SIX BITS: Beal, Olympics, Cup awards, Crawford

1 » Could Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal be the decided target of the Washington Wizards with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft on June 28? That appears to be the case after Washington completed a trade on Wednesday that sent a small forward Rashard Lewis and a second-round pick to New Orleans for SF Trevor Ariza and power forward/center Emeka Okafor. By adding two talented, starting-caliber frontcourt players, the chances that the Wizards would select a forward like Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Kansas’ Thomas Robinson (if he was even available) have been reduced significantly, meaning Beal could very well be the top player on their board with the draft just over a week away.

2 » Speaking of Beal, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla wrote Wednesday about what weakness Beal needs to improve on ($) in order to have a productive NBA career.

Beal’s screen-and-roll ability in Billy Donovan‘s screen-and-roll-oriented offense was average at best. Often when challenged by the screener’s defender (usually a big man), Beal was not able to take him on and beat him off the dribble. Ultimately, Beal shot just 35 percent in the screen-and-roll, and his overall points produced for himself or his teammates was a paltry 0.7 points per possession.

Part of the reason Beal struggled in the screen-and-roll is that he is a straight-line driver. I don’t doubt that he has been working hard on his ballhandling creativity. If he is going to be more than a one-dimensional jump-shooter, he’ll be handling the ball a lot, especially because the NBA’s 24-second shot clock demands it.

3 » The 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for track & field begin Friday in Eugene, OR with 17 total current and former Gators hoping to earn the opportunity to compete in the2012 London Olympics. Among those participating in the trials over the next 11 days are 10 current Florida student-athletes including: senior/junior Dwight Barbiasz (high jump), junior Omar Craddock (triple jump), junior/senior Jeff Demps (100-meter dash), freshman Marquis Dendy (long jump), freshman Dedric Dukes (200-meter dash), sophomore Ebony Eutsey (400-meter dash), sophomore Eddie Lovett (110-meter hurdles), sophomore Cory McGee (1,500-meter run), junior Tony McQuay (400-meter dash) and junior Jeremy Postin (hammer throw). Former Gators set to compete include: Hazel Clark (800-meter dash), Will Claye (long jump, triple jump), Kerron Clement (400-meter hurdles), Gray Horn (decathlon), Calvin Smith (400-meter dash), Wes Stockbarger (discus throw) and Christian Taylor (triple jump).

4 » The University of Florida athletic program finished No. 2 in the nation in the 2011-12 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup. Twelve Florida programs finished among the top 10 of their respective sport nationally including women’s tennis (No. 1), men’s indoor track & field (No. 1), men’s outdoor track & field (No. 1), gymnastics (No. 2), lacrosse (No. 3), men’s basketball (No. 5), volleyball (No. 5), baseball (No. 7), men’s swimming & diving (No. 8), women’s indoor track & field (No. 9), men’s tennis (No. 9) and women’s swimming and diving (No. 10). It is the fourth-straight year that the Gators have finished in the top four of the Cup’s final rankings and second time in the last three years (2009-10). Florida has never won the Cup but has finished in the top 10 in each of the 29 years it has been awarded. Stanford won for the 18th time, outscoring UF 1448.25-1314.00 in the final standings. Only 20 sports count for each school toward their final total, but the Cardinal have 35 to choose from while the Gators currently support 21 total sports.

5 » With just a handful of game remaining in the 2012 College World Series, which Florida was eliminated from on Monday, the end of the athletic season is nearly here which means the final standings for the 2012 Capital One Cup will be official shortly. As of press time, the Gators lead the men’s standings with 89 points (baseball has not been counted yet). The only way that Florida can lose their top spot is if Arkansas (currently ranked 17th with 39 points) wins the entire CWS (adding 60 points to their total) and UF is ranked eighth or worse when the final poll. In that scenario, the Gators would finish second by one point (99-98).

6 » The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team announced Monday that Florida sophomore right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford has been selected to play for the squad this summer. Crawford is one of six Southeastern Conference players to earn placement on the team, which consists of freshmen and sophomores from some of the nation’s top programs. He finished the 2012 season with a final record of 6-2 along with a 3.13 ERA and the team’s first solo no-hitter for in 21 years.

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FOUR BITS: All-Americans, Tebowmania, Hillier

1 » Five Florida Gators baseball players were named to the 2012 NCBWA Pro-Line Athletic Preseason All-American Team on Wednesday. Juniors catcher Mike Zunino and pitcher/first baseman Brian Johnson earned first team recognition, while senior infielder/outfielder Preston Tucker and junior P Austin Maddox were named to the second team. Sophomore P Karsten Whitson, coming off of a stellar freshman season (8-1, 2.40 ERA), was given a third-team nod.

2 » A pair of Florida senior volleyball players – right-side/setter Kelly Murphy and outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel were named Wednesday to the 2011 AVCA All-American Team. Murphy, who according to UF “started every match and set of her career,” earned first-team recognition; her cohort Jaeckel was named to the second team. Murphy and Jaeckel led the Gators to the Elite Eight of the 2011 NCAA Tournament this year.

3 » If you were thinking Tebowmania was going to slow down any time soon, then you were obviously kidding yourself. According to the Denver Post, Bonfire Brewing in Eagle, CO will be releasing a brand new beer inspired by Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow called the Tebrew Sunday Sipper. The company explains that the beer will be made available to the masses once the signature 10 oz. glasses it ordered arrive. It is expected to sold locally only, so chances are that you’ll have to contact Bonfire directly if interested in sampling some of their brew.

In other Tebow-related news, Fathead on Tuesday released a “Tebowing” edition of their signature product, which quickly became the site’s No. 1 seller. The No. 2 Fathead sold Tuesday? The normal version of Tebow.

4 » Florida midfielder Janine Hillier, the lacrosse team’s fourth leading scorer one year ago, has decided to transfer to Stony Brook for her junior season. Hiller, a part of the Gators’ inaugural recruiting class, scored 34 goals along with six assists in 2011. She chose to transfer due to “personal reasons,” as cited by Inside Lacrosse, which notes that Stony Brook is “closer to Hillier’s hometown and her sister, Kim Hillier” is an assistant coach on the team.

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FOUR BITS: Elway apologizes to Tebow, Gators earn awards, volleyball falls, Macklin ready

1 » Nothing that Denver Broncos executive vice president John Elway has done to this point – whether it be verbal comments or body language – has shown that he fully supports quarterback Tim Tebow. Despite the fact that Tebow is winning games and doing so in a variety of ways, Elway recently answered “no” when asked by a radio station if he was “any closer to having your quarterback on this team” than he was a month earlier. With Tebow continuing to win and Elway receiving more and more criticism, he told FOX Sports this week that he “could have done a better job answering that question.” “It was a little too blunt,” he went on to say. “I should have said, ‘We’re not talking about the future. We’re talking about right now. Tim Tebow is definitely our guy.’”

Tebow recently avoided a question asking whether or not he felt the entire organization was behind him; that non-answer is likely what led Elway to personally apologize to his star, which FOX Sports notes he did recently. In fact, Elway has also told Tebow that he plans to work with him alongside QB coach Adam Gase in the offseason – not to “fix’ his throwing motion but rather to improve his accuracy. “I don’t believe you change a throwing motion. I do believe you can really help your accuracy by your feet,” Elway said. “That’s where, to me, Tim has so much upside. He’s improving. It’s just a matter of getting it burned into his reactions and mind.”

2 » The Florida Gators football team participated in its annual banquet on Saturday in which the team is presented a number of awards for everything from on-field performance to working hard in practice and how courageous a particular player may be throughout the season. Below are the 2011 award winners along with some award explanations, courtesy of the University of Florida.

Coaches’ Choice Awards
President’s Academic Award: Caleb Sturgis
Gene Elleson Community Service Award: Jesse Schmitt
Iron Gator Strength and Conditioning Award: William Green
Chris Patrick Courage Award: John Brantley
Most Valuable Offensive Scout Team Award: Tim Clark Defensive: Michael McNeely Special Teams: Hygens Succes and Solomon Schoonover

Players’ Choice Awards
Rex Farrior Most Team Spirited Offense: Jeff Demps Defense: Dominique Easley
Greg See Tenacity Award Offense: Matt Patchan Defense: Dominique Easley
MVP Offense: Chris Rainey Defense: Jon Bostic, Matt Elam ST: Caleb Sturgis
James W. Kynes Award (Best Mental/Physical Toughness): John Brantley
* Presented to the “player who best exemplifies the mental and physical toughness and ‘iron-man’ determination.’ The award is traditionally won by offensive linemen.
Ray Graves Award (Team MVP): Chris Rainey
* As voted on by the entire team.
Fergie Ferguson Leadership Award: Lerentte McCray, John Brantley
* Presented to the “player who displays outstanding leadership, character and courage.”
Captains: John Brantley, Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps, William Green, Jaye Howard

3 » Florida volleyball’s inspiring run in the 2011 NCAA Tournament came to an end Saturday evening as the No. 3 Illinois Illini defeated the Gators 3-1 in four sets (25-22, 23-25, 25-14, 25-20) in Elite Eight action at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. UF has been ranked higher heading into the tournament in recent memory, but Florida reached the regional final this year for the first time since 2005. Seniors setter/right-side Kelly Murphy and outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel once again led the way for their squad. Murphy’s triple-double (13 kills, 21 assists, 17 digs) was the 30th of her career. Murphy posted 19 kills and 11 digs for a double-double. Each will end their careers in the top 10 of a number of categories in the Gators’ record book. Transfer Colleen Ward, who joined the Illini, posted 23 kills and 11 digs in the contest for a double-double of her own. Florida finished the season 27-6 and was on a 10-match winning streak before falling to Illinois.

4 » As one Gators rookie waits to sign his deal, center Vernon Macklin has already agreed to terms with the Detroit Pistons, which selected him in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft. Macklin, who stayed in shape during the lockout by maintaining his college conditioning and working out with NBA players like Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, Los Angeles Lakers F Metta World Peace, Atlanta center Al Horford and Chicago C Joakim Noah, recently told The Detroit News that he was star struck when he saw Detroit C Ben Wallace practicing. “It’s kind of a weird feeling,” he said. “Him going to Virginia Union, a lot of my family members idolized him and learned from him.”

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SIX BITS: Miller, bowl, Tebow, volleyball, soccer

1 » Even though his recent hernia surgery will keep him out for up to two months, Miami Heat forward Mike Miller said Tuesday that he is “pretty secure” in his future with the team. Miller, who has four years remaining on his contract with the Heat, is thinking about getting healthy much more than he is about possibly being waived. “I’ve been in this league now 12 years,” he told the Associated Press. “I’ve been traded 675 times. First time I’ve been amnestied, but you get used to it. You do what you can. I’ve always done the same things. I prepare myself to play every year. Whether it’s where I’m at or it’s a different place, that’s how I’ve always looked at it. Put yourself in the best position to succeed when you’re there.”

2 » The gift package for the 2012 Gator Bowl was announced this week and the Florida Gators will each get five different items when they travel to Jacksonville, FL in the coming weeks. Every player will receive a Fossil watch, Gator Gear performance headwear, rolling luggage bag, Jostens ring and commemorative football. Many other packages feature electronics like video game systems, iPods and televisions or gift certificates so players can pick out whatever they want.

3 » A fake movie trailer showcasing Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow‘s progression from college star to doubted professional to successful signal caller has been making the rounds recently. You can check it out below:

4 » Florida senior setter/right side Kelly Murphy was featured in a story by ESPNW.com’s Mick Elliott Wednesday about her going into a special zone while on the court no matter how stressful the situation. Since Murphy joined the Gators, the team is 107-17 and has won two SEC Championships while making it to the NCAA Tournament all four years. Murphy has one more chance to win the big one with Florida, something she’s striving to do as the team begins Sweet 16 action on Friday. “I came here because I wanted to win a national championship,” she said. “To finally do that, that would mean everything. That’s the one goal that I’ve always wanted.” Head coach Mary Wise also praised her ability both as a player and leader. “A unique talent,” Wise said. “She has a picture-perfect arm swing coming from a 6-foot-2 left-hander. She has great court vision and great arm speed. That by itself would be enough to make her a special talent. But then she has one of the best deliveries and touches on the ball…of any setter in the college game. She makes it look effortless.” No matter how the season ends, Murphy will always be remembered as one of the best volleyball players ever to wear the orange and blue.

5 » Murphy was one of two Gators – the other being senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel – to earn a spot on the 2011 AVCA Division I South Region Team, the organization announced Tuesday. Two of the best players ever to suit up for Florida, Murphy and Jaeckel are now automatically eligible to be named AVCA All-Americans due to their selections to the regional team.

6 » Three Gators soccer players were listed on the 2011 NSCAA All-South Region team on Thursday. Juniors midfielder Erika Tymrak and defender Kathryn Williamson were named to the first team, while junior MF Holly King earned second-team recognition. Tymrak and Williamson were also given All-SEC first team nods, while King was placed on the second team.

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FOUR BITS: Donovan, volleyball, Zook, WBK

1 » Though it has been airing all season on FOX Sports Florida, a new commercial featuring Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan may have eluded some of you unable to view the game. In the spot, Donovan is doing a mock press conference praising the different offerings from Florida Gulf Seafood. It’s well-worth a view.

2 » No. 17 Florida volleyball (24-5) was selected to be a participant in the 2011 NCAA Tournament when the seedings were announced Sunday. UF will take on Missouri in the tournament’s first round on Dec. 2 in Cedar Falls, IA, marking the 21st consecutive year that the Gators have earned their way into the championship event. Florida will enter the NCAA Tournament on a seven-match winning streak including five sweeps.

3 » Former Gators head coach Ron Zook, who has led the Illinois Illini for the last seven years, was fired by his employer on Sunday after his team lost six-straight games to close the 2011 season. Illinois’ epic collapse came after the Illini began the year 6-0 and Zook looked poised to return his team to heights it had last reached during the 2007-08 season. Illinois finished under .500 in five of Zook’s seven seasons at the helm; he left the Illini with a 34-51 record but will receive a $2.6 million buyout for his services.

4 » Gators women’s basketball (5-1) captured its fifth-straight victory on Saturday after defeating the La Salle Explorers and Charlotte 49ers in consecutive days at the Courtyard LaGuardia Turkey Classic in Brooklyn, NY. Florida topped La Salle 85-74 on Friday behind a career-high 28 points from redshirt senior guard Jordan Jones, who hit 9-of-18 shots, 6-of-12 attempts from downtown and all four of her free throws. Junior forward Jennifer George added a double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds while shooting 80 percent from the field. UF kept their momentum going Saturday with a 82-73 victory over Charlotte including a 48-point second half. Senior G Lanita Bartley scored a career-high 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting with seven boards, while George came close to her third-straight double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. Florida will take on Belmont at home on Tuesday before beginning a three-game road trip.

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FOUR BITS: soccer, Jones, volleyball, Mann

1 » No. 23 Florida Gators soccer (17-7) advanced to the second round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament on Saturday with a strong 3-0 victory over the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (14-5-2) at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Senior midfielder/forward Tahnai Annis scored consecutive goals for the Gators in the 16th and 68th minute before senior F/MF Lindsay Thompson followed suit with a conversion of her own from 10 yards out at 80’. The Eagles only took three shots the entire game, and freshman goalkeeper Taylor Burke was only forced to make one save during the contest. Florida will take on Central Florida on Friday at 7 p.m. in second round action.

2 » Unranked heading into the season, Gators women’s basketball had an opportunity to pick up a solid win in their opener but fell just short on Friday. Florida (0-1) was defeated 69-66 by the Michigan Wolverines (1-0), which outscored their opponents 9-7 with less than three minutes left in the game to pick up the victory. Senior guard Jordan Jones led the Gators with a career-high-tying five treys for 21 points on 20 shots, and senior G Lanita Bartley added 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Florida took 27 shots from downtown in the contest, making just 10, and was outrebounded 42-36 by Michigan.

3 » No. 18/19 Gators volleyball (21-5, 14-3 SEC) concluded the road portion of their regular season in style over the weekend, picking up a pair of hard-fought victories to continue an impressive four-game winning streak. Florida topped the LSU Tigers (17-9, 10-6 SEC) 3-1 (23-25, 25-14, 25-21, 25-12) on Friday behind a career performance from sophomore middle blocker Chloe Mann, who hit .900 on the evening with 18 kills on 20 swing with no errors and five blocks. The mark is the second-best in NCAA history for a player with 20+ swings in a single match and helped earned Mann SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors as announced Monday.

4 » The Gators had a greater test Sunday against the Arkansas Razorbacks (18-10, 10-7 SEC), fighting back from a two-set deficit to win 3-2 (18-25, 30-32, 25-21, 26-24, 15-9). Mann and senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel each had a 19 kills. That mark was a career-high for Mann, while Jaeckel and senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy each completed a double-double. Florida will face Georgia (Nov. 18), Auburn (Nov. 20) and South Carolina (Nov. 23) at home before beginning NCAA Tournament action in Dec.

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FOUR BITS: Young, Jaeckel, cheer, Jenkins

1 » Florida Gators sophomore forward/center Patric Young, one of the most important pieces to the team’s 2011-12 season, was named to the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list on Monday. The Wooden Award is presented each year to the nation’s most outstanding college basketball player and is awarded after the postseason has concluded. Every player in the nation is eligible to win except freshmen, medical redshirts and transfers. Young is one of seven players representing the Southeastern Conference on the watch list and the only one from Florida.

2 » Gators senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel picked up a pair of prestigious weekly honors after standout performances over the weekend. Jaeckel was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday and was honored with the AVCA National Player of the Week award just one day later. Over the course of two road games against Auburn and Georgia, Jaeckel totaled 29 kills, 12 blocks, four digs and two service aces. Florida swept both opponents 3-0 and is now 11-3 with a 4-1 record in SEC competition so far this season.

3 » UF cheerleader Tarin Moses wrote a Sideline Report blog for AmericanCheerleaders.com, which takes readers through a day in the life of a member of the Gators’ spirit squad before, during and after a big contest at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Though the majority of Florida fans already know of the traditions Moses writes about, the entry is an interesting look at the game from her perspective.

4 » Former Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins, playing his final collegiate season with the North Alabama Lions after transferring due to multiple rules violations, was named the Gulf Coast Conference Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday because he had an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown and a blocked field goal during his team’s game on Saturday. It was Jenkins’s third touchdown of the season (punt return, fumble return), and he is also third on North Alabama with 33 tackles through five games. The Lions have started the 2011 season 5-0.

Extra BIT » Offensive tackle Max Starks has not played a game in the NFL this season after being released by the Pittsburgh Steelers when the lockout ended this summer. Due to a massive amount of injuries and an intense need for a player who knows the system, Pittsburgh flew Starks in to work out for the team on Tuesday, NFL.com‘s Jason LaCanfora reports. Starks was originally cut by the Steelers due to weight issues and concerns stemming from offseason neck surgery. When asked last week if Starks was an option to return, head coach Mike Tomlin flat-out said no.

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SIX BITS: NFL injuries, Tebow, Munroe, women

1 » New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, one of the team’s leading receivers this year with 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns through two games, sprained his MCL during Sunday afternoon’s game and will be out of action at least 1-2 weeks, according to the Boston Globe. Also injured on Sunday was Chicago Bears free safety Major Wright, who was hit hard in his contest and was removed from the field with what was considered a head injury. After further evaluation, Wright was diagnosed with a “stiff neck” and not a concussion, which means he does not have to miss his team’s next game. However, Wright may not start anyway as, according to the Chicago Tribune, the team is considering moving Brandon Meriweather into the starting role.

2 » Denver Broncos second-year player Tim Tebow has yet to see the field as a quarterback in 2011 after leading his team to a 1-2 record in three starts to conclude the 2010 season. However, Tebow got into his team’s game on Sunday as a wide receiver due to injuries to some of the other players. According to NBC Sports, Tebow asked the coaching staff if he could play receiver on the scout team rather than do nothing during practice. The coaches agreed and allowed him to fill the role and he wound up playing out wide on Sunday as a result. Head coach John Fox said Monday that the Broncos only consider Tebow a quarterback and have no plans to play him at receiver going forward.

3 » Former Florida Gators safety Dorian Munroe, who OGGOA recently profiled as we broke the story that he would be playing for the Toronto Varsity Blues of OUA Canadian college football, was interviewed in a profile piece on The Score out of Canada. Through three games with Toronto, Munroe has 13 tackles and an interception.

4 » In unrelated Tebow news, he told the Associated Press last week that, while he appreciated the support of fans who were raising money for billboards declaring that he should start for Denver, he hoped they were “going to do the right thing” with the money and donate it to charity. Fox, asked about the billboard, said, “I’ve seen a lot of billboards and I can’t remember one that really influenced me.”

5 » No. 9 Florida soccer (8-2) ended its non-conference slate over the weekend with a pair of decisive road victories. On Friday, the Gators defeated the Missouri Tigers (7-2) behind a pair of goals by freshman midfielder Annie Speese at 43’ and 86’. Sunday’s 7-2 blowout of the Kansas Jayhawks (6-3) was a total team effort with six different players scoring. Speese added her third goal of the weekend at 20’, but freshman forward Tahnai Annis opened and closed the contest with goals at 9’ and 89’. Florida will continue its four-game road trip with a pair of games against Georgia (Friday) and Tennessee (Sunday) as they open Southeastern Conference play. UF will then return to Gainesville, FL for a five-game homestand.

6 » No. 6/7 Gators volleyball (8-2, 1-0 SEC) began league play on Friday with a 3-0 shutout (25-20, 25-18, 26-24) of the Mississippi State Bulldogs (5-5, 0-1 SEC) on the road in Starkville, MS. Senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy, who was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week for her efforts, posted a triple-double with 10 kills, 19 assists and 11 digs in the match. Also excelling Friday was senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel, who led the team with 14 kills on the evening. After playing their last three matches on the road, Florida will return home for a two contests next weekend against Kentucky (Friday) and Tennessee (Sunday) before hitting the road the following weekend.

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