FOUR BITS: USA Basketball, Tebow, Hernandez

1 » Rookie left-handed pitcher Alex Wood has been getting hazed by his Atlanta Braves teammates since being promoted to the majors. One tactic his teammates are using to embarrass Wood is forcing him to carry a plush Florida Gators backpack out to the bullpen when he warms up. “His fellow relievers brought as much attention to the prank as they could,” MLB.com explains, “making Wood lead the group into the outfield and taking turns playing with the snout of the plush gator mascot on the back of the backpack.” The former Georgia standout only faced Florida twice during his three years in college with the Gators beating him both times.

2 » By defeating Serbia 71-62 on Wednesday, USA Basketball earned the No. 1 overall seed in the quarterfinal round of the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship and will open up the bracket portion of the event on Friday at 2:15 p.m. when the Americans take on their neighbors to the north, Canada. Florida rising sophomore guard Michael Frazier II barely saw the court in the United States’ last game, playing only the final 1:37 of the first half and not leaving the bench in the second half. Head coach Billy Donovan did not sit Frazier without good reason; he had shot 8-of-36 (.222) from downtown in the first five games. ESPN3.com has picked up the quarterfinals of the event and will air the Americans’ showdown with the Canadians at 2:15 p.m. on Friday.

3 » Green Bay Packers rookie running back Jonathan Franklin was born in Los Angeles, CA, and attended UCLA but did not name a Californian his role model when asked during an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “I Love Tim Tebow because of his spiritual walk,” Franklin explained. “Through all that he’s been through he still stays strong in his walk and that’s very encouraging. My pastor and my mom (Pamela) have also been great role models for me.”

Check out Aaron Hernandez murder investigation updates…after the break.
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: USA Basketball, Tebow, Hernandez

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FOUR BITS: Boynton, Floyd, USA Basketball

1 » Former Florida Gators guard Kenny Boynton, who was not selected in the two-round 2013 NBA Draft last Thursday, has earned a tryout with the Los Angeles Lakers. With NBA Summer League action set to begin on July 12, Boynton is hoping to clinch a spot representing the Lakers in a pre-summer league camp the organization will hold next week in Los Angeles, CA. He will be one of 16 players looking to earn spots on the team, which will be announced at the conclusion of the camp, a team spokesman told OnlyGators.com on Tuesday. As it so happens, Boynton grew up in Pompano Beach, FL, rooting for the Lakers. Chicago Bulls forward Erik Murphy will also be competing in summer league action in Las Vegas, NV.

2 » With the Dallas Cowboys badly in need of a defensive tackle, many fans of the team were surprised that it passed over selecting one in the 2013 NFL Draft, especially considering Gators junior Sharrif Floyd was surprisingly available when the team made a selection at No. 18 overall in the first round. According to ESPNDallas.com, owner/general manager Jerry Jones did not pick Floyd because neither defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin nor defensive line coach Rod Marinelli thought Floyd was “quick-twitch” enough to succeed in the Cowboys’ 4-3 defense. Dallas’s scouts recommended that Jones choose Floyd, but he listened to the coaches instead. Floyd wound up being nabbed by the Minnesota Vikings with the 23rd pick.

Check out two more Florida Gators news BITS (one video)…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Boynton, Floyd, USA Basketball

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FOUR BITS: Beal, Lewis, Johnson, Sturgis

1 » In Washington, D.C. with USA Basketball preparing for the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan wound up sitting down next to rookie Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal for an interview with Monumental Network (check it out below). The terrific interview includes plenty of compliments going both ways, but Donovan noting that Beal put serious consideration into staying at Florida for his sophomore season is the most interesting.

“A lot of people don’t know his biggest fear going into the NBA was he felt coming into college as a freshman, he was playing with some older guys, and he said, ‘Do you think I’m making a mistake by bypassing a step of being a go-to guy and a leader on the team, because I’ve never done that? Do you think that’s going to hurt me if I go up there?’ I thought, what an incredibly mature question to ask. It was never really about the money, it was never about that. It was about what did he need to do to be the best he could be.”

Check out the VIDEO and three more BITS of Florida Gators news!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Beal, Lewis, Johnson, Sturgis

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Gators getting started without Donovan; Hill enrolled, Walker “working towards” qualifying

For the second-straight offseason, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan will not be with his team when it begins summer training activities on campus in Gainesville, FL. Instead, Donovan will once again be coaching USA Basketball as it competes this year at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship in Prague, Czech Republic.

While he obviously holds his job at Florida as priority No. 1, Donovan and has said multiple times that he is only working with USA Basketball because it is a manageable situation for him as his experienced coaching staff is capable of leading the program in his absence during a portion of the Summer B semester.

Filling in for Donovan during his scheduled Monday media appearance on the annual summertime Southeastern Conference teleconference was third-year assistant Matt McCall, who said the Gators are getting down to business while Donovan is overseas.

“Obviously this is an exciting time when you’re able to get some of your new guys on campus and have your old guys back and start working with them here,” McCall said. “[It will be nice to] get them in the weight room with our strength coach and start preparing for next year.”

Continue Reading » Gators getting started without Donovan; Hill enrolled, Walker “working towards” qualifying

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15 Gator Bites for Friday, June 21

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. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Texas Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski, a die-hard Florida Gators fan, does the Gator Chomp after hitting a double off St. Louis Cardinals left-handed pitcher Randy Choate, a former Florida State player, on Friday night. [Special thanks to OGGOA reader Mitchell M. for sending this in.]

» Sports Illustrated soccer columnist Grant Wahl penned a terrific column on former Florida striker Abby Wambach, who passed Mia Hamm and set a new career international goals record on Thursday.

» A total of 21 Gators (10 former and 11 current) are presently in Des Moines, IA, competing in the 2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships and USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Athletes participating in the event from June 19-23 have the opportunity to qualify for the 2013 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Moscow, Russia from Aug. 10-18.

Omar Craddock and Will Claye became the first two Florida representatives to qualify on Thursday when they finished one-two in the men’s triple jump. Craddock took the American title with a mark of 17.15m/56-4.25, while Claye finished second with a 17.04m/55-11 jump. Also advancing to Moscow was Ugonna Ndu, who participated at the All-Nigeria Athletics Championships, winning the 100-meter hurdles in 13.4 seconds. Numerous other Gators advanced in their respective disciplines, and OGGOA will provide updates as each event finishes.

» Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, still sidelined with a stress fracture in his right fibula, is finally expected to return to the court in just over a week. According to the Washington Post, Beal will likely be cleared by doctors on July 1, three months after his injury was initially diagnosed. The Wizards were originally hoping Beal would be able to participate in the NBA Summer League games, but it is unlikely that the team takes the risk of putting him into action so soon after he returns from injury. It is more likely that Beal will next play meaningful basketball alongside Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons during 2013 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Mini-Camp from July 22-25 in Las Vegas, NV.

Check out 11 more bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!

Continue Reading » 15 Gator Bites for Friday, June 21

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FOUR BITS: Ball, Frazier, Donovan, Elam

1 » Florida Gators redshirt senior linebacker Neiron Ball recovered from the arteriovenous malformation (AVM) that forced him to miss the entire 2011 season, registering 10 tackles (0.5 for loss), two fumble recoveries and an interception last year. In this special feature produced by GatorVision, Ball, his family, doctors, trainers and coaches discuss his recovery and resurgence.

2 » Gators guard Michael Frazier began working with USA Basketball on Friday as one of 25 players trying out for 12 spots on the Men’s U19 National Team that will compete in the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship from June 27-July 7 in Prague, Czech Republic. Along with head coach Billy Donovan, who is serving in the same role for Team USA, Frazier is in Colorado Springs, CO, competing during a five-day training camp; the final roster will be decided on June 19. “Very excited to have the opportunity to get invited and have the opportunity to go play against very talented players and just have the opportunity to be able to represent my country,” Frazier told The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway. “It’s just really fun when I learned the news.”

3 » Donovan coaching USA Basketball does not just benefit his country but also Florida. While in Colorado Springs and Prague, Donovan will be coaching a pair of uncommitted five-star rising seniors, center Jahlil Okafor (Chicago, IL) and forward Justise Winslow (Houston, TX). Ranked No. 1 and No. 10 overall, respectively, in the Rivals150 for 2014, Okafor and Winslow will get to see first-hand what it is like to be coached by Donovan, a huge benefit in regards to the Gators’ recruitment of the two players. Though Florida is not in Okafor’s current list of eight, it is in Winslow’s top 10. Donovan had a similar opportunity last year when he coached the under-18 team and five-star power forward Julius Randle (McKinney, TX), but Randle eventually committed to Kentucky approximately eight months later on March 20.

4 » Rookie safety Matt Elam is earning high praise from his coaches and teammates with the Baltimore Ravens. “Matt Elam is what we expected and maybe a little more,” said secondary coach (and former Florida defensive coordinator) Teryl Austin. “[He’s] going through the usual changes that a rookie goes through, but he’s smart. He’s tough, he’s fast he gets football, and I think he is going to be a fine player for us soon.” During minicamp this week, Elam intercepted quarterback Joe Flacco and began celebrating, only to have his teammates yell at him for not returning the ball. He explained the situation to the team’s website: “I was so excited that I got the pick that I forgot about the rules. Everybody told me to get up and run so I decided to get up and run. That was a great feeling to pick Joe off, the Super Bowl champion.”

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SIX BITS: USA, Tebow, Spikes, Pouncey, Sturgis

1 » Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons are two of 27 players that have accepted invitations to participate in the 2013 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Mini-Camp from July 22-25 in Las Vegas, NV. Though Parsons does not have much experience competing internationally, Beal was involved with USA Basketball as a high schooler and has represented his country before. Both men will have the opportunity to impress head coach Mike Krzyzewski during the mini-camp in hopes of earning placement on the 2013-16 U.S. Men’s National Team that will participate in international competitions, qualifiers and eventually the 2016 Rio Olympics. Eight of the players that participated in USA Basketball’s mini-camp in 2009 went on to make the 2009-12 team and eventually win gold in the 2012 London Olympics.

2 » Quarterback Tim Tebow is not the only member of the New England Patriots making waves in minicamp. Linebacker Brandon Spikes, who missed all of the team’s organized team activities while training on his own in Florida, arrived on Monday and began working with his New England teammates on Tuesday. “Honestly, I just felt like I was trying to put myself in the best position to compete for a spot on the team and also help this team win a championship,” Spikes told the Boston Globe. “I mean, you guys know me. I frequently do things a little bit different from everybody else. I don’t think they’re bad, or a shocker. Honestly, if everybody in the world was a conformist, it would be a boring place.” Spikes offered a “no comment” when asked about being in the last year of his rookie contract and also addressed the team bringing in Tebow.

“I was happy for him [when I heard he’d been signed],” Spikes said. “He got to get his job back and come out here and compete. So that’s good to see him smile, you know that big smile I’m used to seeing for the last few years down in Florida. … He’s a hard worker, a competitor, and he loves the game and you need guys like that.”

Check out four more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: USA, Tebow, Spikes, Pouncey, Sturgis

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FOUR BITS: NFL, Team USA, Fontana, Tebow

1 » Now that the undrafted free agents have been scooped up and rookie minicamp is in the books, the newest Florida Gators in the NFL have plenty of work to do to remain on their teams heading into the 2013 season, which starts in exactly four months. As of press time, there are 41 total Gators spread across 19 different NFL rosters. Below is a list of teams corresponding with the number of Florida players currently on their rosters and set to participate in their respective training camps.

(4): Miami, Washington
(3): Baltimore, New England, N.Y. Giants, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay
(2): Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Jacksonville, Seattle
(1): Houston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Louis

2 » Gators guard Sydney Moss has accepted an invitation to try out with USA Basketball for a spot on the under-19 team that will compete in the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championships from July 18-28. Team trails are being held May 16-19 in Colorado Springs, CO. Florida head coach Billy Donovan will be coaching the men’s team in the same event from June 17-July 7. He will begin his duties on June 14 in Colorado Springs as he tries to whittle down a 25-player tryout to the 12 that will earn spots on the final roster.

3 » Former Gators shortstop Nolan Fontana is raising eyebrows inside the Houston Astros organization with the way he is currently playing for the Class-A affiliate Lancaster JetHawks in the California League. Fontana (as of Tuesday) is leading the league in batting average (.369), walks (30), runs (29), on-base percentage (.504) and on-base plus slugging (1.071); he is also second in hits (41). As expected, Fontana is also proving to be an excellent defensive shortstop.

4 » Attorney John Morgan (of the law firm Morgan & Morgan) out of Orlando, FL has commissioned the below television commercial (which is also running as a radio spot) to support quarterback Tim Tebow and entice the Jacksonville Jaguars to sign the local product. Considering general manager Dave Caldwell made it perfectly clear months ago that Jacksonville was not interested in Tebow, Morgan is basically just wasting his money and using these advertisements to promote his name and business.

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