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: 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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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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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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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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