FOUR BITS: softball falls, Horford, Jenkins, USA

1 » No. 3 Florida Gators softball (47-9, 21-7 SEC) was shocked Thursday as they were upset 6-2 by the Auburn Tigers (39-16, 15-13 SEC) in the first round of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament. The No. 2 seed going into the event, Florida fell behind 3-0 in the first inning before cutting the lead to 3-1 on a RBI single by senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (1-2, RBI) in the bottom of the fourth. No. 7-seed Auburn responded immediately, scoring three runs in the next frame to jump ahead 6-1 and hold on for the victory. Senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (17-2) got the start but was pulled after giving up three runs (one earned) in the first inning. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers came on for the final six innings and struck out three while similarly giving up three runs (one earned). UF committed three errors on the day.

2 » Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford, currently fighting to stay alive against the Chicago Bulls in the 2011 NBA Playoffs, was named to the All-NBA Third Team on Thursday. It is Horford’s first career All-NBA selection and the first ever for a former Gators basketball player.

3 » Former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins has had a not guilty plea submitted by his attorney on his behalf for his most recent charge of misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Attorney Huntley Johnson, who spoke with The Gainesville Sun about the plea, also said that Jenkins will likely transfer to either North Alabama or Valdosta State to play football next season. A report Wednesday stated that Jenkins to North Alabama was a done deal; however, it appears that Jenkins is at least still considering his options.

4 » Seventeen of the top young basketball players in the nation were invited to attend the 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U19 World Championship training camp held June 17-24 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. Two of those 17 players selected Thursday are Gators freshman center Patric Young and 2011 signee guard Brad Beal; each accepted his respective invitation. Twelve of the 17 invitees will be picked for the team. Young and Beal each have a great chance of being selected at the end of the camp. “I know Patric and Brad are both excited about this invitation,” Florida head coach Billy Donovan said in a team-released statement. “It’s a unique opportunity for a player, so it’s an honor for them to be a part of this group.” The 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship will be held June 30 to July 10 in Latvia. The United States is in Group D with China, Egypt and Serbia.

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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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Florida Gators in the 2011 NBA Playoffs

With the regular season wrapping up Wednesday night, the participants in the 2011 NBA Playoffs have now been determined. There are seven Florida Gators with roles on their squad’s active rosters among the 16 teams competing to appear in the 2011 NBA Finals. OGGOA has put together a comprehensive list of these players.

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

(1) Chicago Bulls
No. 13 C Joakim Noah
Season: 4th
Averages: 32.8 mins., 11.7 pts., 10.7 rebs., 2.8 asst., 1.5 blk., .525 FG%, .740 FT%

(2) Miami Heat*
No. 13 SG Mike Miller
Season: 12th
Averages: 20.4 mins., 5.6 pts., 4.5 rebs., 1.2 asst., .401 FG%, .364 3P%, .676 FT%

(5) Atlanta Hawks
No. 15 F/C Al Horford
Season: 4th
Averages: 35.1 mins., 14.3 pts., 9.3 rebs., 3.5 asst., 1.04 blk., .557 FG%, .800 FT%

(7) Philadelphia 76ers
No. 16 C Marreese Speights
Season: 3rd
Averages: 11.5 mins., 5.4 pts., 3.3 rebs., .495 FG%, .750 FT%

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

(1) San Antonio Spurs
No. 15 F Matt Bonner
Season: 7th
Averages: 21.7 mins., 7.3 pts., 3.6 rebs., 0.9 asst., .464 FG%, .457 3P%, .740 FT%

(3) Dallas Mavericks
No. 13 G/F Corey Brewer
Season: 4th
Averages: 11.4 mins., 5.3 pts., 1.8 rebs., 0.85 stl., .490 FG%, .308 3P%, .710 FT%

(8) Memphis Grizzlies
No. 3 PG Jason Williams
Season: 12th
Averages: 11.3 mins., 1.9 pts., 0.7 rebs., 2.5 asst., .310 FG%, .200 3P%

Playoff teams without Gators on their rosters: (3) Boston, (4) Orlando, (6) New York, (8) Indiana, (2) Los Angeles, (4) Oklahoma City, (5) Denver, (6) Portland, (7) New Orleans

* Miami PF Udonis Haslem has been out most of the season with a foot injury. He has not been listed as active for the playoffs.

The playoffs are a great time to root on your favorite players and check out NBA Basketball Odds found at BetUS. Because with so many games each day, there are plenty of ways to add to the fun.

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New York Knicks waive forward Corey Brewer

Updated March 1 at 4 p.m.

Just days after making sure they acquired him in a side deal included in the blockbuster trade for forward Carmelo Anthony, the New York Knicks bought out and waved former Florida Gators F Corey Brewer on Tuesday.

New York decided to buy out Brewer in order to free a roster spot to sign veteran F Jared Jeffries, who the team traded to Houston in 2010.

Brewer, who was released on March 1 in order to be eligible to participate in the 2011 NBA Playoffs, was already being courted by four teams on Monday, according to ESPN‘s Marc Stein. Boston, Dallas, Oklahoma City and San Antonio – all playoff teams – are all vying for his services as a defensive specialist on the wing.

Yahoo! Sports’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Tuesday that “nearly a dozen teams have checked in” with Brewer’s representatives, who are “sorting through the suitors” in order to find the best fit for their client. In addition to the four teams above, Stein reports that Miami, Chicago, New Orleans and Cleveland have also joined the hunt for Brewer. Chances are he will wind up with a contender, but Cleveland can offer almost $3.7 million of their mid-level exception, a figure which could sway him toward the Midwest.

Averaging 24.3 minutes per game with the Minnesota Timberwovles this season, Brewer posted 8.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game (all below his career numbers). He did not see the court for a single minute with the Knicks in the three games played while he was a member of the team.

OGGOA will update this story as more information is made available.

Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Quinn, Black, Strong, Rosario

1 » Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who has mostly been out on the road recruiting since the Seattle Seahawks were eliminated from the NFL Playoffs, has been assigned the Jacksonville, FL area as his primary recruiting grounds, according to The Florida Times-Union. The Times-Union’s Hays Carlyon reports that Quinn visited a number of area high schools on Friday and notes that Florida could be interested in two Yulee High School players over the next two seasons – tight end/linebacker Kelvin Rainey in 2012 and running back Derrick Henry in 2013.

2 » When former Gators safety Ahmad Black presented the game ball from the 2011 Outback Bowl to Ian Lockwood, it was obvious the two (and then-head coach Urban Meyer) had formed a special bond. In Mobile, AL for the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl, Black spoke with the Pensacola News Journal about his friendship with Lockwood and how the two became so close so quickly. “He opened the door to the Florida football program,” said Lockwood’s high school football coach Chad Lashley. “That has meant the world to Ian. It just shows the unbelievable character of Ahmad and his concern for other people. With him getting that interception, it was just the perfect ending.” You can read more thoughts from Black and Lashley by clicking here.

3 » Taking the Louisville Cardinals to a 7-6 record and earning Big East Co-Coach of the Year honors in 2010, head coach Charlie Strong appears to be in line for a new contract with a substantial raise, according to The Louisville Courier-Journal, which spoke with athletic director Tom Jurich. “We want to do [give him a raise], but this staff has been busy and they’re doing a great job, so when signing day is over and we get some time, we’re definitely going to address that,” Jurich said. “It’s been great that he’s been able to keep his staff together to this point, and I can tell you those guys are really getting after it and they’re having a great time. They’re on a rocket ship right now, and it’s fun to watch.” Louisville doing what it can to keep Strong now may prevent him leaving until a significantly better job is available a few years down the road. He currently earns $1.6 million per season.

4 » Redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario is biding his time helping Florida improve during practice while he waits out a NCAA-mandated transfer season. An article written for CNN profiling Rosario’s hall of fame high school head coach Bob Hurley, Sr. notes that the player once the star of one of Hurley’s teams and describes him as a “hot-tempered kid who used basketball as a refuge from the life in a housing project.” Rosario recounted his time playing for Hurley. “He started disciplining me like I was one of his sons,” he said. “It was to the point where I was like, ‘Wow, I had never been pushed like this in my life.’ I learned how to be a man and not a boy.”

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SIX BITS: Tebow, Pouncey, Wright, Noah, Horford

1 » After head coach Josh McDaniels was fired, murmurs surrounded the Denver Broncos specifically about whether or not his replacement would be a fan of rookie quarterback Tim Tebow. Now that John Fox has been hired as the team’s new head coach, questions about Tebow’s safety in Mile High have been quieted. The issue now is whether or not he will be tabbed as the team’s starter in 2011. “Just like any position, they’ll compete and we’ll go from there,” said Fox on the Dan Patrick Show when discussing Tebow and veteran Kyle Orton. “It’s too early for me to say. I’m going to evaluate guys on grass and we’ll have to see when we get those opportunities.” Most of Denver is calling for Tebow to be given the reigns to the offense after he started the final three games of the 2010 season; Fox hopes to be convinced of the same next year.

2 » The Beaver County Times sat down with Pittsburgh Steelers starting center Maurkice Pouncey and pick his brain about the team’s playoff run. One of two Florida Gators rookies remaining in the NFL Playoffs, Pouncey was candid in his answers. “It’s so much better,” he said of winning an NFL playoff game compared to playing in big games at Florida. “There is so much more on the line. In college, it was awesome. We had a great group of guys. But it was amazing. It was unbelievable. Man, our fans were awesome. For them to be out there with that much energy, it was crazy.” Pouncey also said winning a Super Bowl would be “the greatest accomplishment ever.”

3 » Chicago Bears safety Chris Harris injured his hip in the third quarter of Sunday’s game, paving the way for Major Wright to see extensive playing time against the Seattle Seahawks. Though Harris will be back against the Green Bay Packers, Wright is expected to see more playing time than usual in relief of his teammate.

4 » Catching up with injured Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, who is currently on the outside looking in, NBA.com reports that the former Gators star will have a pin removed from his injured right thumb in a week’s time and will finally begin rehabilitation on the thumb shortly after. “It’s been long and sometimes frustrating not being able to be out there with my teammates,” Noah said on Monday. “Physically, I feel pretty good. I’ve been doing a lot of cardio and working out. I feel strong and I’ll be ready to get back and help the team. I’m just trying to control what I can control right now. I’m all about getting this pin out of my finger and getting my hand back to 100 percent. Hopefully it’s before that because I would love to play in that game.” The article also discusses Noah inviting a dozen children to a game on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, his thoughts on point guard Derrick Rose and how good he believes the team can be this season.

5 » Speaking of former Florida stars in the NBA, Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford is once again having an impressive season. In addition to averaging a career-high 16.5 points per game, Horford set a new career-high in blocks with seven on Monday night. He also scored 23 points (on 10-of-16 shooting), grabbed nine rebounds and dished six assists in his team’s victory against the Sacramento Kings.

6 » Swimmers Gemma Spofforth (who graduated in December) and senior Conor Dwyer have been named the 2010 recipients of the Ben Hill Griffin Award. Recognizing and honoring the top female and male student-athlete who excels in both athletic and academic achievement as well as extra-curricular involvement, the award is presented by the University Athletic Association. Spofforth is the third woman to win the award in back-to-back seasons (Angie McGinnis-2006-07, Nicole Haislett-1992-93); she and Tebow (only three-time winner) were honored in 2009. Dwyer is the third men’s swimmer to get the award (Ryan Lochte-2004, Greg Burgess-1993).

Photo Credit: NBA.com

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SIX BITS: Blakely, Hounshell, Jernigan, Brissett

1 » Florida Gators four-star running back Mike Blakely (Bradenton, FL), an early enrollee already on campus at the University of Florida, is scheduled to have shoulder surgery this week that will keep him out of spring practice but hopefully allow him to be available in the summer. It is not known how Blakely injured his shoulder except that it occurred before he enrolled in January.

2 » Three-star offensive lineman commitment Chase Hounshell (Kirkland, OH), originally scheduled to join some of his future teammates as an early enrollee this month, instead decided to return to high school and take his time making his final decision. Hounshell announced Sunday that he received an in-home visit from Gators head coach Will Muschamp and offensive line coach/running game coordinator Frank Verducci, men he described as “first class” and “just great people.” He will be visiting Florida this upcoming weekend in what appears to be a reaffirmation trip.

3 » The Gators coaching staff, barring a packed suitcase and plane ticket to Gainesville, FL, is now complete. New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, the defensive line coach of the Seattle Seahawks until they lost to the Chicago Bears in the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs on Sunday, has now fulfilled his commitment to his team and should be ready to hit the ground running any day now. A Scout.com report from Friday noted that Quinn’s assistant DL coach at Florida, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Bryant Young, was already hard at work recruiting. He was in the home of five-star DT Tim Jernigan (Lake City, FL), convincing him to take a trip and give UF some serious consideration.

4 » Though former Gators safety Will Hill decided to leave school early and declare for the 2011 NFL Draft, his classmate and teammate in the secondary, junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, chose to stick around for his senior season. Hill was shocked by this occurrence, especially considering Jenkins was expected to be a first-round selection, and told the Orlando Sentinel his thoughts on the subject. “He was talking about leaving,” Hill said. “I haven’t heard or spoke to him for two months. Last time I spoke to him, he said he was leaving. That he’s coming back is kind of a surprise.”

5 » After meeting with four-star quarterback recruit Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) at his high school on Friday, new Florida offensive coordinator and QB coach Charlie Weis invited him to take an unofficial visit to campus over the weekend. Brissett obliged, watched most of the game with Weis and met up with some of his former Dwyer High School teammates including freshman S Matt Elam. Brissett, also a high school basketball player who could be in a unique position to play both sports at UF, reportedly came away from the visit impressed though he still has plenty of thinking to do. Muschamp extended a scholarship offer to Brissett after Weis left on Friday, something he had not been given under former head coach Urban Meyer.

6 » The Gators’ two basketball programs have had a pretty rough go of it this week. In addition to the men falling 72-69 at home to South Carolina, the women lost a pair of gut-wrenching games on Thursday and Sunday. Routed 83-40 at home by the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers on Jan. 13, Florida blew a 16-point lead with 14:17 remaining in the game to fall 70-64 to the Georgia Bulldogs on the road in Athens, GA on Jan. 16. After getting out to a good start this season, the women have lost three of their last four games including a 73-56 throttling by Auburn on Jan. 6.

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Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Divisional

With the 2010-11 NFL regular season having come to a close, a number of Florida Gators participated in Divisional Round action during the NFL Playoffs. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the second week of the playoffs.

LB MIKE PETERSON, Atlanta Falcons: Six tackles (four solo, two for loss)
S MAJOR WRIGHT, Chicago Bears*: Two tackles (one solo), pass defended
LB JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, New England Patriots: Two tackles (solo, for loss)
TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots: Reception for four yards
LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots: Solo tackle
RB FRED TAYLOR, New England Patriots: Inactive
DT GERARD WARREN, New England Patriots: Solo tackle
C MAURKICE POUNCEY, Pittsburgh Steelers*: Started and played the entire game

* Team remains active in the playoffs.

REGULAR SEASON: Week 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17

PLAYOFFS: Wild Card

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