if they hope to make a title run.

2 » There is no doubting Florida defensive line coach Bryant Young’s 14-year NFL career. He’s played in the Super Bowl, been named to multiple Pro Bowls and has garnered numerous other honors throughout his career. But as a football coach? Young is just getting started and told University of Florida senior writer Scott Carter that he specifically wanted to coach in college rather than the pros. “Being on this level, you really have a chance to help shape and mold a young man,’’ Young said. “That was really intriguing to me. The game is a little different but still competitive. We are all trying to win, but the message could be a little different in terms of steering a young man in the right direction and helping them realize they have a bright future ahead of them. They are able to go to school and their athletic ability has afforded them a free education. I think the message that needs to be clear is that it’s important that they understand that they need to secure their future by getting their degree.’’

You can check out the rest of the feature story by clicking here, though some choice quotes from Young have been republished below:

Q: What have you learned in your first two years as a college coach that’s different from the NFL?
A: Definitely patience [laughter]. I think on any level you need patience, more so in high school than in college, but on the college level you still have to have patience. In the league, you expect the guys to know it a little bit more. But in college you are really teaching them some things they may not already know or reinforcing some things they might know a little.

Q: What’s your initial impression of the Gators’ defensive linemen?
A: Young and not a veteran group. The guys are eager to learn and they are doing everything that you ask them. They are coachable and they want it. I’m excited for them. It’s a fresh start for them and just learning each guy in the group and understanding who I am and building that trust. It’s a fun group.

3 » Transferring from the Gators after last season, linebacker Brendan Beal immediately found a home with the Minnesota Gophers and is getting ready to finally step on the field this fall. In an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Beal said his experience at Florida will help him at Minnesota. “I was around the best,” he said. “I’ve been around guys like [Tim Tebow] and Brandon Spikes. I was there for the national championship. I know what it takes. I know we have the ingredients to be successful. I just want to fill that middle linebacker role and be the quarterback of the defense.” He also spoke about trying to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Gainesville, FL. “I had never experienced a traumatic injury like that; I never got hurt in high school,” Beal said. “I was doubting myself. I didn’t know what I was going to do. So, yeah, a sports psychologist helped me out a lot. I took a whole new different approach to life.”

4 » According to Rivals Florida recruiting analyst Chris Nee, the Alabama Crimson Tide and head coach Nick Saban are heavily pursuing Gators four-star 2012 linebacker commitment Jeremi Powell (Largo, FL). Powell is also receiving a lot of interest from the Tennessee Volunteers and will probably take trips to both schools even though he remains solid to Florida at this time.

Late Wednesday, Powell spoke with Mark Wheeler of InsideTheGators.com and had this to say about his commitment: “I’m about 99% committed to Florida. I’m going to go to Alabama to see a game, because they want me to, but like I told them, I’m Florida, I’m all Florida. I’ve never been out of the state of Florida in my life. Ever. I’m going to go on my visits if they are going to pay for them. Why wouldn’t I go on a free trip? It’s an opportunity to travel and see other places.”

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TWO BITS: Baseball falls, Haden goes all out

1 » Starting hot out of the gate, No. 3 Florida Gators baseball (21-5) was outscored 5-0 from the fourth inning on and defeated 5-2 by the No. 7 Florida State Seminoles (19-5) on Tuesday in Jacksonville, FL in front of a crowd of 10,078. Florida rallied for runs in the first and third as junior right-handed pitcher Anthony DeSclafani tossed three scoreless frames. Then, to start the fourth, he gave up back-to-back hits and sophomore left-handed pitcher Steven Rodriguez (1-1) failed to keep them on base. Tied at two runs a piece, Florida State scored what would be the game-winner when senior second baseman Josh Adams dropped a popup in the sixth; FSU added two more on a home run in the bottom of the eighth. The Seminoles now lead the season series with the Gators 2-1. UF has a chance to even things up when the teams face in Tallahassee, FL on April 12. Florida has lost three of their last four games.

2 » The Cleveland Cavaliers may have lost forward LeBron James, but they have gained a major supporter in Cleveland Browns and former Gators cornerback Joe Haden. Appearing at a number of games this season, Haden has shown his support with a variety of jerseys and by cheering hard from the front row. He took his game to another level Tuesday, dressing up like point guard Baron Davis from head to toe…including a fake beard. A for effort; D for the toy basketball.

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FOUR BITS: Miller, Pouncey, Black, Beal, Burton

1 » Upon joining the Miami Heat, star forward LeBron James decided to take slightly less than the maximum contract available to him, in part, in order for the team to sign former Florida Gators F Mike Miller. With the NBA’s trade deadline rapidly approaching and Miami in desperate need of help at point guard and center, Miller has become expendable to the Heat, which is shopping him throughout the league.

“According to multiple league executives, the Heat have floated Mike Miller in several different trade scenarios,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reports. “Miller is the Heat’s most tradable asset, even though he’s in the first season of a five-year, $29 million contract he signed last summer and is averaging just 5.9 points on 41 percent shooting as he recovers from a hand injury that cost him the first two months of the season. “

2 » Looking at offensive line prospects before the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine truly gets underway, NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks had this to say about Florida center/guard Mike Pouncey, whom he ranks No. 1 at his position.

1. Mike Pouncey, Florida: He possesses outstanding athleticism and movement skills, and his instincts shine while he controls the offense from the pivot. He’s started 13 games at center and 28 at guard. That flexibility makes him a valuable commodity. Pouncey is an athletic blocker at the point of attack with the strength and power to move defenders off the ball. He has the quickness to cut off linebackers and safeties on the second level. As a pass blocker, he has the body control and strength to anchor against power rushers. He holds his ground against bull rushes, and has the balance to react quickly to counters without losing control. Given his versatility and talent, Pouncey can solidify his status as the top interior blocker with a strong performance at the combine.

3 » NFL.com sat down with former Gators safety Ahmad Black, who spoke with them for a minute in a video interview about a number of topics. Click here to watch. “I go hard. I play like it’s my last play. I respect the game of football, so I’ll give it my all,” he said.

4 » Chosen to participate in the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit on April 9, Florida’s five-star shooting guard commit Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) sat down for a wide-ranging interview with USA Basketball. In it he discusses representing his country, playing international basketball picking the University of Florida and much more.

Extra BIT » Considering a lot of people seem to have gotten a kick out of the story, OGGOA figured we’d throw up a quick BIT about Gators freshman quarterback Trey Burton having a steer named after him. Austin Dailey, 18, the owner the steer, will be attending UF in the fall. You can read the story here.

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NBA season begins, Gators look to make impact

The 2010-11 NBA season tipped off Tuesday night with nine former Florida Gators standouts on professional rosters. Some won National Championships while wearing the Orange & Blue, others went undrafted, but all want to prove that the Florida basketball program has and can produce legitimate NBA stars.

Al Horford, F/C, Atlanta Hawks
- 2009-10: Averaging career highs in points (14.2), rebounds (9.9), field goal percentage (55.1), free throw percentage (78.9) and minutes (35.1), Horford also contributed 2.3 assists and 1.1 blocks per game last year. For the second-straight season he led his team to the second round of the NBA Playoffs where, like in 2008-09, they were swept.
- 2010-11: The Godfather was named a captain in Atlanta during the preseason and will be a restricted free agent when the year ends. The Hawks are believed to be making a concerted effort to resign the first-time NBA All-Star and No. 3 overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft to a five-year deal worth $50-60 million.

Joakim Noah, F/C, Chicago Bulls
- 2009-10: Averaging a double-double with career highs in points (10.7), rebounds (11.0), blocks (1.6), assists (2.1), free throw percentage (74.4) and minutes (30.1), Noah was also good for 2.1 assists per game and shot 50.4 percent from the field. He missed 28 games with a plantar fasciitis injury but regained his form before the playoffs, which saw Chicago fall in the first round.
- 2010-11: Noah was rewarded by the Bulls for his hard work with a five-year, $60 million extension in the offseason. His defense and shot blocking makes him an elite big man in the league and, with Chicago adding All-Star forward Carlos Boozer to the frontcourt, some of the pressure he felt to do everything for the team defensively may be relived.

David Lee, F/C, Golden State Warriors
- 2009-10: Averaging a double-double for the second-straight season with the New York Knicks, Lee posted career-highs in points (20.2), assists (3.6), blocks (0.5) and free throw percentage (81.2) along with 11.7 rebounds while shooting 54.5 percent. A fan favorite who was a victim of circumstance due to the blockbuster free agents available this summer, Lee was moved to the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade.
- 2010-11: Agreeing a six-year, $80 million contract with Golden State, Lee will once again play for an up-tempo offense in which he will be able to shine. Though he will not be relied upon as heavily with the Warriors as he was with the Knicks, Lee will have ample opportunities to showcase his talent on the left coast.

Profiles for six more former Gators basketball players…after the jump!
Continue Reading » NBA season begins, Gators look to make impact

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Haslem: “I’m always going to be a Hurricane”

From 1998 to 2002, Miami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem attended the University of Florida and played basketball for the Florida Gators. He was so instrumental to Florida’s success, in fact, that upon graduation he was the winningest player in school history, the first player in team history to play on four consecutive NCAA Tournament teams and only the second UF player to be named to the first three Associated Press All-America teams.

For Haslem, though, his time playing in Gainesville, FL was a business decision – one made to further his athletic career. When it comes down to loyalty, for the Miami native, it is apparently all about The U.

“A lot of people are probably going to be mad at me, but at the end of the day I only know one thing and that’s loyalty,” Haslem said Tuesday on the Dan LeBatard Show on 790 The Ticket in South Florida. “In my house growing up, you were a Hurricane or you were homeless. I went to the University of Florida, which was a business decision. You have business decisions in life. And I love the Gators, I love coach [Billy] Donovan, I love the opportunity that they gave me. But I’m always going to be a Hurricane in my heart and I’m always going to root for the Canes.”

When pressed on the subject, Haslem admitted that his love for the Hurricanes stemmed from growing up as a big fan of the football team. As far as basketball goes, he still apparently bleeds orange and blue.

“[To] be honest with you, growing up, I was a football player. I played football all the way up to 10th grade. So the only thing that mattered to me was Hurricane football,” he said. “Basketball? I’m going with the Gators. I played for the Gator basketball team.”

Haslem also recounted a story about bumping into former teammate Teddy Dupay immediately after the Heat won the 2006 NBA Title. He said while the entire team (players, coaches, trainers) was celebrating on the court in Dallas, TX, he turned around and saw Dupay right beside him and had no idea how he got there.

“That’s my boy. Me and Teddy go back to high school where we played against him all the way to the state championship. We beat him pretty bad. Ted’s a great guy and we still keep in touch.”

College thoughts aside, Haslem has now set his sights on a second NBA title, which he will pursue with the triumvirate of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

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Gator Bites for Tuesday, July 20th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share with our readers. In those instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» Former Florida Gators forward/center David Lee of the Golden State Warriors was the subject of a piece by Harvey Araton of The New York Times on Monday. Lee, who has spent his whole career with the New York Knicks after they drafted him coming out of college, has a special bond with the team and has been the face of the franchise over the last few years. Read about how he went out of his way to represent the team (even after being traded to Golden State) at a funeral for longtime NBA and Madison Square Garden security official Scott Jaffer and how he will always be remembered in New York for being such an upstanding person.

» Interviewed by the NFL Network about his throwing mechanics, San Diego Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers went through the motions with some of the studio analysts on Monday. Because of the subject matter, Rivers was asked about Denver Broncos rookie QB Tim Tebow’s motion, and the veteran offered advice and insight into what Tebow may and may not need to do going forward.

» Florida should be excited about 2011 five-star shooting guard commitment Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) – he could be the best player the team has signed since guard Nick Calathes. Then again, with one of the top players in the country considering his future in a different sport, there is a slight cause for concern. With his father and two brothers all having played collegiate football, Beal tells USA Today that he is “still trying to decide” which sport to play. “My brothers, especially my younger brothers, want me to play football so we can be on the same team,” Beal said. “But my mom always tells me, ‘You don’t have the body for football, so you have to stick to basketball.’” Don’t get it twisted – his future is on the court – not the field. Having a former Gators star like Lee (who also graduated from Chaminade High School) in his ear certainly helps. “We don’t have that much in common because we play different positions,” Beal said. “He came back to visit the school, and I talk to him during lunch period. He gave me input on the game.”

» While Beal is deciding what sport to play, four-star cornerback Nick Waisome (Groveland, FL) is just trying to figure out what school to end. According to the Orlando Sentinel’s Chris Hays, Waisome now considers his final five to Florida, Florida State, LSU, Georgia and South Carolina; he plans to decide in August.

» Updating a previous item, four-star wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (Belle Glade, FL) still considers the Gators to be the leader for his services, even after having Miami Hurricanes commitment four-star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (Miami, FL) in his ear during the Nike 7-on-7 Championship last Saturday. “Florida is still in the lead,” Benjamin told SoFLAfootball.com. “I like Florida and what they showed me, how they would use me. I like Miami too and Florida State, so all the Florida teams, they’re really up there. But I like Florida.”

Three more BITES on Meyer, Smith and Werner…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Tuesday, July 20th

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Haslem turns down big money to stay with Heat

Former Florida Gators power forward Udonis Haslem has decided to turn down substantially larger offers from competing teams in order to remain with the Miami Heat, agreeing to a five-year, $20 million deal on Monday.

“I would be changing my DNA if I left just for money,” he told the Associated Press.

After signing guard Dwyane Wade to a six-year, $107 million contract and forwards LeBron James and Chris Bosh to identical six-year, $110 million deals, Miami immediately concentrated on bringing two former Florida players under contract.

First, the Heat reached an agreement on a five-year, $30 million deal with guard/forward Mike Miller after trading former No. 2 overall pick PF Michael Beasley for cap space and a second round pick. With each of the “big three” sacrificing $15 million over the life of their deals, Miami made a move to bring back Haslem, Wade’s best friend on the team since the superstar was drafted in 2003.

Haslem drew serious interest from at least three other teams who put tempting offers on the table. The Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks each reportedly offered him a five-year, $34 million mid-level exception contract over the weekend, and the New Jersey Nets offered three years and $20 million last week.

“[I] turned down full mid level [exceptions] from Dallas and Denver. See [yo]u next season,” Haslem said in an e-mail to the paper.

Spending almost his entire life playing basketball in the state of Florida (spent one season in France), he decided to turn down higher contracts in order to play with his friend and be a part of what could be a very special team.

Think Haslem is happy to play with Miller again?

“That’s my boy from day one,” he told the Sun-Sentinel. “That’s my college roommate. He’s like Dwyane is to me, just a different color.”

A seven-year NBA veteran, Haslem earned $7.1 million with the Heat last season. He has averaged 10.0 points and 8.1 rebounds throughout his career.

Photo Credit: Gary Dineen/Getty Images

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Heat, Nets, Mavericks interested in Udonis Haslem

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade considers former Florida Gators power forward Udonis Haslem one of his best friends. That is likely one reason why he took almost $3 million less than cohorts forward LeBron James and power forward Chris Bosh when signing with Miami a few days ago – to free up some money to re-sign Haslem.

Unfortunately for Wade and perhaps the Heat as well, Haslem has drawn interest from at least two other teams who have put solid and tempting offers on the table. First the New Jersey Nets and then the Dallas Mavericks each offered him a three-year, $20 million contract over the weekend, hoping to lure Haslem with a guarantee of more money and significantly more playing time.

Though he has spent almost his entire life playing basketball in the state of Florida, loves his home (as evidenced by his back tat) and wants to stick around, Haslem may be at the point in his career where the guarantee of a few million more per season significantly outweighs the ability to play with a close friend.

The Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks and Utah Jazz have been mentioned previously as teams who had expressed interest in Haslem.

A seven-year NBA veteran, he earned $7.1 million last season but is being looked at by New Jersey and Dallas as a full mid-level exception player. Miami can currently only offer $1.1 million per year – the veteran’s minimum – but will likely be able to up that offer as their available salary cap gets clearer.

Haslem has averaged 10.0 points and 8.1 rebounds throughout his career.

Photo Credit: Gary Dineen/Getty Images

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