1 » It may have taken a bit longer than others, but it appears as if Florida Gators center Chris Walker has found a home for the 2015 NBA Summer League. As first reported by FOX 26 sports director Mark Berman, Walker could join the Houston Rockets for summer league play in Las Vegas from July 10-20. OnlyGators.com has confirmed that Walker is listed on the roster the team submitted to the NBA of projected players, though we were cautioned that could change ahead of the event in two weeks if the team does not like what it sees in tryouts. A league source has also told OnlyGators.com that forward Casey Prather will be a member of the NBA D-League select team after succeeding as a member of the Bakersfield Jam last season.
Despite not scoring through the U.S. Women’s National Team’s first two 2015 Women’s World Cup matches, attacker Abby Wambach was not deterred. The former Florida Gators star came through in the clutch for the United States on Tuesday, scoring the only goal of the contest in a 1-0 victory over Nigeria that won Group D for the Americans and advanced them to the Round of 16.
Wambach, who played a reserve role against Sweden on Saturday, started and served as captain for the U.S. on Tuesday. She had numerous chances to score with her head early in the contest but got fed up with the near misses and instead jumped in the air to corral a picture-perfect corner kick from Megan Rapinoe with her foot, booting it into the net moments before the half at 45’.
1 » Florida Gators offensive tackle Roderick Johnson, whose career was deemed to be over after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis back in April, decided to get a second opinion on his condition in hopes of being able to build up his strength and return to the field. Unfortunately for Johnson, the second opinion he received was the same as the first – he needs to hang up his cleats. “[Spoke] with my family and trainers. [I] agree 100% with the professional doctors so Im making my decision on my own to walk away from this game,” he wrote Monday on his Twitter account. “I’m making this decision because I would hate for my mom to see me in a wheel chair. [Mom you’re] my blessing to start a new chapter.”
Johnson, who will remain at Florida on a medical hardship scholarship and is expected to remain with the Gators as a student coach, later added that he now feels like “all the pressure is off my shoulder[s].” Hopefully Johnson will be able to stay involved in the game off football and receive his degree, still allowing him to have a bright future despite this setback.
1 » Former Florida Gators guard Bradley Beal, now with the Washington Wizards, appeared on The Dan Patrick Show Friday and discussed whether he believes Florida head coach Billy Donovan will be successful in the NBA should he choose to leave the Gators. “I think he’d be great. I agree with the rumors. I think he’ll definitely leave. He won’t pass that opportunity up too many times,” Beal said. “And I think he’ll be a tremendous coach. He loves playing the pick and rolls. He loves to space the floor and he loves to give his players freedom. I definitely think he’ll excel in the league.”
Read without context, that can be taken as Beal suggesting he knows Donovan will leave Florida; however, in the context of the question, it is more of an assessment of his former coach’s ability to succeed in the league, especially since the “rumors” are not guaranteeing he is leaving the Gators but rather citing it as a possibility.
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.