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.
For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2011 (check out Saturday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players ending their accomplished careers to coaches and current players being part of some of the biggest news stories this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2011. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 11 Off the Field Stories of the Year.
11 » LEGAL ISSUES/EMBARRASSMENTS HANG OVER PROGRAM
Like 2009 and 2010, Florida could not escape its share of unfortunate arrests and embarrassing incidents in 2011. It started simply enough early in February when a pair of Gators swimmers – Lily Ramirez and Daniela Victoria – were arrested and indefinitely suspended from the team after being accused of shoplifting from Nordstrom at the Orlando Mall. Next up was Florida senior outfielder Bryson Smith, who was picked up on March 13 for driving under the influence. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy was arrested in Gainesville, FL three weeks later and charged with a trio of misdemeanors for failing to obey a police officer, possession of a drug (Viagra) without a valid prescription and resisting arrest without violence. The month of April was a tough one for the basketball team. Forwards Erik Murphy and Cody Larson were arrested in St. Augustine, FL and charged with third-degree felony burglary charges after allegedly breaking into a car, and team manager Josh Adel was also arrested for principal to burglary for allegedly serving as a lookout. Charges against the players were eventually reduced and each settled their respective case, while Adel had all charges against him dropped. Additionally, former Florida F Dan Wener was charged with a DUI even though he blew below the legal limit (0.08) on the Breathalyzer twice. The State Attorney’s Office eventually dropped his charges due to insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.
Unfortunately the year of brushes with the law was just getting started for the Gators. It surfaced on April 24 via a news report that both linebacker Chris Martin and defensive end Kendric Johnson were cited with misdemeanors for possessing approximately two grams of marijuana each in their respective vehicles on separate occasions. Former Florida WR Reche Caldwell was arrested one month later for possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license. Gators runner Andries Dumisane Hlaselo had the darkest arrest of the year, being picked up in June after being accused of rape and sexual assault. He was immediately dismissed from the team. The Florida football team had the remainder of the year’s arrests. Sophomore safety Matt Elam was cited for underage drinking for the second time in as many years in July, and an August report noted that freshman defensive back De’Ante Saunderswas cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in May. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finely was arrested on Sept. 13 on a first-degree misdemeanor for driving a scooter with a suspended license as well as a third-degree felony for resisting arrest without violence, and freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson was served with a written arrest for underage drinking just one day later. Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley had the last brush with the law of 2011 as he was accused of attacking a former Alabama player early in October but was cleared of the charges one month later. All-in-all, for every positive thing accomplished by the Gators in 2011, there always seemed to be something negative about the program just around the corner.
10 » SIX BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY; THREE SUFFER SERIOUS MEDICAL ISSUES DURING THE YEAR
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2011 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place or suffered through serious medical issues in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon or had plenty to deal with as the year went on. Jimmy Carnes (76), a former Gators track and field coach, passed away in March after losing a four-year battle with prostate cancer. Former linebacker/safety and three-time Super Bowl winner Godfrey Myles (42) suffered a massive heart attack in June and, while in the hospital on life support, had a stroke that took his life. Former punter and 12-year NFL veteran Don Chandler (76) also lost a long battle with cancer in August. Mike Heimerdinger (58), who was diagnosed with cancer early in the year, passed away in October. He was a former graduate assistant and wide receivers coach at Florida and won consecutive SEC titles with the team from 1984-85. Ending the year on a sad note, beloved Gainesville, FL businessman and former Gators long snapper Harold Monk III (42) died suddenly in December. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.
Florida freshman linebacker Neiron Ball was the first of three members of the Gators family to suffer serious health issues during the year. He was rushed to the hospital in February after a blood vessel in his brain ruptured as part of a congenital vascular condition. The doctors were able to stop the bleeding and Ball was released from the hospital four days later, but he was forced to miss the entire season for recovery purposes. In the middle of the year, Miami Heat guard/forward Mike Miller was lucky enough to have his wife give birth to a daughter named Jaylen. Unfortunately for the family, she was forced to spend two weeks in a pediatric intensive care unit after doctors found that she had five holes in her heart upon being born. The Millers eventually brought Jaylen home with them in a bit of a coincidence considering they actually donated $1 million to a pediatric intensive care unit at children’s hospital in his home town in 2007. Later that month, former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which he is currently still recovering from and will continue to do so over the next few months.
The shortened 2011-12 NBA season is set to tip-off on Sunday with 10 former Florida Gators standouts on professional rosters. Some won National Championships while wearing the Orange & Blue, others went undrafted, but all want to prove that the Florida basketball program has and can produce legitimate NBA stars.
Al Horford, F/C, Atlanta Hawks
- 2010-11: Averaging career highs in points (15.3), field goal percentage (.557), assists (3.5) and minutes (35.1), Horford also contributed 9.3 rebounds and 1.0 block per game last year. He led his team to the second round of the playoffs for the third-straight season; nlike the previous two years, the Hawks were not swept but rather fell 4-2.
- 2011-12: The Godfather was named a captain in Atlanta one year ago and wound up earning his second-straight NBA All-Star nod as a reserve. The Hawks resigned him to a five-year, $60 million extension in Nov. 2010, and he enters this season as one of the team’s two best and most popular players.
Joakim Noah, C, Chicago Bulls
- 2010-11: Averaging a double-double with career highs in points (11.7), field goal percentage (.525), assists (2.2) and minutes (32.8), Noah was also good for 10.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steal per game. He only played in 48 games due to having two surgeries for ligament damage in his hand and a right thumb injury but helped lead Chicago to the conference finals where the Bulls lost 4-1 in five games.
- 2011-12: Noah was rewarded by Chicago for his hard work with a five-year, $60 million extension last offseason. His defense and shot blocking makes him an elite big man in the league and he will be a key piece for the Bulls this season as they hope to earn a spot in the NBA Finals.
David Lee, F/C, Golden State Warriors
- 2010-11: Falling just short of a double-double average aver accomplishing that feat in consecutive seasons with the New York Knicks, Lee contributed 16.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.0 steal per game in 36.1 minutes on average last season. He shot 50.7 percent from the floor and 78.7 percent from the line in 73 games after missing nine due to an elbow injury that got infected.
- 2011-12: Lee agreed to a six-year, $80 million contract with Golden State after being traded from New York before last season and shined as a efficient big man in an up-tempo offense. His numbers fell because he was not relied upon as heavily with the Warriors, but he should have ample opportunities to showcase his talent.
1 » Even though his recent hernia surgery will keep him out for up to two months, Miami Heat forward Mike Miller said Tuesday that he is “pretty secure” in his future with the team. Miller, who has four years remaining on his contract with the Heat, is thinking about getting healthy much more than he is about possibly being waived. “I’ve been in this league now 12 years,” he told the Associated Press. “I’ve been traded 675 times. First time I’ve been amnestied, but you get used to it. You do what you can. I’ve always done the same things. I prepare myself to play every year. Whether it’s where I’m at or it’s a different place, that’s how I’ve always looked at it. Put yourself in the best position to succeed when you’re there.”
2 » The gift package for the 2012 Gator Bowl was announced this week and the Florida Gators will each get five different items when they travel to Jacksonville, FL in the coming weeks. Every player will receive a Fossil watch, Gator Gear performance headwear, rolling luggage bag, Jostens ring and commemorative football. Many other packages feature electronics like video game systems, iPods and televisions or gift certificates so players can pick out whatever they want.
3 » A fake movie trailer showcasing Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow‘s progression from college star to doubted professional to successful signal caller has been making the rounds recently. You can check it out below:
4 » Florida senior setter/right side Kelly Murphy was featured in a story by ESPNW.com’s Mick Elliott Wednesday about her going into a special zone while on the court no matter how stressful the situation. Since Murphy joined the Gators, the team is 107-17 and has won two SEC Championships while making it to the NCAA Tournament all four years. Murphy has one more chance to win the big one with Florida, something she’s striving to do as the team begins Sweet 16 action on Friday. “I came here because I wanted to win a national championship,” she said. “To finally do that, that would mean everything. That’s the one goal that I’ve always wanted.” Head coach Mary Wise also praised her ability both as a player and leader. “A unique talent,” Wise said. “She has a picture-perfect arm swing coming from a 6-foot-2 left-hander. She has great court vision and great arm speed. That by itself would be enough to make her a special talent. But then she has one of the best deliveries and touches on the ball…of any setter in the college game. She makes it look effortless.” No matter how the season ends, Murphy will always be remembered as one of the best volleyball players ever to wear the orange and blue.
5 » Murphy was one of two Gators – the other being senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel – to earn a spot on the 2011 AVCA Division I South Region Team, the organization announced Tuesday. Two of the best players ever to suit up for Florida, Murphy and Jaeckel are now automatically eligible to be named AVCA All-Americans due to their selections to the regional team.
6 » Three Gators soccer players were listed on the 2011 NSCAA All-South Region team on Thursday. Juniors midfielder Erika Tymrak and defender Kathryn Williamson were named to the first team, while junior MF Holly King earned second-team recognition. Tymrak and Williamson were also given All-SEC first team nods, while King was placed on the second team.
1 » Former Florida Gators student-athlete Ryan Lochte, a six-time Olympic medalist who is arguably the best male swimmer in the United States, received Kelly Anderson’s nomination for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year award, which will be announced by the publication on Dec. 6. “Lochte may soon leave a mark on the sport that’s far more permanent than fading footprints on the pool deck,” Anderson wrote about her nomination. Lochte is the second former Florida athlete to receive a nomination for Sportsman of the Year. Former Gators striker Abby Wambach, the leader of the U.S. in the 2011 Women’s World Cupwas touted by SI’s Chris Mahr on Nov. 1.
2 » Former Florida forward Udonis Haslem, one of two ex-Gators on the Miami Heat last season, told reporters Thursday that teammate guard Mike Miller had hernia surgery a few days ago and will miss at least two months of action. “I know Mike. He’s a strong guy, he’s going to stay positive and he’s going to get back as soon as he can,” Haslem said, according to the Associated Press. “The key with Mike is, we’ve got to fight him not to get back too fast. He’s going to want to be out there. He’s going to want to play. He’s got to just pace himself and get healthy.” Miller, who was supposed to be a key part of Miami’s team but only saw action in 41 regular season games last season due to a number of injuries, may have sealed his fate with the Heat. He could be a victim of the NBA’s new amnesty clause, which allows each team to waive one player and not have his contract count against their salary cap.
3 » One night before the Denver Broncos captured their fourth consecutive win, quarterback Tim Tebow addressed the team at the request of head coach John Fox. The Denver Post reports that Tebow’s speech included a quote from the Bible: “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” This hit home with his teammates, notably rookie linebacker Von Miller, one of the team’s best players this season. “He said iron sharpens iron and men sharpen other men. And I think that’s totally true,” he said. “He gave us a great speech. We came out fired up. And that was a wrap.” Tebow told the paper that he was honored to be asked by Fox to speak to the team. “It was a powerful speech. It was motivating. You had guys cheering by the end of the speech,” tight end Dante Rosario told NFL Network.
4 » Wide receiver Riley Cooper is set to make his third-straight start for the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday in place of injured starter Jeremy Maclin and has performed quite admirably during his first two appearances., catching eight balls for 146 yards and a touchdown. He spoke to NFL Network a few days ago about how comfortable he has become in the offense catching passes from QB Vince Young. “Being the fourth guy, I was with Vince a lot, especially during training camp because I ran with the twos,” he said. “We have a lot of chemistry. We were in the huddle a lot together. He’s one of my really good friends, and I love the fact that he keeps throwing the ball up to me and allowing me to make plays.” You can watch the rest of Cooper’s “Around the League” interview by clicking here.
Through the 2011 NBA Draft, Florida Gators forward and 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the YearChandler Parsons will be keeping fans up-to-date on his Path to the Draft via a weekly blog entry exclusively here at OGGOA.
Jet-setting across the country working out for nearly every team in the league, Parsons got in touch with us Tuesday while spending a rare day off in New Jersey. After working out for five teams in eight days, he finally found an opportunity to rest before wrapping up workouts on the east and heading out for a West Coast swing. Parsons will be all over the country from now until June 20 but will continue checking in with us each week.
We last spoke with Parsons the night before his workout with the Miami Heat.
The Miami workout went great. That was during the NBA Finals, but it was cool because [team president] Pat Riley was there. There were six people there – two wings, two guards and two bigs – and it was very competitive. We got to play a lot of three-on-three and two-on-two; it was the same thing as every other workout. We went for an hour to an hour-and-a-half doing different drills that tested our conditioning and ability. Like I’ve said before, now they just want to see you compete. They’ve seen me play for four years, so they really just want to see me get after it and get a chance to see me in person.
After a workout, you interview with the teams and they basically ask you the same kind of questions I got asked at the combine. Just about your upbringing, my game on- and off-the-court, and things like that. Pat Riley was right there on the court going through the drills with us. It was real cool that they’re going through a lot in the Finals but he still has time to go there and find someone he wants for the draft this year.
There was an article where a Miami reporter asked [Udonis] Haslem and Mike Miller about me. He got quotes from them about me in the draft and stuff, about how the Heat really like me.
“I asked how the workout went. They said it went well,” forward Mike Miller said. “I like Chandler, he brings a lot to the table, sort of a jack of all trades. Sort of like me, I guess.”
The Heat’s other former Gator also has a rooting interest.
“A very versatile kid, about 6-9, 6-10, can shoot it, can put it on the floor,” power forward Udonis Haslem said. “He can pretty much do it all.”
After that I went to Houston and Houston was by far the hardest workout. They basically put two hours on the clock and we ran it all the way down. It was non-stop competing. Full-court. A lot of running and shooting. Just basically staying active and competing for two-straight hours with limited breaks and limited teaching. It was very hot in the gym. It was two hours long, which is brutal. And all of the traveling catches up to you. It’s just tiring going at each other that hard for that long. It gave us a chance to show what kind of shape we were in, but that one was definitely tiring.
I’m mostly getting different match-ups [at each workout]. In Miami I had Carleton Scott from Notre Dame, and in Houston I had Jordan Hamilton from Texas. From Houston I went to Charlotte, which was a stacked workout. It was basically the top six small forwards in the draft. It was me, Kawhi Leonard from San Diego State, Chris Singleton from Florida State, Tobias Harris from Tennessee, Tyler Honeycutt from UCLA and Jordan Hamilton from Texas. That was a huge confidence builder for me, because that one I think was my best workout.
[Majority owner] Michael Jordan was right there and I’m joking with Michael Jordan and getting taught by Michael Jordan throughout the whole workout. You read about these guys and they get a lot of hype, and these guys have a lot of talent and they’re really good, but after going there and workout out against those guys I have confidence that I’m just as good as any small forward in this draft. This draft is wide open, and they had great things to say to my agent about me after that workout.
Charlotte was a blast – the best workout – played great and very confident. At one point during the workout I dunked, and [Jordan] looked at me and laughed, ‘White guys aren’t supposed to dunk.’ Literally like two plays after that, I caught a tip dunk and just kind of looked at him. Everybody started laughing; it was pretty funny.
Chicago was also a really good [workout]. What was tough about Chicago was it was literally the day after Charlotte. After my workout with Charlotte, I got on a plane, got in late to Chicago that night, woke up the next morning at 7 a.m. and have to play again for the Bulls, which are known traditionally for having a very tough workout. And it was very tough. I didn’t see Scottie Pippen this time [he did at the combine], but I saw [vice president] John Paxton, coach [Tom] Thibodeau and the GM [Gar Forman]. They had a lot of people there. That workout I went against Chris Wright from Dayton and David Lightly from Ohio State.
[Getting a day off] today is huge for me. It’s the first time I feel like I’ve been able to sleep in a long time. I got to sleep in, went to Subway and got a good, healthy meal and stayed off my feet. I went to the Nets practice facility a little bit ago just to get some shots up, nothing tough, just to shoot the ball and get used to the gym and their rim. It was nice to get my wind back and be able to relax for a day, not have to wake up early, go through the workouts. It was good to have an off-day.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Q:Do you agree with the belief that it is not so much about how many shots a player makes during the workouts you are participating in but rather that the evaluators are looking at your form, shot motion and decision making? Is that actually the case? PARSONS: “That’s 100 percent true, even in spot shooting and drills. Scouts and GMs have been watching me play for four years. They know I can shoot the ball, they know I can dribble the ball, they know I can pass the ball. They want to see me – in the workout and this setting – how physical I am, how tough I play, how aggressive I play. They want to see – if I have an open shot – if I’m smart enough to make the extra pass to get someone else a better look. They basically look at all of your tools. The ball going in the basket literally is the last thing they look at. They want a guy who can shoot the ball has great form and has a good shot. That’s not going to be a problem. They want someone who understands the game and who just competes every drill and doesn’t take a play off.”
Ending what was undoubtedly a stressful episode for the family, Miami Heat and former Florida Gators guard/forward Mike Miller and his wife Jennifer were able to bring their newborn daughter, Jaelyn, home from a South Florida hospital last Saturday.
Jaylen had spent just under two weeks in a pediatric intensive care unit because doctors found that she had five holes in her heart upon being born. Even with Jaylen on his mind, Miller has been playing a big role for Miami, which is up 2-1 in the 2011 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
In an interesting twist to the story, Miller and his wife actually donated $1 million to a children’s hospital in his South Dakota hometown in 2007. There is a wing of the hospital called the Mike and Jennifer Miller Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. ABC told this story in a piece that ran at halftime of Sunday night’s game.
1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow’s new memoir, Through My Eyes was released Tuesday, but the number of fans who camped outside (yes, spent the night) waiting for him at a Books-A-Million absolutely stunned the Heisman Trophy winner. “It’s extremely humbling,” he told The Florida Times-Union. “I take it as a huge responsibility that people care that much about me and [I] really try to make it worth it for them, really try to make them feel special for doing it.” Tebow also spoke with the paper a little bit about the content of the book, which OGGOA should receive from the publisher for review on Tuesday. “It wasn’t just about football stories,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s more about inspiring kids to go out there and try to live their dream, and go after it and live with passion. That’s a lot of what it’s about, so hopefully, people will take it that way.”
2 » Back in Gainesville, FL after suffering a minor concussion during the No. 2 Florida Gators baseball team’s elimination game in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament in Hoover, AL, sophomore left-handed pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson is doing his best to recover quickly and get back on the field. Speaking with Florida Today, Johnson’s father said his son “is fine” and underwent a number of tests on Monday to evaluate his post-concussion symptoms. He is considered day-to-day for the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, which begins on Thursday. The paper reports…
He had base line testing while playing for a U.S. all-star team last summer so doctors are able to do comparisons, to make sure he returns to normal before playing again. UF is also consulting with noted Pittsburgh neuropsychologist Michael Collins.
3 » Discussing with Miami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem and guard Mike Miller their time playing for Florida, the Palm Beach Post’s Ethan Skolnick got the duo to open up about how head coach Billy Donovan ended up helping them form a bond. It all started when he called both players into his office. “Coach Donovan, was like, ‘You know, if the season started today, I couldn’t play neither one of you guys,’” Haslem told Skolnick. “That wasn’t the exact words he used. You got to get your, um, ‘S’ together. Because I just thought I was doing the best academic job in the world, and obviously I wasn’t. And neither was [Miller]. I don’t know what his excuse was. But, at that point, Mike and I bonded from there.”
Haslem even had Miller’s back when an incident occurred with an unnamed football player. “I had a football player that, um, that didn’t really like me,” Miller said with a smile. “For unknown reasons. And UD put an end to that.” Haslem remembered, “Yeah, I just let the guy know, if you got a problem with Mike, you got a problem with me. The guy never bothered Mike again.”
4 » Talk surrounding the 2011 NBA Draft from a Gators perspective has mostly focused on forward Chandler Parsons, who could be picked anywhere from the teens to the mid-second round. Parsons, who has been going around the country doing private workouts after successfully competing in the NBA Combine and select group camp in Minnesota, is not the only former Florida player eligible to be selected. Center Vernon Macklin, according to the Indianapolis Star, is one of six former college players working out for the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. Macklin is projected to be a late second-round pick or go undrafted.
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