FOUR BITS: Green, McGee, MLB Draft, Easley

1 » Former Florida Gators point guard Taurean Green won a professional championship this week when his team, Limoges CSP, defeated Strasbourg 73-70 in game three of the Ligue Nationale de Basket Pro A finals. It was the first time in 14 years that Limoges captured a French league crown as well as Green’s first championship since winning back-to-back national titles with the Gators in 2006-07. Green led the way for Limoges with a team-high 19 points on 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. He was 5-for-11 overall and 5-for-6 from the charity stripe, adding two rebounds and an assist to his starting line. Limoges is the sixth international team Green has played for since moving between the NBA and NBA D-League from 2007-08. He has also played in Aragon, Greece, Spain, Turkey and Italy.

2 » OnlyGators.com, on Friday, published a story about the failure of Florida’s tight ends in 2013 and how redshirt senior transfer Jake McGee should be able to help resurrect production at the position for the Gators in 2014. However, not everything McGee told the media on Thursday fit within the story, so below are some additional thoughts he shared on his relationship with his new roommates and a recent Super Bowl-winning quarterback.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Green, McGee, MLB Draft, Easley

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Gator Bites for Monday, July 2

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 pitcher Darren O’Day, currently a reliever for the Baltimore Orioles after spending time with three other MLB teams, was pranked by MLB Fan Cave and his manager Buck Showalter. Watch him get chewed out and completely fall for it:

» Former Gators striker and current U.S. Women’s National Team star Abby Wambach sat down for an in-depth and informative interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts and discussed a number of topics including the upcoming 2012 London Olympics. Wambach became an extremely popular sports figure after leading the Americans to the finals of the 2011 Women’s World Cup with some incredibly clutch goals and is now the face of the sport in the United States.

» Former Florida swimmer Ryan Lochte spoke with NBC‘s Bob Costas when he was done competing in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials over the weekend. Lochte speaks about the Olympics, his rivalry with Phelps and learning how to become a better athlete and competitor (Video).

» The Detroit Pistons did not extend a qualifying offer to former Gators forward/center Vernon Macklin over the weekend, officially making him an unrestricted free agent just one year after the team selected him with the No. 52 overall pick in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft. Despite not being tendered, Macklin will still play with Detroit’s summer league team in hopes of being re-signed or catching the eye of another squad. He was sent down to the NBA D-League during the season but dominated the competition by averaging 14.5 points and 14.3 rebounds in the games he played. He should be picked up by a team at some point sooner than later.

Read SIX more Gator Bites on Nelson, Cooper, Hill and Beal…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Monday, July 2

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Gator Bites for Thursday, May 10

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.

» Defensive lineman Brad Culpepper on Wednesday became the second former Florida Gators player in the last three weeks to join lawsuit against the NFL. Culpepper is the lead plaintiff one of two concussion lawsuits (Brad Culpepper et al v. NFL) filed by the Locks Law Firm against the NFL. “The lawsuits are identical to the other suits filed by Gene Locks, asserting counts of fraud, conspiracy to defraud, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, loss of consortium and seeking declaratory relief and medical monitoring,” according to Paul Anderson. Former Florida offensive tackle Lomas Brown is part of a separate suit against the NFL that cites the recent bounty scandal as evidence that the league did not properly protect its players from concussions.

» Former Gators running back Emmitt Smith admitted this week that, while he appears to be in perfect health now, he is worried that all of the hits he took over his football-playing career may come back to haunt him both physically and mentally in the future. “The evidence is starting to pile up. You are talking to a guy who carried the ball more than anybody in NFL history. So why wouldn’t I worry? I pray about it,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He also spoke about the tragic death of Junior Seau and reuniting with some of his former Dallas Cowboys teammates.

» Former Florida linebacker Dustin Doe has been re-signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL after appearing in just three games for the team last season. Doe registered two tackles each on defense and special teams in 2011 but spent the majority of the season on the practice squad. He is hoping to become a permanent member of the active roster this season as he attempts to continue his career.

» Speaking of players looking for new homes, it appears as if defensive tackle Marcus Thomas will be donning a different uniform in 2012. After spending the first six years of his career with the Denver Broncos, Thomas will be moving on to what he hopes are greener pastures, according to The Denver Post, which reports that it is unlikely Denver re-signs him this season. A selection in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Thomas has been a productive member of the Broncos throughout his career. However, Denver only wants to bring him back on a one-year deal while Thomas is looking for a multi-year agreement. The Post notes that at least two other teams are interested in Thomas’s services but will likely wait until after June 1 to sign him to a contract.

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Thursday, May 10

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SIX BITS: Macklin, lacrosse, softball, Gilbert, Meyer

1 » Former Florida Gators forward/center Vernon Macklin was recently set down to the NBA Development League for no other reason than that the Detroit Pistons wanted to see him get some in-game action rather than sit stationary on the end of the team’s bench during NBA games. According to M Live, Macklin has been playing for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and has been dominating. In his first five games with the team, Macklin is averaging 16.6 points and 17.2 rebounds (10.6 on the defensive glass) in more than 36 minutes a game. He will remain with the team through April 7 before returning to the Pistons. “He’s playing with a lot of energy and effort. He’s gotten better each and every game,” Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said. “It’s great for him to get that experience. We see continued development. We see progress in Vernon.”

2 » No. 4 Florida lacrosse (11-2) hit two major milestones on Wednesday, recording their first-ever shutout while registering the highest goal total in school history in a 29-0 beat down of the Fresno State Bulldogs (2-6) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Freshman midfielder Nicole Graziano scored a game-high and career-high six goals on seven shots, and freshman attacker Nora Barry joined her in dominating on offense with five goals on six shots. The duo also combined for six ground balls and six draw controls in the contest. Junior As Ashley Bruns and Gabi Wiegand combined for six goals and three assists with Bruns becoming the first player in team history to eclipse 200 career goals. In addition to scoring the most goal sand allowing the fewest in team history, the Gators set or tied a number of other records. Florida had the most points (41), assists (12) and draw controls (24) in team history, tied their records for shots (44), first-half points (17) and second-half points (12) and also committed a record five fouls, the fewest in team history. The Gators accomplished all of this without Juniors A Kitty Cullen and M Brittany Dashiell, two of the team’s leading scorers.

3 » Despite falling to a ranked opponent, No. 4 Florida softball (29-3) suffered a tough 4-1 defeat on Wednesday in Gainesville at the hands of the No. 21 South Florida Bulls (30-5). Freshman right-hander Lauren Haeger (9-2) tossed a complete game, allowing four runs (two earned) on eight hits along with five walks and four strikeouts. In addition to going up arguably the nation’s best pitcher in Sara Nevins, the Gators committed a pair of costly errors that put them in a 4-0 hole through three innings. A solo homer by Haeger (1-3, HR, RBI, R, BB) in the bottom of the fifth was the only run to cross the plate for Florida, which left eight base runners on including three in the bottom of the sixth and two in the bottom of the seventh with the game-tying run at the plate. UF defeated USF 3-2 in extra innings on Feb. 12 but will not have another chance to earn revenge.

4 » Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert will receive a bump in responsibility next season as head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed on Wednesday that he will help protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side as the team’s new left tackle. Gilbert, who played both left and right tackle in college, was drafted to eventually hold down the former role but was relegated to the latter position in 2011 due to experience and depth issues. “We fully expect him to [move],” Tomlin told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I probably had more concerns about him being the right tackle than I did him being at left tackle just because of his college experience.” Gilbert is the second Gators offensive lineman to recently be drafted and become an starter for Pittsburgh as center Maurkice Pouncey won his job out of training camp two seasons ago.

5 » Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer sat down for an interview this week with CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd to discuss a number of topics mostly concerning his return to the sidelines and how the Ohio State program is coming along heading into his first season at the helm. However, Meyer also touched on a few things at Florida including what he called an “awful” team that the Gators fielded for his first season in 2005. “We’re not a good team. As a matter of fact, we’re bad, a really bad football team – not aligned, selfish. We had some really good players on defense. On offense we’re a mess. Chris Leak wasn’t ready. Then we lose to South Carolina,” he recounted. “I remember walking to my radio show and there are some boos. The phone calls were absolutely brutal. I’m looking at [Mick Hubert] and I’m just getting greased. I’m thinking to myself, ‘What are you doing here?’” Meyer said the Florida State win really turned things around both on the field and off the field in recruiting. He also spoke about other issues he faced including “the Spurrier culture” in the SEC.

6 » While the Denver Broncos were in the process of signing quarterback Peyton Manning, Tim Tebow was in Tampa, FL helping open up the new D1 Sports Training facility while working out with, meeting and greeting children, teenagers and adults. Despite so much being on his mind about his NFL future, Tebow was obviously thinking about plenty of other things during this special occasion (photo gallery).

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FOUR BITS: Sturgis, Tebow, transfers, Humphrey

1 » Though he has been garnered similar honors by other outlets, Florida Gators redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis was awarded a spot on the 2011 Associated Press All-American Team on Wednesday. Sturgis was placed on the second team while Texas A&M K Randy Bullock earned the first-team nomination. He was similarly given a second-team nod on the 2011 Walter Camp All-American list and recently was a finalist (but did not win) the 2011 Lou Groza Award, as announced last Thursday. Named unanimously to the All-SEC first-team by coaches and AP voters, Sturgis accounted for 91 points this season, going 21-for-25 on field goals and 28-for-28 on extra points.

2 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow appears to be going head-to-head with a former teammate every week. After taking on Minnesota (with wide receiver Percy Harvin) two weeks ago and Chicago (with safety Major Wright) last week, Tebow will play the New England Patriots on Sunday, where he will square off with linebacker Brandon Spikes and tight end Aaron Hernandez. The latter told the Boston Herald’s Ian Rapoport on Thursday that he still supports and believe in his former teammate. “He keeps plays alive, and he’s winning,” Hernandez said. “[He was] a leader. I’m sure he still is. He brought a lot of energy to the game. When someone has energy, you take from it.” Tebow shared his admiration for Hernandez as well. “He makes any quarterback he’s with look at lot better,” he said. “He’s a phenomenal player, one of those guys when you need competitive excellence and you need someone to step up and make a big play, he’s always ready and willing. I’m just proud of him for what he’s done as an NFL player and what he did with me at Florida.”

3 » Two former Gators are on their way to Louisville, KY and could be one step closer to playing with former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, now head coach of the Louisville Cardinals. According to a number of reports, transfers tight end Gerald Christian and wide receiver Robert Clark will be visiting the school beginning Friday as they search for a spot to spend their final two years of eligibility. Each will have to redshirt the 2012 season and will be eligible to resume playing college football in 2013.

4 » Back in the United States, former Gators guard Lee Humphrey is now playing for the Rio Grande Vipers of the NBA Development League. The official minor league team of the NBA’s Houston Rockets (which drafted forward Chandler Parsons this year), the Vipers are nine games into the season and have Humphrey playing 29.1 minutes per game, second-most on the team. Though he’s had some big moments already this year, Humphrey is averaging just 11.8 points and 3.1 assists per game. He is shooting 38.5 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from downtown.

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FOUR BITS: freshmen, Tyus, Sweeting, McDonald

1 » Orientation for freshmen student-athletes is underway as both of the Florida Gators incoming basketball commitments and the remaining 12 football signees are now in Gainesville, FL getting their college careers started. Five-star guard Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) and three-star forward Walter Pitchford (East Lansing, MI) join four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL), four-star defensive back Jabari Gorman (Miami, FL), three-star DB Chris Johnson (Ocala, FL), three-star offensive lineman Tommy Jordan (Ridgefield, CT), three-star fullback Hunter Joyer (Wesley Chapel, FL), four-star DB Louchiez Purifoy (Pensacola, FL), four-star DB Marcus Roberson (Fort Lauderdale, FL), three-star DB Valdez Showers (Madison Heights, MI), four-star linebacker Graham Stewart (Middletown, CT), four-star wide receiver Ja’Juan Story (Brooksville, FL), four-star OL Trip Thurman (Dover, DE) and three-star defensive end Tevin Westbrook (Coconut Creek, FL) as the latest players to don the Orange and Blue hoping to make Gator Nation proud. The players will be meeting with academic advisers, taking physicals, beginning workouts, taking drug tests as they prepare to begin workouts and college life in general.

2 » With the 2011 NBA Draft approaching on Thursday, Florida forward Alex Tyus appears to understand exactly what is likely to happen over the course of the event. “Honestly, for Thursday, I’m not expecting to get drafted,” Tyus told InsideTheGators.com’s Kyle Maistri. “But anything can happen.” Having only worked out for four teams since participating in the 2011 Portsmouth Invitational (where he had a strong showing and was one of the event’s standout performers), Tyus understands that his best bet at earning a spot on a NBA bench may come as an undrafted free agent or by working on his game some more in the NBA Development League or overseas. OGGOA will have extensive coverage leading up to, during and after the NBA Draft.

3 » Down two sets in his opening round match at Wimbledon, former Gators tennis player No. 69 Ryan Sweeting came back to defeat opponent No. 50 Pablo Andujar 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(7-1), 6-1. His reward? Taking on the ATP’s top-ranked player in the world, Rafael Nadal, Wed. at 11:30 a.m. in the second round of the event. Nadal, of course, is 2-0 all-time against Sweeting, last defeating him 6-3, 6-1 at Indian Wells earlier this year. Sweeting won his first ATP World Tour event in 2011 and is 10-9 overall this year.

4 » In a conversation with The Sacramento Bee, former Florida defensive end Ray McDonald expressed his desire to earn a starting job in the NFL. Set to become an unrestricted free agent when a new labor deal is signed, McDonald (currently of the San Francisco 49ers) could re-sign with his current team or look elsewhere. “I know I’m an every-down player, a starter,” he said. “And that’s what I’m looking to do this year. I’m not looking to back up anybody. I’m looking to start this year. […] I’ve been waiting four years for this. [Being a free agent] would make my life. That would change everything as far as me going ahead with my future in my NFL career. So that’s some good news – no, excellent news – for me.”

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TWO BITS: Noah out 10 weeks, Greene’s mistakes

1 » It looks like the Chicago Bulls fright over center Joakim Noah‘s thumb was justified. One day after sources told ESPNChicago.com that Noah could miss at least eight weeks with a possible torn ligament in his right thumb, their suspicions became reality. After starting and posting a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds in Chicago’s 110-93 victory over Toronto on Wednesday, Noah was notified that he will miss up to 10 weeks as he will undergo surgery Thursday to repair a torn ulna collateral ligament in the thumb. Noah, who signed a five-year, $60 million contract extension before the season started, is averaging 14.2 points and 11.7 rebounds per game this season. “I’ve had the exact same surgery before on my left hand. It sucks,” Noah said. “It’s not what I want, but you can’t … I’ve [played] through it for a couple weeks now and I got to get back to playing at a high level.” He has been playing with the injured finger since Nov. 27.

In related news… Miami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem will likely miss the entire season after tearing a ligament in his left foot back in Nov. The team recently received a salary exception for his contract this season. Teammate guard/forward Mike Miller is slowly on his way back to the Heat after breaking his thumb during practice in Oct.

2 » Former Florida Gators point guard and Gainesville, FL, native Orien Greene bleeped-up one too many times for the NBA. A staunch defender who is currently averaging 23 points (on 52 percent shooting, 48 percent from downtown), five rebounds and five assists per game for the Utah Flash of the NBA D-League, he is someone who should be playing on a prime time stage if not for a number of character flaws that have arisen over the years. Will a team give him chance? Can someone who has realized their mistakes get yet another shot at redemption? Perhaps in time. For now, Greene can only hope. “Lord willing, lord willing, somebody’s going to call me and I can get back in,” he told ESPN’s Henry Abbott, who wrote this feature story on a once very promising young basketball player.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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F/C Chris Richard: “All I can do is give my best.”

Former Florida Gators forward/center Chris Richard is a busy man. Entering his fourth season of playing professional basketball, Richard just returned from summer league action and was in his hometown of Lakeland, FL, when OGGOA caught up with him for an exclusive interview covering his college career, professional future and charitable efforts.

Though he is headed back to Chicago soon to workout and attempt to earn a contract, Richard has been concentrating on getting his foundation, The Rich Kids Project, off the ground.

Designed to help and provide opportunities for underprivileged and at-risk youth in the Polk County area, the organization aims at assisting children financially while, at the same time, ensuring that they are building a foundation for their future. “I want to teach substance and individuality through education, arts and just basic knowledge,” Richard told us. And even though the charity is based in Lakeland, he hopes it can grow big over time – with your help. More information on Richard’s charity will be available in the future.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Coming out of high school as Mr. Basketball in the state of Florida, you chose to sign with the Gators. What other schools were you considering and why did you end up picking Florida?
CHRIS RICHARD: “At the time I came out of high school, I could have went to just about any school in the country. I got recruited by everybody from North Carolina to Maryland to Indiana … all of the Florida schools. I only wanted to go to Florida. Growing up, once I got into basketball and once I got into sports, for whatever reason, Florida just stood out to me. I was a big Florida basketball fan. I grew up kind of liking Florida State and Miami football-wise. I [also] have family that actually lives in Alachua, outside of Gainesville, so going up there every summer – it kind of grew on me. I chose [Florida] over Florida State and Alabama.”

AS: You did get some playing time early on in your Gators career, but last two years is when your role increased. Losing its three top veterans, the team was significantly underrated going into the 2005-06 season. At what point did you guys realize that you had something special going on?
CR: “You know what, honestly, I know it sounds cliché and everybody says it, but once we got together that summer … Everybody went home for summer break and we came back to start working out for the season, and once we got back and started playing with each other, that was our first time playing together without David [Lee], Matt [Walsh] and Peep [Anthony Roberson]. So we never really saw what each person was capable of doing because everybody’s role was a little bit different that previous year. Just coming in and playing pick up, it was just a lot different. And we saw that on any given night that it can be anybody’s night. So we kind of took that and kind of embraced that and thought it was an advantage for us because we knew that we didn’t have any selfishness on the team. So nobody minded playing backseat … everybody just helped each other and kept it going.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Chris Richard…after the break!
Continue Reading » F/C Chris Richard: “All I can do is give my best.”

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