Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2012 (check out Monday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From crazy occurrences and strange decisions to receiving major awards and being involved in the biggest sports stories of the last 12 months, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

For every major story and exciting moment that occurred in 2012, there were plenty of instances in which Gators fans could not do anything but shake their heads, furrow their brows or shrug their shoulders at something they just saw or heard. Below is a list-within-a-list of the 10 most absurd moments of the year (sorted chronologically). Don’t worry, the rest of these stories are much shorter, so keep reading.

(1) Right in the middle of spring practice on Feb. 17, with coaches raving about team chemistry and noting massive improvement from the previous year, junior safety Matt Elam tweeted out a picture that looks like junior defensive end Dominique Easley riding his scooter inside the Florida football facility and around the Gator Head the players touch before heading out to the field each week. (2) One week after playing his last game as a member of the Gators basketball team, then-senior point guard Erving Walker found himself in trouble with the law when he was charged on March 30 with two misdemeanors for allegedly stealing a taco from a street vendor and evading police in Gainesville, FL. (3) Need a lesson on how to turn off an employer? Veteran wide receiver Jabar Gaffney went off on an epic Twitter rant on April 12, sending out derogatory statements about his wife and cousin (fellow former Gators star cornerback Lito Sheppard) only to claim three hours later that his account was hacked. (4) What better way to honor your favorite player than to get your hair cut and designed to look like him? That’s what San Antonio Spurs fan Patrick Gonzalez did for forward Matt Bonner. Gonzalez’s hair cut nearly got him suspended from school on May 16, but it also got Bonner’s attention and resulted in a pair of tickets and a meeting at a playoff game. (5) After some rather mundane barbs went back-and-forth between Florida head coach Will Muschamp and Texas A&M Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin over the summer, Mayor Nancy Berry of College Station, TX decided to post a comedic video of her poking good-natured fun at the former Texas defensive coordinator on June 1.

(6) Hours after taking home the first NCAA Outdoor Championship in program history on June 10, Gators track & field suffered a serious scare in the air when its plane suffered a cracked windshield at 37,000 feet and underwent a rough landing in Tuscaloosa, AL. The windshield shattered after the plane landed but everyone was OK. (7) How do you answer a quarterback controversy and answer questions about which signal caller is going to start the first game of the season? Start both of them! That’s what Muschamp did on Sept. 1 when sophomores Jacoby Brissett (quarterback) and Jeff Driskel (wide receiver) both came out with the starting offense on its first play from scrimmage against Bowling Green. (8) With Muschamp leading the team, he is sure to find his way on this list at least once per year. In a 13-day span, Muschamp made headlines by being himself. After Florida defeated LSU at home on Dec. 7, he decided to celebrate by crowd surfing over his own players in the locker room. Two weeks later, at halftime against South Carolina, Muschamp vented his frustration about the officiating to Brady Ackerman of the Gator Radio Network. He saw an official walking by as the teams headed to their respective locker rooms and made sure to make it known how upset he was at some of the calls in the first half. “Well, we just gotta continue to capitalize on what we’re doing and OVERCOME THE ADVERSITY ON THE FIELD!” (9) With ESPN’s College GameDay in Gainesville for the South Carolina game, having former Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte on set as the guest picker was an easy and obvious decision for the network. Never did ESPN guess that he would find difficulty in reading off the list of picks provided for him. (10) Why is Chad Johnson in Gainesville … and why is he meeting with Florida? Those were questions fans asked on Nov. 2 when it was revealed that the NFL free agent wide receiver – fresh off being embarrassed on national television when he was cut by the Miami Dolphins after being arrested for allegedly hitting his wife – had shown up in town and was taking pictures with players on the team one day before UF took on Missouri.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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Former Florida Gators in the NBA: Nov. 2012

Now one month into the 2012-13 NBA regular season, there are 10 former Florida Gators basketball players spread over nine teams.

A total of 10 players participated in the first month action, many of whom had an impact on their respective team’s performances.

For the first time, OGGOA will be checking and re-checking the box scores month-by-month to bring you a summary of what all of these Gators accomplish throughout the entire 2012-13 regular season.

F/C DAVID LEE, Golden State Warriors: GP/GS (14/14), MIN (37.2), PPG (18.2), RPG (10.9), APG (3.9), SPG (1.1), BPG (0.1), TPG (2.7), FPG (3.5), A/TO (1.1)
» Shooting: FG% (.522), 3P% (.000), FT% (.750)
» Highlights: Eight double-doubles (three 20-10) in 14 games; 31 points, nine rebounds, six assists vs. Denver on Nov. 29; 17 points, 19 rebounds at Dallas on Nov. 19

Check out how the rest of the Florida Gators in the NBA played this month…
Continue Reading » Former Florida Gators in the NBA: Nov. 2012

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Gator Bites for Thursday, August 16th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Former Florida Gators defensive end Justin Trattou was cut by the New York Giants on Thursday after missing all of training camp up to this point with a variety of injuries. Trattou was active for a number of games last season and won a ring last season as New York defeated New England 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV.

» Speaking of the Giants, the team brought former Gators defensive tackle Marcus Thomas in for a visit Thursday. New York is looking to upgrade the interior of its defensive line and Thomas is one of the biggest names on the free agent market after failing to come to an agreement with the Denver Broncos, where he started 11 of the 12 games he played last season. Thomas recently tweeted that he would be willing to play “for practice squad money.”

» The New York Jets are rumored to be one of a handful of finalists bidding for the services of former Florida running back Jeff Demps, so of course quarterback Tim Tebow was asked about the possibility during training camp on Thursday. As expected, Tebow supported the potential addition of Demps but said he would not pressure him to join him with the Jets. “They asked me about him,” he said according to the Newark Star-Ledger. “Jeff is a great guy and a great player, and he’s someone that I was proud to play with in college. He did a great job for us, and I feel like wherever he goes, he’ll work hard at and do a good job for that team.”

» ESPN’s Andy Katz spoke with Yale head coach James Jones recently about his team getting an unusual visit from the UF basketball team this season. Jones “credited a Yale administrator who once worked at Florida as well as Gators head coach Billy Donovan” for creating the home-away-home series that gets a high-profile team to visit Yale. “Donovan…isn’t adverse to playing home games for players in odd places,” Katz wrote. “He once played at UNH for New Hampshire native Matt Bonner. This is a ‘home’ game for Rhode Island native Erik Murphy.”

Read nine more Gator Bites…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Thursday, August 16th

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Bonner responds to fan haircut honoring him

A day after young San Antonio Spurs fan Patrick Gonzalez made the news for having a picture of former Florida Gators forward Matt Bonner shaved into the back of his head and being sent home from school for doing so, the player he honored responded both to the gesture and the controversy surrounding it.

Asked if he thought Gonzalez’s haircut was a big deal in terms of the distraction that his teacher and principal claimed it was causing, Bonner questioned whether or not simply moving the student’s seat to the back of the class would have remedied the situation.

“Otherwise probably the nicest thing a fan has ever done for me is ruined,” he said. “Before ‘Hairgate,’ the best thing a fan has done for me is clap for me at a game.”

“It’s a very flattering portrait of myself. I’ve never considered myself a controversial figure but apparently it’s too distracting and too much,” Bonner continued. “I’m not going to condemn the school. If anybody’s in support of education and academics, it’s myself with my mom being a teacher and my academic success. But like I said, they could have just moved him to the back of the class.”

Bonner is a two-time Verizon Academic All-America of the Year for men’s basketball who finished his University of Florida career with a 3.96 grade point average. His mother has been an elementary school teacher her entire professional life and is coming out of a three-year retirement just to go back to teaching next year.

Gonzalez was sent home early from school on Wednesday and told that he would be suspended if he did not alter his hair before returning to class on Thursday. He complied with his school’s request and shaved the back of his head.

It was not all bad news for Bonner’s red-headed fan, however, as the former Gators standout provided Gonzalez and his mother with a pair of tickets to Game 2 against the Los Angeles Clippers and promised to meet them before the game.

“Keep supporting us redheads in the NBA,” Bonner said referencing Gonzalez after practice on Thursday. “Keep working on your game and maybe someday I’ll be shaving you in the back of my head.”

San Antonio topped Los Angeles 105-88 though Bonner finished just 1-for-3 from the field and 0-for-2 from downtown with two points, two rebounds and a steal in 13 minutes.

Photo Credit: Grace White, KAAB FOX 29

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FOUR BITS: Bonner, Tebow, Zunino, Howard

1 » Young San Antonio Spurs fan Patrick Gonzalez wanted to support his team during its run in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Out of respect for one of his favorite players (who just happens to have the same color hair he does), Gonzalez chose to get a very detailed picture of former Florida Gators forward Matt Bonner shaved into the back of his head. The problem? His first period teacher called it a “distraction” and the principals at Woodlake Hills Middle School do not approve of the hairdo even after his mother made mention of it previously and neither received permission nor was informed that it would be a problem. Gonzalez has chosen to “fix” his haircut before school on Thursday rather than serve the suspension he was threatened with receiving. In addition to being a talented basketball player, Bonner is a two-time Verizon Academic All-America of the Year for men’s basketball who finished his University of Florida career with a 3.96 grade point average. KAAB FOX 29 out of San Antonio, TX has the video report.

2 » Quarterback Tim Tebow received another shot of support from a New York Jets teammate on Wednesday as cornerback Darrelle Revis praised Tebow’s character and the way he carries himself day-in and day-out. “He’s a born leader, he really is,” Revis said per’s Rich Cimini. “Very few athletes have the gift he has. He tries to lead by example all the time. He tries to be positive, which is awesome, and that [has resulted] in his success on the field. [...] Some people have it, some guys don’t. It’s the passion within, wanting to be a leader, wanting to win. You see it all the time, eating lunch, walking down the hallway. You see it. He’s like that cartoon character Zeus. He’s one of those guys. He’s very positive. He has passion for whatever he does. You can see it on him.” Revis also praised him as a player. “He’s a playmaker, he makes plays, he wins games,” he said. “Having him as a teammate is kind of different because you actually get to see him every day. You get to talk to him every day. You get to eat lunch with him. You get to know him as a person. It’s totally different.”

Cimini also notes that Tebow has been exchanging “playful barbs” back-and-forth with others on the team including outspoken linebacker Bart Scott who called him “Baby Jesus” (Tebow laughed) and asked if he could be baptized when Tebow suggested he get in the cold tub because his old muscles needed the treatment.

3 » Florida junior catcher Mike Zunino was one of 12 players named on Wednesday as a semifinalist for the 2012 Johnny Bench Award, which is presented each season to the top catcher in college baseball. Zunino currently leads the Southeastern Conference in home runs (14), slugging percentage (.645), total bases (127) and doubles (22), is tops for the Gators in RBIs (49), and carries a .320 batting average while fielding at a .993 clip (three errors). A SEC player has not won the award since 2002 and no Florida player has ever received the honor.

4 » New Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Jaye Howard is already receiving some rave reviews for his play during rookie minicamp. According to The Olympian, Howard “has played mostly pass-rushing defensive tackle…and has been a disruptive force.” He told the paper that he credits Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and defensive line coach Bryant Young for helping him make major strides in his senior season. “Coach Quinn is one of the best coaches I’ve had,” he said, “and Bryant Young, he’s a player that I watched growing up. And you’re going to take heed to someone like that. You’re going to listen to what they have to say.”

Photo Credit: Grace White, KAAB FOX 29

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SIX BITS: tennis, softball, Hill, Thompson, NBA

1 » No. 12 Florida Gators men’s tennis (16-9) continued its hot play in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, completing a 4-0 sweep of the No. 24 Harvard Crimson (23-3) to advance to the round of 16. Florida clinched the doubles point and received singles victories from No. 53 senior Nassim Slilam (6-2, 6-3), No. 66 sophomore Spencer Newman (6-4, 6-2) and sophomore Florent Diep (6-1, 6-4) to grab the victory and move on to the round of 16 for the third-straight season. UF will resume play on Friday against No. 5 Ohio State at noon.

2 » Gators softball, one day after falling hard in a bid for a conference tournament title, learned Sunday that they have earned the No. 5 overall seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Florida (46-11) will open the tournament as hosts of the Gainesville Regional, which will also feature Florida Gulf Coast, Central Florida and South Florida. UF is 2-2 this season against the field with victories over FGCU (5-0) and USF (3-2) and losses to UCF (2-0) and USF (4-1). The Gators will play their first game on May 18 at 6 p.m. against FGCU. Should Florida be the victor of their regional, they will take on the winner of the Los Angeles Regional featuring No. 12 UCLA, Florida State, San Diego State and Hofstra. UF would likely host the Super Regional in that scenario.

3 » Five-star point guard Kasey Hill, a 2013 Gators’ commitment and the No. 8 player in the country according to Rivals, received high praise from ESPN’s Dave Telep on Thursday. Telep, who has attended five AAU events since March, said Hill stood out as the top performer at the adidas VIP Run and thinks he is one of two players who could be considered the best point guard in the class of 2013. “The most improved player I’ve seen? That would be point guard Kasey Hill,” he wrote. “He’s refined his approach to the point guard slot and in my mind, become an elite player and impact recruit. There’s a difference between being highly rated and being an impact signee. He’s the best point guard Billy Donovan has ever recruited.”

4 » Two NFL writers had some high praise for former Florida wide receiver Deonte Thompson based on how he performed in Baltimore Ravens minicamp on Sunday. FOX Sports’ Aaron Wilson said Thompson “had a good day…speed is eye-catching, caught the ball fairly well, too,” while CBS Sports’ Jason Butt noted that Thompson “looked fluid and sharp, and showcased stellar straight-line speed and quick cuts.” Thompson is one of two former UF players (quarterback John Brantley) who signed an undrafted free agent deal with Baltimore this offseason.

5 » Denver Nuggets forward Corey Brewer became the third former Gators basketball player (and member of the Oh Fours) to be eliminated from the 2012 NBA Playoffs this week after Denver fell 96-87 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday. Brewer, after having some highlight moments during the series, had a rough outing in Game 7. He scored just four points on 2-of-9 shooting (0-for-3 from downtown) with two rebounds and one steal in 13 minutes. Also out of the postseason is center Marreese Speights and the Memphis Grizzlies. Speights also had an admirable series but did not get the opporutnity to contribute much in Memphis’ 82-72 Game 7 loss, scoring just two points on 1-of-2 shooting with two rebounds and a steal in 11 minutes.

6 » Only three former Florida players remain in the playoffs: F Matt Bonner of the San Antonio Spurs and both power forward Udonis Haslem and guard Mike Miller of the Miami Heat. Bonner is averaging 4.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 16.0 minutes per game this postseason while Haslem is posting averages of 3.8 points and 6.4 boards in 19.0 minutes and Miller is registering 7.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 23.2 minutes.

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Florida Gators in the 2012 NBA Playoffs

With the regular season wrapping up last week and the 2012 NBA Playoffs already in full swing, seven (six healthy) Florida Gators are currently representing their squads as they compete for the opportunity to appear in the NBA Finals.


(1) Chicago Bulls
No. 13 C Joakim Noah
Season: 5th
Averages: 30.4 mins., 10.2 pts., 9.8 rebs., 2.5 asst., 1.4 blk., .508 FG%, .748 FT%

(2) Miami Heat
No. 13 SG Mike Miller
Season: 12th
Averages: 19.3 mins., 6.1 pts., 3.3 rebs., 1.1 asst., .435 FG%, .453 3P%, .400 FT%

No. 40 PF Udonis Haslem
Season: 9th
Averages: 24.8 mins., 6.0 pts., 7.3 rebs., 0.7 asst., 0.4 blk., .423 FG%, .814 FT%

* Atlanta’s Al Horford has missed most of the season with a torn pectoral. Though he was expected to be back for the first round of the playoffs, he has been pushed back to at least the second round should his team make it to that point with a first-round victory. He is not currently listed as active for the playoffs.


(1) San Antonio Spurs
No. 15 F Matt Bonner
Season: 8th
Averages: 20.4 mins., 6.6 pts., 3.2 rebs., 0.9 asst., .440 FG%, .420 3P%, .762 FT%

(4) Memphis Grizzlies
No. 5 C Marreese Speights
Season: 4th
Averages: 22.4 mins., 8.8 pts., 6.2 rebs., 0.8 asst., 0.5 blk., .453 FG%, .771 FT%

(6) Denver Nuggets
No. 13 SF Corey Brewer
Season: 5th
Averages: 21.8 mins., 8.9 pts., 2.5 rebs., 1.2 stl., 434 FG%, .260 3P%, .692 FT%

Playoff teams without Gators on their rosters: (3) Indiana, (4) Boston, (6) Orlando, (7) New York, (8) Philadelphia, (2) Oklahoma City, (3) Los Angeles Lakers, (5) Los Angeles Clippers, (7) Dallas, (8) Utah

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1/30: Murphy developing, Pitchford injured

The No. 11/12 Florida Gators earned two big wins last week and are looking to build on their resume with another two-games-in-three-days stretch this upcoming Thursday-Saturday. Head coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Monday to discuss his team is progressing approximately a third of the way into the 2012 SEC slate.


Lost in junior guard Kenny Boynton’s sharpshooting, sophomore center Patric Young’s vast improvement and freshman G Bradley Beal’s emergence is the terrific play of junior forward Erik Murphy this season. Shooting a team-high 48.5 percent from beyond the arc while averaging double figures (10.6 points) and leading the Gators in blocked shots (1.3 per game), Murphy has stepped up his game and proved that he deserves his spot in the starting lineup.

“He definitely brings a different element because he’s got great size and can shoot the ball,” Donovan said Monday. “With the way big guys are going to have to rotate defensively, I think Erik, a lot of times, puts you in a little bit of a bind because of his ability to step away from the basket and shoot. I think he is one of the better three-point shooters on our team. He’s confident in that, and I’m confident in him shooting the ball. Like a Matt Bonner, maybe even a Greg Stolt years ago, those guys are able to present a different set of challenges for the defense.”

Asked to compare Murphy and Bonner, Donovan actually said the former “may be a better shooter” if you were to look at the level both were playing at during their junior years. “I’m not sure Bonner wants to hear that but that’s OK,” he joked.

Even though Donovan is beyond happy with Murphy’s play, he believes that his form could be improved – not that it is actually affecting his shot – as could his recognition.

“He tilts his head a little bit when he shoots, which I don’t necessarily like, but I think when you’re dealing with a guy like that who has shot the ball that way his whole entire life, the reason I think he is a good shooter is because of the way it comes out of his hands,” he said. “He’s got great follow through, he’s got great rotation, and he gets the ball into an area where there’s not a whole lot of movement. But if you watch him, he always tilts his head a little bit. Him doing that probably hasn’t disrupted his shot a whole lot, but he has great rotation and a great follow through.

“His biggest problem sometimes is when the ball finds him quickly. Sometimes he’s got to get himself ready to shoot and there’s times I thought he could have taken 3-4 more three-point shots in the first half that he passed up because he wasn’t ready to shoot.”


Freshman F Walter Pitchford, who has barely played this season and was not expected to see minutes going forward, will not even be able to practice with the team for up to two weeks after spraining his right wrist in a scooter accident on Sunday. According to UF’s Chris Harry, Pitchford “tried to break on the bike and prevent hitting a vehicle in front of him” but instead “rolled the scooter sideways to the ground, injuring his wrist and scrap[ing] his arm badly hitting the pavement.”

Donovan said the loss of Pitchford is rough because it will halt his personal development for the time being; however, he is rarely used during the main portions of practice and should not help the team’s five-on-five scrimmages.


Donovan spoke at length about a number of Florida’s players Monday.

Young and his recent stint coming off the bench: “It’s helped our team. I think Patric’s come off the bench and he’s added a different element and a different boost to our team. It takes a pretty humble kid, as good as he is as a player, to do that, but I also feel like it’s my job and responsibility to make sure that in whatever role that he’s in, he’s a vital and important piece to our team and that we figure out how to best put him in the position where he feels like he can play his best. I don’t know if that’s coming off the bench or not. I just know that he’s been comfortable with it.”

Boynton and his low-scoring affair Saturday: “At the end of the day, I think it’s good for Kenny that happened because it at least demonstrates that we don’t need one person to score. I’ve got a lot of confidence in Kenny. I was really impressed with the way he played the game because he didn’t really force any shots, he didn’t try to create things that weren’t there. [...] Kenny knows he’s got freedom to be aggressive, to go out there and play, but I also think it was a great lesson for our team that on any given night, anything can happen.”

On senior point guard Erving Walker’s impact: “You always have to account for him on the floor because he’s a proven scorer in this league. You always have to account for him wherever he’s at on the floor because he has such deep range. Erving, as many times as he can eliminate those drives to the basket, leaving his feet and getting caught in no man’s land and making a crazy shot or a crazy pass that leads to a turnover or a bad shot. When he eliminates those things and gets in the lane and makes good decisions, it opens things up.”

On sophomore F Will Yeguete’s defensive skills: “Will has got a great base defensively. He has got great feet, and he’s got exceptionally long arms. I would say another thing with Will is he is not afraid of contact and he can physically put his body in place. [...] Once Will gets a guy in the area of the floor where it’s away from the basket, he’s good enough physically to take on contact and obviously he is really good with his hands in terms of slapping and deflecting balls. He’s a really good defender – as good of a post defender as I’ve had since we’ve been here. He takes great pride in taking in those challenges.” On how he’s improved from a year ago: “He was pretty raw. The things he did defensively were the same things he did a year ago. His biggest problem a year ago was that he led our team in turnovers per minute. It became very difficult to play him because when he touched the ball there was a good chance that he was going to turn it over. He’s gotten better with his decision-making. He’s gotten better with his passes, but he still has some lapses there.”


» On Florida’s improved assist-to-turnover ratio over the last five games: “It’s something we’ve always preached, something we’ve always talked about from day one. Even going back to preseason, I talked about Erving Walker and his role and what he needed to do. I do think when you have somewhat of a new team it does take time to learn each other and get better with each other. We’ve gotten better in that area – understanding what’s open and what’s available and how to utilize each other. That’s really important when you want to have a team that has balanced scoring. We do have several guys averaging double-figures, and I think that’s a product of guys understanding each other. Sometimes when you’ve got new guys it takes a little bit of time to get to that point but I think our backcourt guys and our perimeter and post players are doing a better job of making decisions. We’ve been unselfish. I never felt like our unselfishness was ever a problem. I thought at times our decision making was a problem and the last few games we’ve gotten better with our assist-to-turnover ratio. We’ve done a really good job there.”

» On the Gators stepping up defensively:
“They’re trying defensively. I was really pleased with them on such a quick turnaround, getting in late after the game on Thursday against Ole Miss and really having a couple hours to prepare and really not having much time at all on the day of the game because it was a 1:45 game.”

» On Florida’s turnovers previously being an issue in their losses: “I don’t think that you ever want to turn the ball over – that’s never good, and it’s not going to help you in any way. There’s a lot of ingredients that go into winning, too. Certainly turnovers are important, how well you shoot the ball, how well you defend, how well you rebound. But I think that when you do go on the road and turn the ball over a lot, that makes it that much more difficult to go on the road and win.”

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