Lauren Embree named National Player of the Year

Florida Gators senior tennis player Lauren Embree was named the 2013 ITA National Senior Player of the Year on Tuesday.

Just the third player in school history to receive the honor (Nicole Arendt in 1991, Jessica Lehnhoff in 2002), Embree is the reigning 2012 ITA/Rivera Women’s All-American Singles Champion. She is currently ranked No. 1 by the ITA and was announced on Tuesday as the No. 1 overall seed in the 2013 NCAA Singles Tournament, which opens play on Wednesday.

Embree is also a three-time Southeastern Conference Player of the Year (2010-12).

She has led Florida to four-straight Southeastern Conference regular-season titles (2009-12), four consecutive SEC Tournament crowns (2009-12) and back-to-back NCAA National Championships (2011-12) with her singles victories clinching both national titles for the Gators.

In NCAA dual match play, Embree is Florida’s career leader in singles wins (15-1), doubles wins (19-3), combined wins (34-4) and combined winning percentage (.895). She usually played her best when it meant the most for the Gators.

Photo Credit: Ron Irby/Tampa Bay Times

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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.

12 » A WACKY YEAR, INDEED
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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Beal wins Gatorade National Player of the Year

Florida Gators five-star signee Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) was named the 2010-11 Gatorade National Player of the Year on Monday.

Standing 6’4” and 205 lbs., Beal averaged 32.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.7 steals per game this season while shooting 73 percent from the field for Chaminade College Preparatory School. He led his team to a 27-1 record in his senior year and concluded his career with 2,634 points.

In addition to being a fantastic basketball player, Beal is also a model student. He has a 91.7 average in the classroom and does plenty of volunteer work when he’s not studying or playing.

“This was a year full of outstanding candidates for Gatorade Player of the Year, so Bradley Beal winning says a lot about how perfectly he exemplifies everything the award is about,” said ESPN’s national director of recruiting for basketball, Paul Biancardi, in an official release. “As a player, he’s one of the best shooters in all of high school basketball, and beyond that, he’s improved his game so he can use dribble-penetration to shake defenders, he’s rebounding at a high margin, his passing is improved and, as a result, he’s become one of the best all-around guards in the country. When you look at his makeup, he has a unique ability to help his team win. There’s not a greater complement than that.”

Beal, who won the Gatorade Player of the Year award for the state of Missouri in 2009-10 and 2010-11, is the first Florida commitment to earn the national honor.

Photo Credit: Wiley Price/The St. Louis American

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FOUR BITS: Parsons, Gillespie, basketball praise

1 » Just a day after being named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week, Florida Gators senior forward Chandler Parsons was honored with the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week award by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Parsons averaged 17.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals in back-to-back wins last week against No. 24 Vanderbilt and No. 11 Kentucky, Florida’s first consecutive wins against ranked opponents since 2007. He is the first Gators player to ever pick up the honor, which was instituted last season, and earns an automatic nomination to the Oscar Robertson Trophy watch list.

2 » If you think Florida head coach Will Muschamp’s first choice to replace former running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton was to simply change tight ends coach Brian White’s responsibilities and hire someone in his place, that would be an incorrect assumption. In fact, the Gators initially reached out to former Florida running back Robert Gillespie, who accepted the same position with the West Virginia Mountaineers one month earlier. For Gillespie, not returning to his alma mater was possibly the toughest choice he has had to face as a coach. “I’m a man of my word,” Gillespie told The Daily Athenaeum. “I left a good job at Oklahoma State to come [to West Virginia], and I gave [offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen] my word that I would help him build this program. [Florida’s] a place that holds a special place in my heart, but I didn’t make a decision based off of emotions.”

3 » Looking at No. 17/19 Gators basketball’s status for the 2011 NCAA Tournament, ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan considers them an absolute lock to make a second-straight appearance in March Madness…this year with a much better seed.

How impressive is Florida’s NCAA tourney profile at this point in the season? Let’s count the ways: The Gators have the benefit of high RPI and strength of schedule numbers, as well as a 6-1 record against the RPI top 50 and an 11-2 record against the top 100. They’re also 7-2 in conference play, which puts them alone atop the jumbled SEC East standings. They added notches to all three of the aforementioned belts Saturday night with their huge home win over Kentucky. After that win, few teams in the nation can boast a more impressive résumé against top competition than the Gators. Welcome to lock territory, Florida fans. It’s all smooth sailing from here.

4 » Similarly complimentary is Sports Illustrated, which pegs Florida as an elite program who suffered a downturn but is quickly gaining steam once again.

Florida took a step back to respectability last season by winning 21 games and reaching the NCAA tournament, and had expectations ratcheted up this season with all five starters back to go with a talented freshman class. The Gators opened the season at No. 9 and moved to No. 17 this week after dropping out of the polls. Florida (18-5) bumped off No. 10 Kentucky over the weekend and No. 23 Vanderbilt before that to take control of the SEC East at 7-2 – and another step back toward notability.

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Brantley, Arkansas, Page

1 » Remember how former Florida Gators center/guard Maurkice Pouncey was supposed to start at the latter position for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010? The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that fans should not jump to any conclusions considering the fact that Pouncey has actually been splitting time with incumbent starter Justin Hartwig at first-team center in recent practices. Whether or not Pouncey starts at center during the first week of the 2010-11 NFL season is of no consequence; already getting reps there is indicative of his bright long-term future with the team.

2 » Speaking with the Sporting News, former Florida Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel said he doubted Alabama running back Mark Ingram could repeat his 2009 honor while putting Gators redshirt junior starter John Brantley firmly in the running. “I’m not just being a loyal Gator on this one – OK, maybe a little bit. Brantley has tons of young offensive talent around him and supposedly a new scheme that fits his style better so he could put up huge stats,” Wuerffel said. “Plus, the best teams on Florida’s schedule – Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Florida State – all return less than half of their defensive starters from last year. If UF loses two regular-season games or less,which I think is likely, Brantley will be in the discussion.”

3 » Arkansas radio personality Renee Gork was fired by her station – KAKS – on Monday after Arkansas Razorbacks head football coach Bobby Petrino became enraged that she wore a Gators hat to his press conference on Saturday. According to the Associated Press, “Gork, a Florida graduate, said she grabbed the hat without thinking Saturday because it was raining outside. She also said she sent a letter of apology to the university and Petrino.”

4 » Former Florida star women’s basketball player and 11-year WNBA veteran Murriel Page was hired as an assistant coach under head coach Amanda Butler on Monday. Inducted into the University of Florida Hall of Fame this past April, Page (1994-98) was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference honoree in 1997 and 1998 and a finalist for the 1998 Naismith Player of the Year and Associated Press National Player of the Year awards. “Murriel’s professional experience, her passion for the Gators and the quality of person that she is makes her the perfect fit for our program,” Butler said in a UF release. “We looked at a number of different applicants from a variety of backgrounds and locations and Muriel stood out to everyone.”

Photo Credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

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