FOUR BITS: Miller, Haslem win; Swamp; Young

1 » Former Florida Gators guard Mike Miller and power forward Udonis Haslem celebrated mightily Thursday evening as their team, the Miami Heat, captured the 2012 NBA Championship with a 4-1 series victory over Oklahoma City. The title is Miller’s first but Haslem’s second as he was also a member of the Miami team that won the 2006 championship. It is the second-straight year that a former Florida player will receive an NBA ring as G Corey Brewer captured one during his short stay with Dallas in 2011. Haslem averaged approximately three points and five rebounds in 18 minutes per game in the Finals, while Miller saw much less court time in the series but had a fantastic Game 5 with 23 points on 7-of-8 shooting from downtown.

2 » Following up on a BIT from early Thursday, which noted that Florida has the eighth-most players selected in the NBA Draft since 2002 and one-fifth of all Southeastern Conference players selected, is this chart from the Wall Street Journal, which notes that the Gators 10 NBA players played the sixth-most total minutes of any school in the league this year. Florida’s players totaled 12,652 NBA minutes this year, slightly less than Arizona’s representatives but far fewer than Duke (21,609), UCLA (18,029), Kentucky (17,159) and North Carolina (16,904).

3 » Pictures of Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium being under construction have made their rounds on Twitter over the last few days, most of which consisted of an empty playing surface that consisted of dirt and machinery. The Gators officially announced the construction project on Thursday, noting that a new playing surface will be installed consisting of Celebration Bermuda grass rather than Tifway 419 Bermuda, which is what was in The Swamp previously. “Every seven to 10 years you need to completely renovate a grass field,” said Chip Howard, Florida’s senior associate athletics director of internal affairs. “Over the years of resodding and painting, the ground gets contaminated and the crown of the field gets thrown off a little bit just because of overuse.” To that end, UF has removed the turf and 6-8 inches of topsoil but will instal the new grass in July so it is ready in time for the beginning of the football season.

4 » All Gators fans are understandably excited about the inaugural Navy/Marines Corps Classic featuring Florida basketball facing Georgetown on Nov. 9 in Jacksonville, FL. But junior center Patric Young, a Jacksonville native, is perhaps even more pumped for the game. “It’s very exciting and pretty cool,” Young told The Florida Times-Union. “Hopefully, they’ll make special jerseys for the game. I know they did in last year’s game. It’s an honor and a great opportunity that only select teams get to have. […] It definitely adds to my excitement that the game is in my hometown. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of people while I’m there and having all my family there.” He is also excited about the potential opportunity to play in front of President Barack Obama should he choose to attend the game. “Normally, it doesn’t matter who is in the crowd,” Young said, “but when you are talking about the most powerful man in the free world, you think about that.”

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FOUR BITS: Miller, Capital One Cup, Black, Tebow

1 » Former Florida Gators guard/forward Mike Miller has denied a Monday ESPN report that said he plans to retire following the 2012 NBA Playoffs. “I’ll re-evaluate my health after the season. But I don’t have anything set up. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said, according to the Palm Beach Post. Miller has been the depiction of the walking wounded especially over the last two seasons. He had hernia surgery in the offseason which many believe stemmed from a serious back problem that continues to bother him. Miller had surgeries to correct problems with his wrist and thumb last summer and often has to lie down when not on the court to keep his back from tightening up. Despite his health issues, Miller has $18.6 million remaining on his contract over the next three seasons (the third year is a player option) and would be hard pressed to give that up; however, the newly established amnesty clause could be used on Miller to rid his team of his contract and likely send him into retirement.

2 » The latest standings have been released for the 2012 Capital One Cup and Florida (89 points) currently has an 11-point lead in the men’s category coming in that many points ahead of LSU with one sport left to play. The Gators are currently participating in the 2012 College World Series (LSU is not) along with sixth-placed UCLA (64) points, 17th-placed Arkansas (39 points), 25th-placed Arizona (30 points) and 28th-placed Florida State (29) points. Schools earn points for top ten finishes in NCAA Championships and final official coaches’ polls with baseball being one of the largest scoring categories. In other words, Florida has not clinched victory and must at least finish quite high in the CWS to bring home the cup for the second-straight year (UF won the first-ever cup in 2011).

3 » Coming off an injury- and opportunity-shortened 2011 season, Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Ahmad Black is ready to prove Raheem Morris right in believing in him and going so far as to select him with a fifth-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft (even if Morris is no longer his head coach). “It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “We have a new coaching staff, so to get in here and learn the defense a little bit quicker and better – by the time the season comes around it [will be] a plus for us.” Black told the Pewter Report that he has been installed as the back-up free safety behind 16-year veteran Ronde Barber and should see plenty of playing time as he will likely be on the field both for dime packages and when Barber needs to take a spell. “When we go to dime, Ronde goes to the dime [cornerback] role and I go to free safety. I’ll do whatever [I can] for my team and do what’s best us,” he said.

4 » Prior to his team’s first mandatory minicamp practice on Tuesday, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan said matter-of-factly that quarterback Tim Tebow will solely be “running with the twos” while Mark Sanchez takes all of the snaps as starting signal caller. Though fans and media may be trying to create a quarterback controversy in New York, it appears as if the organization itself has remained steadfast in keeping Sanchez as the entrenched starter…for now.

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SIX BITS: Calathes, Hernandez, Noah, Tyus, Beal

1 » Following up on a story from May in which the Dallas Mavericks head of international scouting said that point guard Nick Calathes will have an opportunity to play in the NBA this season is word that he may actually get that chance. According to ESPNDallas.com’s Tim MacMahon, Calathes “had discussions with the Mavericks [last] week indicating that he wants to play in the NBA” but continues “to be heavily recruited by European teams” now that his three-year contract with Panathinaikos has officially expired. MacMahon notes that should Dallas bring Calathes in for summer league action, he would be signed to a nonguaranteed contract.

2 » Now that the New England Patriots have locked up 2010 first-round pick tight end Rob Gronkowski long term with a six-year, $53 million contract extension, the focus has turned to what the team will do with fellow 2010 draft picks second-round linebacker Brandon Spikes and fourth-round TE Aaron Hernandez. As noted by the Boston Herald, New England signing Gronkowski to the richest contract for a tight end in NFL history could pose problems for Hernandez’s future. Hernandez remains under contract with the team through the 2013 season and is set to earn less than $1 million in salary each season. Should the team decide to give him a franchise tender, it would only cost them around $6 million, making there no immediate need for the Patriots to extend Hernandez as they would be able to avoid tying up a ton of money into one position. A No. 1 tight end in most NFL offenses, Hernandez is basically No. 2 at that position for New England despite also seeing time in the backfield and out near the sideline as a wide receiver. He most likely feels that he deserves money equal to or surpassing Gronkowski, which means his long-term future may have him wearing a different uniform.

3 » Only two of the seven former Florida Gators that participated in first-round action in the 2012 NBA Playoffs remain in contention for a title. Miami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem and guard/forward Mike Miller both advanced to the NBA Finals over the weekend; Haslem is looking for his second ring while Miller is still pursuing his first.

4 » Speaking of the playoffs, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (who severely sprained his ankle during the first round) has yet to recover from his injury. “I’ve tried to play a little basketball, but it’s still a little sore,” he told French-language website Catch and Shoot. “My left leg is not at its best. I can’t push off it; I can’t run well. I’m not ready at all.” Noah has been saying all offseason – since the Bulls were eliminated – that his No. 1 priority is healing and improving the strength of his ankles and lower body so he can compete with the French National Team in the 2012 London Olympics. There is a way to go until the games begin, but Noah obviously has plenty of progress that he must make before being able to participate.

5 » Former Gators forward Alex Tyus, who has spent his first season out of college playing professionally for Maccabi Ashdod in Israel, learned recently that the country has granted him temporary citizenship, which will allow him to train and likely compete with the Israeli National Team in the 2013 European Qualification games. Tyus averaged 12.6 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in his rookie season and helped lead Ashdod to their league finals (where the team fell 83-63 to Maccabi Tel Aviv). He and his wife converted to Judaism prior to leaving for Israel last summer.

6 » According to his agent Mark Bartelstein, who spoke with CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman over the weekend, Florida freshman guard Bradley Beal has already scheduled three more workouts over the next seven days. Beal is set to work out for Washington (No. 3 overall) on Thursday, Cleveland (No. 4 and No. 24 overall) on Saturday and Charlotte (No. 2 overall) a week from Monday. The 2012 NBA Draft is set for June 28 giving Beal just over two weeks from press time to win over coaches and front office executives.

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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.

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

(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.

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

(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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SIX BITS: Tebow, Jenkins, Brewer, Thomas

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was named Wednesday to TIME Magazine’s 2012 list of The 100 Most Influential People in the World. Tebow can be found among names like President Barack Obama, Warren Buffett, Louis CK and New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, who penned a few paragraphs on Tebow.

Watching Tim Tebow play football, you can observe many things about his character. You see his fierce competitiveness, his strong work ethic and how he is a leader that his teammates trust and respect.

But it is the qualities that Tim, 24, embodies in his life off the field that truly set him apart. He is unashamed of his convictions and faith, and he lives a life that consistently reflects his values, day in and day out. Through his foundation, he constantly reaches out to people and communities in need of hope. He realizes what he has been blessed with and seeks to help those who are worse off. As athletes, we pour our hearts into winning games. Tim is a reminder that life is about much more than that.

2 » Denying reports that he continued smoking marijuana after being dismissed by Florida, cornerback Janoris Jenkins is emphatic that he has turned the corner in both his life and career. “I wasn’t smoking marijuana at North Alabama,” he told Scout.com’s Aaron Wilson. “If anybody wants to know, they can give my coaches a call. I wasn’t partying. They’ve been saying a lot of things about me that aren’t true without getting my side of the story. It’s been a humbling experience. You’ve got to be a man; you’ve got to be honest and straightforward. I’ve matured. My past is my past. People can judge me for how far I’ve come. I want to know why all of a sudden this is out there about me. Why didn’t it come out after the combine when I was straightforward with the scouts? The timing is very interesting to me.”

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Tebow, Jenkins, Brewer, Thomas

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FOUR Video BITS: Tebow, Legend, Diggs, Miller

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow was a guest on NBC‘s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Wednesday night/Thursday morning and sat down with the host to talk about the Tebowing phenomenon, Fallon’s parody of Tebow and David Bowie – “Tebowie,” and the charitable work he is doing. Tebow was introduced by The Roots playing “On Bended Knee” by Boyz II Men and concluded his segment by shooting a signed jersey into the crowd with at T-shirt gun.

2 » Speaking of television clips of Tebow, ESPN2‘s First Take has continued to make him a topic of conversation long after Denver’s season ended. This week the show featured singer/songwriter John Legend remixing one of his own tunes to create a song called “Extra-Ordinary Tebow.”

Continue Reading » FOUR Video BITS: Tebow, Legend, Diggs, Miller

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FOUR BITS: Fowler, Haskins, lacrosse, Miller

1 » Five-star defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. (St. Petersburg, FL), who the Florida Gators have continued to pursue even though he has been committed to the Florida State Seminoles since Dec. 5, 2010, hosted five Florida coaches at his house Thursday night. In attendance were head coach Will Muschamp, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, linebackers coach D.J. Durkin , cornerbacks coach Travaris Robinson and tight ends coach Derek Lewis. According to The Gainesville Sun, the Gators coaches gave him plenty to think about. “I don’t know where I’m going,” he told the paper after saying last week he was still 100 percent committed to Florida State. “Not yet. I need this week to think about it. It’s gonna be pretty hard. I’m making a decision that’s gonna stick with me for the rest of my life.” Even though Fowler has remained committed to FSU for over a year, he has visited UF unofficially on a number of occasions.

On Thursday he also took the picture above wearing the Gators’ No. 6 jersey. With a family mostly full of Seminoles fans, Fowler previously felt pressure (especially from his father) to go to Tallahassee, FL for college. Now he knows it is all up to him. “My family really doesn’t care which one I go to now,” he said. “I’m making this decision on my own. My parents and coaches already talked with me, so now it’s my time to make the last call. It’s up to me. I finally get to call some shots.” Fowler will announce his decision on National Signing Day at 10 a.m.

2 » As noted Tuesday evening, Florida has hired Jon Haskins as the team’s new director of player personnel. UF senior writer Scott Carter has since composed a feature on Haskins, who explained what his role will be with the Gators and how he can impact the program from the office. “At the end of the day the head coach is the one who pulls the trigger on who he wants to bring into this program,’’ Haskins said referring to his assistance in recruiting. “We set the table. What really matters is that two days into camp, our coaches feel like, ‘that kid is going to be really good here.’ And then a year later you really have an idea of how he is going to fit long term in your program. When people think about recruiting, they think it’s the sexy stuff – the meet-and-greets and the visits. In reality, in my opinion, it’s more of an interview process. It’s really trying to give our coaches what they want however they want to attack recruiting.”

3 » Though it was only an exhibition match, No. 5 Florida lacrosse absolutely routed England 17-2 on Thursday with the team’s freshmen scoring 12 goals in the contest. Junior attacker Gabi Wiegand scored five goals on seven shots and also had two assists on the evening. Freshman midfielder Nicole Graziano scored four times on five shots, and junior A Kitty Cullen scored thrice on nine shots. The Gators will begin regular season action on Feb. 11 at North Carolina.

4 » Miami Heat guard/forward Mike Miller is set to sell his oceanfront mansion in Hillsboro Shores, FL to the highest bidder in a Feb. 25 auction. The property, which was once worth $12 million, will go on sale with a suggested opening bid of $4.5 million. How ridiculous is the home? The three-story mansion has six bedrooms, eight full bathrooms, two half-bathrooms, two gourmet kitchens, a home theater, a ventilated and climate-controlled wine/cigar room, a game parlor, a wet bar, an elevator, a swim-up bar with a grill, a hot tub, a fire pit and an outdoor entertainment lounge with dual waterfalls, a large plasma TV and a second summer kitchen. The entire property is nearly 13,000 square feet. Interested in learning more and placing a bid? First donate some money to OGGOA and then click here to view the listing. (Thanks to OGGOA reader Charlie B. for the heads-up.)

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