Friday Final: Gators soccer star Heather Mitts returns to Gainesville with SEC Network

Former Florida Gators soccer star Heather Mitts, a three-time Olympic gold medalist with the U.S. Women’s National Team and 2013 inductee into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame, recently traded in her cleats for a microphone.

A major part of the Gators’ 1998 NCAA Championship-winning soccer team, Mitts went on to have a 12-year professional career before officially retiring in March 2013. She has since decided to embark on a career in sports broadcasting, which she actually began years ago as a part-time soccer analyst for FOX Sports and ESPN.

Now a sideline reporter (football) and analyst (soccer) for the SEC Network, Mitts will be returning to Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday as part of the broadcast team that will cover Florida’s football game against Eastern Michigan, the first-ever Gators contest that will be aired live on the network.

OnlyGators.com sat down with Mitts for 20 minutes on Thursday. She spoke at length about playing most of her professional career with a Florida teammate and close friend in Abby Wambach, moving into a broadcasting role, her love for the Gators and her admiration for UF head coach Becky Burleigh.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: How tough of a decision was it for you to ultimately retire from the game you love and hang up your cleats for good?
HEATHER MITTS: “You know what? It wasn’t actually that hard because I just felt like I had a lot of injuries towards the end of my career and I was able to do something that I loved for, gosh, as any years as it was. Since college, I literally thought I was going to play one or two years post-college, and I was able to go to three Olympics and one World Cup. To be able to kind of retire on a high note as well, with the Gold medal, being 35 years old with all the injuries that I had, it was just kind of like the right time for me to walk away. I felt really content with my decision.”

Continue Reading » Friday Final: Gators soccer star Heather Mitts returns to Gainesville with SEC Network

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SIX BITS: Easley, Parsons, Beisel, Gilbert, Haslem

1 » New England Patriots defensive tackle Dominique Easley is one of seven first-round selections in the 2014 NFL Draft who has not yet signed with his team. According to Ben Volin of The Boston Globe, Easley and the Patriots are haggling over injury language in his contract, a sensible hangup considering he is coming off of a college career in which he suffered two torn ACLs. Easley also made the news last week for spending a weekend this month at a football camp held at Princeton by Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. Easley, as it turns out, attended the camp five years ago and wanted to give back. “The Easley story is a really good story,” Garrett told the Dallas Morning News. “He’s talked to the kids, and when he stands up there as the 29th pick of the first round and says, ‘I sat in that seat five years ago, so don’t tell me that you can’t do this.'” As it turns out, he’s pretty successful at the camp as the paper notes he won the team football event both as a player and in his first year as a coach.

2 » If you want to hear Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons discuss fashion for 17 minutes, you can do so by checking out the video below.

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Easley, Parsons, Beisel, Gilbert, Haslem

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Gators Bradley Beal, David Lee make 28-man USA Basketball player pool for 2014-16

Two former Florida Gators have earned spots in USA Basketball’s 28-man player pool for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain and 2016 Rio Olympics with Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee officially named to the team by the organization on Thursday morning.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, who reported all 28 players on Wednesday night, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul are on the team but will not participate in the World Cup. Also joining Beal and Lee will be Kevin Durant, Paul George, James Harden, Dwight Howard and Stephen Curry along with 20 other NBA stars.

Beal, Lee and their teammates could compete over each of the next three summers.

They will first report to Team USA shortly after the conclusion of the 2013-14 NBA season in order to begin practicing ahead of the World Cup, which runs from Aug. 30 to Sept. 14. Should the United States win the World Cup, it will not have to participate in an international event in the summer of 2015. Either way, the team will come together again ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Continue Reading » Gators Bradley Beal, David Lee make 28-man USA Basketball player pool for 2014-16

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12 Gator Bites for Tuesday, January 21

From time to time, OnlyGators.com 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.

» The three Florida Gators participating in the 2014 Senior Bowl arrived over the weekend and got measured on Monday. Guard Jon Halapio checked in at 6’3-1/2” and 320 pounds, wide receiver Solomon Patton was the smallest player measured at 5’8-1/2” and 179 pounds, and cornerback Jaylen Watkins was listed at 5’11-3/8” and 194 pounds. Watkins will be updating OnlyGators.com on his status this Wednesday as he and his teammates prepare for the game on Saturday at 4 p.m. on NFL Network.

» Patton, a native of Mobile, AL, was not initially invited to the all-star game played in his hometown but rather received the opportunity to participate in the Senior Bowl last Tuesday after winning an MVP award at the inaugural Medal of Honor Bowl. He is not the only one excited. “It’s going to be great,” his father Solomon Patton, Sr., told AL.com. “It’s something we’ve dreamed about since he started playing football. It’s always been a dream of ours and his for him to make it back here [to play].” Patton also spoke about proving to scouts and team executives that he can play despite his relatively diminutive stature. “I might be small, but I can make big-time plays regardless of my size,” he said. “I’m just going to go in relaxed and od what I’ve been doing all year.”

» Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll on Monday said wide receiver Percy Harvin should be cleared to return to practice by Wednesday and ultimately compete in Super Bowl XLVIII. Harvin was held out of Sunday’s NFC Championship game due to lingering symptoms from a concussion he suffered two weekends ago. He has only played 39 total snaps in two games this season.

Check out NINE more Gators news bites…after the break!

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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!
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SIX BITS: Morrison, USA, Calathes, Pouncey

1 » Florida Gators sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison and head coach Will Muschamp – and even Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel – get the Taiwanese animation treatment in this video about Morrison’s two arrests in five weeks.

2 » Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons and Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal are joining 26 other players on Monday to participate in the 2013 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Mini-Camp in Las Vegas, NV. Though Parsons does not have much experience competing internationally, Beal was involved with USA Basketball as a high schooler and has represented his country before. Both men will have the opportunity to impress head coach Mike Krzyzewski from July 22-25 in hopes of earning placement on the 2013-16 U.S. Men’s National Team that will participate in international competitions, qualifiers and eventually the 2016 Rio Olympics. Unfortunately for Beal, he is still recovering from a stress fracture in his leg and is not expected to be able to participate in contact drills during the camp.

3 » ESPN.com‘s Marc Stein reported late Sunday night that the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies are in “advanced discussions on a trade” that would send former Florida Gators point guard Nick Calathes‘s rights from Dallas to Memphis in exchange for future draft considerations. Calathes, a second-round selection by the Mavericks in the 2009 NBA Draft, has never played in the NBA. He has spent the last four years playing basketball in Greece (2009-2012) and Russia (2012) and was named the 2013 Eurocup Most Valuable Player after leading his team, Lokomotiv Kuban, to a championship while averaging 12.9 points, 6.7 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game. UPDATE: Calathes’s rights were officially traded Monday afternoon. It is currently unknown if or when the Grizzlies will bring him to the league.

Check out three more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Morrison, USA, Calathes, Pouncey

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FOUR VIDEO BITS: Williams, Noah, Taylor

1 » Former Florida Gators point guard Jason Williams, a 12-year NBA veteran, retired during the 2010-11 season but is still displaying his signature flare in exhibition games. Competing in China during a USA Legends Tour game this month, Williams looked like the young “White Chocolate” when he successfully made a fastbreak elbow pass for a dunk, just like he did during the 2000 NBA Rookie Game.


2 » Competing in the Steve Nash Foundation Showdown in Chinatown on June 26 in New York, NY – a celebrity soccer event that benefits underserved children affected by poverty, illness, abuse or neglect – Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah scored the game-winning goal and celebrated in typical fashion. (Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons will participate in the west coast version of the game on Sunday, July 14.) Speaking of Noah, he and Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford will participate in the 2013 Basketball Without Borders program this summer. Noah, Horford and six other players will visit Johannesburg, South Africa, from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1 to coach and lead life seminars.

Continue Reading » FOUR VIDEO BITS: Williams, Noah, Taylor

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FOUR BITS: ESPYS, Murphy, Williams-Mills

1 » The Florida Gators will have the opportunity to win an award at the ESPYS for the third-straight year as two former student-athletes have been nominated in separate categories. U.S. Women’s National Team striker Abby Wambach is up for Best Record-Breaking Performance after setting the career international goal-scoring record in June. She will have to beat out quarterback Drew Brees (broke Johnny Unitas’s touchdown record), wide receiver Calvin Johnson (broke Jerry Rice’s season yardage record) and swimmer Michael Phelps (most decorated Olympian of all-time). Swimmer Ryan Lochte hopes to win Best Male U.S. Olympian but will have to earn votes over Phelps and decathlete Ashton Eaton. Wambach won an ESPY for Best Play in 2011 with QB Tim Tebow bringing home the award for Best Moment in 2012. The 2013 ESPYS will be held on Wednesday, July 17 at 9 p.m. and air live on ESPN.

2 » Holding up a No. 31 jersey at his team’s introductory press conference on Monday, new Chicago Bulls forward Erik Murphy is excited to get started and will begin working out with Chicago this week ahead of NBA Summer League action. The Bulls will compete in summer league games from July 12-22 at the Thomas & Mack Center and COX Pavilion in Las Vegas, NV. Chicago general manager Gar Forman said Monday that he is excited to see what Murphy, the No. 49 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, brings to the table. “We really haven’t had a guy that’s a stretch four,” he said. “We think as he continues to progress, it will give us an ability to space the floor.” The Bulls also released this one-on-one interview [Video] with Murphy from Monday.

3 » Former Gators sprinter Novlene Williams-Mills, who raced for Jamaica in the 2012 London Olympics and brought home bronze in the 4×400 Meter Relay, was diagnosed with breast cancer about a month before the games but never told anyone except for her husband, family and friends. In a feature by Laura Williamson of the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail, Williams-Mills discusses the trying time, her mindset during the Olympics, deciding to have a double mastectomy and how she is doing now (hint: very well). Just one week ago, she won her seventh Jamaican national championship, finishing first in the women’s 400 meters and advancing to the 2013 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Moscow, Russia, from Aug. 10-18. Williams-Mills will look to win her sixth World Championship medal to go along with her three Olympic bronzes.

4 » Three Florida swimmers will represent their country as USA Swimming competes at the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain, from July 19-Aug. 4. Over the last week, rising senior Elizabeth Beisel (200 Meter Individual Medley, 400 Meter I.M.), Conor Dwyer (200 Meter Freestyle, 200 Meter I.M.) and Ryan Lochte (200 Meter Freestyle, 200 Meter Backstroke, 100 Meter Butterfly, 200 Meter I.M., 4×100 Meter Freestyle Relay) advanced in their respective events during the 2013 Phillips 66 National Championships in Indianapolis, IN. Lochte, the current world record holder in the 200 Meter I.M. (a mark he set in 1:54.00 at the World Championships two years ago), won national titles in three of his events and was the only one of the Gators’ competitors to finish first in any race; Beisel finished second in both of her events.

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