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.

Read three more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Floyd, NFL, Demps, WWE, Lee

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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.

Continue Reading » Reined-in Rosario reigns for Gators in round of 32

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FOUR BITS: Mitts, Florida basketball, Zunino

1 » Former Florida Gators defender Heather Mitts, who announced her retirement from soccer in May before the 2012 London Olympics, participated in the games, won a gold medal and has now completed the victory tour with the U.S. Women’s National Team. On Wednesday, Mitts officially ended her career by sending out a long message on her Facebook page. Below is a truncated version of Mitts’s message, which can be read in full by clicking here.

The time has come for me to move onto a new stage of my career. I truly appreciate the women who paved the way, to my friends and dear teammates that I will never forget.

I will miss the little things… the travel by plane, train and mini van, the locker room moments, keeping my teammates on their toes and nothing will ever compare to putting on that US jersey. It’s been an amazing journey with some obstacles but in the very end I feel so fortunate that we were able to close on a golden note. […]

A special thanks to Ohio ODP, my numerous club teams, St. Ursula Academy and the University of Florida. To Becky Burleigh, Vic Campbell & Mark Kirkorian for preparing me to reach the next level & James Galanis for helping me reach my full potential. […]

Its amazing how 28 years of playing a sport I love and always will, can fly by. From my first cap til now, the growth of the sport has been profound. […] I leave with so much gratitude to US Soccer for allowing us the right to play for our country. Lastly the fans. Your constant love and support for the sport and this team is among the best in the world. I look forward to joining you to cheer on this amazing team.

2 » According to The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway, Florida basketball “saw a modest gain in home attendance” during the 2012-13 season, averaging 10,667 fans in paid attendance as compared to 10,434 from a year ago. The Gators sold out six games (all Southeastern Conference contests) but still finished sixth in the league in attendance behind Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Missouri. All five schools have larger arenas and greater seating capacities than Florida.

3 » The esteemed Ken Pomeroy, who runs KenPom.com and churns out advanced analysis of college basketball, released his “All-kenpom” team for the SEC. Interestingly enough, the team was comprised of all five Gators starters – junior center Patric Young (his Player of the Year), senior forward Erik Murphy, senior guard Kenny Boynton, redshirt senior G Mike Rosario and junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin. He also discusses how Florida’s “lack of success in close games” is over-criticized and provides his projections for the 2013 SEC Tournament.

4 » According to CBSSports.com baseball insider Jon Heyman, the Seattle Mariners are thrilled with how 2013 MLB Draft No. 3 overall pick catcher Mike Zunino is playing but are not prepared to call him up to the major leagues just yet. Seattle will enter the season with Jesus Montero and Kelly Shoppach as catchers despite Zunino hitting .360 in Single-A and Double-A minor league ball last season. In spring training action, Zunino is just 4/19 (.211) with a homer. His time will most certainly come with the Mariners, but it does not appear as if it will be this season.

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SIX BITS: combine, Demps, Lee, Donovan, Lochte

1 » The 2013 NFL Scouting Combine is now in the books. Though not all of the 10 Florida Gators invited participated in the full event, a handful did and looked quite good while doing so. Below are links to OGGOA‘s combine wrap-ups. Click the appropriate link to see how your favorite former Florida player performed.

Safeties Matt Elam and Josh EvansTuesday | Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd; linebackers Jon Bostic, Jelani Jenkins and Lerentee McCrayMonday | Running back Mike GillisleeSunday | Offensive tackle Xavier Nixon, kicker Caleb Sturgis, tight end Jordan ReedSaturday

2 » New England Patriots running back and Olympic silver medalist sprinter Jeff Demps wants to return to the track but do so without giving up football. According to agent Daniel Rose of Gridiron Sports, who did not return a request for comment from OGGOA but did send a tweet about the subject on Tuesday, Demps truly hopes that New England gives him permission to pursue both of his passions. “Jeff Demps has no intentions of leaving football. He loves doing both football and track. Representing Team USA in track and field in the Olympics and playing NFL football are an honor and privilege and Jeff Demps loves both,” he wrote. NFL.com‘s Ian Rapoport first reported the story and explained on NFL Network that “he plans to compete in an event in March and that calendar would run through August. They informed the Patriots of that this week. It’s possible the Patriots could work out a deal as Demps does want to play two sports. It’s a little too early to know a resolution on this but we do know he wants to play two sports.” Whether or not New England – or another NFL team – wants to give Demps that opportunity is an unknown at this point.

3 » While at NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston, TX a few weeks ago, Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee approached USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo about playing for Team USA in the upcoming 2014 FIBA World Cup and remaining on the team through the 2016 Rio Olympics. According to FOX Sports’ Chris Tomasson, Colangelo “said nothing is definite yet as far as Lee being among 20 to 24 players” invited to Las Vegas, NV for training camp from July 24-28. Chances are he will have that opportunity, however, as Lee trained with Team USA in preparation for the World Championships in 2010 and probably would have made the team if not for sustaining an injury that forced him to depart early.

Check out three more Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: combine, Demps, Lee, Donovan, Lochte

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14 Gator Bites for Tuesday, February 19

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.

» Rather than doubling down on disappointment while stuck playing in the state North Carolina, No. 2 Florida Gators women’s tennis (4-1) came from behind on Monday to pick up a huge victory over the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels (9-1) in Chapel Hill, NC. UNC, which took over for UF as the No. 1 team in the country last week, held a 2-0 advantage over its visitors after winning the doubles point and a singles match to start the contest. The Gators answered by rallying with four consecutive singles match victories to pick up the 4-2 win. First, junior Olivia Janowicz took down No. 79 Tessa Lyons 6-2, 6-1. Freshman Brianna Morgan then picked up a 6-1, 6-1 win over No. 122 Lauren McHale, leaving the match in the hands of Florida’s two best players. No. 4 senior Lauren Embree came through in the clutch once again with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 victory against No. 7 Gina Suarez-Malaguti, and No. 9 junior Sofie Oyen fought hard on court two to defeat No. 30 Zoe De Bruycker 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. UF’s loss on Sunday at No. 4 Duke was its first in over a year’s time. By taking down the Tar Heels on Monday, the Gators avoided falling in consecutive matches for the first time in three years.

» Former Florida guard Matt Walsh, who signed a deal with Spirou Charleroi of Belgium in August 2012, told OGGOA on Monday that his contract has been purchased by Brose Baskets of Bamberg, Germany. The three-time defending German champions play in the Euroleague and are hoping Walsh helps push them to a fourth-straight title.

» Despite multiple reports pointing to the contrary, Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman on Friday said he has “no intent” of trading wide receiver Percy Harvin, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Harvin raised concerns about Minnesota’s offense (and how he was not utilized much) prior to the 2012 season and reportedly got into an explosive verbal argument with head coach Leslie Frazier during the season. While it does look like he and the Vikings will split ways, multiple players have come out in his defense and expressed their desire to see him return to the team. The latest to do so is quarterback Christian Ponder, who said he “obviously” wants Harvin to return because “he’s a tremendous player” and “a heck of a part of this offense and this team in general.” Ponder told KFAN in Minneapolis, MN that he and Harvin have a good relationship and “spent some extra time together” working on their on-field chemistry during the last offseason.

Read 11 more bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » 14 Gator Bites for Tuesday, February 19

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17 Gator Bites for Monday, January 14

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.

» Florida Gators junior forward Will Yeguete as seen Gator Chomping his way into your living room after his team took down LSU 74-52 on the road on Saturday. Animated GIF created for OnlyGators.com by photekxl.

» In addition to being the first center in NFL history to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons in the league, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey learned Saturday that he has also been voted a 2012 NFL All-Pro by the Associated Press for the third-straight year. Pouncey was also named to USA Football’s All-Fundamental Team this season.

» Fresh off winning the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year award for the first time in her illustrious career, former Florida striker Abby Wambach received some more great news when she was allocated to her hometown team – the Western New York Flash – on Friday by the brand new eight-team National Women’s Soccer League. Wambach, a native of Rochester, NY, was like all players able to submit a list of requested destinations for the league’s initial allocation and of course put the Flash, which are set to play home games in Rochester, at the very top. Though not every player in the league received their top choice – including other U.S. Women’s National Team stars – most were happy with their destinations. None more so than Wambach.

» According to multiple reports, Gators freshman defensive back Willie Bailey has chosen Louisville as his transfer destination. Bailey chose to leave the program in early December in a decision that was a long time coming as he was not likely to see the field much for the duration of his career.

Check out 13 more Gator Bites…after the break!
Continue Reading » 17 Gator Bites for Monday, January 14

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Abby Wambach wins FIFA World Player of the Year

U.S. Women’s National Team striker Abby Wambach, a former Florida Gators standout, earned her sport’s biggest honor on Monday when she was named the winner of the 2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or for Women’s World Player of the Year.

The first American to win the award since Mia Hamm in 2002, Wambach did so by posting 27 international goals and leading the United States to its third-straight gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics. Her 152 career international goals rank second all-time to Hamm (158), who she will likely surpass in 2013.

Wambach scored in each of the first five matches of the Olympics and posted the second-best international scoring total of her career over the course of the year.

She edged five-time Ballon d’Or winner Marta (Brazil) and Alex Morgan (United States) for the award. Wambach received 20.67 percent of the vote compared to 13.50 percent for Marta and 10.87 percent for Morgan, according to the Associated Press.

Coaches, team captains and select media voted for the award, which is the first of Wambach’s career. She finished third for the honor just last year.

The Ballon d’Or is the highest honor of Wambach’s 13-year professional career. She is also a five-time winner of U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year and was named Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in 2011.

Wambach took home the Bronze Boot and Silver Ball following the 2011 Women’s World Cup and was also the recipient of the 2011 ESPY Award for Best Play.

She was a two-time SEC Player of the Year for Florida and led the Gators to their only national title in 1998. Wambach was inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame this past spring and still holds Florida career records in goals (96), assists (50) and points (242).

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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