FOUR BITS: Beal, Mitts, Howard, U.S. Open

1 » Preparing for the 2012 NBA Draft, Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal is up in Chicago, IL training with former college coach Josh Oppenheimer, the same trainer that Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons used one year ago. Beal, who like Parsons also signed with agent Mark Bartelstein of Prioirty Sports, told SLAMonline that he is working on his game in hopes of impressing scouts and being selected as high as possible. “I’m looking to really focus on creating my own shot offensively,” he said. “Just beating guys off of the dribble then finishing with a floater or pull-up in the lane. [I] just have to continue having high IQ for the game, focus in on ball handling and work on creating more space off the dribble.” Ironically enough, Parsons will be in New York, NY on Wednesday representing Houston on stage at the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery. The Rockets only have a 1.81 percent change of receiving a top-three pick (lowest amongst the 13 teams) so it is quite likely that Beal winds up elsewhere.

2 » Former Gators soccer star and current U.S. Women’s National Team defender Heather Mitts (34) told NBC on Sunday that the 2012 London Olympics this summer (her third appearance on the Olympic team) will be the end of the road for her as a soccer player. “Feeling the way I feel, it’s kind of weird to say that, but it’s always been my plan to hopefully play in one last Olympics and step away from the game kind of on my own terms,” she said. “I do love the game, and I am going to miss it, but I also have other things that I want to do. I just feel like I want to go out at the right time.” Mitts seems to excel Olympic years with her best performances coming in 2004 and 2008. Though she started all eight of the United States’ Olympic matches in 2008, she did not play in the 2011 Women’s World Cup and may not step on the pitch this time around either. “Ideally I want for our team to go over there and win gold,” Mitts said. “It would be great to play, but if I don’t play, I’ve been through that once before to be there and be supportive.” Despite her decision to hang up her cleats, Mitts says she is “probably the fittest I’ve ever been,” is completely healthy and still loves playing. “I feel so sharp and strong,” she added. Mitts has made 123 career appearances in the red, white and blue. Check out NBC‘s video interview with Mitts from this week.

3 » In an interview with his new team’s website, Seattle Seahawks rookie defensive tackle Jaye Howard expressed his excitement about finally being in the NFL and playing alongside some guys he grew up watching. “It’s been an unreal experience,” he said. “Walking into the same locker room and seeing Marshawn Lynch – a player that I look up to – and now I’m actually in the same locker room. It’s a great feeling. So I’m just embracing this moment right now.” There were also positive comments directed at Howard from head coach Pete Carroll and defensive line coach Todd Wash. “Jaye Howard showed up. He did some good things. He showed up on pass rush a couple of times. I know Todd mentioned that he was surprised at his quickness. That’s a really good sign,” Carroll said. Wash added, “Jaye is an explosive player. He’s learning that this level is a little bit different once our veterans got here. But we’re very excited about his progress. He’s eager to learn. He wants to know exactly what he can do better. He does a great job in the classroom, too. So we’re really pleased with what we’ve got so far.”

4 » According to The Florida Times-Union, seven former and current Florida golfers “will play in a 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualifier Monday at Black Diamond Ranch Quarry Course in Lecanto.” Among those players competing will be junior T.J. Vogel, freshman J.D. Tomlinson, redshirt senior Zach Lee and former players Tyson Alexander, Andres Echavarria, Brett Stegmaier and Bank Vongvanij. With the Gators competing for the 2012 NCAA Championship this week, Vogel, Tomlinson and Lee could have a tight window to get into town for the qualifier depending how well Florida does at the event.

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TWO BITS: UF throttles JU, Alexander wins title

1 » No. 8/9 Florida Gators baseball (21-7) handed the Jacksonville Dolphins (16-14) a licking Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium, powering their way to a 12-2 win. Senior outfielder Jonathan Pigott (1-3, two runs) and freshman shortstop Nolan Fontana (1-4, one run) each hit two-RBI triples as freshman catcher Mike Zunino (2-2) scored three times. Sophomore starter Greg Larson (1-0) picked up the win after giving up two unearned runs in three innings; Florida relievers tossed six scoreless innings behind him to hold on to the victory.

2 » Senior golfer Tyson Alexander won his first individual event title Tuesday at the BancorpSouth Intercollegiate tournament as the No. 4/6 Gators finished in second place at the Reunion Golf and Country Club. Alexander finished the tournament with a season-low 205 (-11) on rounds of 63, 71 and 70, jumping senior teammate Tim McKenney (who finished in second place) by a single stroke in the final round for the win. As a whole, Florida finished with a team score of 847 (-17), just one stroke off of the tournament-winning North Florida Ospreys.

Extra BITS » Gators take home weekly awards:

- Softball: Freshman Ensley Gammel named USA Softball National Player of the Week, SEC Pitcher of the Week (three wins, 15 innings, no runs allowed)
- Lacrosse: Freshman Ashley Bruns named Nike/Inside Lacrosse Player of the Week, WomensLax.com/WomensLacrosse.com Rookie of the Week (eight goals, five assists)
- Lacrosse: Freshman Sam Farrell named ALC Defensive Player of the Week (held Oregon’s Jana Drummond to one goal and two shots and held Penn State’s Jen Steadman to no shots)
- Track & Field: Senior thrower Mariam Kevkhishvili named SEC Female Field Athlete of the Week (won women’s shot put at 66th Pepsi Florida Relays with nation-leading mark of 17.94m/58-10.25)
- Baseball: Brian Johnson named SEC Freshman of the Week (first player from UF since Brad Wilkerson in 1998 to start in an SEC weekend series on the mound and also bat for himself)
- Baseball: Sophomore pitcher Alex Panteliodis named to CollegeBaseball360.com Honor Roll (held No. 20/17 Vanderbilt to one run in 6.1 innings with six strikeouts)

Photo Credit: GatorZone

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FOUR BITS: Baseball, tennis win; golf leads; track

1 » No. 6/7 Florida Gators baseball (10-2) began its series against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers (5-9) with a 6-0 win Friday night at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Sophomore starter Alex Panteliodis (4-0) tossed a career-high seven innings, striking out five in the outing. Florida notched consecutive shutout victories for the first time since 1995. A five-run second inning was highlighted by back-to-back two-out home runs by freshman catcher Mike Zunino (3-3, two RBI) and senior outfielder Matt den Dekker. Florida has decided to add a game against Army to its schedule on Monday, March 15 at 6:30 p.m.

2 » No. 3 women’s and No. 4 men’s track and field combined for five All-America honors on the first day of the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships on Friday. The men are in second-place (four points off the lead), while the women are in 14th. Four qualifying marks/times were achieved by the men, including freshman sprinter and sophomore running back Jeff Demps, who achieved a school-record time of 6.56 seconds in the 60-meter dash.

Two more BITS on tennis’ two wins and men’s golf’s lead…after the jump!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Baseball, tennis win; golf leads; track

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SIX BITS: A.C. Leonard, golf, tennis, b-ball, softball

1 » ESPN has taken to praising 2011 athlete recruit A.C. Leonard (Interlachen, FL), a current Florida Gators commitment. Called “a jack-of-all-trades in high school,” Leonard is projected as a tight end or defensive end in college and worked out extensively at the former position during the Jacksonville, FL, Under Armour combine over the weekend. Leonard continues to impress and remains a solid verbal commitment.

2 » No. 4 Florida men’s golf took home its seventh straight SunTrust Gator Invitational title on Sunday, shooting a team score of 279 (-1) in the final round at the Mark Bostik Golf Course. Up nine strokes going into the final round, the Gators doubled it up and won by 18. Seniors Tyson Alexander and Tim McKenney, along with redshirt junior Andres Echavarria, tied for third place with a total score of 212 (+2).

Four more BITS on tennis, women’s b-ball and softball’s rebound after the jump!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: A.C. Leonard, golf, tennis, b-ball, softball

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