Bonner responds to fan haircut honoring him

A day after young San Antonio Spurs fan Patrick Gonzalez made the news for having a picture of former Florida Gators forward Matt Bonner shaved into the back of his head and being sent home from school for doing so, the player he honored responded both to the gesture and the controversy surrounding it.

Asked if he thought Gonzalez’s haircut was a big deal in terms of the distraction that his teacher and principal claimed it was causing, Bonner questioned whether or not simply moving the student’s seat to the back of the class would have remedied the situation.

“Otherwise probably the nicest thing a fan has ever done for me is ruined,” he said. “Before ‘Hairgate,’ the best thing a fan has done for me is clap for me at a game.”

“It’s a very flattering portrait of myself. I’ve never considered myself a controversial figure but apparently it’s too distracting and too much,” Bonner continued. “I’m not going to condemn the school. If anybody’s in support of education and academics, it’s myself with my mom being a teacher and my academic success. But like I said, they could have just moved him to the back of the class.”

Bonner is a two-time Verizon Academic All-America of the Year for men’s basketball who finished his University of Florida career with a 3.96 grade point average. His mother has been an elementary school teacher her entire professional life and is coming out of a three-year retirement just to go back to teaching next year.

Gonzalez was sent home early from school on Wednesday and told that he would be suspended if he did not alter his hair before returning to class on Thursday. He complied with his school’s request and shaved the back of his head.

It was not all bad news for Bonner’s red-headed fan, however, as the former Gators standout provided Gonzalez and his mother with a pair of tickets to Game 2 against the Los Angeles Clippers and promised to meet them before the game.

“Keep supporting us redheads in the NBA,” Bonner said referencing Gonzalez after practice on Thursday. “Keep working on your game and maybe someday I’ll be shaving you in the back of my head.”

San Antonio topped Los Angeles 105-88 though Bonner finished just 1-for-3 from the field and 0-for-2 from downtown with two points, two rebounds and a steal in 13 minutes.

Photo Credit: Grace White, KAAB FOX 29

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FOUR BITS: Bonner, Tebow, Zunino, Howard

1 » Young San Antonio Spurs fan Patrick Gonzalez wanted to support his team during its run in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Out of respect for one of his favorite players (who just happens to have the same color hair he does), Gonzalez chose to get a very detailed picture of former Florida Gators forward Matt Bonner shaved into the back of his head. The problem? His first period teacher called it a “distraction” and the principals at Woodlake Hills Middle School do not approve of the hairdo even after his mother made mention of it previously and neither received permission nor was informed that it would be a problem. Gonzalez has chosen to “fix” his haircut before school on Thursday rather than serve the suspension he was threatened with receiving. In addition to being a talented basketball player, Bonner is a two-time Verizon Academic All-America of the Year for men’s basketball who finished his University of Florida career with a 3.96 grade point average. KAAB FOX 29 out of San Antonio, TX has the video report.

2 » Quarterback Tim Tebow received another shot of support from a New York Jets teammate on Wednesday as cornerback Darrelle Revis praised Tebow’s character and the way he carries himself day-in and day-out. “He’s a born leader, he really is,” Revis said per ESPNNewYork.com’s Rich Cimini. “Very few athletes have the gift he has. He tries to lead by example all the time. He tries to be positive, which is awesome, and that [has resulted] in his success on the field. [...] Some people have it, some guys don’t. It’s the passion within, wanting to be a leader, wanting to win. You see it all the time, eating lunch, walking down the hallway. You see it. He’s like that cartoon character Zeus. He’s one of those guys. He’s very positive. He has passion for whatever he does. You can see it on him.” Revis also praised him as a player. “He’s a playmaker, he makes plays, he wins games,” he said. “Having him as a teammate is kind of different because you actually get to see him every day. You get to talk to him every day. You get to eat lunch with him. You get to know him as a person. It’s totally different.”

Cimini also notes that Tebow has been exchanging “playful barbs” back-and-forth with others on the team including outspoken linebacker Bart Scott who called him “Baby Jesus” (Tebow laughed) and asked if he could be baptized when Tebow suggested he get in the cold tub because his old muscles needed the treatment.

3 » Florida junior catcher Mike Zunino was one of 12 players named on Wednesday as a semifinalist for the 2012 Johnny Bench Award, which is presented each season to the top catcher in college baseball. Zunino currently leads the Southeastern Conference in home runs (14), slugging percentage (.645), total bases (127) and doubles (22), is tops for the Gators in RBIs (49), and carries a .320 batting average while fielding at a .993 clip (three errors). A SEC player has not won the award since 2002 and no Florida player has ever received the honor.

4 » New Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Jaye Howard is already receiving some rave reviews for his play during rookie minicamp. According to The Olympian, Howard “has played mostly pass-rushing defensive tackle…and has been a disruptive force.” He told the paper that he credits Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and defensive line coach Bryant Young for helping him make major strides in his senior season. “Coach Quinn is one of the best coaches I’ve had,” he said, “and Bryant Young, he’s a player that I watched growing up. And you’re going to take heed to someone like that. You’re going to listen to what they have to say.”

Photo Credit: Grace White, KAAB FOX 29

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SIX BITS: baseball, Guy, Tebow, Lochte, Horford

1 » No. 5 Florida Gators baseball (37-13, 15-10 SEC) got off to a hot start in their final home series of the regular season, taking down the No. 25 Mississippi State Rebels (30-19, 12-13 SEC) on Senior Day at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida won 4-1 behind a strong outing by junior right-hander Hudson Randall, who gave up an earned run in the fifth but otherwise scattered five hits in his 7.0 innings while striking out two. Junior lefty Steven Rodriguez (2.0 IP, H, 4 K) was dominant in closing out the game and earned his third save of the season. The Gators rallied to cross the plate once each in the second and third and added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth when senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (2/4, HR, 2 RBI, R) hit a two-run homer to left. Five seniors including Pigott, RHP Greg Larson, utility player Jeff Moyer, outfielder Tyler Thompson and right fielder Preston Tucker were honored on Friday though a handful of the team’s juniors may also be playing their final regular season home series at McKethan Stadium.

2 » It was reported back in January that Florida had offered a preferred walk-on opportunity to three-star quarterback Jacob Guy (Dade City, FL), but the player had chosen to take some time to consider his options before deciding where he would attend school in 2012 and beyond. Guy has finally made that decision and announced on Friday that he will turn down scholarship offers from schools like Massachusetts, Ohio and Western Michigan in order to walk on with the Gators. “I”ve always been a Gators fan,” Guy told the Tampa Bay Times. “The opportunity to go up there to Gainesville and play for the Gators got me there.” Guy set his high school’s single season records for passing yards (2,672) and touchdowns (42) in his senior year and put up a brilliant line in the Class 5A region final when he completed 17-of-18 passes and scored two touchdowns (one rushing). At 6’5” and 200 lbs., Guy’s size is exceptional for a signal caller. Should Florida’s roster remain unchanged heading into the summer, he will be the ninth quarterback in camp with only four on scholarship.

3 » E! has decided to air a 30-minute special on New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow. Unfortunately for Tebow and his fans, the special (which will air sometime in July according to Sports Illustrated), is being created without his participation and therefore is unlikely to include any unique material. “Tebow is a pop culture phenomenon and the interest in his life expands beyond the world of sports. He’s a compelling personality and has a fascinating story,” a network spokesman told SI’s Richard Deitsch.

4 » Former Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte is ready and raring to go for the 2012 London Olympics this summer and his manufactured feud with Michael Phelps is beginning to pick up steam heading into the games. The two have been going head-to-head all year and will likely be in many of the same events in the Olympics, so SI.com took a look at how the teammates and rivals are fairing with 78 days to go (as of Thursday) until the games begin.

As Phelps peeled back after Beijing, Lochte ramped up. Phelps won five golds and one silver at the 2009 world championships. Lochte won four gold and a bronze. Phelps won another five events at the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships. Lochte won six, bettering Phelps for the first time at a major meet.

Then came the 2011 world championships in Shanghai, where Lochte won five golds and one bronze to Phelps’ four golds, two silvers and one bronze. Lochte won both head-to-heads, the 200 free and 200 individual medley, by a combined half-second over Phelps. That was enough to earn Lochte the title of the new world’s best swimmer.

5 » Forward/center Al Horford fought his way back from a torn right pectoral to play in the final three games of the season for the Atlanta Hawks. A major contributor in those three contests, Horford found himself at the foul line with three seconds left and an opportunity to tie the game if he made both free throws. After missing the first one, Horford made the second and Atlanta wound up losing as there was not enough time for them to come back and get another good shot. Many fans wondered whether should have missed that second free throw considering the team was down two with no timeouts remaining. A day after the contest, Horford spoke about that possibility. “I didn’t really think about it. That’s something I probably should have given some thought,” he said. “The first one felt good. I was surprised I missed it. Looking back I should have missed the second one, not realizing we didn’t have any timeouts. I did [realize it] before but there was a lot of stuff going on through the game.” The real question is why none of his coaches relayed it to Horford to do just that following the initial miss.

6 » Former Florida football players quarterback John Brantley, wide receiver Deonte Thompson and defensive end William Green all signed undrafted free agent deals with their respective teams on Friday. Brantley and Thompson were two of 19 players to come to terms with the Baltimore Ravens while Green was inked by the Cleveland Browns. Offensive lineman Dan Wenger continues to participate in Jets mini camp as he hopes to earn a scholarship, and former Gators safety Will Hill, who did not a legitimate look from any NFL team after declaring for the draft a year early in 2011, is currently working out and hoping to earn a job with the New York Giants.

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Brewer steps up, Horford and Noah eliminated

Three of the seven former Florida Gators players participating in the 2012 NBA Playoffs made national news on Thursday night for completely different reasons.

Denver Nuggets forward Corey Brewer got to experience major success while Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford felt the agony of defeat and Chicago Bulls C Joakim Noah was forced to sit idly by while dealing with an ankle injury.

Coming off the bench for Denver, Brewer was extremely efficient, starting 8-of-9 (and finishing 8-of-12) from the field (2-of-3 from downtown) for 18 points with three rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in 19 minutes.

He scored 11-straight points to begin the fourth quarter and extended his team’s lead to a game-high 18 points, helping lead the Nuggets to an important 113-96 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers that forced a seventh game in their first-round series.

Horford played in his third (and started his second-straight) game since coming back from rehabbing a torn pectoral, continuing to be an effective player for Atlanta. Though he did not see much action offensively in the first three quarers, Horford went 6-of-9 from the floor for 15 points with nine rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block. Unfortunately his performance not without some negatives for the Hawks. He turned the ball over a game- and career-high seven times and had an opportunity to tie the game from the free throw line with two seconds left but only made one-of-two attempts.

After seriously spraining his ankle in Game 3, Noah found himself on the bench for Game 4 and 5, helpless as Chicago fell behind 3-2 in their opening-round series against Philadelphia. He hoped to get back on the court for Game 6 and even participated in layup drills prior to the contest but was unable to go once again and watched the Bulls drop yet another game.

Both Horford and Noah’s teams were eliminated from the playoffs in a pair of nail-biters with Atlanta falling 83-80 to Boston and Chicago losing 79-78 to Philadelphia. Florida began the postseason with seven former players in uniform, tied for the most of any school (Kansas); five players remain in action following Thursday’s games.

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Gator Bites for Thursday, May 10

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. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Defensive lineman Brad Culpepper on Wednesday became the second former Florida Gators player in the last three weeks to join lawsuit against the NFL. Culpepper is the lead plaintiff one of two concussion lawsuits (Brad Culpepper et al v. NFL) filed by the Locks Law Firm against the NFL. “The lawsuits are identical to the other suits filed by Gene Locks, asserting counts of fraud, conspiracy to defraud, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, loss of consortium and seeking declaratory relief and medical monitoring,” according to Paul Anderson. Former Florida offensive tackle Lomas Brown is part of a separate suit against the NFL that cites the recent bounty scandal as evidence that the league did not properly protect its players from concussions.

» Former Gators running back Emmitt Smith admitted this week that, while he appears to be in perfect health now, he is worried that all of the hits he took over his football-playing career may come back to haunt him both physically and mentally in the future. “The evidence is starting to pile up. You are talking to a guy who carried the ball more than anybody in NFL history. So why wouldn’t I worry? I pray about it,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He also spoke about the tragic death of Junior Seau and reuniting with some of his former Dallas Cowboys teammates.

» Former Florida linebacker Dustin Doe has been re-signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL after appearing in just three games for the team last season. Doe registered two tackles each on defense and special teams in 2011 but spent the majority of the season on the practice squad. He is hoping to become a permanent member of the active roster this season as he attempts to continue his career.

» Speaking of players looking for new homes, it appears as if defensive tackle Marcus Thomas will be donning a different uniform in 2012. After spending the first six years of his career with the Denver Broncos, Thomas will be moving on to what he hopes are greener pastures, according to The Denver Post, which reports that it is unlikely Denver re-signs him this season. A selection in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Thomas has been a productive member of the Broncos throughout his career. However, Denver only wants to bring him back on a one-year deal while Thomas is looking for a multi-year agreement. The Post notes that at least two other teams are interested in Thomas’s services but will likely wait until after June 1 to sign him to a contract.

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Thursday, May 10

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TWO Video BITS: Brown on Saints, Noah on Fela

1 » Former Florida Gators, Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints defensive end Alex Brown appeared on ESPN2’s Dan LeBatard is Highly Questionable on Tuesday to discuss playing for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (who he said was “wrongfully suspended”) and bounties in the NFL (among numerous other topics like the worst thing he did as a child and his first kiss). “It’s football. It’s not golf now. That’s what we have to understand: That it is football and it was built around hits and that’s what we do.”

2 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, currently on the bench while nursing a serious ankle sprain while his team competes in the 2012 NBA Playoffs, was featured in a video by OkayAfrica on Tuesday. In the clip, Noah discusses Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti, how his music has impacted his life and how he shared a bond with President Barack Obama over Fela one year ago.

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Al Horford’s big night leads Atlanta over Boston

Two games into his return from a torn right pectoral that forced him to miss 55 regular season contests and the first three games of the 2012 NBA Playoffs, forward/center Al Horford came up big for the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, scoring a team-high 19 points (on 8-of-15 shooting) with 11 rebounds in 41 minutes.

Horford’s monster night, which fueled Atlanta’s 87-86 victory over Boston, included three assists, three steals and three blocks along with a big jumper with 1:34 left that put the Hawks up four points. He made his return to the starting lineup on Tuesday after playing just 20 minutes in Game 4 of his team’s first-round series on Sunday.

“Al Horford was absolutely huge tonight,” Hawks head coach Larry Drew said in the post-game press conference. “His ability to move around at times when we were forced to make switches on defense, and his foot speed enabled him to stay with the ball. Offensively he gives us a presence down there, and he made some big shots for us tonight. I didn’t want to bring him back that early in the fourth, but it was a close game and you could feel the momentum shifting. He was a superman for us down the stretch.”

Horford said after the game that he was only supposed to play 15-20 minutes but was perfectly fine after being on the court for double that amount of time. “I was tired a little bit but right now I feel fine,” he said. “Maybe it’s the adrenaline from the game and [Wednesday] it will be a different story, but right now I’m fine. At the end of the third quarter I asked coach if he could sit me down for four or five minutes so I can come back and leave it all out there. But I had to go back in earlier than that. I was picking my spots on when to be aggressive out there. I didn’t want to lose the series that way, so I didn’t want to let [Rajon] Rondo shoot a jumper over me. You’re fighting for your life out there. I wanted to bring energy to the team tonight. We needed to win this game.”

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FOUR BITS: lacrosse, Noah, Horford, Brewer

1 » Florida Gators lacrosse continues to make history as, in just the third season of the program’s existence, it was announced Sunday that the team received the No. 1 overall seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Florida, which won the ALC regular season title for the second-straight year and captured the first ALC Tournament Championship in team history on Saturday, is on a 13-match winning streak heading into the tournament. The Gators will receive a tremendous homefield advantage in the first two rounds (should they advance) before being forced to travel to Stony Brook, NY for the Final Four. Florida is looking to become the fastest program in the sport’s history to go from inception to national title but has a long road ahead of them beginning on Saturday, May 12 at 1 p.m. against Albany at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

2 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was knocked out of Game 3 of his team’s first-round series against Philadelphia after severely spraining his ankle midway through the contest. Noah did his best to continue playing but was badly limping and eventually headed back to the locker room where he was told he would be unable to return to the court. He sat on the bench in a suit and air cast during Game 4 on Sunday and is also expected to miss Game 5 (as well as the remainder of the series should it advance past that point). Noah’s injury is a tough blow for a Chicago team already without point guard Derrick Rose. The top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls may wind up eliminated in the first round while playing without their two biggest stars.

3 » The polar opposite of Noah, Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford came off a major injury and returned to action this weekend just as his former teammate appears to be going on the shelf for the rest of the season. Horford, who tore his right pectoral on Jan. 11 and has not played since, was an active participant in Atlanta’s Game 4 on Sunday. He posted 12 points and grabbed five rebounds in 20 minutes of action, not showing much rust despite missing almost the entire season. Horford may only see one more game in 2012 as the Hawks are set to face an elimination Game 5 on Tuesday.

4 » Denver Nuggets F Corey Brewer may have been trending on Twitter during his game Sunday while fans were joking about his hairline, but Brewer is taking his team’s first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers very seriously. According to the Denver Post, Brewer has been “finding fuel” to play hard by thinking about his father who passed away during the season. “He always used to smile when I’d do something good,” he said. “Every time he’d see me, he was always happy. Everybody says we have the same smile. He had it rough. He didn’t have legs. He was blind. But every time I’d see him, he was smiling. He can’t walk, he can’t see and he’s happy every day – so I got to be happy.” Head coach George Karl called Brewer his team’s “energizer, offensively and defensively” and has praised his ability to make an impact especially on the defensive end of the court. Like Noah and Horford, Brewer’s team is also facing an elimination Game 5 on Tuesday.

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