FOUR BITS: Young, Noah, Wambach, Lochte

1 » Waiving two players on Friday, the New Orleans Pelicans whittled their roster down to 15 ahead of the start of the 2014-15 NBA season. Former Florida Gators center Patric Young, an undrafted free agent who was picked up by New Orleans and impressed during training camp, continued to flash during preseason action and earned a spot on the Pelicans’ regular-season roster. Young will be New Orleans’ fourth center (behind Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca and Jeff Withey) but may be able to work his way up the depth chart if he continues giving tremendous effort like he did last Thursday. On the floor as the clock ticked down against Dallas, Young slammed home a dunk with 2.1 seconds remaining to help his team pull out an 88-85 victory. “As far as having another guy that can come off the bench and doesn’t need the ball in his hands, I think I can step into that role right away,” he told The Times-Picayune. “My goal is just to come here with a great attitude and stay humble. I’m going to chase after rebounds with the mentality of, ‘If I don’t get this rebound then I’m out the league.’ It may be a little extreme, but I want it more than the next guy.”

2 » Former Gators C Joakim Noah has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Chicago Bulls for the last few seasons, but his body has held him back on numerous occasions. A multitude of injuries, primarily to his lower body, have either kept Noah off the court or – more often – forced him to play through pain that most players would not. With another NBA slate starting Tuesday, Noah admitted through gritted teeth that he “still ha[s] a ways to go” in recovering from left knee surgery. “It’s fine. It’s a work in progress. It’s getting better. I’m happy with where it’s at. Let me live, man. Geez,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times, trying to keep his situation close to the vest. A source close to Noah told the paper that his “knee is going to be an issue all season long,” and the Bulls appear prepared to limit his minutes on a game-by-game basis. “There’s a plan,” Noah explained. “We take it day by day and se how it feels, see if there are any setbacks.”

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Young, Noah, Wambach, Lochte

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FOUR BITS: ESPYS, Murphy, Williams-Mills

1 » The Florida Gators will have the opportunity to win an award at the ESPYS for the third-straight year as two former student-athletes have been nominated in separate categories. U.S. Women’s National Team striker Abby Wambach is up for Best Record-Breaking Performance after setting the career international goal-scoring record in June. She will have to beat out quarterback Drew Brees (broke Johnny Unitas’s touchdown record), wide receiver Calvin Johnson (broke Jerry Rice’s season yardage record) and swimmer Michael Phelps (most decorated Olympian of all-time). Swimmer Ryan Lochte hopes to win Best Male U.S. Olympian but will have to earn votes over Phelps and decathlete Ashton Eaton. Wambach won an ESPY for Best Play in 2011 with QB Tim Tebow bringing home the award for Best Moment in 2012. The 2013 ESPYS will be held on Wednesday, July 17 at 9 p.m. and air live on ESPN.

2 » Holding up a No. 31 jersey at his team’s introductory press conference on Monday, new Chicago Bulls forward Erik Murphy is excited to get started and will begin working out with Chicago this week ahead of NBA Summer League action. The Bulls will compete in summer league games from July 12-22 at the Thomas & Mack Center and COX Pavilion in Las Vegas, NV. Chicago general manager Gar Forman said Monday that he is excited to see what Murphy, the No. 49 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, brings to the table. “We really haven’t had a guy that’s a stretch four,” he said. “We think as he continues to progress, it will give us an ability to space the floor.” The Bulls also released this one-on-one interview [Video] with Murphy from Monday.

3 » Former Gators sprinter Novlene Williams-Mills, who raced for Jamaica in the 2012 London Olympics and brought home bronze in the 4×400 Meter Relay, was diagnosed with breast cancer about a month before the games but never told anyone except for her husband, family and friends. In a feature by Laura Williamson of the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail, Williams-Mills discusses the trying time, her mindset during the Olympics, deciding to have a double mastectomy and how she is doing now (hint: very well). Just one week ago, she won her seventh Jamaican national championship, finishing first in the women’s 400 meters and advancing to the 2013 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Moscow, Russia, from Aug. 10-18. Williams-Mills will look to win her sixth World Championship medal to go along with her three Olympic bronzes.

4 » Three Florida swimmers will represent their country as USA Swimming competes at the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain, from July 19-Aug. 4. Over the last week, rising senior Elizabeth Beisel (200 Meter Individual Medley, 400 Meter I.M.), Conor Dwyer (200 Meter Freestyle, 200 Meter I.M.) and Ryan Lochte (200 Meter Freestyle, 200 Meter Backstroke, 100 Meter Butterfly, 200 Meter I.M., 4×100 Meter Freestyle Relay) advanced in their respective events during the 2013 Phillips 66 National Championships in Indianapolis, IN. Lochte, the current world record holder in the 200 Meter I.M. (a mark he set in 1:54.00 at the World Championships two years ago), won national titles in three of his events and was the only one of the Gators’ competitors to finish first in any race; Beisel finished second in both of her events.

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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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History is made as Abby Wambach breaks Mia Hamm’s career international goals record

Former Florida Gators striker and current U.S. Women’s National Team captain Abby Wambach made history on Thursday by passing Mia Hamm to set a new international goal scoring record for the sport of soccer.

Wambach netted four balls during a friendly against South Korea in Harrison, NJ, increasing her career tally to 160 goals and surpassing fellow American and former teammate Mia Hamm’s career mark of 158 goals.

Entering Thursday’s match with 156 goals, the 33-year-old Wambach tied, eclipsed and then separated herself from Hamm all in the first half of play.

Wambach accepted a pass in the box and turned to strike the ball into the net for the first time at 10’. Just minutes later at 19’, she created space in the box and scored on a quick header to tie Hamm’s record at 158. Wambach surpassed Hamm by registering a hat trick just 29 minutes into the match when she headed in a beautiful corner kick by midfielder Megan Rapinoe. Her final goal of the match came during injury time when she finished a low cross from forward Alex Morgan with a deft slide.

Teammates cheered Wambach after each score but rushed her on the pitch following her record-breaking 159th goal. The Red Bull Arena crowd chanted “Abby! Abby!” and repeated the chants when she left the field early in the second half.

“It’s surreal to begin with. The whole first half was crazy,” Wambach said after the match. “I’m so thankful. And I’ve said it all along: My teammates were trying to get me those goals, it was clear. At halftime, I was like, ‘All right, it’s over with, let’s get back to playing. Be selfish. Take shots yourself.’”

Watching at home, Hamm enthusiastically cheered on Wambach.

Continue Reading » History is made as Abby Wambach breaks Mia Hamm’s career international goals record

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FOUR BITS: Wambach, Horschel, Zunino, Moultrie

1 » Former Florida Gators striker Abby Wambach scored her 156th career international goal on a penalty kick in stoppage time on Saturday as the U.S. Women’s National Team defeated Korea Republic 4-1 in a friendly. Wambach moves within two goals of former teammate Mia Hamm, whose 158 international goals are a worldwide record for either gender. The United States and Korea will square off again on Thursday as Wambach looks to close the gap even further.

2 » Former Gators golfer Billy Horschel, who entered the 2013 U.S. Open ranked fourth on the FedEx Cup standings, is tied for fifth at +1 entering Sunday’s fourth and final round at Merion in Ardmore, PA. Horschel shot a 67 on Friday, becoming the first player in at least 20 years to hit the green on all 18 holes in a U.S. Open event. He followed his dominant performance with a 72 on Saturday and is now two shots back of leader Phil Mickelson (-1). Horschel hopes to win his first professional major in style as he will be donning these pants on Sunday (2:47 p.m. tee time).

Check out two more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Wambach, Horschel, Zunino, Moultrie

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Review – SEC Storied: Abby Head On

Abby Head On, the eighth SEC Storied documentary aired by ESPNU and first focused solely on a former Florida Gators student-athlete, will debut on Wednesday at 8 p.m. OGGOA was afforded the opportunity to watch an advanced copy of the documentary, which takes a close look at the rise of soccer striker Abby Wambach.

Toughness, grittiness and attitude are just a few of Wambach’s hallmark characteristics, ones she developed as a child, enhanced as a standout at Florida and fully realized as a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team. The decision by co-directors Erin Leyden and Gentry Kirby to choose former Gators defensive end Jack Youngblood to narrate parts of the documentary was not only a nice touch for Florida and SEC fans but also a deft choice as it set the tone for the feature early.

Abby Head On begins with a look at Wambach’s game-winning goal in the 2004 Athens Olympics (and her boisterous personality) but quickly moves on to her upbringing in Rochester, NY and how toughness, intensity and competitiveness were all instilled in her at a young age. Having to compete with a bunch of brothers for her parents’ attention made participating in sports attractive from the get go.

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FOUR BITS: Mitts, Florida basketball, Zunino

1 » Former Florida Gators defender Heather Mitts, who announced her retirement from soccer in May before the 2012 London Olympics, participated in the games, won a gold medal and has now completed the victory tour with the U.S. Women’s National Team. On Wednesday, Mitts officially ended her career by sending out a long message on her Facebook page. Below is a truncated version of Mitts’s message, which can be read in full by clicking here.

The time has come for me to move onto a new stage of my career. I truly appreciate the women who paved the way, to my friends and dear teammates that I will never forget.

I will miss the little things… the travel by plane, train and mini van, the locker room moments, keeping my teammates on their toes and nothing will ever compare to putting on that US jersey. It’s been an amazing journey with some obstacles but in the very end I feel so fortunate that we were able to close on a golden note. […]

A special thanks to Ohio ODP, my numerous club teams, St. Ursula Academy and the University of Florida. To Becky Burleigh, Vic Campbell & Mark Kirkorian for preparing me to reach the next level & James Galanis for helping me reach my full potential. […]

Its amazing how 28 years of playing a sport I love and always will, can fly by. From my first cap til now, the growth of the sport has been profound. […] I leave with so much gratitude to US Soccer for allowing us the right to play for our country. Lastly the fans. Your constant love and support for the sport and this team is among the best in the world. I look forward to joining you to cheer on this amazing team.

2 » According to The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway, Florida basketball “saw a modest gain in home attendance” during the 2012-13 season, averaging 10,667 fans in paid attendance as compared to 10,434 from a year ago. The Gators sold out six games (all Southeastern Conference contests) but still finished sixth in the league in attendance behind Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Missouri. All five schools have larger arenas and greater seating capacities than Florida.

3 » The esteemed Ken Pomeroy, who runs KenPom.com and churns out advanced analysis of college basketball, released his “All-kenpom” team for the SEC. Interestingly enough, the team was comprised of all five Gators starters – junior center Patric Young (his Player of the Year), senior forward Erik Murphy, senior guard Kenny Boynton, redshirt senior G Mike Rosario and junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin. He also discusses how Florida’s “lack of success in close games” is over-criticized and provides his projections for the 2013 SEC Tournament.

4 » According to CBSSports.com baseball insider Jon Heyman, the Seattle Mariners are thrilled with how 2013 MLB Draft No. 3 overall pick catcher Mike Zunino is playing but are not prepared to call him up to the major leagues just yet. Seattle will enter the season with Jesus Montero and Kelly Shoppach as catchers despite Zunino hitting .360 in Single-A and Double-A minor league ball last season. In spring training action, Zunino is just 4/19 (.211) with a homer. His time will most certainly come with the Mariners, but it does not appear as if it will be this season.

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Gators on SI’s most memorable moments of 2012

Sports Illustrated on Friday released “The 112 of ’12,” a list of its best sports moments, memes and memories of 2012. Four spots on the list have at least some connection to the Florida Gators. clicking here.

OGGOA will be releasing our annual “Top 12 for 2012″ lists on Dec. 30 and 31.

No. 22 – TEBOW TIME IN OVERTIME
Tim Tebow had an uncanny knack for lifting Denver to unexpected late victories over the course of the 2011 season. ‘Tebow Time’ hit its head-scratching crescendo in the playoffs. In his first postseason start, Tebow threw for a career-high 316 yards to lead the Broncos to an implausible 29-23 overtime win over Pittsburgh on Jan. 8 in the AFC wild-card round. After blowing a late 10-point lead, the Broncos won on the first play of OT when Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard score. It was the shortest overtime game in NFL history (11 seconds).”

No. 42 – U.S. WOMEN WIN SOCCER GOLD
“It seemed unlikely the Olympic women’s soccer tournament would replicate the excitement of the 2011 World Cup. But the U.S. women made it a gold-medal run to remember. In the semifinals, aided by a controversial, rarely enforced six-second call on Canada’s goalkeeper, the Americans outlasted the Canadians 4-3 in one of the greatest matches in Olympic history. The U.S. rallied from 2-1 and 3-2 deficits in the second half to force extra time. Then Alex Morgan scored on a header in the waning seconds of added time to send the U.S. to the gold medal match, a 2011 World Cup final rematch with Japan. The U.S. exacted revenge, winning 2-1 for its third straight Olympic gold.”

No. 88 – THE FACES OF FLORIDA’S WILL MUSCHAMP
“Say this for Florida football coach Will Muschamp: He’s not afraid to express his emotions. They don’t call him “Coach Boom” for nothing. His facial expressions — starting with the intense death stare on his first Florida promotional poster — are a sight to behold. From the referees to his own players, it’s never a good idea to be on Muschamp’s bad side. But for the Gators, it’s working. After a disappointing 7-6 record in his first season in Gainesville, Muschamp has completely reshaped the 11-1 Gators in his own image: a tough, defensive-minded group that climbed to No. 3 in the final BCS standings and nearly found its way into the national title game.”

No. 98 – WILL GRIER THROWS FOR … 837 YARDS?!?
“This fact is indisputable: Will Grier, a junior quarterback for Davidson Day School in North Carolina, had the greatest passing day in high school football history in November when he threw for a ridiculous 837 yards and 10 touchdowns in a 104-80 playoff victory over Harrells Christian Academy. But his numbers won’t be recognized by the National High School Sports Record Book because of a confusing technicality, as Raleigh’s News and Observer explains. The recognized national record is 764 yards by David Koral in 2000. Either way, Grier was a top target of some of the nation’s premier college programs: the four-star 2014 recruit committed to Florida on Dec. 19.”

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