1 » Former Florida Gators center Neal Walk, the highest-drafted basketball player in school history (No. 2 overall in the 1969 NBA Draft), is featured in last week’s Sports Illustrated “Where Are They Now?” issue. In the piece, Walk discusses how vegetarianism and drug use affected his performance on the court and eventually caused him to get traded away from the Phoenix Suns. He eventually played in Italy but was arrested for drug possession and soon ended his career. Walk, who renamed himself Joshua Hawk in the 1980s following a spiritual journey, has been confined to a wheelchair for the last 26 years after being diagnosed with atrophy. He had the opportunity to return to the Suns shortly after retiring and remained with the franchise up until recently being let go in Oct. 2012. Be sure to pick up the latest copy of SI for a detailed and immensely interesting look at Walk’s life and career.
2 » After going through the 2013 NFL Draft process without an agent, Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam has decided not maintain his stance not to hire one and will instead negotiate his own rookie contract, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun. The No. 32 overall pick in April, Elam is being advised by his brother, seven-year veteran NFL safety Abram Elam, who is currently a free agent. Matt Elam’s rookie contract will be a four-year deal worth $6.8 million with a $3.3 million signing bonus, terms that are already worked out under the slotting system that was agreed upon during the last collective bargaining agreement between league owners and the NFL Players Association. He plans to get the deal done before the start of training camp. Other Gators rookies unsigned as of press time are Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and Jacksonville Jaguars safety Josh Evans.
1 » The Late Show with David Letterman, one of if not the most popular late-night talk show in the United States, has aired a famous Top 10 list every evening since its inception. On Tuesday night, that list was based on little-known facts about Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Thanks to Twitter follower Erica S. for the heads-up.
2 » Six Florida Gators 2012 commitments have already enrolled early and begun their college careers this spring. As of press time, three-star defensive back Willie Bailey (Hallandale, FL), four-star guard Jessamen Dunker (Boynton Beach, FL), five-star tackle D.J. Humphries (Charlotte, NC), four-star JUCO defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (Scooba, MS), four-star linebacker Antonio Morrison (Bolingbrook, IL) and four-star wide receiver Latroy Pittman have joined the team and will participate in spring practice. However, three-star defensive end Quinteze Williams (Tyrone, GA) – who was expected to enroll early with his teammates – has not yet had his transcript approved by the NCAA Clearninghouse, according to ESPN.com. Williams and the school hope to have the situation “resolved by the end of the week” but worst-case scenario he can just enroll with the rest of the signees in the summer.
3 » Speaking of Tebow, a new article in Advertising Age takes a look at his marketing potential following a eventful and successful season. Rich Thomaselli believes Tebow “could become a $10 million a year endorser if he keeps delivering like he did over the weekend,” sourcing sports-marketing experts like Bob Dorfman of Baker Street Advertising. “He’s become an icon; he’s bigger than football,” Dorfman said. “He has the kind of marketing potential that could put him in the Tom Brady or Peyton Manning category.” Another executive, Darin David of The Marketing Arm, believes Tebow has already hit that category. “I’m not so sure he didn’t get to the $10 million level already after Sunday,” he said. “To do that in the playoffs, to do that against a team like the [Pittsburgh] Steelers, the game that was the highest-rated [wild card] playoff game in 20-something years? As a marketer, you want somebody like that. He doesn’t have the same kind of negative backlash as other players. He is just so newsworthy right now that you would want to capitalize on that.”
On what he did to celebrate Sunday’s victory: “Honestly just when we left the stadium, I just went home and hung out with my close family, a few friends, my brothers and sisters and brothers-in-law, just hung out at the house and played with my nieces and nephews and had a good time.”
On if Sunday’s win matched his big wins at Florida: “I definitely was very blessed to have some great memories at Florida and very blessed to have some great teammates and special relationships and special wins.”
On how he and his teammates deal with the attention he gets: “For the most part it’s not like it’s something that you ask for. It’s something that, when they know that you care about them and that’s what matters, and you care about going out there and trying to get better every day and trying to be a great teammate, I don’t think they see the rest. Hopefully they see you as a friend and a teammate, and the rest is something that we laugh at and sometimes they make fun of you for.”
On going head-to-head with linebacker Brandon Spikes: “Yeah, that’ll be a lot of fun. I’ve gone against him enough times in practice. All of those spring practices we had, we had some fun going against each other. You’d like him on your team, but it’ll still be fun going against him. He’s a great player, and I wish him nothing but the best, and I look forward to giving him a hug. [...] I remember a few times in some spring practices when he might have hit me a little light when I had one of those red jerseys on. He wasn’t supposed to hit me but he kind of gave me a little nudge.”
5 » Former Gators defensive back Joshua Shaw, who decided to transfer from the program after the regular season and was expected to attend UCLA next year, will instead transfer to USC, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com. Shaw, who wanted to return to the west coast and play closer to home, will be able to do so at a “prestigious school right around the corner,” his high school coach Jeff Williams told the website. ESPNLosAngeles also reports that Shaw will apply for a hardship waiver due to health problems in his family which could allow him to play in 2012 rather than wait until 2013.
6 » Tebow has been receiving plenty of support from around the sports landscape, but Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry went out of his way to praise the Denver quarterback after his team’s game Sunday evening. Gentry spent his entire post-game press conference talking about Tebow, which you can watch below:
The Suns team also had some fun with Tebow on Sunday. According to ValleyoftheSuns.com, Hakim Warrick Tebowed during the pregame huddle and a number of players were watching the Broncos game in the locker room before their contest began. In fact, Phoenix players “may wear Tebow jerseys to shootaround on Tuesday in Los Angeles in part to have some fun with trainer Aaron Nelson” (a big Pittsburgh fan). Thanks to reader Steven for the heads-up.
After waiting with bated breath for six-time NBA All-Star LeBron James to announce the destination of his choosing and being dejected when he selected the Miami Heat, the New York Knicks have agreed to send former Florida Gators forward/center David Lee to the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade that will earn the former New York fan favorite $80 million over six years.
Lee – who met and spoke with a number of teams including the Heat, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors and Phoenix Suns – will be a key frontcourt starter for the Warriors alongside Andris Biedrins.
In return, the Knicks are expected to receive a package of players including former LSU Tigers power forward Anthony Randolph, former Kentucky Wildcats guard/forward Kelenna Azubuike and and power forward Ronny Turiaf.
“David’s excited,” Lee’s agent Mark Bartelstein said. “[Golden State] put a lot of effort into trying to get him. It was a very difficult and complicated process that we went through. [...] I think he’ll fit in great with that style. They have a really interesting team. With Monta Ellis, Steph[on] Curry and David, they can make a run for the playoffs.”
Over the last two seasons, Lee has averaged 18.1 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.
In case you have missed it, former Florida Gators guard/forward Corey Brewer is turning some heads in the NBA this season with his play for the Minnesota Timberwolves. In addition to posting career highs in field goal percentage (42.9), points (13.2), assists (2.3) and rebounds (3.7), Brewer has been a part of two ridiculous posterizing dunks, a buzzer-beater to force overtime (and one broken orbital bone) already this year. He did it again Tuesday, absolutely obliterating Robin Lopez of the Phoenix Suns on a breakaway dunk toward the end of the first half.
By the way, this was ESPN SportsCenter‘s Top Play: