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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SIX BITS: combine, Demps, Lee, Donovan, Lochte

1 » The 2013 NFL Scouting Combine is now in the books. Though not all of the 10 Florida Gators invited participated in the full event, a handful did and looked quite good while doing so. Below are links to OGGOA‘s combine wrap-ups. Click the appropriate link to see how your favorite former Florida player performed.

Safeties Matt Elam and Josh EvansTuesday | Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd; linebackers Jon Bostic, Jelani Jenkins and Lerentee McCrayMonday | Running back Mike GillisleeSunday | Offensive tackle Xavier Nixon, kicker Caleb Sturgis, tight end Jordan ReedSaturday

2 » New England Patriots running back and Olympic silver medalist sprinter Jeff Demps wants to return to the track but do so without giving up football. According to agent Daniel Rose of Gridiron Sports, who did not return a request for comment from OGGOA but did send a tweet about the subject on Tuesday, Demps truly hopes that New England gives him permission to pursue both of his passions. “Jeff Demps has no intentions of leaving football. He loves doing both football and track. Representing Team USA in track and field in the Olympics and playing NFL football are an honor and privilege and Jeff Demps loves both,” he wrote. NFL.com‘s Ian Rapoport first reported the story and explained on NFL Network that “he plans to compete in an event in March and that calendar would run through August. They informed the Patriots of that this week. It’s possible the Patriots could work out a deal as Demps does want to play two sports. It’s a little too early to know a resolution on this but we do know he wants to play two sports.” Whether or not New England – or another NFL team – wants to give Demps that opportunity is an unknown at this point.

3 » While at NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston, TX a few weeks ago, Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee approached USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo about playing for Team USA in the upcoming 2014 FIBA World Cup and remaining on the team through the 2016 Rio Olympics. According to FOX Sports’ Chris Tomasson, Colangelo “said nothing is definite yet as far as Lee being among 20 to 24 players” invited to Las Vegas, NV for training camp from July 24-28. Chances are he will have that opportunity, however, as Lee trained with Team USA in preparation for the World Championships in 2010 and probably would have made the team if not for sustaining an injury that forced him to depart early.

Check out three more Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: combine, Demps, Lee, Donovan, Lochte

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Donovan returns as USA Basketball U19 coach

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan has been retained to continue leading USA Basketball during the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship set to take place from June 17-July 7 in Prague, Czech Republic.

Donovan, a court coach during the 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U19 National Team Training Camp two summers ago and head coach of the team that won the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship last summer, will represent his country as a head coach in international competition for the second time in his career. His coaching staff, which included Virginia Commonwealth head coach Shaka Smart (a former Florida assistant) and Gonzaga head coach Mark Few, is also set to return.

“It’s such an honor to have this opportunity to represent our country with USA Basketball once again, and I’m really looking forward to it,” Donovan said. “Mark Few and Shaka Smart are both outstanding coaches. I have tremendous respect for them both and am glad for another chance to coach alongside them.”

The Donovan-led Americans breezed through last year’s event, amassing a 5-0 record and winning games by an average of 38.6 points to win the gold medal and qualify for the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship. USA Basketball hopes to see the team continue its success with Donovan at the helm.

“Our 19-and-under team is going to have as good a coaching staff as there is in coaches Donovan, Few and Smart,” said Jim Boeheim, Syracuse head coach and chair of the 2009-12 Junior National Team Committee. “It’s going to be a tremendous advantage to have the same staff that led the 18-and-under squad a year ago.”

Donovan will begin coaching the team on June 14 in Colorado Springs, CO as 25 players begin a five-day training camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center with only 12 earning spots on the roster.

The United States will begin the event in Group D along with China (FIBA Asia U18 gold), Ivory Coast (FIBA Africa U18 silver) and Russia (FIBA Europe U18 fourth place). The gold medal game is scheduled for July 7.

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SIX BITS: Brantley, Donovan, Moss, Tebow, Rainey

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback John Brantley was cut by the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday after being signed by the team as an undrafted free agent in April. It was unlikely that Brantley would have made the team to begin with though he likely would have remained in training camp longer had Baltimore not needed to sign a free agent tight end as an injury replacement. He could rejoin the Ravens at any time, be added to their practice squad after the preseason or be picked up by another team. Former Florida wide receiver Deonte Thompson, also signed as an undrafted free agent, remains with Baltimore despite recently “displaying shaky hands,” according to Carroll County Times reporter Aaron Wilson.

2 » One of the hot conversation pieces ongoing as some of the NBA’s brightest stars compete in the 2012 London Olympics is if the league’s owners will get their wish that all Olympic basketball competitors will have to be 23 years of age or younger starting in 2016. CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman took a look at what a U23 team might look like in 2016; he believes that Gators guard Bradley Beal would be featured on the squad and that Florida head coach Billy Donovan could be one of two choices to replace Coach Mike Krzyewski, citing his success with the U18 team this summer.

3 » Former Florida forward Adrian Moss informed OGGOA on Wednesday that he has signed a one-year contract with EESM Le Portel of the French Pro B league. Moss averaged 15.4 points on 53.3 percent shooting (35.6 percent from downtown) and grabbed 6.1 rebounds per game last year in Spain. He has also previously played professional basketball in Israel and Germany.

4 » New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow may have had a rough start to training camp with his new team, but ESPN’s Ron Jaworski remarked on SportsCenter early this week that he saw improvement from the player in one very important area. “The one thing I’ve noticed about Tim Tebow – and it’s a small sampling thus far – is his [throwing] stroke is much better,” he said. “It’s cleaner. It’s not as elongated. He’s not dropping the football [down to his hip]. That means the ball will come out quicker.” Jaworski did see some room for improvement, however. “I’d still like to see Tebow drive off his back leg a little more,” he added. “Sometimes he has that dead leg and he loses energy at the end of the throw on the deeper throws. It’s fine in the short to intermediate area. But downfield those throws, when they hang in the air, will get knocked down or batted down by the very athletic secondary players in this league.”

5 » Though Pittsburgh Steelers running back Chris Rainey is already coming on strong with his new team, some of his teammates and coaches are noticing that he needs to be pushed hard during practice. According to Scout.com, Rainey has been ragged on by everyone including good friend center Maurkice Pouncey. “He probably needs it. Heck yeah,” he said. “Oh, [the coaches] love him. They really, really love him. I hope it stays that way. I hope he stays here with me as long as he can.” The ribbing Rainey is taking may be good-natured, but head coach Mike Tomlin has reportedly been using a version of the unfortunate text message that got Rainey arrested as part of that motivation. “OK, 22, time to die!” he apparently yelled during the first full-contact practice. “I hear it every day, about five times a day,” Rainey said. “It’s all good. I made a bad mistake in the past but I moved on. It’s funny now. I’m glad I’m here.”

6 » Three members of the Gators lacrosse team were awarded training team spots with the U.S. National Team over the weekend. Seniors midfielder Brittany Dashiell and goalkeeper Mikey Meagher, along with assistant coach (and MF) Caitlyn McFadden, will join the 36-player pool that will eventually be whittled down to 18 (in February 2013) before the United States defends its title at the 2013 FIL World Cup. McFadden was a member of Team USA in 2009 and helped bring home the championship.

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Donovan brings home gold for USA Basketball

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan won the first gold medal of his career on Wednesday as he led USA Basketball to an 81-56 victory over Brazil in the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship.

The United States was the only team to go undefeated (5-0) on its way to taking home the gold. The Americans tore through the competition in Sao Sebastian, Brazil, winning every game by at least 19 and by an average of 38.6 points (105-42 vs. Virgin Islands, 110-59 vs. Mexico, 83-64 vs. Brazil, 107-72 vs. Argentina, 81-56 vs. Brazil).

The FIBA Americas was Donovan’s first go-around as head coach of Team USA. He was joined on the bench by Florida trainer Dave Werner as well as former Gators assistant and Virginia Commonwealth head coach Shaka Smart and Gonzaga head coach Mark Few. Donovan had previously served as a court coach for team trials in 2011.

The strong showing in the tournament qualified the United States for the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship next June. Donovan is not guaranteed to be the head coach of that team though he will likely be called upon again to continue leading the Americans.

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