SIX BITS: Zunino, Horschel, Wambach, Elam

1 » Former Florida Gators catcher Mike Zunino earned his first career MLB start on Wednesday for the Seattle Mariners, opening the game behind the plate and batting sixth. Zunino went 1/4 with a strikeout in the game, registering his first big-league hit during his second at-bat. Had Nick Franklin not held up at third base, Zunino also would have registered his first career RBI.

2 » Billy Horschel is the only former Gators golfer competing in the 2013 U.S. Open this weekend and plans to make a statement with his attire. Should Horschel make it to Sunday, which is likely considering he is fourth in the FedEx Cup standings at this time, he will don a dark pair of pants featuring octopi. Really. See here.

3 » Though no further information was provided, U.S. Women’s National Team star striker Abby Wambach on Wednesday tweeted out this picture of her hanging out with New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes. “Hey @BrandonSpikes55 nice chillin’ with you. Gators nation forever. No doubt! #newpatsfan,” she wrote on Twitter.

Check out three more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
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SIX BITS: USA, Tebow, Spikes, Pouncey, Sturgis

1 » Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons are two of 27 players that have accepted invitations to participate in the 2013 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Mini-Camp from July 22-25 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 during the mini-camp 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. Eight of the players that participated in USA Basketball’s mini-camp in 2009 went on to make the 2009-12 team and eventually win gold in the 2012 London Olympics.

2 » Quarterback Tim Tebow is not the only member of the New England Patriots making waves in minicamp. Linebacker Brandon Spikes, who missed all of the team’s organized team activities while training on his own in Florida, arrived on Monday and began working with his New England teammates on Tuesday. “Honestly, I just felt like I was trying to put myself in the best position to compete for a spot on the team and also help this team win a championship,” Spikes told the Boston Globe. “I mean, you guys know me. I frequently do things a little bit different from everybody else. I don’t think they’re bad, or a shocker. Honestly, if everybody in the world was a conformist, it would be a boring place.” Spikes offered a “no comment” when asked about being in the last year of his rookie contract and also addressed the team bringing in Tebow.

“I was happy for him [when I heard he’d been signed],” Spikes said. “He got to get his job back and come out here and compete. So that’s good to see him smile, you know that big smile I’m used to seeing for the last few years down in Florida. … He’s a hard worker, a competitor, and he loves the game and you need guys like that.”

Check out four more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
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6 BITS: Bonner, Miller, Johnson, Simpson, Beisel

1 » In South Florida for about a week while his team participated in the first two games of the 2013 NBA Finals, San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner told ProBasketballTalk that he was getting a lot of support from Florida Gators fans in the area. “I’ve been getting ‘Go Gators’ everywhere,” Bonner said. “Even people with Miami Heat jerseys, walking down the street will yell at everyone else then see me, wait for no one to look and [whisper] ‘Go Gators.’ It’s the whole spectrum, older Gators, younger Gators. You know, it’s six degrees of separation, except here it’s like two or three degrees of Gator separation.” Bonner, who OGGOA noted last week is a big fan of sandwiches, also said that he enjoyed a few Cuban sandwiches while in town.

2 » Miami guard Mike Miller looks every bit of 33 years old most of the time, but his ability to drain threes in the playoffs has made him a hot name for the second-straight postseason. On Sunday during Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Miller went 3-for-3 from downtown, scoring nine points on the evening as his team pulled off a victory. Though he still looks old, Miller feels young for the first time in a while; during the 2012 playoffs, he could not run without limping. “I’ve got a lot of basketball left. It’s the best I’ve felt in five years,” Miller told ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez. “Sometimes, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, even when you’re frustrated. I feel great. Knock on wood it stays that way.”

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Review – SEC Storied: Abby Head On

Abby Head On, the eighth SEC Storied documentary aired by ESPNU and first focused solely on a former Florida Gators student-athlete, will debut on Wednesday at 8 p.m. OGGOA was afforded the opportunity to watch an advanced copy of the documentary, which takes a close look at the rise of soccer striker Abby Wambach.

Toughness, grittiness and attitude are just a few of Wambach’s hallmark characteristics, ones she developed as a child, enhanced as a standout at Florida and fully realized as a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team. The decision by co-directors Erin Leyden and Gentry Kirby to choose former Gators defensive end Jack Youngblood to narrate parts of the documentary was not only a nice touch for Florida and SEC fans but also a deft choice as it set the tone for the feature early.

Abby Head On begins with a look at Wambach’s game-winning goal in the 2004 Athens Olympics (and her boisterous personality) but quickly moves on to her upbringing in Rochester, NY and how toughness, intensity and competitiveness were all instilled in her at a young age. Having to compete with a bunch of brothers for her parents’ attention made participating in sports attractive from the get go.

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SEC Storied film to feature UF’s Abby Wambach

Former Florida Gators striker Abby Wambach will be the subject of ESPNU‘s eighth SEC Storied documentary, OGGOA has learned.

Abby Head On, which is set to premiere on May 15 at 8 p.m. on ESPNU, will be officially announced by the network later Monday. The film chronicles Wambach’s collegiate career with the Gators, international accomplishments with the U.S. Women’s National Team and quest to break Mia Hamm’s international scoring record.

After surprising the soccer community by choosing to attend Florida over powerhouse North Carolina, Wambach led the Gators to four-straight SEC Championships (1998-2001), two Final Fours (1998, 2001) and an NCAA Championship (1998), which remains the soccer program’s only national title to this day.

Individually while playing for UF, she was a two-time SEC Player of the Year (2000-01) and SEC Freshman of the Year (1998) who was also a four-time All-SEC First Team selection and three-time first-team All-American.

Wambach left Florida upon graduation as the school record holder in goals (96), game-winning goals (24), points (242), assists (49) and hat tricks (10); she maintains the No. 1 spot in each of those categories to this day.

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4 BITS: gymnastics, tennis, Lochte, Muschamp

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics advanced to the NCAA Super Six for the seventh time in the last eight seasons on Friday by winning its session with a score of 197.775, which also wound up being the top overall mark during the two-session semifinals of the 2013 NCAA Championship. Additionally, Bridget Sloan became the second Florida freshman to win the NCAA’s all-around individual national title in as many years after she posted a combined 39.600 on Friday with a 9.925 in the uneven bars, 9.900s in the floor exercise and balance beam, and a 9.875 in the vault. The Gators have never won an NCAA team title but came excruciatingly close one season ago, falling by 0.075 points in the Super Six. Alabama, which won the 2012 championship, returns to this season’s Super Six field along with Florida, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma and UCLA. The Crimson Tide, Bulldogs and Bruins are three of just four teams in the history of the sport that have won NCAA gymnastics titles (Utah); the Gators are hoping to become the fifth on Saturday in Los Angeles, CA in a meet that begins at 7 p.m.

2 » (3) Florida women’s tennis and (3) Gators men’s tennis each won their 2013 Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinal matches on Friday. Each had byes in the first two rounds of the tournament. The women took down the (6) Vanderbilt Commodores 4-1, and the men swept the (6) South Carolina Gamecocks 4-0 as both teams advanced to the semifinals of their respective tournaments. Florida’s women’s team will go head-to-head with (2) Texas A&M on Saturday at approximately 3 p.m. The Gators men’s program will square off with (2) Tennessee at 11 a.m. The women’s team is hoping to win its fourth-straight SEC Tournament title, while the men are trying to capture their first since 2011.

3 » Former Florida swimmer Ryan Lochte, in an effort to promote his new reality program “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?” (which premiers on Sunday at 10 p.m. on E!), appeared on FOX 29 in Philadelphia, PA for an interview on Friday and made, well, made the female host cry. Rather than shedding tears after Lochte told a touching story or because she was so overwhelmed by what some women perceive to be his attractiveness, Sheinelle Jones broke into tears from laughing at, well, Lochte’s stupidity. Check out the video below to see for yourself.

Lochte’s athletic accomplishments have instilled a sense of pride in Gators fans – especially during the 2012 London Olympics – but his interviews and upcoming reality show may bring forth a different emotion: embarrassment.

4 » A feature story by Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com takes a look at Florida head coach Will Muschamp and how he has changed from a personality standpoint now that he is entering the third year at the helm of the Gators. “Something two years ago would have happened, [and] I would have probably blown my head off thinking about it,” he conceded. “Now I roll with the punches a little better than maybe I did before.” Interestingly enough, his parents disagreed on how Muschamp’s demeanor may appear in his third year with the team. His mother, Sally, thinks he may be calming down a bit – “I think he’s enjoying everything more now.” – while his father, Larry, doubts that will be the case – “I don’t think he’ll be settling down a whole lot.”

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FOUR BITS: Floyd, NFL, Demps, WWE, Lee

1 » It has been a busy last few days in Gainesville, FL for Florida Gators hoping to continue their football careers and be selected in the 2013 NFL Draft. On Friday, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, linebacker Lerentee McCray and wide receiver Omarius Hines (who just ran the 40-yard dash in an effort to improve his time) participated in a private Pro Day on campus. Floyd and McCray both sat out Florida’s first Pro Day on March 12. According to NFL.com, 14 teams were in Gainesville to watch Floyd including the Oakland Raiders (No. 3 overall pick) with general manager Reggie McKenzie. NFL Network was there to watch Floyd; this report (which was followed by a lengthy discussion) was aired on Friday. ESPN’s Adam Schefter added that, on Monday, a collection of officials from the Kansas City Chiefs (No. 1 overall pick) – including general manager John Dorsey – held a private workout with Floyd.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was also in Gainesville over the weekend first to watch his daughter (an assistant coach for Ohio State’s lacrosse team) on Saturday and then to hold a private workout with five Florida players on Sunday, OGGOA has learned. Participating in Sunday’s private workout were McCray, linebackers Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins, safety Josh Evans and defensive lineman Earl Okine. The only other person in attendance to watch the workouts was Belichick’s right-hand man, New England director of player personnel Nick Caserio.

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Reined-in Rosario reigns for Gators in round of 32

It all started over the summer when redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario received a blessing from Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan.

Rosario, who recognized “that he screwed up” during his redshirt junior season with the Gators by slacking off and failing to meet Donovan’s expectations, asked his coach if he would be alright with him trying out for the Puerto Rican National Team as it competed for a spot in the 2012 London Olympics.

Donovan agreed and Rosario made the team. Though he did not play much for Puerto Rico – and the team did not qualify for the Olympics – Rosario came away from the experience humbled, hungry and more mature than ever.

Gone was the player who boggled his coach’s mind by missing 10 days with a hip pointer. “My daughter could work through that,” Donovan exclaimed back in October. Rosario rejoined Florida basketball as a player that understood the importance of being a great teammate, working through injuries and being both accountable and responsible not only on the court but off of it as well.

Semblances of his progress were noticeable early in the season. Donovan named Rosario a starter just a few days before the Gators’ first exhibition game and praised him for becoming a more trustworthy person and player. His changed attitude combined with his natural ability allowed Rosario to remain on the court long enough to lead Florida in scoring for a large portion of the 2012-13 campaign.

His court time increased immensely, as did his scoring and ability to contribute to the team, and the Gators were better for it.

Yet no better paradigm could be created to depict the effect Donovan has had on Rosario over the last two seasons than the way the first weekend of the 2013 NCAA Tournament unfolded for the Rutgers transfer.

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