TWO BITS: Donovan and Knicks, Roper’s offense

1 » With the Florida Gators back on top, head coach Billy Donovan will once be written about as someone who could potentially jump to the NBA after the season. Even after he accepted the Orlando job, changed his mind and returned to Florida, Donovan has still been heavily considered by some of the top franchises in the league and remains a hot name to this day whenever there are coaching openings. There also happens to be no better team to link Donovan with than the New York Knicks, his hometown squad, the only franchise he played for in the NBA – and as it so happens – one that tends to make a coaching change every other year. ESPNNewYork.com columnist Ian O’Connor on Tuesday night listed Donovan as a top-five candidate to take what is expected to be an open job with the Knicks after the 2013-14 season.

He has a chance to win his third national title at Florida and, at 48, he might finally be ready for the new career challenge he accepted (and then declined days later) from the Orlando Magic in 2007. Donovan grew up on Long Island and lived out his boyhood dream when he played 44 games for Rick Pitino’s Knicks in 1987-88.

Though he still loves to tell stories of the time his mother took him to the Garden and bought him a Clyde Frazier T-shirt, Donovan rejected Isiah Thomas’ attempt to hire him as Knicks coach years ago. Would he consider leaving Florida after 18 seasons for a chance to rebuild the only team he ever wanted to play for?

“Billy would be an awesome NBA coach,” said one source who knows him well. “He doesn’t have any professional coaching experience, but Brad Stevens is managing it well in Boston and that should give the Knicks more confidence to look that way. I just don’t know if Billy would do it.”

“If I can’t get Jeff Van Gundy,” said a second source, “my next guy is Billy Donovan. Maybe he should be the Knicks’ first choice because he doesn’t have Jeff’s baggage from coaching there before. He runs a pro offense, his teams defend and I think he’s got the personality for it.”

Donovan-to-New York always has and always will make sense. However, these Knicks are not the franchise of his youth. New York has major problems in ownership, the front office and on the court with a roster hamstrung for 2014-15 and set to potentially lose its best player in Carmelo Anthony. Donovan, if or when he jumps to the NBA, would seemingly do so at an opportune time. He’s had plenty of chances in the past but turned them down to remain with the Gators where he is comfortable and working for a great friend in athletic director Jeremy Foley. Donovan still has a son who he is coaching and will remain around the team (he just got accepted to graduate school at Florida), and his father is also in town. Donovan-to-the Knicks does make sense, one day, maybe two years from now when New York is looking for the next big name coach to save the franchise. Then again, perhaps the lure of his favorite team will be too great. Perhaps owner Jim Dolan will offer too much power and money to turn down. You just never know.

Continue Reading » TWO BITS: Donovan and Knicks, Roper’s offense

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TWO BITS: Gators team awards, game-winners

1 » The Florida Gators football team participated in its annual banquet on Saturday in which members of the team are presented with a number of awards for everything from on-field performance to working hard in practice and how courageous a particular player may be throughout the season. Below are the 2013 award winners along with some award explanations and additional details.

Coaches’ Choice Awards
President’s Academic Award: Mike McNeely
* Second-straight year that McNeely won the award.
Gene Elleson Community Service Award: Jaylen Watkins, Mark Herndon and Darrin Kitchens
Iron Gator Strength and Conditioning Award: Solomon Patton
Chris Patrick Courage Award: Solomon Patton, Damien Jacobs, Jon Halapio, Neiron Ball and Ronald Powell
* Second-straight year that Halapio and Powell each won the award.
Most Valuable Offensive Scout Team Award: Antonio Riles, Tim Clark, Caleb Brantley | Defensive: Case Harrison, Adam Lane, Cameron Dillard | Special Teams: Chris Thompson, Ryan Parrish

Players’ Choice Awards
Rex Farrior Most Team Spirited Offense: Jonotthan Harrison | Defense: Michael Taylor
Greg See Tenacity Award Offense: Jon Halapio, Jonotthan Harrison | Defense: Dominique Easley
* Second-straight year that Halapio and Harrison won the award for offense.
Most Valuable Player Offense: Solomon Patton | Defense: Dante Fowler, Jr. Special Teams: Jarrad Davis
James W. Kynes Award (Best Mental/Physical Toughness): Jon Halapio and Dominique Easley
* Presented to the “player who best exemplifies the mental and physical toughness and ‘iron-man’ determination.’ The award is traditionally won by offensive linemen.
Ray Graves Award (Team MVP): Solomon Patton
* Third-straight year that a senior offensive player won the award.
Fergie Ferguson Leadership Award: Jeremy Brown, Kyle Koehne and Darrin Kitchens
* Presented to the “player who displays outstanding leadership, character and courage.”
Captains: Jon Halapio, Jonotthan Harrison, Solomon Patton, Trey Burton and Dominique Easley
* Second-straight year that Halapio was named a team captain.

Continue Reading » TWO BITS: Gators team awards, game-winners

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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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Lin drawing comparisons to the wrong Gator

By Malik Grady – OGGOA Columnist

A great deal of national attention has been paid to NBA phenom New York Knicks‘ point guard Jeremy Lin as of late; unfortunately much of it has consisted of the second-year player being compared to former Florida Gators now Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, who had a breakout season in his second year in the NFL.

And though Lin and Tebow do share a few parallels – mostly in the social realm – the less obvious and more interesting comparison is actually with another former Florida player – point guard Jason Williams. What Lin has done and continues to do night-in and night-out is without question on an exponentially greater level but there are historical, racial and other parallels to what happened when Williams burst on the scene.

WELCOME TO THE PARTY, PAL
* Feb. 6, 2012: In a season shortened by a lockout, Lin bursts onto the national scene at the age of 23 years and 167 days, posting 25 points in 36 minutes for the struggling New York Knicks, a team in need of a spark and plenty of victories.
* Feb. 5, 1999: Exactly 13 years earlier (minus a day) – after a bitter lockout and the second retirement of Michael Jordan sapped the NBA of fans and support – Williams, at the age of 23 years and 79 days, scores 21 points in 36 minutes for the Sacramento Kings, one of the worst teams in the league the year before.

A PLAY THAT WILL LIVE IN INFAMY
* Feb. 14, 2012: Lin’s game-winning shot against the Toronto Raptors is endlessly played on SportsCenter, furthering his breakout campaign.
* Feb. 17, 1999: Almost exactly 13 years earlier, Williams’s crossover of Gary Payton (video) in a win over the Seattle Supersonics is played on a loop on SportsCenter.

EARLY HYPE AND ADORATION
* The slightly offensive nickname “Yellow Mamba” pops up for Lin.
* The slightly racial nickname “White Chocolate” pops up for Williams (though it was started by a team staffer and embraced by Williams).
* Lin is prematurely compared to Steve Nash.
* Williams is prematurely compared to “Pistol” Pete Maravich.
* Lin’s No. 17 jersey (including counterfeit versions) cannot be printed fast enough to keep them in stock in the United States or China.
* Williams’s No. 55 jersey becomes one of the top five sellers nationally in the NBA.

Perhaps the most interesting parallel between Lin and Williams how their physical characteristics have played a role in their acceptance, popularity and backlash.

Any time there is something that is out of the ordinary or different, the curiosity factor becomes a compelling reason for people to pay attention. Whether a player is really tall (Shawn Bradley), really ugly (Shawn Kemp), really tall and ugly (Manute Bol) or has a certain characteristic that is stereotyped to be one thing and not another, he becomes particularly noteworthy to the masses.

Continue Reading » Lin drawing comparisons to the wrong Gator

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FOUR BITS: Brantley, Tebow, Lin, lacrosse

1 » Florida Gators quarterback John Brantley has faced his fair share of obstacles over the course of his college career but trainer Tom Shaw does not believe that will prevent him from succeeding as a professional. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Brantley has been training at the ESPN/Disney Wide World of Sports Complex since the season ended and has spent much of that time working with Shaw, the acclaimed trainer/coach of big-time signal callers like Eli and Peyton Manning, Michael Vick and most notably Tom Brady. “You saw what he did at the University of Florida, so a lot of people aren’t giving him an opportunity,” Shaw told the Sentinel. “But with what I’ve seen in the time that I’ve spent with John is that he could be one of the best quarterbacks that I’ve ever had.” Shaw believes Brantley is a better athlete than Brady and has a strong arm but most work on his footwork. “I don’t sell kids. If they’re good they’re good. If they’re bad, I’ll tell you,” he said. “I’m not saying he’s the next Tom Brady or Peyton Manning or whoever. I’m saying this kid has the ability, the talent to be a pro football player and be successful at it because he has all the tools.”

The paper also notes that Brantley is being represented by Joel Segal of Lagardere Unlimited, the agent who has also signed running back Chris Rainey for 2012 and boasts a stable of other Gators including Percy Harvin (Minnesota), Maurkice Pouncey (Pittsburgh), Mike Pouncey (Miami) and Ahmad Black. In other words, it may be wise to expect Brantley to be selected somewhere in the late rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft if Segal has anything to say about it (which he will).

2 » With his show Eastbound & Down set to return to HBO on Feb. 19, Kenny Powers recently decided to write an open letter to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow called “The Gifted Young Athlete.” The letter, available unedited on Grantland.com, is uncensored and features explicit language. Below is a very short passage appropriate enough for publication here on OGGOA.

Yet here Jesus is, helping me & Tebow out in sports, just because we’re maybe a little bit cooler in his eyes. It’s a raw deal, plain and simple.

3 » New York Knicks point guard sensation Jeremy Lin is turning heads in Madison Square Garden and the explosion of the aptly-amed “Linsanity” hysteria is drawing comparisons by media types to “Tebowmania” from the fall. In addition to both players being what some consider to be unlikely heroes, Lin (like Tebow) is quite religious and has no problem offering up praise to the man above for his recent success on the court. He also recently told 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, CA that Tebow inspires him in a number of ways. “His approach to the game is just unbelievable and I respect him so much,” he said. “I want to be able to do some of the things that he doe sin terms of the amount of charity work and the non-profit work, and the way he impacts people off the field. I think that is what is most inspiring about him.”

4 » Set to officially begin their 2012 season on Saturday against No. 3 North Carolina, No. 4 Florida lacrosse is eyeing the program’s first national title this year. It was announced Thursday that the Gators were picked to finish second in the conference by ALC coaches, an understandable slotting considering the top team in the league is expected to be defending ALC and NCAA champion Northwestern. Florida actually won the 2011 ALC regular season title before falling to Northwestern 10-9 in the postseason tournament. In the program’s third year of existence, the Gators hope to break the final barrier and win both the ALC and national titles outright this season.

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NBA season begins with 10 Gators on rosters

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.

Read the rest of OGGOA’s 2011-12 NBA Preview…after the break!
Continue Reading » NBA season begins with 10 Gators on rosters

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Corey Brewer headed to Denver Nuggets in trade

For the third time in under 10 months, former Florida Gators guard/forward Corey Brewer will be playing for a different NBA franchise.

Signed to a three-year contract by the Dallas Mavericks after being waived by the New York Knicks last March, Brewer has been shipped to the Denver Nuggets along with Rudy Fernandez for a second-round pick and additional space under the salary cap, according to ESPN NBA correspondent Marc Stein.

“Man the NBA is a business I’ll miss you Dallas but can’t wait to get to Denver! Thanks mavs fans y’all ate great,” he wrote on his Twitter account Tuesday evening.

Brewer, who has $5.2 million remaining on his deal, was sent from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Knicks as part of the trade for Carmelo Anthony last year.

After New York released him – partially as a favor because the team was not planning on playing him – he was courted by nearly a dozen teams.

Dallas snatched him up and used him as a bench player during their run to the 2011 NBA title, though he only saw 22 minutes over six playoff games.

Brewer averaged 24.3 minutes per contest with the Timberwolves in 2011, posting averages of 8.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists. He did not step on the court once for the Knicks but averaged 5.3 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 11.4 minutes over 13 regular season games with the Mavericks.

Though Dallas was reportedly pleased with Brewer’s long-term potential, the opportunity to create space under the salary cap for the 2012 season was too much to pass up.

Denver coveted Brewer and Fernandez and had roster spots to fill due to both Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith signing offseason contracts with professional teams in China.

The Nuggets are also said to be interested in Philadelphia 76ers center Marreese Speights, who the team sees as a potential replacement in the middle of the paint should Nene choose to sign elsewhere this offseason.

Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

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Chandler Parsons – Path to the 2011 NBA Draft: Workouts intensify as draft nears

Through the 2011 NBA Draft, Florida Gators forward and 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Chandler 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 Wednesday while spending a rare day off in Denver, CO. After fitting in four workouts in a handful of days, including traveling to-and-from the northeast, he finally found an opportunity to rest while on the West Coast for a three-meeting swing. Parsons will end his scheduled workouts in Boston, MA on June 20 and will be checking in with us once more before the draft and one more time afterward.

We last spoke with Parsons the night before he met with the New Jersey Nets.

New Jersey went really well. It was the first time I got to workout against Kyle Singler from Duke. Also there was [head coach] Avery Johnson, their GM [Billy King] and basically their whole staff was there watching the workout. I shot well, played well and got really good feedback from them. I felt that they were really big on me.

It was pretty much the same as most of the workouts but there was a lot of drill work. They put us in their plays and sets and had us play out of them – coming off curls, coming off flares, playing one-on-one on different spots on the floor.

After that I went to Washington and that was really cool. Sam Cassel, the old Florida State guy [and now an assistant coach], ran that workout. Their coach was there, Flip Saunders, and that was another really good workout. I talked to my agent [Mark Bartelstein] today, and he said the New Jersey Nets, Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards right now – those three are showing a lot of interest.

I actually got to workout with Vernon Macklin that time and that guy Jeremy Tyler, who didn’t go to college and went straight to Japan. Also there were Malclom Lee from UCLA and Nolan Smith from Duke.

Vernon’s been doing good. I haven’t been working out with him much – he works out for different teams than I do for the most part – but I’m hearing he’s doing really well. I heard he did really well at Portsmouth [Invitational] and I heard he’s been doing good at the workouts. At the workout I did with him, he did really good. The guy he went against, Jeremy Tyler, is a projected first-round pick and Vernon did just as good as he did. He’s working really hard at it.

Those guys [including Alex Tyus] are continuing to help themselves. They’re playing hard, showing their athleticism and, going through this process, they’ve gotten a lot out of it and helped themselves for this draft.

After Washington I went over to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland was tough. It was probably the hardest workout yet. Not just because of length, but they legit had me do running and conditioning, three suicides in two minutes. It was also a great workout. It was me, Kawhi Leonard from San Diego State, Klay Thompson from Washington State and Alec Burks from Colorado. It was top guys, first-round guys in the workout. Everyone was going hard. They did a drill at the end that before even the drill started, the coach pulled us aside and said, ‘This is a really tough drill.’

In the NBA there’s the defensive three seconds. So basically it’s a drill where there’s a coach on one wing, a coach on the top of the key and a player on the other wing. You’re sliding back-and-forth in the lane getting your feet in and your feet out. When the other coach on the wing slides, you have to step up outside the lane, stop him, and then he skips it to the guy and you have to close out and play one-on-one from there. You have to do that for all six of the guys you’re working out against. And that’s after an entire workout – a full-blown shooting, three-on-three, one-on-one and three suicides in two minutes. That was pretty tough.

I was exhausted – exhausted after that. I ate, interviewed and got on a plane to New York City. I flew into LaGuardia [Airport] to work out of the New York Knicks, but it’s not in MSG it’s at their practice facility, which is about an hour away. I got in around 8-9 p.m. and then had to wake up the next morning at 8 a.m. to workout for the Knicks.

The Knicks were awesome. Everybody was there – [head coach Mike] D’Antoni, [director of pro scouting] John Gabriel, [former team president now consultant] Donnie Walsh, [assistant general manager] Allan Houston – their entire staff. It was kind of a last-minute thing, but they wanted to really see me. So it was just me and three other guys. These workouts are tough with six guys, so you can imagine how it is with four guys.

I was going against Justin Harper from Richmond, who is also projected to go first round. It was two-on-two full court instead of three-on-three and a lot of one-on-one drills. Limited breaks because there were less people. It was good. Allan Houston called my agent afterward and said I was a lot more athletic than they thought, competed well and am in really good shape.

I flew out from there last night to Denver. The best part about this whole this is the unlimited room service. So I’ve been eating filet mignon, French onion soup and ahi tuna like it’s my job! I have off all day today, so I woke up with some pancakes, fruit, chocolate milk and went down to the hot tub and the steam room for a while.

Now me and E’Twaun Moore [of Purdue] are going up to the practice gym to get the shots up. I can finally relax and just kind of catch my wind, get the jet leg out of me before another big workout tomorrow.

OGGOA FAN QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK

Q: What is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome during this draft process?
PARSONS: “Every city, every team I work out for is a job interview. You got to go in there, and you got to prove people wrong. You only have one opportunity for a first impression, so I put all my chips on the table and I go into every workout working as hard as I can, showing these people what I can do. I want to show these teams I’ve gotten more athletic, stronger, that I can handle the ball. I want to show these teams what I can do and how I can help their system.”

Q: Growing up in the Orlando area, was it always your dream to play for the Magic or just to play professionally in the NBA?
PARSONS: “My dream has always been to play in the NBA, but my family has been season ticket holders since day one for the Magic. Looking at the draft and what the Magic have, they only have one pick which is the 53rd pick. Doubtful I’ll be around for the 53rd pick, so my chances of playing for the Magic are very slim. That would have been awesome, but no matter what city I go to I’ll be living my dream. I’ll eventually play in Orlando [on the road]. My family has been so supportive my whole career. I could go to Toronto and they’re going to be at a lot of games. It would be awesome to play in Orlando so I could have my friends and family see me play, but how supportive and how good my family’s been to me, no matter where I go, they’re going to be there.”

Go Gators,

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