SIX BITS: Noah, Masters, Alexander, Ridley, Lee

1 » Already in the midst of a Most Valuable Player-caliber campaign, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah on Wednesday became just the fourth center in NBA history to record four triple-doubles consisting of points, rebounds and assists in a single season. The other three? Wilt Chamberlain, David Robinson and Bill Russell. Noah, whose final line was 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, has led the Bulls to a 46-32 record despite the fact that Chicago has been without star point guard Derek Rose nearly the entire season. The “point-center,” who leads his team with 5.2 assists per game, achieved double-digit dimes for the seventh time and also became the first Bulls player since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (1992-93) to record four triple-doubles in a single season. For comparison’s sake, Noah posted just three triple-doubles and two double-digit assists games – combined – during his first six years. Additionally, Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale just last month said Noah “should be the defensive player of the year.” Check out this extensive feature on Noah from USA Today.

2 » A pair of former Florida Gators golfers will compete in The Masters for the first time in their careers as Billy Horschel and Matt Every will be teeing it up at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA over the next 2-4 days. Horschel, who finished sixth in the 2013 FedExCup standings with one win and seven top 10 finishes in 22 events, won the Zurich Classic exactly one year ago. Every, via his first career PGA Tour win just over two weeks ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, is currently ranked eighth in the FedExCup. The golfers will open the first round teeing off back-to-back – Horschel at 8:51 a.m., Every at 9:02 a.m. – while former Florida golfer Andy North will be on the call for ESPN during the first two days of the event on Thursday and Friday.

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Noah, Masters, Alexander, Ridley, Lee

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SIX BITS: Wilder, Smith, Harvin, Ingram, Heat, golf

1 » Though he did not commit to the team as was rumored late last week due to a falsified e-mail, five-star athlete James Wilder, Jr. (Tampa, FL) does have a leader: the Florida Gators are the “team to beat,” according to Rivals’s Mark Wheeler. “Sources say [his upcoming visits are] more to confirm his choice of Florida than anything else,” Wheeler wrote. “Wilder Jr. is enthused that Florida looks to be moving to a more traditional power running game.” In addition to recruiting fullbacks, the Gators are “expected to still feature the dive play and many inside and off-tackle running plays, but instead of [Tim] Tebow carrying the ball, Wilder would be the guy. Throw in his comfort level at Florida as well as that of his family, and the Gators will be tough to beat.”

2 » Former Florida running back Emmitt Smith has done plenty in his career. An inductee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year, he holds NFL career records for rushing yards (18,355), rushing touchdowns (164) and 100+ yard rushing games (78). The eight-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time Super Bowl champion was also the 1989 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and is a member of the Gators’ Ring of Honor. But where he may have made his biggest impact is at Escambia High School, where he began his legacy. The Florida High School Athletic Association Player of the Century, Smith was not only a great player, his presence at the school helped ease racial tensions. “I wasn’t thinking about any racial tensions when I got to Escambia,” Smith told the Canton Repository. “It never dawned on me that I was part of a transformation at the school. I knew Escambia had a negative past, but I saw it was over and done with. I had played with white guys, black guys, all kinds of guys. Maybe that was me being naive.”

Four more BITS on Percy Harvin’s charity work, Cornelius Ingram’s knee, Gators on the Miami Heat and The Open Championship…after the break!
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TWO BITS: Dorial Green, The Open Championship

1 » While some in the media fawned over the false commitment story surrounding five-star 2011 athlete James Wilder, Jr. (Tampa, FL) on Thursday, the Florida Gators have been setting their sights on one of the best players available in the 2012 recruiting session. That man is five-star wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (Springfield, MO), who Florida has targeted as their No. 1 target next year. A source who spoke with OGGOA Friday told us that Green has already visited the University of Florida and met with head football coach Urban Meyer and head basketball coach Billy Donovan. Though he is a two-sport star in high school, it is unknown if he plans to pursue both opportunities in college; however, one would expect the Gators to be open to such a concession if it is requested. MaxPreps national football editor Stephen Spiewak wrote a terrific profile piece on Green on Thursday – check it out.

2 » Former Florida golfers are continuing to make noise at The Open Championship at St. Andrews. After two rounds of action, 50-year-old Mark Calcavecchia is in second place; he is 7-under through two rounds of 70 and 67, respectively, and five shots off the lead. It is also worth noting that Calcavecchia has experience in this event, winning The Open in 1989 at Troon by beating Greg Norman and Wayne Grady in a playoff. Brian Gay, on the other hand, fell to T144 (+11) after shooting an 83 on Friday. Camillo Villegas is still in action, currently T43 (-1) through 12 holes; he shot a four-under 72 on Thursday. OGGOA will update all scores when the second round is completed.

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Gator Bites for Thursday, July 15th

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 has been invited to try out for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team and will be trying to prove his worth during a training camp next week in Las Vegas, NV.

» Twilight actress Ashley Greene is a huge Gators fan, even recently discussing the team on Jimmy Kimmel Live! (watch video). Here is a picture of her Wednesday night with Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow at the ESPYs in Los Angeles, CA. Looks like a happy (and beautiful) young lady.

» Speaking of the ESPYs and Tebow, host Seth Meyers of Saturday Night Live joked about the Heisman Trophy winner during a small portion of his opening monologue. “Tim Tebow is here. Tim’s jersey is already one of the top selling jerseys in the NFL. I heard that and thought: ‘Jesus…who does this guy know? … Oh right, Jesus.’ Just kidding, Tim. And I hope this goes without saying but…just kidding, Jesus.”

» One more… Playing a slight joke on Tebow on the ride back to the hotel Wednesday night after the ESPYs was ESPN‘s NFL insider Chris Mortensen. Sitting next to him on the hotel shuttle, Mortensen told him, “You’re gonna make a heckuva H-back.” Tebow “had a good laugh.” Also confirmed in attendance were Minnesota Timberwolves forward Corey Brewer and sideline reporters Erin Andrews and Jenn Brown.

» Ranking his top six basketball players of the 2011 recruiting class, FOX Sports’ Jeff Goodman has Florida five-star commit Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) taking the last spot. “[He] reminds me so much of Ray Allen. He’s silky smooth and can really shoot the ball from deep. Beal is also a winner,” Goodman notes.

» Three former Gators golfers – Camilo Villegas, Brian Gay and Mark Calcavecchia – are participating in The Open Championship at St. Andrews this weekend. In opening round action, the three men are T17 (-4), T46 (-2) and T73 (E), respectively.

» Sophomore jumper Christian Taylor, who had a great track & field season with Florida, won his second gold medal at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Under-23 Championships at Ansin Sports Complex in Miramar, FL, on Sunday. Winning the men’s triple jump to go along with his men’s long jump crown over the weekend, he is also a three-time NCAA Champion.

» The University of Florida‘s Stephen C. O’Connell Center has been named the host of the 2013 NCAA Gymnastics Southeast Regional.

» If you love recruiting and would like a quick update as to where the Gators are right now in putting together their 2011 class, check out this piece by ESPN recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg. Most if not all of this has already been written about here on OGGOA, but Newberg’s article is a nice recap and does provide some interesting tidbits.

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TWO BITS: Baseball takes Bama, Wright inspired

1 » No. 4/6 Florida Gators baseball (32-11, 16-6 SEC) handled the Alabama Crimson Tide (28-18, 9-13 SEC) on Friday on the road at Sewell-Thomas Stadium, coming away with a 9-3 victory on the heels of freshman starter Hudson Randall’s seven shutout innings. Randall (6-3), cleared way for the Gators’ bats to get to work, and the lineup responded with every single player getting a hit. Freshman catcher Mike Zunino (2-4) led the way with three RBI; freshman third baseman Austin Maddox (2-5) attempted to match him with two RBI and two runs of his own. Florida faces Alabama the next two days before returning to Gainesville, FL, for a five-game home stand.

2 » A day before Mother’s Day, it is good to hear a nice mother-son story prominently featuring a former Florida football player. For new Chicago Bears safety Major Wright, his mother Andrea Eluett has stood as a major part of his life, which is the reason why he gave her his 2009 BCS National Championship ring last year as a present. “She’s been a big inspiration in my life,” Wright said. “Growing up, we didn’t have it all. Everything wasn’t going right for us. But she’d always be there for us no matter what it took. Her [returning to school for a pharmacy degree] showed our family that we could go to college and be productive and get great jobs. It let us know that we could do all things and not to let anything hold us back.” Read the rest: ChicagoBears.com

UPDATE » Four former Gators started competing in The PLAYERS Championship on Thursday, but only one remains after two rounds of action. Camilo Villegas (143), Brian Gay (144) and Mark Calcavecchia (147) all missed the cut while Chris Couch will continue competing with a two-day 142 (-3).

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FOUR BITS: Tebow has “it,” Lewis, TPC, lacrosse

1 » Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels continued his praise of former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow to the Denver Post Thursday, citing that his first-round pick has the “it” factor. “There are people with a great deal of God-given ability who are fun to watch, and it’s really interesting to see what kind of seasons they’ll put together,” McDaniels said. “Then there are guys who will say they won’t fail, our team’s not going to fail, and they have a ‘I’m not going to let you down’ attitude. And that’s what you notice with Tim.”

The coach also said Tebow has a good chance to get on the field early – not years down the line like all the NFL Draft experts and other scouts project. “To me, (his football IQ) gives him an advantage, an opportunity to play earlier than other people have played,” he continued. “Everybody keeps talking about it will be two, three years before he can play, and I think they don’t know this guy. His mental capacity, and the way he works, and the fact that he’s on such a fast pace, will give him the chance to compete apples-to-apples. It’s all going to be about his production and performance. There are a lot of rookies who can’t run plays because they can’t figure it out yet. That’s not going to be the case with Tim. He’ll be able to do the things [veterans] do. […] You know what Tim doesn’t know about our playbook? Only what we haven’t told him yet.”

2 » Baltimore Ravens veteran linebacker Ray Lewis spoke out about Tebow’s progression into the NFL to ESPN’s Colin Cowherd on Thursday. Needless to say, the future Hall of Famer champion feels Tebow has received much more help than other players have coming into the league. “The thing I was more shocked by, is you see all the people who were willing to help him,” Lewis said. “I don’t know many people who were willing to help other athletes like that. Jon Gruden loved him to death. You see all these people who took out their personal time to really work with him and make this big issue, big issue, big issue. I don’t know why he was any different than anyone else. Every young child has that dream, that same dream that Tebow had. So I don’t know why he was bigger […] than any of the other guys. He went to a big program, and, yes, he might be a favorable person, but nobody else in the league, definitely not veteran players, see themselves differently than any other player.”

3 » Four former Gators golfers are currently competing in The PLAYERS Championship in Ponta Vedra Beach, FL, each hoping to take home a PGA Tour title. After a full day of action, Camilo Villegas and Brian Gay (-2) were tied for 47th with Mark Calcavecchia (+1) and Chris Couch (+2) bringing up the rear in the 100s. Each player will tee off for their second round from 1-2 p.m. on Friday.

4 » Florida lacrosse (10-7) stunned the crowd watching the quarterfinals of the American Lacrosse Conference Tournament in Columbus, OH, Thursday night by rocking the No. 20 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (10-7) 14-3. Freshman goalie Cara Canington made a school-record 14 saves on 15 shots as classmates midfielder Kitty Cullen and attacker Ashley Bruns led the way with six and three goals, respectively. The ladies will advance to face No. 11 Vanderbilt at 5:30 p.m. on Friday in the semifinals. The Gators lost to the Commodores 12-7 in Gainesville, FL, earlier in the season.

Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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SIX BITS: NCAA bubble, PGA, Brantley, Brown

1 » After a huge upset win over the No. 17 Tennessee Volunteers last Tuesday, the Florida Gators looked to be squarely in the 2010 NCAA Tournament. A few days later, the Gators found themselves back on the bubble falling to the Georgia Bulldogs on the road. ESPN’s Mark Schlabach looks at what happened and what the team needs to do from this point forward.

2 » Four former Florida golfers were at the top of the leaderboard going into the final round of the PGA‘s Waste Management Phoenix Open on Sunday. Mark Calcavecchia, Matt Every, Camilo Villegas and Chris Couch were all in the hunt for the tournament title, but each wound up falling short in the end. Couch finished T4 (-13), Villegas was T8 (-11) with Every and Calcavecchia shot a final-day 74 to fall to T43 (-7).

Four more BITS on Brantley, Brown, tennis and baseball…after the break!
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FOUR BITS: Riggs commits, Kelly, letdown, golf

1 » Florida Gators cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford visited the home of four-star CB recruit Cody Riggs (Fort Lauderdale, FL) Thursday night and earned the St. Thomas Aquinas High School product’s commitment, according to a report from Rivals. Bedford still taking visits and bringing back commitments is a strong indication that he may not leave the Gators as was previously reported by other sources.

2 » Former Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Brian Kelly, who has now accepted the same job with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, will not coach his former team in the 2010 Sugar Bowl against Florida, according to university administrators. In the few hours since Kelly’s announcement, Cincinnati players have already begun bashing him in the press. “I didn’t want to hear it,” star wide receiver Mardy Gilyard said. “I’m fairly disgusted with the situation – him letting it last this long. Hopefully he’ll pack his things up and get to South Bend in a hurry.”

3 » Gators players, including redshirt junior left guard Carl Johnson, are making sure the team is up and ready for the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1. “Winning [22] straight games in a row is not much of a letdown,” he said. “We had the nation’s [longest] win streak there for a while. We’ve still got a BCS bowl game. We’ve still got another opponent. It’s not much of a letdown.”

4 » Golfer Greg Norman will host a 12-team golf tournament on Friday at the Tiburon Golf Club and two of the main competitors in the contest are former Florida players. Mark Calcavecchia and Brian Gay will pair together in the $3 million tournament.

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