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.
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.
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
Height: 6’2″ – Weight: 215 lbs.
B/T: S/R – Class: Junior
Round 4 – No. 131
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.
1 » Former Florida Gators point guard Taurean Green won a professional championship this week when his team, Limoges CSP, defeated Strasbourg 73-70 in game three of the Ligue Nationale de Basket Pro A finals. It was the first time in 14 years that Limoges captured a French league crown as well as Green’s first championship since winning back-to-back national titles with the Gators in 2006-07. Green led the way for Limoges with a team-high 19 points on 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. He was 5-for-11 overall and 5-for-6 from the charity stripe, adding two rebounds and an assist to his starting line. Limoges is the sixth international team Green has played for since moving between the NBA and NBA D-League from 2007-08. He has also played in Aragon, Greece, Spain, Turkey and Italy.
2 » OnlyGators.com, on Friday, published a story about the failure of Florida’s tight ends in 2013 and how redshirt senior transfer Jake McGee should be able to help resurrect production at the position for the Gators in 2014. However, not everything McGee told the media on Thursday fit within the story, so below are some additional thoughts he shared on his relationship with his new roommates and a recent Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
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.
» The New York Jets finally decided to bench quarterback Mark Sanchez after a five-turnover performance on Monday night. Despite the fact that Tim Tebow had been Sanchez’s back-up all season long, the team decided to promote third-stringer Greg McElroy to starter, leapfrogging Tebow and breaking a promise the team made to him when they traded for him in the offseason. When Denver was shopping Tebow and had equal offers from New York and Jacksonville, the player evaluated the situation to determine which would be his best destination. Sources close to the player told me at the time that Tebow chose the Jets for two reasons. New York told him that they would utilize him in a number of roles right away and that he would also get a legitimate chance to start for the Jets should Sanchez either be injured or benched. While the team did put him in occasionally as Wildcat quarterback and as a punt protector, he was barely used in the offense and never correctly. He was inactive the first time New York replaced Sanchez during a game and has now been jumped over by McElroy for the starting job this week.
» Sports Illustrated’s Peter King summed up the situation well Wednesday on Twitter: “I think what happened w/ Jets is they saw Tebow have some bad practices, then he wasn’t electric on early touches, and they gave up on him.” Putting it another way was ESPN’s Ed Werder, who tweeted: “Jets traded 2 draft choices, paid Broncos part of Tebow’s signing bonus, ignored Bronco performances, never gave him chance” With all of that being true, ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian O’Connor went off on the franchise in his latest column. “The Jets used Tebow, and then abused him,” he wrote. “They used him to sell tickets and PSLs and steal a few more headlines from the local big-boy franchise that had just won another Super Bowl title. They abused him Tuesday by declaring that a seventh-round pick who has been inactive for 13 out of 14 games gives the Jets a better chance to do something they fail to do: win.” O’Connor also looked to Tebow’s record, noting that he was 8-4 last season before falling to New England in the playoffs and is 9-7 in 16 career starts, which included three with an interim coach and did not include last year’s victory in Miami when he came in for Kyle Orton. “How is he less qualified to face San Diego than McElroy, who has one moderately successful relief appearance behind him and who has eternal backup written all over him?”
Check out NINE more Gator Bites…after the break!
Continue Reading » 11 Gator Bites for Thursday, December 20
A three-time All-American and the 1998 National Player of the Year, Brad Wilkerson was inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming the first Florida Gators player to receive the prestigious honor.
A unanimous first-team All-American as a junior in 1998, Wilkerson’s abilities at the plate and on the mound were some of the main reasons why Florida won two Southeastern Conference Championships in three years and advanced to the College World Series in both 1996 and 1998. His grand slam home run to defeat Florida State in the CWS is one of the standout plays in Gators baseball history, and he became the first player in NCAA history to hit 20 homers, steal 20 bases and earn 10 wins as a pitcher (which he accomplished in 1998).
Wilkerson is first in school history to this day in career batting average (.381), slugging percentage (.714), on-base percentage (.531) and walks (224); he is second in home runs (55), runs batted in (214), runs (239) and total bases (499). He is also listed as part of the top-10 in seven other categories including notables like pitching wins (third with 26), strikeouts as a pitcher (fifth with 292) and hits (sixth with 266).
Following his time at Florida, Wilkerson was selected with the No. 33 overall pick by the Montreal Expos in the 1998 MLB Draft and following three years in the minor leagues spent eight playing in the majors. He earned Rookie of the Year honors from Sporting News, hit 32 home runs in 2004, smacked the last home run in Expos team history, jacked the first grand slam in Washington Nationals team history, hit for the natural cycle (in four plate appearances) and hit three home runs in a single game (2007).
Wilkerson also played for the Texas Rangers (2006-07) and spent time as a member of both the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays in 2008. He signed a minor league contract with Boston in 2009 but quickly decided to retire before attempting a comeback in 2010 with Philadelphia that only lasted one month.
Wilkerson is a member of the seventh class of the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, which began honoring players in 2006, and was inducted in a ceremony that took place Saturday in Lubbock, TX. He is one of four members of the 2012 class, which also includes Nomar Garciaparra, Lou Brock and Frank Sancet (coach).
1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Travis Taylor recently returned to the University of Florida to finish his degree in sports management and has simultaneously decided to work for the football program as an undergraduate student assistant. According to UF senior writer Scott Carter, Taylor contacted former teammate and now Gators WR coach Aubrey Hill about the opportunity and is excited about how he can help the team going forward. “I had not talked to Aubrey in 10 years,” Taylor said. “He was like, ‘Man, whatever I can do for you just let me know. I’ll definitely run it by Coach [Will] Muschamp.’ Everything kind of fell into place. I came over to learn about the process and got it done. They embraced me to come in and I’m having a great time.”
2 » Former Florida catcher Brian Jeroloman, who has spent approximately five years toiling in minor leagues throughout the country, was called up by the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday potentially for the remainder of the season. He will officially be the seventh former Gators baseball player in the MLB this year.
3 » As noted by the Twitter account for Florida volleyball, anyone who has been watching CNN’s coverage of unrest in Libya has undoubtedly seen reports from network correspondent Sara Sidner. On-site in Tripoli as rebels attempt to usurp power from dictator Muammar Gadhafi, she was actually inside a compound still controlled Gadhafi on Tuesday. “We have had to run from Gadhafi Compound,” she tweeted at approximately 6 p.m. (ET). “Gun fire coming towards us from outside compound.” A former Gators volleyball player, Sidner is CNN’s New Delhi-based international correspondent covering India and South Asia and has been with the network since 2008. She graduated from UF in 1992 with a bachelor of science degree in telecommunications.
3 » Florida senior running back Jeff Demps learned Tuesday that his name was placed on the candidate list for the 2011 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, given each year to numerous student-athletes who achieve greatness in four key areas: community, classroom, character and competition. Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow is the only football player representing Florida to ever win the award (2009), which has only been presented since 2008.
A school record 11 current members of the Florida Gators baseball team were selected by professional organizations on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the second and third days of the 50-round 2011 MLB Draft.
Junior LHP Nick Maronde – Round 4, Pick 104 – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani – Round 6, Pick 199 – Toronto Blue Jays
Junior LHP Alex Panteliodis – Round 9, Pick 282 – New York Mets
Junior RHP Tommy Toledo – Round 11, Pick 341 – Milwaukee Brewers
Senior 2B (SS) Josh Adams – Round 13, Pick 403 – Florida Marlins
Junior OF (1B) Preston Tucker – Round 16, Pick 498 – Colorado Rockies
Junior C Ben McMahan – Round 23, Pick 701 – Milwaukee Brewers
Senior RHP Matt Campbell – Round 24, Pick 751 – Philadelphia Phillies
Junior RHP Greg Larson – Round 29, Pick 885 – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Senior OF Bryson Smith – Round 34, Pick 1,045 – Cincinnati Reds
Junior OF Tyler Thompson – Round 46, Pick 1,387 – Washington Nationals
The vast majority – if not all – of the underclassmen picked in the draft are expected to return to school to both graduate and improve their standing for 2012.
Additionally, four of Florida’s 2011 high school signees were picked in the first four rounds of the event including two in the first day, which consisted of picks No. 1-60.
RHP Michael Kelly – Round 2, Pick 48 – San Diego Padres
RHP Hudson Boyd – Round 2, Pick 55 – Minnesota Twins
1B Daniel Vogelbach – Round 3, Pick 68 – Chicago Cubs
RHP Kyle Smith – Round 4, Pick 126 – Kansas City Royals
The advisor for Kelly and Smith, Jason Wood of Arland Sports, told the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter that he expects both players to turn down the large signing bonus they would get for agreeing to forego their college careers and instead enroll at Florida. “I honestly think [Kelly] fell too far to get a deal done,” Wood said. “I know he has a very, very strong college commitment. It’s a compliment to go as high as he did. The Padres are a great organization, and he’s honored to be drafted.”
More Gators are expected to be picked in the draft, which runs for 50 total rounds and concludes on Wednesday.