The shortened 2011-12 NBA season is set to tip-off on Sunday with 10 former Florida Gators standouts on professional rosters. Some won National Championships while wearing the Orange & Blue, others went undrafted, but all want to prove that the Florida basketball program has and can produce legitimate NBA stars.
Al Horford, F/C, Atlanta Hawks
– 2010-11: Averaging career highs in points (15.3), field goal percentage (.557), assists (3.5) and minutes (35.1), Horford also contributed 9.3 rebounds and 1.0 block per game last year. He led his team to the second round of the playoffs for the third-straight season; nlike the previous two years, the Hawks were not swept but rather fell 4-2.
– 2011-12: The Godfather was named a captain in Atlanta one year ago and wound up earning his second-straight NBA All-Star nod as a reserve. The Hawks resigned him to a five-year, $60 million extension in Nov. 2010, and he enters this season as one of the team’s two best and most popular players.
Joakim Noah, C, Chicago Bulls
– 2010-11: Averaging a double-double with career highs in points (11.7), field goal percentage (.525), assists (2.2) and minutes (32.8), Noah was also good for 10.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steal per game. He only played in 48 games due to having two surgeries for ligament damage in his hand and a right thumb injury but helped lead Chicago to the conference finals where the Bulls lost 4-1 in five games.
– 2011-12: Noah was rewarded by Chicago for his hard work with a five-year, $60 million extension last offseason. His defense and shot blocking makes him an elite big man in the league and he will be a key piece for the Bulls this season as they hope to earn a spot in the NBA Finals.
David Lee, F/C, Golden State Warriors
– 2010-11: Falling just short of a double-double average aver accomplishing that feat in consecutive seasons with the New York Knicks, Lee contributed 16.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.0 steal per game in 36.1 minutes on average last season. He shot 50.7 percent from the floor and 78.7 percent from the line in 73 games after missing nine due to an elbow injury that got infected.
– 2011-12: Lee agreed to a six-year, $80 million contract with Golden State after being traded from New York before last season and shined as a efficient big man in an up-tempo offense. His numbers fell because he was not relied upon as heavily with the Warriors, but he should have ample opportunities to showcase his talent.
1 » Former Florida Gators student-athlete Ryan Lochte, a six-time Olympic medalist who is arguably the best male swimmer in the United States, received Kelly Anderson’s nomination for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year award, which will be announced by the publication on Dec. 6. “Lochte may soon leave a mark on the sport that’s far more permanent than fading footprints on the pool deck,” Anderson wrote about her nomination. Lochte is the second former Florida athlete to receive a nomination for Sportsman of the Year. Former Gators striker Abby Wambach, the leader of the U.S. in the 2011 Women’s World Cupwas touted by SI’s Chris Mahr on Nov. 1.
2 » Former Florida forward Udonis Haslem, one of two ex-Gators on the Miami Heat last season, told reporters Thursday that teammate guard Mike Miller had hernia surgery a few days ago and will miss at least two months of action. “I know Mike. He’s a strong guy, he’s going to stay positive and he’s going to get back as soon as he can,” Haslem said, according to the Associated Press. “The key with Mike is, we’ve got to fight him not to get back too fast. He’s going to want to be out there. He’s going to want to play. He’s got to just pace himself and get healthy.” Miller, who was supposed to be a key part of Miami’s team but only saw action in 41 regular season games last season due to a number of injuries, may have sealed his fate with the Heat. He could be a victim of the NBA’s new amnesty clause, which allows each team to waive one player and not have his contract count against their salary cap.
3 » One night before the Denver Broncos captured their fourth consecutive win, quarterback Tim Tebow addressed the team at the request of head coach John Fox. The Denver Post reports that Tebow’s speech included a quote from the Bible: “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” This hit home with his teammates, notably rookie linebacker Von Miller, one of the team’s best players this season. “He said iron sharpens iron and men sharpen other men. And I think that’s totally true,” he said. “He gave us a great speech. We came out fired up. And that was a wrap.” Tebow told the paper that he was honored to be asked by Fox to speak to the team. “It was a powerful speech. It was motivating. You had guys cheering by the end of the speech,” tight end Dante Rosario told NFL Network.
4 » Wide receiver Riley Cooper is set to make his third-straight start for the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday in place of injured starter Jeremy Maclin and has performed quite admirably during his first two appearances., catching eight balls for 146 yards and a touchdown. He spoke to NFL Network a few days ago about how comfortable he has become in the offense catching passes from QB Vince Young. “Being the fourth guy, I was with Vince a lot, especially during training camp because I ran with the twos,” he said. “We have a lot of chemistry. We were in the huddle a lot together. He’s one of my really good friends, and I love the fact that he keeps throwing the ball up to me and allowing me to make plays.” You can watch the rest of Cooper’s “Around the League” interview by clicking here.
Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan won the 400th game of his career on Monday when Florida routed Stetson 96-70 in Orlando, FL. Following the game, Donovan was hit with a Gatorade shower in the locker room and got to celebrate for a short while with the team and visitors Chandler Parsons and Jason Williams. In his post-game press conference, Donovan spoke at length about reaching 400 victories and his coaching career.
On what winning 400 games means to him: “One, I’m definitely clearly getting older. A guy like Jason Williams is here at the game, and he was obviously a part of it when it first started, coaching him. Chandler came in the locker room [and I thought about] his time here. Joakim Noah has been on campus a lot with the lockout. The Brent Wrights of the world. The [Udonis] Haslems. I think more about the time here and the guys that have come through. There have been a lot of special guys. Not only the guys that people get a chance to watch that are in the NBA, because those are obvious guys, but the Justin Hamiltons, the Brent Wrights, the Major Parkers – that first recruiting class. Anthony Roberson, Matt Walsh, Brett Nelson, there have been so many guys that have come through that were close to making the NBA that maybe didn’t make it that had a huge significance and impact on our program. It’s not just the NBA guys, it’s a lot of really good quality kids I’ve coached for a period of time. It’s hard to believe you see Jason Williams. The guy is married, he already has a couple of kids and is retired from the NBA. It’s definitely a reflection that time is moving on and you’re getting older.”
Eight former letterwinners – including Gator Greats Alex Brown (football), Abby Wambach (soccer) and Udonis Haslem (men’s basketball) – will be inducted as the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame‘s 2012 class.
The F Club and Gator Boosters, Inc. announced Wednesday that the honors will be bestowed upon them at the Hall of Fame Banquet on April 6, 2012 in the Holloway Touchdown Terrace at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Inductees are normally divided into three categories: Gator Greats, Distinguished Letterwinners and Honorary Letterwinners. The remainder of the 2012 class includes Gator Greats Hazel Clark Riley (women’s track & field), Kristen Guise Lee (gymnastics), Jeff Morrison (men’s tennis) and Stephanie Nickitas (women’s tennis) as well as Distinguished Letterwinner Larry Travis (football).
Through the 2011 NBA Draft, Florida Gators forward and 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the YearChandler Parsons will be keeping fans up-to-date on his Path to the Draft via a weekly blog entry exclusively here at OGGOA.
Jet-setting across the country working out for nearly every team in the league, Parsons got in touch with us Tuesday while spending a rare day off in New Jersey. After working out for five teams in eight days, he finally found an opportunity to rest before wrapping up workouts on the east and heading out for a West Coast swing. Parsons will be all over the country from now until June 20 but will continue checking in with us each week.
We last spoke with Parsons the night before his workout with the Miami Heat.
The Miami workout went great. That was during the NBA Finals, but it was cool because [team president] Pat Riley was there. There were six people there – two wings, two guards and two bigs – and it was very competitive. We got to play a lot of three-on-three and two-on-two; it was the same thing as every other workout. We went for an hour to an hour-and-a-half doing different drills that tested our conditioning and ability. Like I’ve said before, now they just want to see you compete. They’ve seen me play for four years, so they really just want to see me get after it and get a chance to see me in person.
After a workout, you interview with the teams and they basically ask you the same kind of questions I got asked at the combine. Just about your upbringing, my game on- and off-the-court, and things like that. Pat Riley was right there on the court going through the drills with us. It was real cool that they’re going through a lot in the Finals but he still has time to go there and find someone he wants for the draft this year.
There was an article where a Miami reporter asked [Udonis] Haslem and Mike Miller about me. He got quotes from them about me in the draft and stuff, about how the Heat really like me.
“I asked how the workout went. They said it went well,” forward Mike Miller said. “I like Chandler, he brings a lot to the table, sort of a jack of all trades. Sort of like me, I guess.”
The Heat’s other former Gator also has a rooting interest.
“A very versatile kid, about 6-9, 6-10, can shoot it, can put it on the floor,” power forward Udonis Haslem said. “He can pretty much do it all.”
After that I went to Houston and Houston was by far the hardest workout. They basically put two hours on the clock and we ran it all the way down. It was non-stop competing. Full-court. A lot of running and shooting. Just basically staying active and competing for two-straight hours with limited breaks and limited teaching. It was very hot in the gym. It was two hours long, which is brutal. And all of the traveling catches up to you. It’s just tiring going at each other that hard for that long. It gave us a chance to show what kind of shape we were in, but that one was definitely tiring.
I’m mostly getting different match-ups [at each workout]. In Miami I had Carleton Scott from Notre Dame, and in Houston I had Jordan Hamilton from Texas. From Houston I went to Charlotte, which was a stacked workout. It was basically the top six small forwards in the draft. It was me, Kawhi Leonard from San Diego State, Chris Singleton from Florida State, Tobias Harris from Tennessee, Tyler Honeycutt from UCLA and Jordan Hamilton from Texas. That was a huge confidence builder for me, because that one I think was my best workout.
[Majority owner] Michael Jordan was right there and I’m joking with Michael Jordan and getting taught by Michael Jordan throughout the whole workout. You read about these guys and they get a lot of hype, and these guys have a lot of talent and they’re really good, but after going there and workout out against those guys I have confidence that I’m just as good as any small forward in this draft. This draft is wide open, and they had great things to say to my agent about me after that workout.
Charlotte was a blast – the best workout – played great and very confident. At one point during the workout I dunked, and [Jordan] looked at me and laughed, ‘White guys aren’t supposed to dunk.’ Literally like two plays after that, I caught a tip dunk and just kind of looked at him. Everybody started laughing; it was pretty funny.
Chicago was also a really good [workout]. What was tough about Chicago was it was literally the day after Charlotte. After my workout with Charlotte, I got on a plane, got in late to Chicago that night, woke up the next morning at 7 a.m. and have to play again for the Bulls, which are known traditionally for having a very tough workout. And it was very tough. I didn’t see Scottie Pippen this time [he did at the combine], but I saw [vice president] John Paxton, coach [Tom] Thibodeau and the GM [Gar Forman]. They had a lot of people there. That workout I went against Chris Wright from Dayton and David Lightly from Ohio State.
[Getting a day off] today is huge for me. It’s the first time I feel like I’ve been able to sleep in a long time. I got to sleep in, went to Subway and got a good, healthy meal and stayed off my feet. I went to the Nets practice facility a little bit ago just to get some shots up, nothing tough, just to shoot the ball and get used to the gym and their rim. It was nice to get my wind back and be able to relax for a day, not have to wake up early, go through the workouts. It was good to have an off-day.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Q:Do you agree with the belief that it is not so much about how many shots a player makes during the workouts you are participating in but rather that the evaluators are looking at your form, shot motion and decision making? Is that actually the case? PARSONS: “That’s 100 percent true, even in spot shooting and drills. Scouts and GMs have been watching me play for four years. They know I can shoot the ball, they know I can dribble the ball, they know I can pass the ball. They want to see me – in the workout and this setting – how physical I am, how tough I play, how aggressive I play. They want to see – if I have an open shot – if I’m smart enough to make the extra pass to get someone else a better look. They basically look at all of your tools. The ball going in the basket literally is the last thing they look at. They want a guy who can shoot the ball has great form and has a good shot. That’s not going to be a problem. They want someone who understands the game and who just competes every drill and doesn’t take a play off.”
1 » Florida Gators forward Alex Tyus may not have been invited to the 2011 NBA Combine, but teams have taken an interest in him. According to Tyus, who has been writing diaries for TheHoopsReport.com, he will be working out for Oklahoma City on Wednesday and will be traveling to New Jersey and Phoenix next week to see if he can earn a second-round selection or a spot on one of their summer league teams.
2 » Gators F and OGGOA blogger Chandler Parsons, who will be checking in with us late Tuesday from Miami, FL, was part of a Prospect Profile video produced by NBA.com. Parsons discusses growing up around basketball with his family, his ability to play in the NBA and more in the feature, which can be viewed here.
3 » Florida, as is probably known now by most fans, boasts more former players in the 2011 NBA Finals than any other school with F Corey Brewer on the Dallas Mavericks and both power forward Udonis Haslem and guard Mike Miller on the Miami Heat. The Finals, which will air live on ABC, begin with game one Tuesday at 9 p.m.
4 » The Wall Street Journal published a column Tuesday looking into how much high school football players believe they should be paid (in addition to a scholarship) to play college football. One of the players the paper interviewed, Gators four-star offensive lineman commit Jessamen Dunker (Boynton Beach, FL) “says he’d like to see schools offer ‘a little pocket change’ to the tune of $5,000 a semester.” Of the six players the WSJ spoke to, one said no additional money was necessarily while the rest provided figures ranging from $2,000-10,000 per year.
1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow’s new memoir, Through My Eyes was released Tuesday, but the number of fans who camped outside (yes, spent the night) waiting for him at a Books-A-Million absolutely stunned the Heisman Trophy winner. “It’s extremely humbling,” he told The Florida Times-Union. “I take it as a huge responsibility that people care that much about me and [I] really try to make it worth it for them, really try to make them feel special for doing it.” Tebow also spoke with the paper a little bit about the content of the book, which OGGOA should receive from the publisher for review on Tuesday. “It wasn’t just about football stories,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s more about inspiring kids to go out there and try to live their dream, and go after it and live with passion. That’s a lot of what it’s about, so hopefully, people will take it that way.”
2 » Back in Gainesville, FL after suffering a minor concussion during the No. 2 Florida Gators baseball team’s elimination game in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament in Hoover, AL, sophomore left-handed pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson is doing his best to recover quickly and get back on the field. Speaking with Florida Today, Johnson’s father said his son “is fine” and underwent a number of tests on Monday to evaluate his post-concussion symptoms. He is considered day-to-day for the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, which begins on Thursday. The paper reports…
He had base line testing while playing for a U.S. all-star team last summer so doctors are able to do comparisons, to make sure he returns to normal before playing again. UF is also consulting with noted Pittsburgh neuropsychologist Michael Collins.
3 » Discussing with Miami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem and guard Mike Miller their time playing for Florida, the Palm Beach Post’s Ethan Skolnick got the duo to open up about how head coach Billy Donovan ended up helping them form a bond. It all started when he called both players into his office. “Coach Donovan, was like, ‘You know, if the season started today, I couldn’t play neither one of you guys,'” Haslem told Skolnick. “That wasn’t the exact words he used. You got to get your, um, ‘S’ together. Because I just thought I was doing the best academic job in the world, and obviously I wasn’t. And neither was [Miller]. I don’t know what his excuse was. But, at that point, Mike and I bonded from there.”
Haslem even had Miller’s back when an incident occurred with an unnamed football player. “I had a football player that, um, that didn’t really like me,” Miller said with a smile. “For unknown reasons. And UD put an end to that.” Haslem remembered, “Yeah, I just let the guy know, if you got a problem with Mike, you got a problem with me. The guy never bothered Mike again.”
4 » Talk surrounding the 2011 NBA Draft from a Gators perspective has mostly focused on forward Chandler Parsons, who could be picked anywhere from the teens to the mid-second round. Parsons, who has been going around the country doing private workouts after successfully competing in the NBA Combine and select group camp in Minnesota, is not the only former Florida player eligible to be selected. Center Vernon Macklin, according to the Indianapolis Star, is one of six former college players working out for the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. Macklin is projected to be a late second-round pick or go undrafted.
1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has a wide variety of interests these days, but up until this point no one has dared question his work ethic or dedication to football. Then comes running back LenDale White, who asked Tebow publicly last week to join the voluntary workouts being put on by veteran safety Brian Dawkins in Denver. Tebow has previously worked out with teammates (especially his wide receivers) both in Denver and Jacksonville, FL but was finishing up a round of appearances including at his own charity golf tournament and for Jockey in New York, NY.
Thursday he returned to Denver and was one of 13 players to show up at the workout – the only quarterback on his team to do so. According to The Denver Post‘s Lindsay Jones, Tebow got there an hour early to throw passes and stayed for the duration. “This part is more important to show that we’re all together. I know a lot of us have been throwing and catching and doing what we need to do other places, but I think this is big, just to show that we’re together,” he said. “You can come together a few times to show, ‘Hey, we’ve got each other’s backs.'”
2 » Six members of No. 3 Florida Gators softball were honored Thursday with selections to the 2011 Louisville Slugger/National Coaches Fastpitch Association All-Southeast Region Teams. Senior outfielder Kelsey Bruder, senior first baseman Megan Bush, freshman pitcher Hannah Rogers and sophomore utility player Brittany Schutte were voted onto the First Team, while junior OF Michelle Moultrie and senior second baseman Aja Paculba earned Second Team honors. Florida begins 2011 NCAA Tournament action by hosting the Gainesville Regional beginning Friday at 6 p.m. against Benthune-Cookman.
3 » Playing his first significant minutes for the Miami Heat since making an early recovery from a Lisfranc injury of his foot, power forward Udonis Haslem was a major spark off the bench on Wednesday. Haslem entered the game, started 4-for-4 from the field and finished with 13 points and five rebounds (three offensive) on 50 percent shooting. He was also a huge help in the post for Miami, which lacks strength and dominance down low, by limiting the offensive rebounds that the Chicago Bulls were able to grab. Game three of the Eastern Conference Finals is set for Sunday at 8:30 p.m.
4 » Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis may be getting paid handsomely by Florida ($765,000 in salary this year), but he is also still receiving checks from his last college job with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. According to a report from the Chicago Tribune printed on Friday, Weis has been paid $7.3 million by Notre Dame since he was terminated in 2009 including a $6.6 million lump sum upon being fired. He will continue receiving payments from the school through Dec. 2015 (when his 10-year contract extension was supposed to end).
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