FOUR BITS: Every, Tebow, Dickerson, Petrick

1 » Former Florida Gators golfer Matt Every, back on the PGA Tour after recovering from a broken finger and being reinstated following a three-month suspension received for being arrested on a misdemeanor drug charge (marijuana), took a two shot lead at the 2012 Sony Open on Friday thanks to him finishing his round with a 6-under 64. Every said that a “perfect storm” of bad luck led to his arrest and that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He told the Associated Press that though he did not smoke marijuana that night and still does not now, he will not stop hanging out with his friends because of one unfortunate incident. “I have great friends, man. If one of my friends likes to smoke marijuana every now and then, I’m not going to say, `Well, you can’t be my friend anymore,’” Every said. “Honestly, man, I know more people who smoke marijuana than who don’t smoke marijuana. I know that’s probably not the politically correct thing to say, but it’s the truth.” He added that he “feels like a rookie” playing this year and hopes to add to his lead when he tees off at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

2 » Yahoo! Sports’ ThePostGame caught up with longtime NFL scout and executive Ken Herock, which the website describes as “the one NFL scout who believed in Tim Tebow,” to discuss the Denver Broncos quarterback and how he has performed so far in the first 15 starts of his career. “I spent five hours with him,” Herock said, “and I knew he was special.” He continued, “He’s just like a coach. He can see things. He’s not particularly fast. He’s not particularly quick. He has good vision when he runs. He sees the holes when he runs. He’s got a special gift for seeing things on the field. He has a sixth-sense vision. […] There are so many things you can do with him. There are things you can do with him that they did years ago. When Len Dawson was the quarterback at Kansas City they had the moving pocket. They could so something like that with Tebow.” Herock also said that Tebow’s arm strength is not an issue and even though his throwing motion is a concern for some, it can be worked on and tweaked.

3 » The Nationwide Tour, the developmental arm of the PGA, recently published a list of the top 20 players to watch in 2012 and one former Florida golfer, Bubba Dickerson found his way on the list at No. 17. Dickerson jumped 68 spots on the Nationwide money list from 2010 to 2011 and finished 46th last year while posting three top 10 showings in his first six tournaments. However, “he missed 11 of 12 cuts [at the end of the year] to take himself out of a position to get a PGA Tour card for 2012,” according to tour. “I’m looking forward to being able to plan my schedule because last year I started out with conditional status so in that respect I think things should go a little better for me,” he said. “I just need to be more consistent on my chipping and putting.”

4 » Former Gators runner Sara Petrick, who has continued competing since leaving Florida, has qualified for the women’s trails for the 2012 London Olympics but must shave 23 minutes off of her marathon time in order to earn a spot on the team. Though she knows the chances are slim, Petrick is just happy to be “competing against the best” runners in the country. Petrick is looking to run the marathon on Saturday in a total time of 2:45.28, which is just over six minutes per mile. “To give you an idea of how fast that pace is, you have to turn the speed on a treadmill to 9.7 and run 26 miles at that speed to reach that time,” she told the Tampa Bay Times. Petirck considers herself “just a novice when it comes to marathon running” but that does not mean she’s not happy with what she’s been able to accomplish up to this point. “One of my proudest moments was knowing I had a qualifying time to compete in the trails,” Petrick said.

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Demps chooses different path, will go pro in track

Senior running back Jeff Demps almost decided not to return to the Florida Gators football team for his fourth and final season of eligibility. Also a track and field star at Florida, he had an opportunity to turn pro and was weighing a decision to sign a lucrative offer from Nike or come back and play football for one more year.

Demps had made his decision days earlier, but head coach Will Muschamp officially announced on July 26 that one of the team’s most explosive players would come back to play and report with the rest of the squad at the beginning of August.

“When I came to Florida I wanted to compete at a very high level in both sports and I’ve done that,” Demps said in a school release at the time. “Football has been my first love but I also love running track. All of my coaches have been supportive and I’ve always been able to concentrate on whatever sport I’m competing in during that season. I concentrated on track this past spring and summer and I’m now ready to concentrate on football. I’m looking forward to getting back together with my football teammates and having a great senior season.”

After suffering through injuries in 2010 that saw him gain career-lows in yards, rushing average and touchdowns, he hoped to regain his primary role in 2011 under a new regime. Instead, a healthy Demps took somewhat of a backseat to redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey and got just six more carries than he did in his injury-plagued season, running for 569 yards while finding the end zone six times.

On Thursday, the University of Florida announced that Demps has decided to forego the 2012 NFL Draft and rejoin the Gators track and field program as he attempts to earn a spot with the United States in the 2012 London Olympics.

“Once I got done with the Gator Bowl, I kind of already had my mind made up, it was just when was I going to tell everyone,” Demps said Thursday in the release. “I enjoy track and it’s something I love to do. When I’m out here, I’m enjoying myself and having fun with the guys. I wanted to come back and run. It’s somewhat of an individual sport, but it’s also a team sport. You win championships as a team.”

A four-time national champion, Demps has the 60 meters indoors and 100 meters outdoors for Florida. He has won back-to-back titles in the former event for the Gators, helping lead Florida to consecutive national championships in the NCAA Indoors.

Gators track and field coach Mike Holloway, who was named in Feb. 2011 as an assistant for the sprinters and hurdlers on the U.S. Olympic Team, is excited to have one of his best athletes back in the fold.

“The biggest thing for me – and Jeff and I have talked about this a lot since last summer – I just wanted Jeff to be happy,” Holloway said. “Jeff has never really been a full-time track guy. He has always been a guy that played football and ran track. For him to have accomplished the things he has accomplished is phenomenal. I’m ecstatic. Obviously it’s big for our program. Jeff brings a different kind of energy to the track. When the other guys see him out there working as hard as he does, it gets them to step their game up a bit. We are a big family out here and he’s a member of the family.”

While Rainey, redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley and other players will pursue professional football careers this year, Demps said that track was “always something in the back of my mind” but that he wanted to be there for Florida football and his teammates during the program’s transition period.

Now he will have a chance to shine at what many believe he is the best at – running straight ahead as fast as possible. And when the Olympics are over, whether or not Demps brings home a medal, his playing experience with the Gators could always afford him an opportunity at one day playing in the NFL.

Photo Credit: Jim Burgess

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FOUR BITS: Dunlap qualifies, Cosby on Tebow, Donovan’s adjustments, Reynolds commits

1 » Former Florida Gators golfer Scott Dunlap earned his PGA Tour card on Monday by finishing Qualifying School tied for 18th with a final score of -10 (422). Dunlap, 48, has earned $2.7 million playing in 184 events in his PGA career. He’s made 96 cuts, finished in the top 25 a total of 33 times, finished in the top 10 on 13 occasions and has never finished an event higher than third place (three times).

2 » Comedian Billy Cosby, who will be in Denver, CO for a comedy show on New Year’s Eve, released a YouTube message Monday promoting the event while complementing the Denver Broncos and quarterback Tim Tebow. You can check it out below:

3 » Florida basketball is getting it done from long range so far this season, and junior guard Kenny Boynton is leading the way. However, according to Sports Illustrated’s Andy Glockner, the Gators may not be able to continue with this philosophy throughout the remainder of the season. “Gone, too, appears to be the offensive approach from last season, where Florida took almost 70 percent of its field goal attempts from two-point range,” he writes. “Now with five shooters in their primary seven-man rotation, the Gators have thus far been one of the nation’s most three-point-dependent teams, taking 43.5 percent of their shots from behind the arc. Of their top six shot-takers, only [Patric] Young has taken fewer threes than twos. Everyone else is letting it fly.”

He continues, “Seven games into a campaign is far too early to draw any concrete conclusions about a team and its style of play, but what Florida has served up thus far — whether against Stetson or Syracuse — seems like a short-term salve rather than season-long salvation. The Gators certainly have the talent to make it to New Orleans, but they’re probably going to have to find a slightly different route by which to get there.”

4 » Florida track and field added another dynamic athlete this week as sprinter Robin Reynolds has committed to play for the Gators beginning next season. Reynolds, who hopes to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, currently runs for Miami Jackson Senior High School and “owns the most state championships of any Miami-Dade County female track and field athlete [of] all-time,” the Miami Herald reports. Both of Reynolds’s parents went to Florida, and she chose to follow in their footsteps. “I wanted to go somewhere close enough to them, but still far enough to go away to school,” she said. “I grew up a Gator fan, and I bleed orange and blue. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to develop at the next level and I felt [Florida] gave me the best chance of doing that.”

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Lochte sets world record, tops Phelps again

Soon after defeating 14-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps by 0:00.35 to win the 200-meter freestyle at the World Swimming Championships in China, former Florida Gators standout Ryan Lochte continued his efforts to become the face of USA Swimming with a world record performance on Thursday.

Previously the owner of four world records, Lochte added a fifth by topping Phelps for the second-straight race and finishing the 200-meter individual medley with a world-best time of 1:54.00 in Shanghai, China.

Lochte shaved 0:00.10 off his previous best and set the first world record since high-tech bodysuits were banned at the beginning of last year.

“I wanted to do something that everyone thought was impossible,” he said after the race. “Since they banned those suits, everyone thought a world record would never get touched again. I just wanted to show everyone that can happen. That’s why we have records — they’re meant to get broken. Hopefully everyone now can start realizing that, ‘Hey it’s possible,’ so hopefully a lot more records will fall.”

Last December, Lochte set two world records and won seven medals at the 2010 FINA Short Course World Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The two world records were the only ones set during the entire year.

With two more races to go and a pair of gold medals to potentially be won, Lochte is not nearly done at the championships. He hopes to continue improving his technique as he looks ahead to the 2012 London Olympics.

Photo Credit: USA Swimming

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FOUR BITS: Lochte, Tebow, softball, Watkins

1 » Continuing his efforts in replacing Michael Phelps as the face of USA Swimming, former Florida Gators standout Ryan Lochte defeated the 14-time Olympic gold medalist by 0:00.35 to win the 200-meter freestyle at the World Swimming Championships in China. Lochte, the owner of four world records, took home gold in the event as he continues his trek to the 2012 London Olympics.

2 » The Denver Post reported early Tuesday that the Denver Broncos have been entertaining offers for veteran quarterback Kyle Orton after putting him on the trading block, setting the stage for former Gators signal caller Tim Tebow to take the reigns in Mile High. Tebow, who arrived for the first day of practice at 7:45 a.m. even though the doors did not open until 8:01 a.m., was the second player to make it to the facility (a practice squad offensive lineman got there minutes earlier).

3 » USA Softball won the 2011 World Cup of Softball on Monday, defeating Japan 6-4 in the finale of the event at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, OK. Florida junior right fielder Brittany Schutte contributed a sacrifice fly to plate a run in the contest; Gators senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie was also a member of the team.

4 » Friday Night Lights, though it has not directly resulted in any commitments as of press time, made quite an impression with a number of top players who visited for one of Florida’s biggest recruiting nights of the year. Four-star defensive tackle Carlos Watkins (Forest City, NC), the No. 8 player at his position and a member of the Rivals100, told The Gainesville Sun that the Gators bumped their way up his list, which also consists of Alabama, Clemson and South Carolina. Florida three-star safety commit Rhaheim Ledbetter (Boiling Springs, NC), Watkins’ friend and fellow North Carolina product, believes the player’s most recent trip may have turned him to the Orange & Blue. “I think Friday Night Lights might have just did it for him,” he said on Saturday. “I told him once you get down to Florida and you see that place, you’re gonna love it.” Ledbetter is recruiting both Watkins and five-star defensive end Jonathan Bullard (Shelby, NC) hard, hoping both of his friends join him in Gainesville, FL. “He always gives me the Gator Chomp when he sees me,” Watkins said about Ledbetter’s recruiting tactics. “He wants all of us to come there.”

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Milton-Jones: “What’s the point in playing if you’re not playing for a championship?”

By Nicole Boyett – OGGOA Student Correspondent

The WNBA may not be a professional sport followed by many Florida Gators fans, but it is time for them to start taking notice if they haven’t already as the only woman representing the Orange & Blue in the league, DeLisha Milton-Jones, has been nominated as one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All Time.

During her time at Florida, Milton-Jones led the Gators to four NCAA Tournament appearances (including the 1997 Elite Eight) while earning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and Associated Press All-American honors her senior year. She followed up her stellar collegiate career by playing in the ABL for two years before being was drafted with the No. 4 overall pick in the 1999 WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. Now in her 13th WNBA season, Milton-Jones is one of the most accomplished players to step on the hardwood.

She has won two Olympic gold medals for Team USA (2000, 2008), back-to-back WNBA titles with Los Angeles (2001, 2002) and a pair of Euroleague Championships (2003, 2006) while also having been named a WNBA All-Star twice (2000, 2007).

At of the end of the 2010 season, she was 11th in the WNBA in total points, 10th in total rebounds, ninth in field goals made, 14th in free throws made, sixth in total steals, 13th in total blocks, 11th in minutes per game, and seventh in total minutes played. Despite her impressive career and overwhelming talent on the court, Milton-Jones continues to be overlooked as one of the greatest female basketball players to ever lace up her shoes. The hope is that her talent is recognized on July 23 when the WNBA announces the league’s all-time Top 15 players at the 15th annual All-Star Game in San Antonio, TX.

Milton-Jones sat down with OGGOA’s Nicole Boyett for an exclusive interview just a handful of games into her 13th WNBA season. Averaging 12.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, she continues to lead the Sparks and hopes to be recognized for the impact she has made on women’s basketball in the United States.

NICOLE BOYETT: What does it mean to you to be the only Gator in the WNBA and to have had such a long and successful career?
DELISHA MILTON-JONES: “I am proud that I’m the lone standing Gator in the league, but I’m also sad because I feel like there should definitely be more of us in the league. When [former Florida star] Murriel Page* decided to leave after her achilles injury, that was pretty much it for us, and I think that her and I both did a great job of representing the Gators all these years.”
*Page was selected No. 3 overall in the 1998 WNBA Draft by the Washington Mystics. She is now an assistant coach under Amanda Butler at UF.

NB: As a Gator, you won SEC Player of the Year, were an All-American and went to the NCAA Tournament every year. With all of your accomplishments at Florida, do you get the opportunity to come back and talk to the team or head coach Amanda Butler?
DMJ: “It is difficult to support the team the way I would like to because, in the off-season during their season, is when I leave for Europe. After the WNBA season, I usually have a week, maybe less, to prepare myself for the next eight months in Europe, so there’s really no downtime for me. For the past 11 years, I’ve been playing in Europe as well as the WNBA year-round, so it is very difficult to get back. I wasn’t even able to come back when I was inducted into the WNBA Hall of Fame because it was during an important time in the season in Europe and the team wouldn’t allow me to come back, so I had to miss it. My mother had to go in my place. I’m hoping that – when it’s all said and done and I decide to retire – that they allow me to come back and be able to participate in the ceremony in a different way.”

NB: You’ve won two gold medals with Team USA, two WNBA Championships and two Euroleague titles. How do those compare to each other and how does winning a gold medal compare to winning a championship?
DMJ: “A championship is a championship, but they all feel good. I think the difference is that the gold medals probably have more value to me because it’s on the largest stage possible and I won. I consider myself to be so blessed, lucky, and privileged to have been a participant in several Olympics. That’s just a dream come true and it lets you know that you are in a category that many people would give their arm for just to be able to participate in. To be able to walk into the opening ceremonies and participate in the game is something that was so special that if I hadn’t gotten the gold medal, it wouldn’t matter because the memories will last a lifetime. Any time I think of that feeling, it just sends chills down my spine.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Milton-Jones…after the break!
Continue Reading » Milton-Jones: “What’s the point in playing if you’re not playing for a championship?”

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Wambach featured in This Is SportsCenter spot

Former Florida Gators soccer player Abby Wambach – an Olympic gold medalist, three-time U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year and member of the 2011 U.S. Women’s National Team set to compete at the 2011 Women’s World Cup beginning June 26 in Germany – is featured in ESPN’s latest “This Is SportsCenter” commercial. Check out the video featuring the third highest scorer in U.S. history below:

Wambach was also recently profiled by the Associated Press, noting the one thing missing from her extensive resume is a World Cup win. “You can score all the goals you want, you can win all the awards you want, and they might look pretty on your bookshelf when you retire. But the prettiest medals are the ones for the championships that you’ve won,” Wambach said. “I guarantee you [Brazil star] Marta probably would trade in every player of the year award she had for a world championship, and I’m the same way.”

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Gatorade goes Inside the Edge with Ryan Lochte

Former Florida Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte, now a six-time Olympic medalist (three gold) for the United States, shot a commercial with Gatorade that takes the viewer inside his training routine and mindset as he prepares for the 2012 London Olympics.

The owner of four world records including the 200-meter individual medley (long and short course), 400-meter individual medley (short course) and 4×200-meter freestyle relay (long course), he hopes lead Team USA with a Michael Phelps-like performance in 2012. In the commercial, Gatorade goes Inside the Edge with Lochte, who sports plenty of orange and blue for its duration.

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