SIX BITS: Parsons, Tebow, Wambach, Debose

1 » A report early Friday morning from ESPN’s Marc Stein and Chad Ford notes that former Florida Gators forward Chandler Parsons, a second-round draft pick of the Houston Rockets last year who had a stellar rookie season with the franchise, may wind up playing for the Orlando Magic in 2012 if his current franchise is successful in completing a trade for All-Star center Dwight Howard. Sources told Stein and Ford that Houston recently “sweetened” its offer to Orlando and that Parsons is one of four current players the Rockets would send to the Magic as part of an enormous package. Though nothing is imminent whatsoever, Houston has been in hot pursuit of Howard as of late. The Rockets traded for numerous first-round draft selections that they used in June (all of which would go to the Magic in the deal) and are trying to clear tons of cap space in order to give Howard a maximum contract and absorb expensive contracts as part of the trade. Should Parsons wind up getting traded, he would be able to play professionally in front of his family as he grew up in nearby Casselbery, FL.

2 » Coming off of a successful rookie season with Maccabi Ashdod of the Israeli league in which he averaged 12 points and 8.5 rebounds per game and was named the league’s Sixth Man of the Year, former Gators F Alex Tyus has signed a two-year deal to play for Pallacanestro Cantu in Italy, according to Sportando. Tyus, who recently received his Israeli citizenship and passport, will also play for the Israeli National Team while he is over in Europe. His contract with Cantu is worth $525,000 over the two seasons.

3 » Florida basketball is set to compete in the 2012 Orange Bowl Basketball Classic this season and will take part in the event for the 12th time in the last 13 years and 14th time in team history. It was revealed on Tuesday via a press release that UF will take on the Air Force Falcons in the event, marking the first time since 2008 that they will play a “lower-tier” program in the event (the Gators have faced Richmond, Kansas State and Texas A&M in Sunrise, FL over the last three seasons). The two-game tournament will be held on Dec. 29 at the BankAtlantic Center with Florida State and Tulsa going head-to-head in the first game of the doubleheader.

Read three more BITS on Lochte, Tebow, Wambach and Debose…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Parsons, Tebow, Wambach, Debose

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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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C Speights: “If I can get in there, I’ll produce.”

Suffering an early exit from the 2011 NBA Playoffs, former Florida Gators center Marreese Speights and the Philadelphia 76ers are now thinking about next year after being defeated 4-1 by the No. 2-seed Miami Heat.

A reserve on the Florida basketball team that won the 2007 NCAA National Championship, Speights started one season for the Gators (his sophomore year) before declaring for the NBA Draft and eventually being selected by the 76ers with the No. 16 overall pick in the first round. He sat down with OGGOA to discuss his college experience, the tough decision he faced after his second season with the team and what team he thinks will end up taking home the NBA title this year when all is said and done.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Your first year at Florida was obviously an adjustment as there were still a bunch of the upperclassmen holding starting roles. How was it walking into a team with established guys like Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Chris Richard already getting major minutes?
MARREESE SPEIGHTS: “It was a learning experience because the guys in front of me had already won a championship before I got there. It was a learning experience for me. A year to get better and a year to learn college basketball.”

AS: That team went on to win the National Championship for the second-straight time that year. What was it like playing on such a big stage so early in your career?
MS: “It was a great feeling. It is an opportunity nobody really has. A lot of people don’t really have that opportunity, so it was a great accomplishment for me.”

AS: Before the next season began, head coach Billy Donovan left for the NBA to lead the Orlando Magic only to change his mind and come back a few days later. How hard was that situation to deal with as a player?
MS: “It was hard because at one point we didn’t have no coach. It was a few guys with no coach, and everybody was wondering what was going to happen. But he came back and everything was good.”

AS: Were any of the players worried that he might leave again?
MS: “You could tell he really liked Florida a lot, that’s why he came back. We knew that when he came back he was going to be here for a while. It wasn’t going to be one year; it was going to be long-term.”

AS: The next year you became a starter and took advantage of it. I know Coach Donovan expected that, even as well as you played, you would be back at least one more season. When you first declared for the draft, were you doing it just to check your stock or was it always your plan to leave?
MS: “I was doing it just to check my stock. I really wanted to come back, but I heard the good news and I thought I should take the opportunity while it was there. I had to. It was real hard to tell him that I was going to the draft because I knew if I came back the team would have gotten even better. I had the opportunity, so I had to take it.”

AS: The decision obviously worked out as you were taken in the middle of the first round by Philadelphia. What was that transition to the NBA like? You played a lot of minutes right from the start in your rookie season.
MS: “The transition was kind of cool. I had to get used to travelling, playing against players [I] watched growing up and stuff. But it was a good step.”

AS: You started your second NBA season with a bang but then went down with a MCL injury. How difficult was that for you to deal with?
MS: “It was kind of hard because it kept me out for a long time. It was something I wasn’t used to, so I started working harder to get back there.”

AS: This year your minutes were pretty inconsistent. Some games you played over 20 minutes and others you were only on the court for a few if at all. How tough is that to deal with as a player?
MS: “The first season, I knew I was going to come in and play consistent [minutes]. This year, it was so inconsistent that I never knew how to prepare for the game because I never knew if I was going to get in or not. It was hard for me to prepare myself this year. I might have a good game one game and then come back and play three minutes and then after that DNPs [“do not play” – a designation given by the coach] for three games and then come back and play 15 minutes. It was the whole year – inconsistent. I feel like if I can get in there, I’ll produce. That’s how I’ve been my whole career.”

AS: You played against every team remaining in the playoffs this year. Which has the best chance to win the whole thing?
MS: “Miami. They are really coming together and they’re going to win it. On the court, you can tell how good they really [are], even things you can’t see on TV. It’s just some of the things they do and stuff. The connection they’ve got so early.”

AS: Philadelphia is known as a very critical sports city. What has it been like playing there with the fans?
MS: “It’s a hard place to play at because, if you don’t give them what they want, they’re going to boo you. It’s kind of hard but, this year we were winning, so we got a lot of support. The fans show a lot of support.”

AS: How have your relationships with some of your former teammates and coaches changed and/or developed since you left?
MS: “I talk to Coach [Donovan] all the time. It’s a pretty good relationship. Vernon Macklin, me and him were practically teammates at Hargrave [Military Academy], so we’re really close. I’ve known him for like 5-6 years. I talk to all of them but mostly him. I talked to him [Wednesday] for like 20 minutes about preparing for the [draft] process.”

AS: Looking back on your career at Florida, aside from winning the title as a freshman, what is the one moment you will always remember – either on or off the court?
MS: “Other than the championship, I got a couple. There was a home game my freshman year when we played Alabama. I came down and scored like eight-straight points and we won that game [4-for-4 for eight points in five minutes in the first half]. Then the first-round tournament game against Jackson State. I had a good game there, too [7-for-10 for 16 points with six boards in 10 minutes].

» OGGOA INTERVIEWS:
LB Mike Peterson | PG Taurean Green | QB Tim Tebow | QB Danny Wuerffel | ESPN’s Erin Andrews | ESPN’s Erin Andrews II | DE Alex Brown | WR Percy Harvin | F/C Al Horford | WR David Nelson | QB Shane Matthews | TE Cornelius Ingram | DE Jermaine Cunningham | S Major Wright | LB Earl Everett | DE Justin Trattou | DT Terron Sanders | F/C Chris Richard | DE Lynden Trail

Photo Credits: Associated Press, Unknown

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Former Gators PG Jason Williams retires

Former Florida Gators point guard Jason Williams announced his retirement from the NBA Monday night in an official press release from the Memphis Grizzlies.

The 12-year veteran missed the final 17 games of the regular season with an injured back and was left off the team’s playoff roster.

Selected No. 7 overall in the first round of the 1998 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings, Williams played for four teams in his professional career.

After spending three years with Sacramento, Williams was traded to the then-Vancouver Grizzlies (which relocated to Memphis), where he played from 2001-05. He was again traded to the Miami Heat and won a NBA Championship in 2005-06, his first season with the team. Williams played there for three years before signing a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Clippers; however, instead of playing for the team, he decided to retire.

Coming out of retirement after a full year away from the game, he played 98 games in an Orlando Magic uniform before being cut in January; the Grizzlies signed him just over a week later. He ends his career as Memphis’ all-time assists leader (2,069).

Known by the nickname “White Chocolate,” Williams finished with career totals of 8,266 points, 4,611 assists, 1,810 rebounds and 933 steals. He averaged 10.5 points, 5.9 assists and 2.3 rebounds for his career while shooting 39.8 percent from the field, 32.7 percent from three-point range and 81.3 percent from the free throw line.

Before making his career as an NBA point guard, Williams played one season (1997-98) for the University of Florida and averaged 17.1 points and 6.7 assists per game. Already having received three suspensions, he was permanently dismissed from the program due to drug use after the season and immediately declared for the draft .

While with the Gators, Williams recorded a school single-game record 17 assists. Upon entering the NBA as a rookie, his No. 55 jersey was top-five in the league in sales. Williams was disciplined numerous times throughout his professional career.

Photo Credit: Unknown

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TWO BITS: McGriff walks on, Williams signs deal

1 » Gainesville High School quarterback Ryan McGriff has accepted a preferred walk-on offer from Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and will enroll in the University of Florida this summer, according to The Gainesville Sun. The son of former Florida tight end Mark McGriff and grandson of Gator Great and All-American wide receiver (and outfielder) Perry McGriff, Jr., McGriff will be the third person in his family to wear the orange and blue. He told the Sun that Muschamp contacted in just after being hired in December and that former head coach Urban Meyer had not previously offered him the opportunity.

“It’s not a scholarship, but it’s the next best thing for me at my dream school,” he told the paper. “I’ve lived in Gainesville my whole life, so it’s pretty much a dream come true, actually. I’m moving a mile and half from my house. It can’t get any better than that. […] I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not a big-name recruit. As a local kid, I know what it takes to work hard and earn what you get. I have no problem being the scout team quarterback, helping the defense, helping the offense, learning whatever signals, holding. Whatever I can do to help them be a better football team.”

2 » Waived by the Orlando Magic last week, former Florida point guard Jason Williams has signed a one-year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies Williams, who was upset at his lack of playing time this season, will compete to be the back-up PG in Memphis. This is the second time Williams will play for the Grizzlies; he was acquired by them in a trade in 2001 and played there through the 2004-05 season.

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Williams, Blakely, baseball

1 » With speculation surrounding Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey’s ability to play in Super Bowl XLV with a high ankle sprain, one of his teammates has apparently let the cat out of the bag on Pouncey’s status. “We are definitely sad that he won’t be able to be with us in the Super Bowl,” guard Chris Kemoeatu told the Pittsburgh Tribune. “Definitely I feel bad for him. We just have to win it for him. It’s definitely a huge loss for us. We know how big this is for him and him not being able to play is definitely motivating for us to go out there and get that ring for him.” Since first suffering the injury Sunday, Pouncey has steadfastly denied that he will miss the game, saying he knows “how to attack” the injury because he had a similar one during his time with the Florida Gators.

2 » Third and sometimes fourth on his team’s depth chart at the position, former Florida point guard Jason Williams was waived by the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. Williams, who averaged 2.1 points, 1.5 assists and 1.4 rebounds in 10.7 minutes per game, is the least productive he has been in his 12-year NBA career. There are early expectations that he will be picked up by a team in need of a back-up ball handler.

3 » As initially reported by OGGOA on Jan. 17, four-star running back Mike Blakely (Bradenton, FL) has officially undergone arthroscopic shoulder surgery and will miss spring practice. An early enrollee already on campus at the University of Florida, he will likely be able to return to the field in the summer.

4 » Baseball America delivered some high praise to the Gators baseball team on Thursday, ranking them No. 1 in their 2011 preseason top 25 poll. The publication notes that Florida returns eight everyday starters (including four first-team freshman All-Americans), features a power trio in the heart of the order, has two speedsters who can swipe bases, plays great defense, is “absurdly deep on the mound,” has the deepest bullpen in college , offers an excellent coaching staff and “has no discernible weakness.”

Noting that a disappointing postseason performance is the crux of the Gators’ motivation for 2011, Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt also published a feature story on the team. “For all they accomplished in 2010, the Gators’ lasting memory of the season would be the hollow feeling of playing two flat, uninspiring games in Omaha and getting ousted by arch-rival Florida State,” he writes. “After going from a regional in 2008 to a super regional in 2009 to the College World Series in 2010, the next step is for Florida to take home its first national championship.” You can read the rest by clicking here.

Photo Credits: University of Florida

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11/30: Donovan discusses coaching, expectations

No. 16/18 Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his latest media availability in the following post.

COACHING, COMMON BOND UNITE DONOVAN AND FORMER ASSISTANTS

Though Donovan’s talented former assistants have been successful at Florida and been able to head coaching jobs, more than winning back-to-back National Championships unites him with Central Florida’s Donnie Jones, Alabama’s Anthony Grant and Arkansas’ John Pelphrey.

“Not to get too personal or morbid, but I lost a daughter. Anthony Grant lost a son. John Pelphrey lost a son. They’re all buried out on 43rd [Street] together. All their graves are right there together,” Donovan explained Tuesday. “So there are things that have happened over a 13-14-15-year period for the four of us that, no question, we will be ever interwoven in terms of relationships, things that have happened.”

Even with such a history with his assistants – and friends – Donovan does not see any issue competing with them on the court. “That’s the way it is. We’re all competitive, but there’s a fairness inside of competing,” he said. “Our kids are going to go out there and compete. [Jones is] going to prepare his team; I’m going to prepare my team. It’s not like he and I are half court beating each other up.”

EXPECTATIONS DON’T BOTHER DONOVAN, SHOULDN’T DISTRACT MEYER

Asked how it feels that successful men like himself and head football coach Urban Meyer can fall under such heavy criticsm even though they recently won national titles, Donovan explained that it is a part of the business they have chosen.

“We’re in a society that is kind of a microwave. Everybody wants instant, fast results. I don’t think anything worth building or worth lasting is built like that,” he said. “The one person, to me, that puts it all in perspective is Jeremy Foley. He understands that he’s trying to build a foundation. Whether you talk about IBM or some blue-chip stock company, no one ever stays on the top forever. There are peaks and valleys in our own personal lives. Everything just doesn’t go well all the time. That’s the thing that you realize. It happens. No one’s invincible. No one stays on top forever. The days of John Wooden winning 10-straight championships – that’s not happening anymore. There’s too many early departures, guys don’t stay around long enough.”

Donovan also empathizes with where fans and critics come from when they complain (and are perhaps even ungrateful) about team – and coach – performance. “It’s the passion for the University of Florida. People want to see everything at a very, very high level, and that’s understandable,” he said.

NO WAY YOU’RE GOING TO CALL HIM A “LIAR”

While discussing his decision to toss aside his NBA dream to remain at UF, Donovan was jubilant and jovial in explaining that there is no place he would rather be right now.

“One of the hardest parts in coaching is sometimes you don’t know where you’re going to be or what’s going to happen. I’m happy where I’m at, and if I was fortunate enough to stay here for another 15 years, I would really, really be happy with that,” he said. “I’m in a unique situation that the guy that hired me is still there and it’s still a great relationship.

“Sometimes when a coach comes out and says, ‘I’m never leaving,’ and they leave… ‘Liar!’ ‘Well I’m not sure, I’m going to keep my options open.’ ‘He’s not committed there! He’s thinking about…’ All I can say is I’m really happy here, happy with our team, happy with the administration, the people I work with. I am. I’m excited. And do say that’s the way it’s going to be for the rest of my life here at Florida? Things change. God forbid something happens with Jeremy Foley or there’s a new president or there’s a change in administration or they don’t like the way we play. Things can all change in a very quick period of time in this kind of business.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 11/30: Donovan discusses coaching, expectations

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NBA season begins, Gators look to make impact

The 2010-11 NBA season tipped off Tuesday night with nine 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
2009-10: Averaging career highs in points (14.2), rebounds (9.9), field goal percentage (55.1), free throw percentage (78.9) and minutes (35.1), Horford also contributed 2.3 assists and 1.1 blocks per game last year. For the second-straight season he led his team to the second round of the NBA Playoffs where, like in 2008-09, they were swept.
2010-11: The Godfather was named a captain in Atlanta during the preseason and will be a restricted free agent when the year ends. The Hawks are believed to be making a concerted effort to resign the first-time NBA All-Star and No. 3 overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft to a five-year deal worth $50-60 million.

Joakim Noah, F/C, Chicago Bulls
2009-10: Averaging a double-double with career highs in points (10.7), rebounds (11.0), blocks (1.6), assists (2.1), free throw percentage (74.4) and minutes (30.1), Noah was also good for 2.1 assists per game and shot 50.4 percent from the field. He missed 28 games with a plantar fasciitis injury but regained his form before the playoffs, which saw Chicago fall in the first round.
2010-11: Noah was rewarded by the Bulls for his hard work with a five-year, $60 million extension in the offseason. His defense and shot blocking makes him an elite big man in the league and, with Chicago adding All-Star forward Carlos Boozer to the frontcourt, some of the pressure he felt to do everything for the team defensively may be relived.

David Lee, F/C, Golden State Warriors
2009-10: Averaging a double-double for the second-straight season with the New York Knicks, Lee posted career-highs in points (20.2), assists (3.6), blocks (0.5) and free throw percentage (81.2) along with 11.7 rebounds while shooting 54.5 percent. A fan favorite who was a victim of circumstance due to the blockbuster free agents available this summer, Lee was moved to the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade.
2010-11: Agreeing a six-year, $80 million contract with Golden State, Lee will once again play for an up-tempo offense in which he will be able to shine. Though he will not be relied upon as heavily with the Warriors as he was with the Knicks, Lee will have ample opportunities to showcase his talent on the left coast.

Profiles for six more former Gators basketball players…after the jump!
Continue Reading » NBA season begins, Gators look to make impact

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