FOUR BITS: USA, Zunino, Whitson, Phillips

1 » USA Basketball’s under-18 team made a record-setting debut at the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship on Friday, taking down Uruguay 156-58 on Friday evening. The Americans led 44-15 after one quarter and 84-26 at halftime before pulling off the 98-point victory in Colorado Springs, Colorado. According to USA Basketball, head coach Billy Donovan’s team set four team national records in the event including most points scored (156), largest margin of victory (98 points), most field goals made (59) and most assists (40). “I think the one thing we’ve been talking about is trying to play unselfishly, and they did that tonight. Forty assists. They were really unselfish; they played well together,” Donovan said after the game. “I was really pleased coming out of the half, and I feel we got off to a great start at the second half and then it kind of carried on. I thought overall, their willingness to pass and share the basketball was special.” Next up for the United States is Mexico; the teams will square off on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in preliminary round action. USA will then take on Argentina on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. to conclude the preliminary round.

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13 Gator Bites for Friday, June 13: Graham, Dendy, Harvin, Haslem, softball, MLB, Parsons

From time to time, OnlyGators.com 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 redshirt sophomore guard Dillon Graham on Friday tweeted that he has “finally [been] cleared” by team doctors after missing most of the 2013-14 season following surgery to repair bone spurs in his hips. Less than a month ago, head coach Billy Donovan said he did not expect Graham to be cleared for contact until August or September. Doctors are likely allowing Graham to work out and practice in non-contact situations at this time. “He’s missed a whole entire year of development and now you’re talking about an entire summer and into the fall without it,” Donovan said on May 22. “So, when he does get back, what is he like as a player and maybe how long does it take to get him back to maybe where he was? I think that’s going to be a long process for him.”

» Florida junior jumper Marquis Dendy on Thursday captured the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championship in men’s long jump. The outdoor long jump title in school history, Dendy’s 8.00m/26-3 championship-winning mark was his best of the season. Actually, all three of his jumps would have won the crown for Dendy, who previously won the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championship in the same event. He did not even need to take the last jump but chose to do so because he was “in the moment” and also wanted to qualify nationally in the event. He returns to the field on Saturday for the men’s triple jump, an event UF has dominated in recent years.

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Six Florida Gators selected in 2014 MLB Draft; Shafer, Whitson decide to turn pro

The Florida Gators baseball team saw six of its current players selected over the weekend in the three-day, 40-round 2014 MLB Draft, though it is unknown as of press time how many of those drafted players will leave the program and turn professional.

Junior catcher Taylor Gushue was the first Florida player drafted when he was chosen in the fourth round with the 131st overall selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the second time in three seasons that the first Gators player picked in the draft spent his career behind the plate.

Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson, selected by the Boston Red Sox with the 344th overall pick in the 11th round, was the third UF player drafted but first (of two thus far) to announce his intent to forego his remaining collegiate eligibility.

“The Red Sox saw something in me and they’re giving me an opportunity to work hard for a team that’s sticking their neck out for me,” Whitson told Steven Petrella of MLB.com on Saturday. “Some other teams are looking at [the] negative of my situation. It humbles me that Boston sees positives in a kid that still has a lot to offer.”

Leaving $2.1 million on the table to play for the Gators after the San Diego Padres picked him No. 9 overall in 2010, Whitson had a tremendous freshman season but fell off a bit as a sophomore. He then missed his true junior campaign after undergoing shoulder surgery before rebounding as a redshirt junior to go 1-1 in 14 appearances (nine starts) with a 3.86 ERA in 2014.

Junior RHP Justin Shafer was the second Florida hurler drafted and second to decide to start this pro career, signing with the Toronto Blue Jays late Sunday. The Blue Jays nabbed Shafer in the eighth round with the No. 234 overall pick.

Below are the current Florida players that were selected from Thursday-Saturday.

Round 4 – No. 131
Taylor Gushue, C
Pittsburgh Pirates


Height: 6’2″ – Weight: 215 lbs.
B/T: S/R – Class: Junior

Eligible for the draft for the first time after bypassing the 2012 process by enrolling early at Florida, Gushue was one of the youngest players available over the weekend. He displayed power with the Gators – smacking team-highs of six homers and 49 RBIs as a junior as well as five dingers in each of his first two years – and served as Florida’s permanent catcher. Some believe he projects better as a first baseman on the next level, but Pittsburgh chose Gushue because of his work behind the plate and plans to keep him there should he decide to turn pro. Gushue is expected to sign with the Pirates.

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Ross hits game-winning RBI in World Series win

Boston Red Sox catcher David Ross, a spot starter for Game 5 of the 2013 World Series, came through in the clutch with an RBI double in the seventh inning that later became the difference maker for the road team on Monday evening in St. Louis, MO.

Tied 1-1 in the top of the seventh, Boston jumped ahead by a run when Ross hit a ground rule double to left to score what would become his team’s game-winning run. He was thrown out at home two plays later after trying to tack on an insurance run for the Red Sox following a single to center by center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ross has become left-handed pitcher Jon Lester’s personal catcher and led the hurler, from behind he plate, to a terrific performance on Monday (7.2 IP, 4 H, ER, 7 K).

He only spent one year as a member of the Florida Gators baseball team, joining the program as a junior transfer in 1998 after two seasons with Auburn.

Following the 1998 College World Series (the Gators were the No. 1 overall seed but lost in the first round), Ross decided to forgo his final year of eligibility. He was subsequently selected in the seventh round of the 1998 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ross has played for seven different teams over his 12-year MLB career and is currently in his second stint with Boston (2008). A .237 hitter who has spent most of his career as a reserve, he played in his 13th postseason game on Monday, seven of which have come this season with the Red Sox.

After the 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, Ross was interviewed on the field by FOX Sports reporter Erin Andrews, who was a sophomore at Florida in 1998.

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