SIX BITS: coaches, Beal, NBA, Andrews, Schutte

1 » The Florida Gators recently let their own senior writer, GatorZone’s Scott Carter, in the football meeting rooms for two days as coaches watched film and prepared for spring practice. Three notes in particular stood out in the piece. (1) Former NFL safety Lance Schulters dropped by the facility. (2) Head coach Will Muschamp “fiery” when learning that some of his players’ lean-body mass and fast mass figures were not up to par. (3) Former Boise State backup quarterback Bush Hamdan is a football intern with the team. Doing a bit of research, former Florida graduate assistant Ryan Solesky (2006-09) has also returned to intern with the team.

2 » Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal has the NBA in his future but whether or not he decides to go pro after this season is a decision he has yet to make. “I have no clue,” he said. “I haven’t even really thought about it. Right now, I don’t know. I haven’t put too much thought into it. When that time comes I’m going to talk to Coach [Billy] Donovan and my family and we’re going to have to sit down and talk about it. When that time comes, it comes.” Beal also said he will be happy no matter what he decides. “If I leave, I still played a great year of college. I enjoyed it,” he said. “If I stay, it’s only going to make me get better. Either way it goes, I’m gaining something positive out of it.”

3 » Two former Florida players had top-notch performances in the NBA on Tuesday. Memphis Grizzlies center Marreese Speights scored a season- and team-high 25 points on 12-of-20 shooting with seven rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block in a 116-111 double-overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Just under 500 miles away, forward Chandler Parsons scored a team-high 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting with seven boards, six dimes and a steal to lead his Houston Rockets over Oklahoma City. Parsons also registered another impressive dunk, this time over Serge Ibaka.

4 » Could Erin Andrews’s time at ESPN be drawing to a close? The network confirmed to SportsBusiness Journal this week that the ACC Tournament was “the last scheduled assignment for Erin Andrews” as her “contract [is] coming up.” However, the Worldwide Leader also said that they “hope to renew her.” Andrews signed a two-year deal with ESPN in 2010, one that saw her duties increase. In addition to doing sideline reporting and working on stories for College GameDay, Andrews was given hosting duties for the first hour of the program on ESPNU and a role on Good Morning America on ABC. She was even on the red carpet interviewing celebrities prior to this year’s Oscars. Andrews had a number of intriguing offers for her services in 2010 and is expected to have as many – if not more – as she is set to become a free agent again this year.

5 » No. 4 Gators softball’s title chances have taken a hit as it appears that junior catcher Brittany Schutte, the team’s batting average leader (.477) who also has three homers and 23 RBIs in the young season, broke her jaw on March 2 and is out of action indefinitely. “If we get her back at all this season, it won’t be for a long time,” head coach Tim Walton told The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley. Schutte has already missed eight games and “had surgery on March 5 to insert a plate in her jaw and wire it shut.” With Florida losing so many power hitters to graduation last season, Schutte’s bit bat fit in nicely in the middle of the lineup. The Gators will be unable to replace her hitting but have classmate Kelsey Horton filling in for her behind the plate.

6 » Florida women’s basketball earned an at-large berth to the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Monday, learning that they will be participating in the event for the 13th time in school history and first since 2009. The Gators will take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in first-round action on Sunday with the winner likely facing the undefeated and top-ranked Baylor in second-round action. Below is a video courtesy of GatorVision.tv of the team celebrating their berth.

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SIX BITS: Noah, baseball, Demps, Speights, Brewer

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah registered his first career triple-double (13 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) on Wednesday in just three quarters of action (and 30 total minutes) against Milwaukee. Noah’s 10 dimes were a career-high and he became the first Chicago center to achieve a triple-double since Artis Gilmore did so in 1977. After a slow start to the year, Noah is averaging almost a double-double per game this season with 9.4 points and 9.8 boards.

2 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (4-1) shut out the No. 19 Central Florida Knights (3-0) on Wednesday for the first time since 1977, outscoring their visitors 8-0 as sophomore right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford (1-1) picked up his first victory of the season. Crawford (2 H, 3 BB, 4 K) pitched 4.1 no-hit innings before being pulled after five scoreless frames. Sophomore left-hander Daniel Gibson (2.0 IP, H), freshman LHP Bobby Poyner (1.0 IP, H) and freshman RHP Ryan Harris (1.0 IP, 2 H, BB, 2 K) finished out the game on the hill. Florida scored in each of the first three innings and five of the eight frames they went to the plate. Senior center fielder Daniel Pigott hit a solo shot in the first and finished 2/3 with two RBIs, two runs and a pair of walks. The Gators rallied for three runs in the bottom of the third, and senior right fielder Preston Tucker (2/4, RBI, BB) led off a two-run fifth with a solo homer of his own. Tucker’s dinger tied him with former UF All-American Brad Wilkerson (1996-98) for the school’s career RBI record of 214. Florida added another in the seventh and cruised to victory. UF will not get much rest as a series against William & Mary begins on Friday at 7 p.m. with game two and three set for Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m., respectively.

3 » Deciding to run track instead of compete for a spot on a NFL roster may be a tough choice for some, but former running back Jeff Demps knows what he is doing. In a feature on Yahoo! Sports’ ThePostGame, Demps and head track coach Mike Holloway discuss his future in the sport. “At the bottom of my heart, I just love running,” Demps said. “He can become one of the best,” Holloway added. “Jeff believes that or we wouldn’t be doing this.” Holloway, who will also be an assistant coach on the U.S. Men’s National Team in the 2012 London Olympics, believes that Demps can go all the way in the sport. “He has that potential down the road. There’s no doubt about that,” Holloway said of Demps potentially medaling at the Olympics. “It’s just a matter of us getting the proper training model and getting the proper steps taken to keep him healthy.”

4 » Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford was named the 2012 Sportsperson of the Year by the Atlanta Sports Council on Monday for making a positive impact on sports in the local community. “Playing for the Atlanta Hawks is an honor and has afforded me the opportunity to make an impact on organizations and causes in the Atlanta community that I am extremely passionate about,” Horford said in a statement. “I am committed to these efforts and the individuals that they serve, and I thank the Atlanta Sports Council for recognizing my involvement and dedication.” Horford played in the first 11 games of the 2011-12 season before suffering a torn labrum, which will keep him out of action until the end of April at the earliest.

5 » Memphis Grizzlies F/C Marreese Speights has been on quite a tear recently and is fitting in nicely with his new team. Starting in 26 of the 28 games he has played for Memphis this season, Speights is playing a career-high 23.0 minutes and averaging career-highs in points (8.6), rebounds (6.5) and free throw percentage (.816). He has scored double-digit points in five-straight games and had back-to-back double-doubles on Feb. 15 (20 points, 18 boards) and Feb. 17 (12 points, 10 boards). “It’s been one of the best moves of my life,” he said of getting traded to Memphis, according to the Philadelphia Enquirer. “It’s been great. We have a good team and we’re winning. They gave me a chance to come over here and play and show the things that I can do.”

6 » In a similar boat as Speights, it seems all Denver Nuggets F Corey Brewer needed was a change of scenery. Since returning to Denver after taking a sabbatical due to the death of his father, Brewer has scored double-digit points in five of seven games (he posted nine points in the other two). He’s been a bright spot for the Nuggets this season and may have finally found a comfortable home after moving from Minnesota to New York and then to Dallas one year ago. He is averaging 9.4 points (a career-high for minutes played) and shooting a career-best 36.0 percent from beyond the arc while grabbing 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, NBA, Tebow

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (1-0) played like the top team in the country during their season opener on Friday, fighting back every time they were down and eventually toppling the No. 16 Cal State Fullerton Titans (0-1) 7-3 at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Down a run after a throwing error in the top of the second, the Gators tied the game when freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue (1-4) turned on his first collegiate pitch and belted a homer to left field. Behind 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Florida used another solo shot – this time from senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-3) – to even things up again. The Gators’ clutch hitting continued as a four-run seventh inning – including to pair of RBI singles by juniors catcher Mike Zunino (1-4) and first baseman Brian Johnson (2-4) – to jump ahead 7-3 and hold on for the victory. Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall got the start for UF but gave up three earned runs on five hits with only one strikeout in 5.2 innings for the no decision. Coming on in relief with his team down a run, junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez (1-0) struck out three and gave up just one hit in 2.1 innings before senior RHP Greg Larson tossed the final inning to clinch the victory. Florida’s series with Cal State Fullerton continues Saturday and Sunday though neither game is being televised.

2 » No. 1 Florida softball (7-0) continued its hot start to the 2012 season with yet another run-rule victory as the Gators shut out the Michigan State Spartans (1-5) 8-0 in five innings Friday night at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville. Florida took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth but crossed the plate five times in the inning to take a 7-0 lead. A RBI single by sophomore left fielder Kasey Fagan (1-2) in the bottom of the fifth wound up being a walk-off hit as it became the game-deciding run. Freshman 1B Lauren Haeger (2-2) led the way for the Gators with four RBIs, and junior C Brittany Schutte supported her with a 3-3 performance and a RBI of her own. Freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2-3) also plated two runs and crossed home once herself. Continuing to prove her dominance on the mound, sophomore pitcher Hannah Rogers (5-0) tossed a complete game one-hitter with four strikeouts and a walk in 5.0 innings. UF will take on Michigan State twice more before the weekend concludes.

3 » It was a big night in the NBA for four former Gators stars. Friday night’s standout performance came from Denver Nuggets guard/forward Corey Brewer, who scored a team-high 26 points (10-of-14 shooting) with five rebounds, a steal and a block in 32 minutes. Joining him at the top of their team’s respective box scores were Golden State Warriors forward/center David Lee with a team-high 23 points (8-of-17 shooting) and eight boards in a team-high 30 minutes; Houston Rockets F Chandler Parsons with a team-high 18 points (8-of-15 shooting), a team-high six rebounds and three assists in a team-high 40 minutes; and Memphis Grizzlies C Marreese Speights with a double-double of 12 points (5-of-8 shooting) and 10 boards with two blocks in 35 minutes.

Parsons also learned Friday that he will be participating in the NBA’s All-Star Weekend as one of three players representing Houston in the Shooting Stars competition.

4 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has officially scheduled his “experience” event at the new D1 Sports Training and Therapy facility in Citrus Park, FL. Tebow will hold a special training session at D1 on March 10 where members and special guests will have the opportunity to train alongside him while checking out the new workout center. For more information on D1 and Tebow’s involvement with the company (he’s a part-owner of two facilities), check out OGGOA‘s post from Jan. 17.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, softball, lacrosse, Speights

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow rarely takes much time off from football and is already continuing to work on his game this offseason. According to ESPNLosAngeles.com, which spoke with new UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone on Wednesday, Tebow has been in Southern California since last weekend working on his quarterbacking. “He just came out here to throw and work on a few things and see if we can just become a little more efficient in what he’s doing,” Mazzone said. “Throwing motion, footwork, everything I work on with all my quarterbacks.” Ensuring that while he helps Tebow he is simultaneously not going against Denver’s teachings, Mazzone (who has also worked with the former Heisman Trophy winner in each of the last two offseasons) expects to continue training with him for at least four more days if not longer. The goal is to work on Tebow’s passing efficiency as he completed less than 50 percent of his throws a year ago. “It’s kind of like a golfer who hit that bad drive,” he said of Tebow’s motion. “Every other guy in the foursome can tell you what you did wrong and all three opinions are different. We’re just going out and kind of going back to the basics and working on some fundamentals to try and become a little more efficient.”

2 » No. 1/3 Florida Gators softball (6-0) routed the Jacksonville Dolphins (2-4) in their home opener on Wednesday, run-ruling the visitors 10-2 in six innings. Freshman pitcher Lauren Haeger, starting for the first time in Gainesville, FL, struck out seven batters her a complete game four-hitter and did not allow a single earned run in her outing. Finding a power stroke early this season, junior designated hitter Kelsey Horton (2-3) hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the second for Florida’s first runs of the game and finished the contest with three RBIs. Junior first baseman Ensley Gammel (1-2, R, BB) added a two-RBI double in the fourth, junior catcher Brittany Schutte (2-3, RBI, 2 R, BB) continued her hot start from the plate, and sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-1, 2 BB) crossed the plate three times. UF will conclude their four-game home stand with a Friday-Sunday series against Michigan State.

3 » Also taking on Jacksonville in their home opener on Wednesday, No. 4 Gators lacrosse (1-1) toppled the Dolphins (0-1) with a 14-5 rout thanks to a pair of five-goal performances from freshman midfielder Nora Barry and junior attacker Gabi Wiegand. Barry, who also tied a school record with six draw controls, added three ground balls and four forced turnovers in the match. Junior M Brittany Dashiell had a goal and three assists and was the only other Florida player with more than two shots on the evening (three), while junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher played strong in the box, tallying six saves while allowing just five goals. UF heads on the road Sunday to face UMBC in Baltimore, MD before returning to Gainesville for three-straight home games.

4 » Wednesday was a good night for two former Gators basketball players. Posting season-highs in minutes, points, rebounds and shooting (on more than five attempts), Memphis Grizzlies center Marreese Speights played 38 minutes and earned a double-double of 20 points (on 10-of-13 shooting) with 18 boards and two blocks. He led Memphis to a 105-100 win over New Jersey and has now performed very efficiently in three of his last four games. Over 1,500 miles away, forward Chandler Parsons and the Houston Rockets topped Oklahoma City 96-95 partially due to the former Florida player’s efforts. Parsons scored 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting and filled his stat line with seven rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals.

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Former Gators light up the NBA on Tuesday

Eight former Florida Gators basketballers competed in five of the seven NBA games played on Tuesday and most ended the night with praiseworthy performances.

Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee posted a team-high 29 points (on 13-of-20 shooting) with nine boards (four offensive) and three assists in a team-high 35 minutes as Golden State went on to upend Cleveland 105-95.

Similarly dominant, Denver Nuggets forward Corey Brewer played a team-high 34 minutes off the bench, scoring a team-best 22 points (on 8-of-14 shooting) with four rebounds, two steals and a block. Denver defeated Milwaukee 105-95.

The Miami Heat had two former Gators in action but guard Mike Miller, who dressed for the first time this year after being forced to miss the first 12 games of the season due to having offseason hernia surgery, was the most impressive. Miller went a perfect 6-for-6 from downtown for 18 points and added four rebounds in just 15 minutes.

Also coming off the bench for the Heat was PF Udonis Haslem, who registered four points and two boards. Like Haslem, San Antonio Spurs PF Matt Bonner was efficient with three points and six rebounds, but San Antonio Fell to Miami 120-98.

Still fighting through a hand ailment, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah had arguably his best game of the season, posting his third double-double of the year with 13 points (6-of-10 shooting) and 12 boards (six offensive) to go along with three dimes in 28 minutes. Chicago took down Phoenix 118-97.

Wrapping things up were former teammates going head-to-head as the Houston Rockets and surging rookie F Chandler Parsons defeated the Detroit Pistons and PF Vernon Macklin 97-80. Parsons once again earned the start and played 31 minutes (second-most on the team), scoring seven points and adding seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. Macklin only saw one minute of on-court action.

And though the game occurred one day earlier, former Florida C Marreese Speights, now with the Memphis Grizzlies, had his most impressive showing of the season on Monday. Speights started and saw 34 minutes of action, scoring 16 points and grabbing 12 boards (four offensive) for his first double-double this year. Memphis wound up beating down Chicago 102-86.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Parsons, PGA, Caldwell

1 » In his season-ending meeting with the media, Denver Broncos vice president of football operations John Elway gave quarterback Tim Tebow his biggest endorsement thus far even if it was not completely what Tebow’s fans may have wanted. “Tim is the starting quarterback going into training camp,” Elway said Monday, according to the Denver Post, failing to go further than that designation. “He made great strides. He has earned the right to be the starter going into training camp next year.” Elway also admitted, as expected, that Denver will look to add some competition for Tebow at the quarterback position because the Broncos’ “passing game was not where we want it to be.” As he mentioned during the season, Elway plans to work with Tebow in a number of areas including in the film room and on his footwork, drops and timing with receivers. He expands on these comments in the video below:

2 » Continuing his stellar play this year Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons had yet another solid game Monday, again earning the start and scoring eight points (on 4-of-7 shooting) with eight boards (three offensive), four assists and two blocks in 29 minutes. He also had two impressive plays in the game including one put-back slam and another dunk over Washington’s 7’0″ center JaVale McGee, which you can see below:

In related NBA news, center Marreese Speights had his best performance with his brand new team the Memphis Grizzlies, registering a double-double of 16 points and 12 boards. Speights went head-to-head with Chicago Bulls C Joakim Noah, who has been struggling with a hand problem this season and had just two points and five rebounds. Memphis beat Chicago 102-86 on Monday.

3 » Former Gators golfer Matt Every, who led the 2012 Sony Open for two days, wound up finishing tied for sixth in the event…with fellow former Florida golfer Brian Gay and two other players. Every and Gay (-10) each ended the tournament three strokes back of the leader (Johnson Wagner, -13) and were two of three former Gators in the top-13 with Chris DiMarco finishing -8 over four rounds. As OGGOA mentioned over the weekend, Every recently opened up about a marijuana arrest. This video provides more on that and includes a discussion he had while leading after the second round.

4 » According to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, it is not likely that former Florida wide receiver Andre Caldwell will be back with the Cincinnati Bengals next season. Caldwell, who brought in 37 receptions for 317 yards and three touchdowns last season, is now a free agent and is unlikely to be retained by the team. Caldwell himself is probably looking for a better opportunity as well and may find that with the Jacksonville Jaguars as the Bengals’ former offensive coordinator, Bob Bratkowski, has taken that same position with the Jaguars.

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4 BITS: Tebow, Starks, Schottenheimer, Speights

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow set a number of football records on Sunday, but he also wound up making headlines in some off-the-field statistics, too. According to the Sports Business Journal, the Denver-Pittsburgh games registered a 25.9 overnight rating for CBS, which slates it as the largest-viewed AFC Wild Card game since 1988. Additionally, the final quarter-hour of the game (8-8:15 p.m.) pulled in a whopping 31.6 overnight rating. Tebow also made history on Twitter, setting a new sports tweets-per-second record with 9,420. CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell points out that Tebow’s tweets-per-second on Sunday shattered the previous sports record, which had the 2011 Women’s World Cup final game at 7,196 tweets/second. Other comparisons Rovell provided were Steve Jobs’s death (6,049 t/s), the Osama Bin Laden raid (5,106 t/s) and last year’s Super Bowl (4,064 t/s).

2 » Another happening from Sunday night’s game, albeit an unfortunate one, is that the injury to Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Max Starks knee appears to be a bad one. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Starks has an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament that is believed to be a tear. If he did indeed suffer a torn ACL, Starks will begin the 2012 season like he did this year – unemployed – and will have to try and work his way onto a NFL roster as he begins to heal. Starks was a free agent heading into the 2011 season but was signed by the Steelers as the team’s offensive line became decimated with injuries. Center Maurkice Pouncey, who was named to his second Pro Bowl this year and earned his first Associated Press All-Pro honor, missed Sunday’s game with a high-ankle sprain.

3 » Before NFL action began Sunday, a tweet from ESPN insider Adam Schefter got some Gators fans buzzing: “Brian Schottenheimer never withdrew his name from consideration for the Florida OC job.” Schottenheimer, the current offensive coordinator of the New York Jets, was previously thrown around as a name to consider for UF’s opening. However, the New York Daily News reported last week that he had withdrawn his name from consideration and was not a possibility for Florida. At the time there were no reports that the school had even reached out to him as a potential candidate. A former backup quarterback for Danny Wuerffel with the Gators under head coach Steve Spurrier, Schottenheimer has very little college coaching and recruiting experience (1999-2000). He has worked mostly as a NFL coach since 1997 and has been a quarterbacks coach since 2011, holding the role of offensive coordinator for New York since 2006.

4 » Maybe playing time really will do new Memphis Grizzlies center Marreese Speights well. Traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to Memphis on Jan. 4, Speights saw six minutes of action in his second game with his new team. However, the Grizzlies put Speights in for 29 minutes on Sunday and he responded with 17 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals. It remains to be seen how Speights will perform the rest of the season, but he said last year that consistent minutes are what he needs to take his game to the next level.

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Speights heading to Memphis in three-team swap

Former Florida Gators center Marreese Speights, who has spent his entire three-year NBA career with the Philadelphia 76ers after the team selected him early out of school with the No. 16 overall pick in the first round of the 2008 NBA Draft, will be playing his fourth year in a new city with a different team.

Speights was dealt Wednesday to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of a three-team trade with Philadelphia and New Orleans, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein, who first reported the transaction. As part of the trade, guard Xavier Henry will go from Memphis to New Orleans and two second-round picks are being sent to Philadelphia as compensation.

Speights played a career-low minutes (11.5) with the 76ers last year after averaging 16.2 per game in his first two seasons. He has not seen the court in four games this year.

Following his team’s 4-1 series loss to Miami in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, Speights sat down for an interview with OGGOA and discussed his lack of playing time, citing that the inconsistency never allowed him to get into a rhythm.

“It was so inconsistent that I never knew how to prepare for the game because I never knew if I was going to get in or not,” he said. “It was hard for me to prepare myself this year. I might have a good game one game and then come back and play three minutes and then after that DNPs [“do not play” – a designation given by the coach] for three games and then come back and play 15 minutes. It was the whole year – inconsistent. I feel like if I can get in there, I’ll produce. That’s how I’ve been my whole career.”

A 49.2 percent career shooter, Speights has averaged 7.2 points and 3.7 rebounds in 205 NBA games (four starts). He posted 14.5 points and 8.1 rebounds while shooting 62.4 percent in 24.3 minutes during his final year at Florida

Speights will join a Grizzlies team that reached the conference semifinals round of the playoffs last year as a No. 8 seed. Memphis defeated No. 1-seed San Antonio 4-1 in the first round before falling 4-3 to Oklahoma City in a seven-game series.

Considered one of the surprise teams in the Western Conference last season, the Grizzlies are primed to return to the playoffs in 2012. Speights will become the team’s primary reserve center playing behind rising star Marc Gasol but will also spend time backing up power forward Zach Randolph, who recently went down with a MCL tear.

Randolph’s previous backup, Darrell Arthur, is out for the season with a torn Achilles, and Randolph is expected to miss up to eight weeks himself, which provides Speights with a great opportunity for immediate playing time.

Photo Credits: Associated Press, Unknown

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