FOURth of July BITS: Noah, Bullard, Delić

1 » As first reported by L’Equipe in France, Chicago Bulls and former Florida Gators center Joakim Noah is officially out of the 2012 London Olympics because his severely sprained left ankle (which he injured back on March 4) is not yet recovered. The injury, which occurred during Game 3 of the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs, was supposed to keep Noah out 1-2 months but is apparently still affecting him two full months later. “I’m absolutely not ready, not ready to return, not ready to jump,” Noah told L’Equipe (originally in French). “And even less to play. I need more time and work. I’m not in form for someone who wants to compete in the Olympics. And given the problems that I have with my ankles, not going to the Games seemed to be the most reasonable decision.” L’Equipe also reports that Noah originally forfeited his spot on the team on June 23 but that head coach Patrick Beesley initially refused his decision and wanted to give him two additional weeks to rehab and recover.

2 » Tuesday came and went and nothing further was learned about the status of five-star incoming defensive end Jonathan Bullard (Shelby, NC) in regards to the NCAA Clearinghouse and the University of Florida. The deadline to enroll in Summer B classes was 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, which means that if Bullard was not cleared by that time then he will not be able to become a student – or officially join the football team – until the fall. According to The Gainesville Sun, Bullard is expected to be eventually cleared by both parties and should be able to start practicing with the team on Aug. 22, when the fall semester starts. He would miss Summer B practices and the first two weeks of preseason camp, according to the paper. Bullard is expected to see the field for the Gators this season and may very well earn major playing time at defensive end. Missing so much practice as a freshman may put him severely behind the proverbial eight ball and could impact how Florida lines up the front four early in the season.

3 » New Gators head men’s tennis coach Bryan Shelton hired Amer Delić as his new assistant, Florida announced on Monday. A former Illinois standout who won the NCAA Singles Championship in 2003, Derlic is Bosnian in descent and has previously represented his country in the Davis Cup. He posted a 33-56 career singles record and 21-34 career doubles record, participated in eight Grand Slam events (never lasting past the third round) and won eight total singles titles over his career in Challengers (six) and Futures (two) events. “When I came down to Gainesville and sat down for an interview with [Coach Shelton], discussing the opportunities and possibilities with this team and with the support from the University of Florida and the athletic department, I knew that this was the right fit for me,” Delic said in a statement. “Especially growing up in Jacksonville, I absolutely know what it means to be a part of the Gator Nation.”

4 » Happy Fourth of July everyone!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

…from the Declaration of Independence

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SIX BITS: Beal, Olympics, Cup awards, Crawford

1 » Could Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal be the decided target of the Washington Wizards with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft on June 28? That appears to be the case after Washington completed a trade on Wednesday that sent a small forward Rashard Lewis and a second-round pick to New Orleans for SF Trevor Ariza and power forward/center Emeka Okafor. By adding two talented, starting-caliber frontcourt players, the chances that the Wizards would select a forward like Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Kansas’ Thomas Robinson (if he was even available) have been reduced significantly, meaning Beal could very well be the top player on their board with the draft just over a week away.

2 » Speaking of Beal, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla wrote Wednesday about what weakness Beal needs to improve on ($) in order to have a productive NBA career.

Beal’s screen-and-roll ability in Billy Donovan‘s screen-and-roll-oriented offense was average at best. Often when challenged by the screener’s defender (usually a big man), Beal was not able to take him on and beat him off the dribble. Ultimately, Beal shot just 35 percent in the screen-and-roll, and his overall points produced for himself or his teammates was a paltry 0.7 points per possession.

Part of the reason Beal struggled in the screen-and-roll is that he is a straight-line driver. I don’t doubt that he has been working hard on his ballhandling creativity. If he is going to be more than a one-dimensional jump-shooter, he’ll be handling the ball a lot, especially because the NBA’s 24-second shot clock demands it.

3 » The 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for track & field begin Friday in Eugene, OR with 17 total current and former Gators hoping to earn the opportunity to compete in the2012 London Olympics. Among those participating in the trials over the next 11 days are 10 current Florida student-athletes including: senior/junior Dwight Barbiasz (high jump), junior Omar Craddock (triple jump), junior/senior Jeff Demps (100-meter dash), freshman Marquis Dendy (long jump), freshman Dedric Dukes (200-meter dash), sophomore Ebony Eutsey (400-meter dash), sophomore Eddie Lovett (110-meter hurdles), sophomore Cory McGee (1,500-meter run), junior Tony McQuay (400-meter dash) and junior Jeremy Postin (hammer throw). Former Gators set to compete include: Hazel Clark (800-meter dash), Will Claye (long jump, triple jump), Kerron Clement (400-meter hurdles), Gray Horn (decathlon), Calvin Smith (400-meter dash), Wes Stockbarger (discus throw) and Christian Taylor (triple jump).

4 » The University of Florida athletic program finished No. 2 in the nation in the 2011-12 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup. Twelve Florida programs finished among the top 10 of their respective sport nationally including women’s tennis (No. 1), men’s indoor track & field (No. 1), men’s outdoor track & field (No. 1), gymnastics (No. 2), lacrosse (No. 3), men’s basketball (No. 5), volleyball (No. 5), baseball (No. 7), men’s swimming & diving (No. 8), women’s indoor track & field (No. 9), men’s tennis (No. 9) and women’s swimming and diving (No. 10). It is the fourth-straight year that the Gators have finished in the top four of the Cup’s final rankings and second time in the last three years (2009-10). Florida has never won the Cup but has finished in the top 10 in each of the 29 years it has been awarded. Stanford won for the 18th time, outscoring UF 1448.25-1314.00 in the final standings. Only 20 sports count for each school toward their final total, but the Cardinal have 35 to choose from while the Gators currently support 21 total sports.

5 » With just a handful of game remaining in the 2012 College World Series, which Florida was eliminated from on Monday, the end of the athletic season is nearly here which means the final standings for the 2012 Capital One Cup will be official shortly. As of press time, the Gators lead the men’s standings with 89 points (baseball has not been counted yet). The only way that Florida can lose their top spot is if Arkansas (currently ranked 17th with 39 points) wins the entire CWS (adding 60 points to their total) and UF is ranked eighth or worse when the final poll. In that scenario, the Gators would finish second by one point (99-98).

6 » The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team announced Monday that Florida sophomore right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford has been selected to play for the squad this summer. Crawford is one of six Southeastern Conference players to earn placement on the team, which consists of freshmen and sophomores from some of the nation’s top programs. He finished the 2012 season with a final record of 6-2 along with a 3.13 ERA and the team’s first solo no-hitter for in 21 years.

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FOUR BITS: Rosario, Donovan, McQuay, 2011-12

1 » Florida Gators senior guard Mike Rosario, playing with the Puerto Rico National Team in the 2012 Centrobasket Championship, registered seven points and three rebounds in his team’s easy 92-60 win over Panama on Monday. Puerto Rico is set to take on the Bahamas at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday as they continue in the event and hope to earn a bid to the 2012 London Olympics.

2 » In Brazil with the USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team, Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan improved to 3-0 in international competition as the Americans defeated host Brazil 83-64 on Monday in the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. The United States has already qualified for the 2013 FIBA U18 World Championship set for next summer but still has plenty to accomplish in this tournament. The U.S. will take on Argentina on Tuesday in a semifinal game for the opportunity to play for the tournament title against either Canada or Brazil.

3 » Gators junior runner Tony McQuay was named a semifinalist for The Bowerman the biggest award in collegiate track & field on Tuesday, becoming the fifth student-athlete from Florida to receive the distinction in the last three years. Though UF has yet to bring home the prestigious award, McQuay has as legitimate of a shot as anyone before having won the national title in both the indoor and outdoor 400-meter dash. He also anchored the Gators’ 4×400-meter team that captured the outdoor national championship and was one of the two top performers for the Florida men’s track & field team that swept the indoor and outdoor 2012 NCAA Championship.

4 » The 2011-12 athletic season has come to an end for the Gators and though some highly ranked Florida teams missed out on opportunities at national titles (baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse, softball), UF also brought home a school record three NCAA Championships thanks to sterling efforts by men’s track & field (indoor and outdoor) and women’s tennis. The NCAA Indoor title for men’s track and field marked the third-straight for the program, and women’s tennis completed their quest to win back-to-back titles with their victory this season. The Gators also won eight individual national titles including six in track & field and one in gymnastics.

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Florida Gators hire Emily Bastel as women’s golf coach, Bryan Shelton as men’s tennis coach

Less than two weeks after the resignations of a pair of head coaches, the Florida Gators announced on Friday that new leaders have been hired for the women’s golf and men’s tennis programs. Florida promoted assistant Emily Bastel to head up the women’s golf team and brought in Georgia Tech head women’s tennis coach Bryan Shelton to take over the men’s tennis squad.

Though both will be new to UF, Bastel and Shelton have drastically different levels of experience and success in the coaching profession.

Former Gators head women’s golf coach Jan Dowling surprised Florida administrators last month by resigning for personal reasons. Luckily for athletic director Jeremy Foley and senior associate director Mike Spiegler, the top candidate to be her replacement was a young up-and-comer positioned right under their noses.

Bastel was hired 10 months ago to be Dowling’s assistant and immediately submitted her resume when learning of her boss’ departure.

“I was just blown away,” Foley said remembering how he felt after interviewing Bastel for the position. “We had a diamond in our midst and didn’t even know it.”

Spiegler added: “When she left the room, we all sort of looked at each other and said, you know, ‘Wow.’ It was that impressive. She may be on the quiet side, but she’s confident and has an idea about the direction we’re headed and will continue to go.”

Also working to her benefit was the fact that “every member of the UF team called, texted or e-mailed to lobby on Bastel’s behalf,” according to GatorZone.com.

Before joining Florida last season, she served as an assistant at Michigan State (2002-03) and Duke (2009-10). Bastel replaced Dowling (who left for UF in 2009) as an assistant at Duke after spending three years on the LPGA Tour (2005-08).

Shelton’s path to the Gators came through Florida head women’s tennis coach Roland Thornqvist who, according to the Gators, submitted a “short list of candidates” to Foley but pushed heavily for Shelton to get a shot.

“He’s the best in the country – on the men’s or women’s side,” he reportedly said.

Unlike Bastel, Shelton has plenty of head coaching experience and immense success. He has spent the last 13 years at Georgia Tech coaching the women’s team and even lead them to the university’s first and only NCAA Championship in 2007.

He began his career playing for GT, won ACC singles and doubles titles while a part of the team and is even a member of the Georgia Tech Athletic Hall of Fame. Shelton then turned pro and played on the circuit for seven years before going into coaching.

Under Shelton’s tutelage, GT won a national title, two ITA National Indoor Team Championships, four-straight ACC regular season titles and four ACC Tournaments. He also coached two ACC Players of the Year, an NCAA Singles Champion and two ITA National Players of the Year. Shelton was named USTA/ITA National Coach of the Year in 2007 and ACC Coach of the Year four times (2002, 2005, 2007-08).

Foley is confident Shelton’s impressive coaching career will translate to the men’s game and thinks he is the man to lead the Gators back to the promised land.

“I don’t tell coaches how many games or championships they have to win, but men’s tennis needs to be in the hunt every single year,” said Foley, according to GatorZone.com. “Does that mean the Final Four every year? No. But when the season starts, you need to be one of the teams that has a chance to get there.”

Now Shelton is a member of the orange and blue and the man charged with rekindling the success UF once had at the start of now former coach Andy Jackson‘s tenure.

“I think that Florida and Florida tennis speaks for itself,” he said. “In my mind, this is the best job in the country. [...] I’m talking about resources. I’m talking about academics. I’m talking about the opportunity to grow and develop a program to the highest level; the opportunity to win championships and be successful year in and year out.

“This place is a gold mine.”

Photo Credits: Duke University/Georgia Tech University

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SIX BITS: Larson, Siler, Beal, Harvin, Mather

1 » Florida Gators senior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson became the ninth member of his team selected in the 2012 MLB Draft when he was chosen on Wednesday with the No. 631 overall pick in the 20th round by the Boston Red Sox. Larson is the third Florida thrower to be picked by Boston in the draft after the Red Sox chose junior lefty Brian Johnson with the No. 31 overall pick in the first round and junior righty Austin Maddox with the No. 118 overall pick in the third round. It is the second time in team history that Boston has picked three players from UF (1979).

2 » Former Gators linebacker Brandon Siler signed a one-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011 with hopes of proving that he could be the full-time starter and deserved a multi-year contract. Unfortunately for Siler, he tore his Achilles and never stepped on the field for the team in a regular season game; fortunately Kansas City decided to give him a second chance and signed him to a one-year extension in January. “It’s been frustrating,” Siler told the team’s website following the Chiefs’ seventh organized team activity practice. “My momma brought it to my attention that I haven’t been out of football this long since I was seven years old and that kind of puts everything in perspective. Football is what I do. [...] It’s my job to go out there and do what I do, and I can’t do that right now, so I shouldn’t be talked about. I plan on getting back out there and showing what I can do. [...] I’m just going to keep working with the trainers and follow what they have me doing. I want to get back out there immediately, of course, but they have a plan for me and I’m just going to follow that.”

Read four more BITS (and watch a video interview)…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Larson, Siler, Beal, Harvin, Mather

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FOUR BITS: Will, baseball, Finney-Smith, SEC

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators women’s tennis’ run in the individual portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament came to an end on Sunday with junior No. 1 Allie Will falling to No. 3 Nicole Gibbs of Stanford (6-2, 4-6, 6-3). Will, who was ranked No. 1 in both singles and doubles for a large portion of the season and was brilliant in the first four rounds of the individual tournament, finished the 2012 season 26-3 in singles action with her two of her three losses coming in the last two weeks. Florida women’s tennis has not had a individual singles national champion since 1996 (Jill Craybas).

2 » No. 2 Gators baseball (42-18) was announced Sunday as one of 16 host teams for the regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL will host the double-elimination regionals for the fourth consecutive season and is also likely to be a Super Regional site should Florida advance past the other three teams (assignments to be determined Monday afternoon) competing in the Gainesville Regional beginning on Friday. Florida State and Miami are also hosting regionals in the state; LSU and South Carolina are the other Southeastern Conference teams hosting regionals.

3 » Though the Gators gained a transfer commitment from 2010 four-star prospect power forward Damontre Harris formerly of South Carolina, a source close to the program told OGGOA on Saturday that Florida will not stop pursuing a similar decision from Virginia Tech forward Dorian Finney-Smith. Himself a former four-star prospect, Finney-Smith is expected to decide “before he goes to the Kevin Durant camp June 22-23,” his mother told Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv. Finney-Smith is choosing between UF, Iowa State, Louisville, Marquette and Texas but has yet to schedule all of his visits. UF is currently at its scholarship limit if all recruits accept athletic scholarships but would do their best to find room for the ACC All-Freshman Team member who averaged 6.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists while starting 30 of 33 games last season.

4 » Former Mississippi State athletic director Larry Templeton, now the SEC’s “scheduling guru” as a consultant with the league, provided some details this week on the future of scheduling for both football and basketball now that Texas A&M and Missouri have joined the league. Though the 2012-13 schedules have already been set as stop gaps, coaches and athletic directors will vote and try to come to a decision on permanent schedules and postseason structures beginning in 2013-14. Below is what Templeton said to The Birmingham News on Saturday in regards to his expectations on how the meetings will unfold next week:

Football
– The conference schedule would remain at eight games and not expand to nine.
– The eight games would be scheduled in a 6-1-1 model with each team playing their six divisional opponents, one permanent rival from the other division and another on a rotation (not necessarily home-and-home).
– The News notes that “Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia should be safe as rivals. Kentucky-Mississippi State, South Carolina-Arkansas and LSU-Florida are permanent games that could be switched.” (Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said in March that South Carolina would be his school’s permanent rival, meaning at least Arkansas will need a new annual opponent. The SEC could match Arkansas with Missouri and retain the other permanent games, though LSU has recently indicated that they may be interested in cancelling their series with Florida.)

Basketball
– The SEC Tournament would feature two “seeded” (aka “play-in”) games.
– The tournament would begin on Wednesday night with the lowest four seeds squaring off (No. 12 vs. No. 13, No. 11 vs. No. 14) and then continue with 10 teams Thursday.

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TWO BITS: Will advances, Dowling resigns

1 » Action continued in the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Saturday with Florida Gators women’s tennis fielding a singles competitor and doubles pairing.

No. 1 Allie Will (junior) def. No. 6 Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar (Texas A&M) – 6-3, 6-3

No. 10 Natalie Pluskota/Kata Szekely (Tennessee) def. No. 22 Lauren Embree/Joanna Mather (junior/senior) – 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(3)

Will’s victory advances her to the Final Four round of the 2012 NCAA Individual Championships on Sunday at noon where she will face No. 3 Nicole Gibbs (Stanford) whom she defeated 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 earlier this season in team competition. The winner will take on either No. 5 Mallory Burdette (Stanford) or No. 13 Zsofi Susanyi (California) in the national title game on Monday.

2 » Florida athletics lost a head coach for the second-straight day after women’s golf’s Jan Dowling resigned from her position on Saturday. “It truly has been an honor to coach at the University of Florida for the past three seasons, and I want to thank Mr. [Jeremy] Foley and the entire administration for this opportunity,” Dowling said in a school release. “I am very proud of what these young women have accomplished, and feel very fortunate to be involved with such a great athletic association. My decision was extremely difficult, however, I have to make the right choices for my personal life too. I will cherish my time at Florida, and wish nothing but the very best for the future of the program and the entire athletic association.”

The women’s golf program made steady progress in Dowling’s three seasons at Florida improving from 10th in the Southeastern Conference in 2010 to fourth in 2012. The Gators did not participate in the NCAA Championships in her first year at the helm but finished tied for 10th in 2011 and alone in 12th in 2012. Downling also recruited and coached the 2012 SEC Freshman of the Year in Camilla Hedberg. A statement from Foley indicates that Dowling’s decision was her own and that she was not relieved by the university. “I was surprised with Jan’s decision, but I respect her decision to do what is best for her. We wish her the best in whatever her future holds,” he said. Foley and Florida announced the resignation of head men’s tennis coach Andy Jackson on Friday in a move that, while titled a resignation, appeared to be at the behest of Foley.

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2 BITS: Florida women advance, Jackson resigns

1 » Action continued in the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Friday with Florida Gators women’s tennis fielding two singles competitors and one doubles pairing.

No. 1 Allie Will (junior) def. No. 37 Abigail Tere-Apisah (Georgia State) – 6-1, 6-4
No. 2 Beatrice Capra (Duke) def. No. 9 Lauren Embree (junior) – 6-1, 6-3

No. 22 Lauren Embree/Joanna Mather(senior) def. No. 5 Annie Goransson/Anett Schutting (California) – 3-6, 6-3, 6-3

Will and Embree/Mather advanced and will compete in the Elite Eight rounds of their respective individual championships on Saturday. The Florida women have won four singles and four doubles NCAA Individual Championships with the last ones coming in 1996 (Jill Craybas) and 2001 (Whitney Lalho/Lehnoff), respectively. The Gators remain the only program in the history of women’s collegiate tennis to sweep the team, singles and doubles titles in the same season, accomplishing that feat in 1996.

2 » The news was not as positive Friday (depending on your perspective) for the Gators men’s tennis team as, after 11 seasons running the program, head coach Andy Jackson announced his resignation. “I want to thank Jeremy Foley and the administration for the opportunity to lead this program for the last 11 years,” Jackson said in a school release. “I’m truly grateful for my time here and I hope to have the opportunity to coach again.” Jackson had success while at Florida, winning four Southeastern Conference Championships including two in the regular season (2003, 2005) and two in tournament play (2005, 2011). He also picked up the SEC Coach of the Year award in 2002 and 2005 and coached three SEC Players of the Year. However, the Gators did not find much success at the national level under Jackson, only advancing to the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament once (2005). “Moving forward, our vision is that the University of Florida men’s tennis program can consistently be among the contenders for the SEC and national championships, and we’ll work deliberately to find a candidate who matches this vision,” Foley said.

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