FOUR BITS: Noah, basketball, Eckstein, Robinson

1 » Despite being sidelined for a large portion of the preseason with a groin injury, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah told reporters Sunday that he is “100 percent” sure he will be active for his team’s season opener on Tuesday. Noah has not played more than 66 games in an NBA regular season since 2008-09, but he posted career-highs of 11.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.1 blocks last year.

2 » Florida Gators basketball held a “secret” scrimmage on Saturday against Georgia Tech in Valdosta, GA. Though no official score was kept and no one in attendance is allowed to discuss either the outcome or news from the scrimmage, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman (citing a source) reported that both Gators point guards – senior Scottie Wilbekin and freshman Kasey Hill – stood out as the most impressive players on the court. Additionally, as expected, senior forward Will Yeguete (knee) was sidelined while junior guard Eli Carter (leg) saw limited action.

3 » Former Florida shortstop David Eckstein received a shout-out on a recent episode of NBC’s Parks & Recreation, which just so happens to be OnlyGators.com’s favorite active sitcom (though it is unfathomably on hiatus at this time). The law firm plaque utilized in the last episode to air includes a number of sabermetric measurements along with Eckstein’s name. (Image courtesy of Deadspin.com)


And how did Eckstein respond? By making a fake commercial for said law firm, of course.

4 » 2014 five-star forward Devin Robinson (Christchurch, VA) will make his verbal commitment official on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m., and Florida has been after him hard as of late. Not only did Robinson pay a visit to Gainesville, FL, on Oct. 11, head coach Billy Donovan went in-home with the 20th ranked player in the nation just five days later and has definitely made an impression on the young man. Indiana is believed to be UF’s main competitor for Robinson, and head coach Tom Crean (who had assistants visit Robinson previously) smartly delayed his in-home visit with the prospect until night before he makes his decision. Robinson took his official visit to IU on Oct. 4.

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15 Gator Bites for Wednesday, September 11

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. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Jeff Demps missed the entire offseason while running track but officially joined the team on Monday in hopes of earning a roster spot and playing football in 2013. The Buccaneers have a roster exemption or Demps, who will have one full week to prove his worth and take one of the 53 available spots or else be released by Tampa Bay. Though the Bucs will certainly see what Demps can do for them, head coach Greg Schiano was perturbed a few weeks ago when asked where Demps was in the world and why he had not reported at the time.

» Former Florida Gators forward Cody Larson, who lost his scholarship and then quit the basketball team before the 2012-13 season but remained at Florida for academics, transferred to play for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in May and had a waiver to play immediately accepted by the NCAA this month. “We want to thank the committee and the NCAA for taking the time to look at Cody’s waiver,” head coach Scott Nagy said in a school release. “We appreciate the fact that this ruling allows him the opportunity to be eligible to compete immediately.” Larson will have two years of NCAA eligibility remaining but has not played college basketball in two full seasons.

» One of the greatest tennis players in school history, Jill Craybas has decided to retire at age 39 after spending the last 18 years playing professional tennis. One of two Florida women to win the NCAA Singles Championship, Craybas captured the title in 1996 while leading the Gators women’s program to the team NCAA Championship that same season. Inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame as a Gator Great in 2008, Craybas never won a Grand Slam title but advanced to the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2005 after shocking Serena Williams 6-3, 7-6 in the Round of 16 that year. She also represented the United States in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “It’s a really tough decision to make because it’s been part of your life for so long. But I feel like lately my priorities have been starting to change, I’ve been starting to want other things in my life,” she told Tennis Panorama about her retirement decision. “I really struggled this past year with my tennis and how I was doing. I started pursuing some other things and started getting interested in other things, but it’s never an easy decision. You never know when you want to stop, but you kind of come to terms with it sooner or later.”

Check out 12 more Gator Bites…after the break!
Continue Reading » 15 Gator Bites for Wednesday, September 11

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FOUR BITS: Harvin, Hill, Beal, Zunino

1 » Though he will officially get a second opinion about his injured hip on Tuesday, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin is expected to be able to avoid surgery. According to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, the “conservative Seahawks doctors … believe the injury isn’t season-threatening” and are allowing him to get a specialist to look at his hip as a method of showing their trust in the player. “Percy’s a confidence player – he needs to feel good about his condition and himself,” a “Seattle source” told King. “This time should give him the best chance to feel right entering the season.” Harvin may (1) not need surgery, just a cortisone shot and some rest, (2) need minor surgery that would force him to miss some time, or (3) need season-ending surgery, which is considered doubtful at this point. This may be about Harvin being a “confidence player,” but it may also be about Harvin following his career-long trend of doing whatever he believes is necessary to sit out training camps and practices.

2 » New York Giants safety Will Hill candidly admitted on Sunday that his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy was for a positive marijuana test from last season. Hill said he failed more than one test and appealed the suspension but ultimately lost. He later explained that he started using drugs again because he felt a massive amount of stress. “It’s from family members, to everyone reaching their hand out thinking I’m an ATM, and people who think you owe them something. It was just a situation where I was visiting my hometown and a guy pulled a shotgun out on me right there in a park for some money. How do you deal with those situations? You really can’t, so I just dealt with it the best way I knew how,” he said.

Hill said he has not used any drugs since his last positive test and accepted the Giants’ offer to send him to a rehabilitation facility in Boston, MA. He was in rehab in March and April and went to an outpatient facility in Parsippany, NJ. “I talked to the team and they just told me to keep on moving forward, keep being positive,” Hill said. “Just take the suspension and leave it at that and don’t’ have any more mishaps.”

3 » Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal was unable to participate in USA Basketball’s most recent minicamp as he is still recovering from a stress fracture in his leg, but he told The Washington Post last week that he will continue to pursue representing his country and will remain involved with the program going forward. He also noted that, after three months on the shelf, he will begin participating in live contact work within the next week or two and will be 100 percent by the time his team’s training camp starts in approximately two months. “I have to take it slow. That’s the reason I didn’t participate [at Team USA minicamp]. I didn’t want to force the issue and end up being reinjured. Patience is definitely the key,” Beal said.

4 » Seattle Mariners rookie catcher Mike Zunino was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday after an MRI revealed he fractured the hamate bone in his left hand. Zunino will undergo surgery this week and is expected to miss six weeks while healing. Should he return to action after that timeframe, there would only be three weeks remaining in the regular season. He was hitting .242 with two home runs and 10 RBI in the first 29 games of his career before being injured on Thursday when he took a foul tip off his hand; he stayed in the game for three more innings.

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SIX BITS: Andrews, Brown, Parsons, Beal, Zunino; Aaron Hernandez updates

1 » Former Florida Gators dazzler Erin Andrews and softball player Jenn Brown, just over one year ago, were both working as sideline reports for ESPN with the former taking on a bunch of other duties as well. Neither remains with the network today, but Andrews and Brown each have a great opportunity to shine with their new company. Andrews, who was hired by FOX Sports last July, spent 2012 sitting at a studio desk as host of a primetime college football pre-game show while also serving as a sideline reporter for major sports events including the MLB postseason. According to SB Nation, her duties will increase this season with the launch of the FOX Sports 1 network. Andrews will move from the primetime half-hour show to hosting a new college football pregame show that will air on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon, going head-to-head with ESPN’s College GameDay. Before leaving ESPN, Andrews was given hosting duties for the first hour of College GameDay, which aired from 9-10 a.m. on ESPNU.

Brown, after spending a short stint working with NBC, has signed a deal with the NFL Network, according to The Big Lead. She will start appearing on-air Thursday when she hosts the network’s Total Access show though the breath of her duties is currently unknown. “I’m thrilled to get back to the NFL,” she told the website. “The first sports job I had was on Inside the NFL. Covering college football for ESPN was a great time and I learned a lot, but it’s good to get back to the NFL.”

2 » Yahoo! Sports’ Marc J. Spears sat down with Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons to discuss what OnlyGators.com reported almost three weeks ago – Parsons’s role in luring free agent center Dwight Howard to Houston. “I spent a lot of time during the summer in L.A.,” Parsons explained. “We kind of just hit it off. We literally would text every day. [Howard would] call me at 8 p.m. with a question and then he’d call me at midnight with the same question. … I was just that guy trying to make him feel as comfortable as possible. We have very similar personalities. We are both outgoing. We’re always smiling. We like to have fun. I made him really comfortable that he was not only coming to a really good team, but a team with his friends.” Parsons also talks about his pitch, being involved in the official meeting and where he was when he learned Howard chose the Rockets.

Read and watch four more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Andrews, Brown, Parsons, Beal, Zunino; Aaron Hernandez updates

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FOUR BITS: USA Basketball, Tebow, Hernandez

1 » Rookie left-handed pitcher Alex Wood has been getting hazed by his Atlanta Braves teammates since being promoted to the majors. One tactic his teammates are using to embarrass Wood is forcing him to carry a plush Florida Gators backpack out to the bullpen when he warms up. “His fellow relievers brought as much attention to the prank as they could,” MLB.com explains, “making Wood lead the group into the outfield and taking turns playing with the snout of the plush gator mascot on the back of the backpack.” The former Georgia standout only faced Florida twice during his three years in college with the Gators beating him both times.

2 » By defeating Serbia 71-62 on Wednesday, USA Basketball earned the No. 1 overall seed in the quarterfinal round of the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship and will open up the bracket portion of the event on Friday at 2:15 p.m. when the Americans take on their neighbors to the north, Canada. Florida rising sophomore guard Michael Frazier II barely saw the court in the United States’ last game, playing only the final 1:37 of the first half and not leaving the bench in the second half. Head coach Billy Donovan did not sit Frazier without good reason; he had shot 8-of-36 (.222) from downtown in the first five games. ESPN3.com has picked up the quarterfinals of the event and will air the Americans’ showdown with the Canadians at 2:15 p.m. on Friday.

3 » Green Bay Packers rookie running back Jonathan Franklin was born in Los Angeles, CA, and attended UCLA but did not name a Californian his role model when asked during an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “I Love Tim Tebow because of his spiritual walk,” Franklin explained. “Through all that he’s been through he still stays strong in his walk and that’s very encouraging. My pastor and my mom (Pamela) have also been great role models for me.”

Check out Aaron Hernandez murder investigation updates…after the break.
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: USA Basketball, Tebow, Hernandez

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Red Sox sign Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel

Florida Gators junior quarterback Jeff Driskel will enter the 2013 season as the starter after leading Florida to an 11-2 record last year, but should his football career turn south on the college or professional level, he now has a fallback option.

According to WEEI.com’s Alex Speier, the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday signed Driskel, the franchise’s 29th round selection (No. 863 overall) in the 2013 MLB Draft.

His mother, Mary Driskel, initially denied that her son inked an MLB deal, telling the Orlando Sentinel that “he hasn’t done anything since he was drafted.” However, his father, Jerry Driskel, later told the Sun-Sentinel‘s Dieter Kurtenbach that his son has indeed signed with the Red Sox but will still play for the Gators next season.

On Thursday, Driskel confirmed the decision himself via his Twitter account. “Yes I signed with the Red Sox. Nothing changes,” he tweeted. “I am still a full time student athlete at UF, fully committed to playing football. #GoGators”

He later released a statement through Florida.

“I plan on focusing on football and finishing my college career with the Gators,” Driskel said. “After my college football career is over, I want to pursue a professional career in the NFL. If I ever decide I want to play baseball, I want to play with the Boston Red Sox, who drafted me in the recent draft.”

Boston understands that he will continue playing football at UF and not immediately join the Red Sox’s farm system.

By signing Driskel, Boston owns his MLB rights for six years. Should he choose to play baseball after college or not succeed in the NFL, his back-up plan is in place.

He is not be the first college quarterback to take this action.

Continue Reading » Red Sox sign Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel

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TWO BITS: Van Aman’s DUI, Zunino’s walk-off

1 » Florida Gators redshirt freshman walk-on punter Grant Van Aman was arrested by Gainesville Police early Saturday morning for driving under the influence. According to the police report, Van Aman was pulled over at 2:29 a.m. on the 1200 block of Southwest 8th Avenue in Gainesville, FL, for failing to stop at a stop sign while riding his red scooter. Van Aman cut off the officer, who happened to be at the scene, when he missed the stop sign, forcing the officer to suddenly “hit the breaks” on his car to avoid an accident. Van Aman then “jerked the handle bars on his scooter causing it to swerve and almost lose control.” The officer noticed “a very strong odor of alcoholic beverages” on Van Aman, describing his eyes as “watery, blood shot and extremely dilated” and his face as “flush and pale.” Furthermore, Van Aman was slurring his speech and mumbling his words, which led the officer to conduct a DUI investigation. Van Aman was not forthright about his drinking that evening, refused to submit to a field sobriety test and twice refused breath tests. He remains locked up in Alachua County Jail.

2 » Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino, just 11 games into his MLB career, registered his first walk-off hit on Friday night as he led Seattle to a 5-4 win (10 innings) over the Chicago Cubs. With the bases loaded and the count full, Zunino smacked a one-out single up the middle to send his team to victory. Zunino is currently batting .237 with one home run, two RBI and two walks. [Watch]

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15 Gator Bites for Friday, June 21

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. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Texas Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski, a die-hard Florida Gators fan, does the Gator Chomp after hitting a double off St. Louis Cardinals left-handed pitcher Randy Choate, a former Florida State player, on Friday night. [Special thanks to OGGOA reader Mitchell M. for sending this in.]

» Sports Illustrated soccer columnist Grant Wahl penned a terrific column on former Florida striker Abby Wambach, who passed Mia Hamm and set a new career international goals record on Thursday.

» A total of 21 Gators (10 former and 11 current) are presently in Des Moines, IA, competing in the 2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships and USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Athletes participating in the event from June 19-23 have the opportunity to qualify for the 2013 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Moscow, Russia from Aug. 10-18.

Omar Craddock and Will Claye became the first two Florida representatives to qualify on Thursday when they finished one-two in the men’s triple jump. Craddock took the American title with a mark of 17.15m/56-4.25, while Claye finished second with a 17.04m/55-11 jump. Also advancing to Moscow was Ugonna Ndu, who participated at the All-Nigeria Athletics Championships, winning the 100-meter hurdles in 13.4 seconds. Numerous other Gators advanced in their respective disciplines, and OGGOA will provide updates as each event finishes.

» Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, still sidelined with a stress fracture in his right fibula, is finally expected to return to the court in just over a week. According to the Washington Post, Beal will likely be cleared by doctors on July 1, three months after his injury was initially diagnosed. The Wizards were originally hoping Beal would be able to participate in the NBA Summer League games, but it is unlikely that the team takes the risk of putting him into action so soon after he returns from injury. It is more likely that Beal will next play meaningful basketball alongside Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons during 2013 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Mini-Camp from July 22-25 in Las Vegas, NV.

Check out 11 more bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!

Continue Reading » 15 Gator Bites for Friday, June 21

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