FOUR BITS: fun video, LSU, WNBA, McGee

1 » Florida Gators gymnastics won its second-straight National Championship this month, so it should come as no surprise that some teams on campus hope to emulate its success. Enter a couple Florida football players and swimmers who tried to complete as gymnasts in this video shot for the Florida Letterman Awards, which were actually held in early April before gymnastics went back-to-back at the NCAA Championships.

2 » LSU athletic director Joe Alleva may not have gotten its way when it came to the Southeastern Conference’s most recent scheduling announcement – specifically regarding the retention of permanent cross-divisional opponents – but he is pleased that SEC commissioner Mike Slive has decided to help his school lobby for more night games at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “There has developed an understanding that CBS, ESPN and all its platforms will recognize the importance of LSU home night games in their scheduling process with assurances that every effort will be made to maximize the number of LSU home games at night,” he wrote in a letter fans of the team. UF has not only dealt with a significant absence of night games recently but also a groundswell of desire to see them increase as fans are tired – both figuratively and literally – of being forced to sit outside in the insane heat at noon in Gainesville, Florida. This type of preferential treatment for the Tigers may not sit well with Gators fans or perhaps even the administration, which could use as many night games as possible when convincing people to purchase season tickets.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: fun video, LSU, WNBA, McGee

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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!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: WNBA, Parsons, Dunlap, Starks, Wuerffel

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, WNBA, Muschamp, Embree

1 » Is former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow being “blackballed by NFL teams because of [his] cult-like following [and the] media frenzy” that follows him? That’s the headline of Yahoo! Sports writer Mike Silver’s most recent article, one that is perhaps not that far off from reality. Silver spoke to an NFC head coach who said as much. “He seems like a great guy to have on a team, and I’d be tempted to bring him in as our backup, but it’s just not worth dealing with all the stuff that comes with it,” he said. Silver also learned that New England head coach Bill Belichick, believed to be a fan of Tebow’s, “hates” Tebow as a player, that according to an “organizational source.” “No chance. Plus they wouldn’t like the circus that comes with it,” the source added.

If the fans and media are legitimately the reasons that Tebow is unemployed at this moment, the absurdity of that fact cannot be understated. In the NFL – and most professional leagues – talent is supposed to win out. If you are talented enough to play the game – and smart enough to stay out of the gutter off the field – coaches say you deserve a spot in the league or at the very least a chance to compete. The school you attended, spot you were drafted (if you were drafted at all), race, religion and sexuality are not supposed to matter. Now the message is that if fans like you and the media cover you (too much), you are not welcome. Even if one does not believe Tebow is a starting-caliber quarterback at this time, there are 32 NFL teams, which means there are 64 backup quarterback spots in the league. Try making an argument that Tebow is not talented enough to be a top-32 backup in the league or even deserving of tryouts with teams to showcase his abilities while second-round bust John Beck – a colossal bust of a second-round pick entering his seventh year as a professional with a 3-7 record and QB rating of 67.6 – is working with New Orleans this weekend.

2 » The WNBA may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the Los Angeles Sparks have been one team that Gators fans have been able to pay attention to over the years. In this picture taken on Thursday, former Florida head women’s basketball coach Carol Ross (now Los Angeles’ head coach), current Gators assistant coach Murriel Page (UF alumna and former Sparks player) and former Florida guard Bridget Pettis all pose for a picture while doing the Gator Chomp.

Read three more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Tebow, WNBA, Muschamp, Embree

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FOUR BITS: Milton-Jones, James, Walker, MLB

1 » Former Florida Gators forward DeLisha Milton-Jones – a two-time WNBA champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time WNBA All-Star – became just the ninth player in league history to eclipse 5,000 career points after scoring seven in the Los Angeles Sparks 91-75 loss to Tulsa on Tuesday. Currently participating in her 14th WNBA season, Milton-Jones has spent most of her career with Los Angeles after coming out of Florida in 1999. She is a member of the UF Athletic Hall of Fame and was also named the SEC Player of the Year in 1997.

2 » It was a tough decision for him to make but former Gators running back/returner Brandon James eventually decided to hang up his cleats a few months ago and become a high school football coach. James got the opportunity to serve as an assistant coach for St. Joseph’s High School in St. Augustine, FL when his former youth baseball coach Bernie Packo hired him to join his new staff on April 4. However, following an unforeseen change of events, Packo was fired just 22 days later and James was promoted to head coach by the school administration last Thursday. In an exclusive interview with me published as a feature story on InsidetheGators.com (which you can read for FREE by clicking here), James discussed his decision to turn in his helmet for a whistle and give back to the community that once did so much for him.

3 » The No. 6 player in the country according to Rivals.com and the top remaining target on Florida head coach Billy Donovan’s radar as it pertains to the 2013 recruiting class, five-star power forward Chris Walker had some positive things to say about the Gators when interviewed Tuesday about his recruitment. Walker told Rivals ($) that his top five as of right now is Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio State and Louisville but that one team stands out at this point in time. “I guess you could say that [the Gators] are in the driver’s seat,” he said when asked if UF leads for his services. “I’m still open of course and maybe a few visits could change my mind.” Though he listed a top five, Walker is believed by many to eventually choose Florida and Kansas as his final two schools.

4 » A pair of Gators juniors – left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson and shortstop Nolan Fontana – officially signed their MLB rookie contracts on Tuesday, forgoing their final season of collegiate eligibility to turn pro. The final selection in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox (No. 31 overall), Johnson signed a deal Tuesday worth more than $1.5 million. Fontana, the first pick in the second round of the draft (No. 61 overall), signed his contract with the Houston Astros and reportedly received a little more than his slot value of $875,000. Houston decided that he will report directly to Lexington (Class A), skipping all three short-season leagues that many rookies play in before joining the minors. WEEI Sportsradio out of Boston, MA also reports that Florida junior right-hander and third-round selection Austin Maddox is set to sign with the Red Sox for $350,000, which is $50,000 under his slot allotment of $400,000. It is unknown as of press time where Johnson and Maddox will begin their careers.

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FOUR BITS: Grant, Manuel, Henry, OL transfer

1 » The No. 12/14 Florida Gators pulled off a 61-52 win Tuesday night against the Alabama Crimson Tide mostly due to an explosive start to the second half in which Florida scored 16-straight points. Though the Gators were without two primary reserves in the game, the Crimson Tide had two starters indefinitely suspended, a move that head coach Anthony Grant felt he had to make. As Grant and Florida head coach Billy Donovan communicated both before and after the game, suspending players is a hard decision for a coach to make but usually a smart run because the long-term health if the team is much more important than shot-term gains. The Associated Press’ Jim Litke gave Grant kudos for his decision in this column on Wednesday.

For the price of a ticket Tuesday night in Tuscaloosa, you could see something rare in college sports anymore: a coach putting his foot down. [...] Grant is doing exactly what the NCAA high-handedly promotes as its core mission – holding himself and his players accountable – but the selection committee isn’t about to cut him any slack for doing the right thing. Every loss still counts as a loss, never mind that it occurred because the coach volunteered to tie one hand behind his back. Grant gets that, too. He won’t change a thing because of it.

2 » Former Florida safety Marquand Manuel, an eight-year NFL who spent last year as an intern with the Gators, has been hired as the Seattle Seahawks’ new assistant special teams coach. A two-year starter for Seattle, Manuel also played in the Super Bowl with the Seahawks and is obviously hoping to begin his climb up the coaching ladder with this move.

3 » Former Florida forward Aneika Henry was signed to a training camp contract on Monday by the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA. Currently playing in Poland and ranking fifth in the EuroLeague in rebounding and eighth in double-doubles (averaging 13.6 points and 9.1 boards per game), Henry spent two years with the Gators and tallied 110 blocks while shooting 53.7 percent from the field. Should she be added to the squad for the regular season, Henry will be just the second former Florida player currently playing in the league, joining DeLisha Milton-Jones of the Los Angeles Sparks.

4 » As they did a year ago, the Gators are hoping that an experienced offensive lineman will decide to transfer to Florida and boost the team’s unit. In fact, UF is currently pursuing a pair of players looking to continue their careers at a different school. The Gators are one of a number of top teams going after three-star JUCO guard Fehoko Fanaika (San Mateo, CA), who visited the school recently and has also received offers from Georgia and LSU. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Florida is also interested in Maryland transfer three-star tackle Max Garcia (Norcorss, GA), who is leaving the program but restricted from transferring to any ACC school, Connecticut, Temple, Vanderbilt or West Virginia. Unlike Fanaika, Garcia would be forced to redshirt the 2012 season before joining any team in 2013. A Georgia native, it is believed that he would strongly consider playing close to home if he gets an offer from UGA.

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FOUR BITS: Bell, Spikes, Tebow / D1, Ross

1 » OGGOA learned Thursday from a source close to the head coach that the Jacksonville DolphinsKerwin Bell has not received any offer from the Florida Gators to either be the team’s quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator, despite reports to the contrary. Bell, who has maintained privately that he would not leave his post at Jacksonville solely for a position coach job, has however been contacted by at least one other institution on a preliminary basis. A former Florida quarterback, Bell has made quite the impression in the coaching profession after building the Trinity Catholic High School football program from the ground up and winning two Pioneer Football League titles in five years with the Dolphins. The Florida Times-Union reported Thursday evening, citing “multiple sources familiar with Florida’s interest” in Bell, that he is “no longer under consideration” for a job with the Gators.

2 » Out for seven games (and eight weeks) with a sprained MCL, New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes (notoriously media shy) met with reporters Thursday and spoke about how he is playing since returning to the field. “I never really got hurt like that [before], so it was kind of a burden,” he said. “But with my teammates pushing me every day, I just had to come out and do what I do and when my number’s called, I just want to come out and perform.”

3 » Having trained at D1 Sports Training prior to participating in his NFL workouts and being selected in the 2010 NFL Draft, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is set to invest in the organization’s first location inside the state of Florida. According to the Tampa Bay Times, talks between D1 and Tebow are ongoing and things “are nearly wrapped up to sign him at or near the end of the Broncos’ season.” Tebow, who purchased a stake in a D1 location in Savannah, GA last year, will be joined by Chipper Jones, Chris Jericho and Derrick Brooks in this new venture, the Times reports. The Florida location of D1 will be in Citrus Park in what was once a Circuit City; the company has spent approximately $1.7 million renovating the facility with membership costing $150-250 per month.

4 » Former Florida women’s basketball coach Carol Ross has been selected as the next head coach of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks. Ross, who led the Gators from 1990-2002, will be reunited with former Florida great and 14-year veteran forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, who will play her 11th season with the Sparks divided over two stints with the team. Ross was an assistant with the Atlanta Dream for the last three seasons and helped the team reach consecutive WNBA Finals (2010-11). “Carol is a proven winner with an incredible track record at both the collegiate and pro levels. She has groomed many women for great WNBA careers,” Los Angeles general manager Penny Toler said in the press release announcing the hire. “We’re confident Carol is the ideal coach to lead the Sparks to our next championship.”

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Eleven Gator Bites for Monday, July 25th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share with our readers – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» With the NFL lockout now in the books, the Florida Gators four selections in the 2011 NFL Draft will be reporting to work for the first time on Thursday. Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey (first round, No. 15), Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert (second round, No. 63), Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Ahmad Black (fifth round, No. 151 and Washington Redskins guard Maurice Hurt (seventh round, No. 217 are all on teams who will be eligible to workout immediately.

» While that foursome is ready and raring to go, Florida also has a number of undrafted free agents hoping to be picked up by teams looking to supplement their roster. Among those available are defensive linemen Terron Sanders and Justin Trattou, running back Emmanuel Moody and wide receiver Carl Moore. OGGOA will update you if and when these players are picked up by teams.

» The WNBA held its 2011 All-Star game over the weekend and also announced its Top 15 Players of All Time at the event. Though she was nominated and up for selection to the list, former Gators forward DeLisha Milton-Jones was not picked by fans for the honor. The six-time champion (two Olympic gold medals, two WNBA titles, two Euroleague titles) is currently averaging 12.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in 26.6 minutes per game with the Los Angeles Sparks.

There are 11 more Gator Bites including updates on Calathes, UF-FSU, Beal, Alvarez, Wambach, LeCount, ultimate Frisbee and Bostic…after the break!
Continue Reading » Eleven Gator Bites for Monday, July 25th

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Milton-Jones: “What’s the point in playing if you’re not playing for a championship?”

By Nicole Boyett – OGGOA Student Correspondent

The WNBA may not be a professional sport followed by many Florida Gators fans, but it is time for them to start taking notice if they haven’t already as the only woman representing the Orange & Blue in the league, DeLisha Milton-Jones, has been nominated as one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All Time.

During her time at Florida, Milton-Jones led the Gators to four NCAA Tournament appearances (including the 1997 Elite Eight) while earning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and Associated Press All-American honors her senior year. She followed up her stellar collegiate career by playing in the ABL for two years before being was drafted with the No. 4 overall pick in the 1999 WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. Now in her 13th WNBA season, Milton-Jones is one of the most accomplished players to step on the hardwood.

She has won two Olympic gold medals for Team USA (2000, 2008), back-to-back WNBA titles with Los Angeles (2001, 2002) and a pair of Euroleague Championships (2003, 2006) while also having been named a WNBA All-Star twice (2000, 2007).

At of the end of the 2010 season, she was 11th in the WNBA in total points, 10th in total rebounds, ninth in field goals made, 14th in free throws made, sixth in total steals, 13th in total blocks, 11th in minutes per game, and seventh in total minutes played. Despite her impressive career and overwhelming talent on the court, Milton-Jones continues to be overlooked as one of the greatest female basketball players to ever lace up her shoes. The hope is that her talent is recognized on July 23 when the WNBA announces the league’s all-time Top 15 players at the 15th annual All-Star Game in San Antonio, TX.

Milton-Jones sat down with OGGOA’s Nicole Boyett for an exclusive interview just a handful of games into her 13th WNBA season. Averaging 12.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, she continues to lead the Sparks and hopes to be recognized for the impact she has made on women’s basketball in the United States.

NICOLE BOYETT: What does it mean to you to be the only Gator in the WNBA and to have had such a long and successful career?
DELISHA MILTON-JONES: “I am proud that I’m the lone standing Gator in the league, but I’m also sad because I feel like there should definitely be more of us in the league. When [former Florida star] Murriel Page* decided to leave after her achilles injury, that was pretty much it for us, and I think that her and I both did a great job of representing the Gators all these years.”
*Page was selected No. 3 overall in the 1998 WNBA Draft by the Washington Mystics. She is now an assistant coach under Amanda Butler at UF.

NB: As a Gator, you won SEC Player of the Year, were an All-American and went to the NCAA Tournament every year. With all of your accomplishments at Florida, do you get the opportunity to come back and talk to the team or head coach Amanda Butler?
DMJ: “It is difficult to support the team the way I would like to because, in the off-season during their season, is when I leave for Europe. After the WNBA season, I usually have a week, maybe less, to prepare myself for the next eight months in Europe, so there’s really no downtime for me. For the past 11 years, I’ve been playing in Europe as well as the WNBA year-round, so it is very difficult to get back. I wasn’t even able to come back when I was inducted into the WNBA Hall of Fame because it was during an important time in the season in Europe and the team wouldn’t allow me to come back, so I had to miss it. My mother had to go in my place. I’m hoping that – when it’s all said and done and I decide to retire – that they allow me to come back and be able to participate in the ceremony in a different way.”

NB: You’ve won two gold medals with Team USA, two WNBA Championships and two Euroleague titles. How do those compare to each other and how does winning a gold medal compare to winning a championship?
DMJ: “A championship is a championship, but they all feel good. I think the difference is that the gold medals probably have more value to me because it’s on the largest stage possible and I won. I consider myself to be so blessed, lucky, and privileged to have been a participant in several Olympics. That’s just a dream come true and it lets you know that you are in a category that many people would give their arm for just to be able to participate in. To be able to walk into the opening ceremonies and participate in the game is something that was so special that if I hadn’t gotten the gold medal, it wouldn’t matter because the memories will last a lifetime. Any time I think of that feeling, it just sends chills down my spine.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Milton-Jones…after the break!
Continue Reading » Milton-Jones: “What’s the point in playing if you’re not playing for a championship?”

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