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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TWO BITS: Brewer wins, track & field falls

1 » Former Florida Gators guard/forward Corey Brewer celebrated mightily Sunday evening as his team, the Dallas Mavericks, captured the 2011 NBA Championship with a 4-2 series win over the Miami Heat. Out partying until all hours of the night, Brewer tweeted around 2 a.m.: “Yeah we are the champs its all said and done and yes to all the haters I can say it I’m a world champion.” He then brought it all together, reminiscing about his days at Florida. “We coming back to dallas with the chip,” he said, “be ready dallas let’s go mavs I love winning 2 national championships now a world.” Brewer, who was signed as a free agent after he was cut by the New York Knicks in a trade at the deadline, has not played a minute of basketball since May 17. He participated in six total playoff games, averaging 3:47 of action in those contests, after many thought he would be a key defender in Dallas’ postseason run.

2 » Faced with the opportunity to capture the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Championship on Saturday, the men’s track and field team wound up finishing third in the event after blowing a chance to win the title in the final portion of the meet. Having already lost out on a 100-meter title when junior sprinter Jeff Demps cramped up and failed to qualify for the final heat, the Gators did not finish the 4×100-meter relay and only won a single individual title when junior Christian Taylor defeated fellow junior teammate Will Claye for the triple jump championship with a distance of 17.80m/58-4.75 (+2.3). It all came down to the 4×400-meter relay; if Florida finished in the top-four places in the event, the Gators would take home the title. Instead Florida came in sixth and never had a legitimate shot at winning the race, finishing with 53 points and handing the title over to Texas A&M (55), which stood just in front of Florida State (54).

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FOUR BITS: SEC titles, Lemmens, Kirby, Rollins

1 » Over the weekend, the Florida Gators men’s and women’s track and field teams both turned in second-place finishes at the 2011 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships. Though both squads fell short of team titles, Florida student-athletes took home seven individual SEC titles. Junior Gray Horn (decathlon), junior Will Claye (long jump, triple jump), senior Terrell Wilks (100-meter dash), freshman Fawn Miller (javelin) and junior Genevive LaCaze (steeplechase) all won SEC Championships, as did the men’s 4×100-meter relay team. Horn now holds the unique distinction as only the second athlete in SEC history to win three consecutive league decathlon titles. His total of 7,828 points over the weekend also set a school record for the event.

2 » As part of the continuing series “Parting Shots” on, I sat down with former Gators defensive end Duke Lemmens for an extensive interview which spanned his entire career in the orange and blue. Lemmens spoke with me candidly about a number of topics including former head coach Urban Meyer, his place at Florida, thoughts of transferring and much more. Part one of the two-part series is available free to OGGOA readers. You can check it out by clicking here.

3 » If it was up to Florida’s four-star running back commitment Mike Davis (Stone Mountain, GA), all of his top high school teammates would be committing to the Gators this year. Though some have already made declarations for other colleges, four-star linebacker Raphael Kirby (Stone Mountain, GA) is set to announce his decision at his team’s spring game Tuesday night and is believed to have Florida as his leader. Kirby told that both offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and offensive line coach Frank Verducci will be in attendance Tuesday for the “first time to see me in person.” Kirby also had this to say about the Gators:

“I had a great visit when I went down there it was awesome, I got to meet all the coaches and go into The Swamp. The Swamp was awesome. I love the atmosphere down there I could definitely see myself fitting in there. I have two teammates there so it would be cool to go there with them; we have definitely talked about it. As far as football goes they have a great defense that really gives you an edge when it comes to getting into the NFL. I like Coach Muschamp as well as he is a very straight forward coach who has a lot of intensity about himself. He will have an immediate impact on the program.”

4 » He may not have been offered by Florida this time around, but Florida State University School DE/LB Keviron Rollins (Tallahassee, FL) plans to play for the Gators sooner than later. Rollins, who officially committed to Dean College (a junior college in Massachusetts) on Monday, told the Tallahassee Democrat that he hopes to be wearing orange and blue after he graduates from Dean College in two years. “My vision is I’m going to go up there for two years and then after that I’m going to transfer to UF,” he said. “I’m a diehard Gators fan. That’s my vision.”

Extra BIT » Former Florida first baseman Matt LaPorta had a great night for the Cleveland Indians. He was interviewed on ESPN‘s SportsCenter afterward:

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Gators capture back-to-back NCAA Indoors titles

No. 1 Florida Gators men’s track and field became just the fourth different program in event history to win back-to-back national titles after winning the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships on Saturday at Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium in College Station, TX.

Florida posted 52 team points to win the 25th overall national championship in school history, defeating the remaining top-five including Texas A&M (40), BYU (34), LSU (31) and Florida State (30).

“This year was special because we came in as big favorites, had some adversity, but we overcame it and we’re national champions again,” head coach Mike Holloway said.

Leading the way for the Gators were individual national championship performances by sophomore sprinter Jeff Demps and junior jumper Will Claye.

Demps won the 60-meter dash for the second consecutive season with a school-record time of 6.53, becoming the first repeat champion in the event since 2004-05. He remains the only Florida athlete to ever win the event.

The Gators had a trio of competitors vying for the triple jump title, but Claye came out on top with a winning mark of 17.32m/56-10. Junior Christian Taylor, the 2011 SEC Men’s Field Athlete of the Year, placed second with a leap of 16.99m/55-9.

Though the indoor season is now over for Florida, the 2011 outdoor track and field season begins next Saturday with the UCF Black and Gold Challenge on March 19.

Photo Credit: University of Florida/GatorZone

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FOUR BITS: Grant on Donovan, track & field

1 » Like his former boss and close friend did for him a few days ago, Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant expressed plenty of positive thoughts and warm wishes toward Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan upon learning he was voted 2011 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year. “It’s a great honor – 15 years in the league and the success that he’s enjoyed,” Grant told The Birmingham News. “It’s really, really hard – the expectations were extremely high for his team this year. They may have surpassed those expectations with what they’ve done. […] There is not a more deserving recipient because of the way he approaches what he does and the passion that he has. I’m really happy for him and their program.”

2 » As OGGOA tweeted about Monday, Florida basketball was not the only sport to pull in high praise from the SEC. Gators track and field head coach Mike Holloway was named the 2011 SEC Coach of the Year for his sport on Monday, and junior jumper Christian Taylor earned 2011 SEC Men’s Field Athlete of the Year honors. Also awarded by the conference were hurdler Eddie Lovett and Cory McGee, who were each named 2011 SEC Freshman Runner of the Year for their respective gender.

3 » The 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships begin on Friday at the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium in College Station, TX, and Florida track and field will be represented by 15 student-athletes (13 men, two women) at the event. The Gators men’s team is looking to defend its title after claiming the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championship. Sophomore sprinter and defending champion Jeff Demps will compete in the 60-meter dash, while defending champion Taylor will try to once again win the triple jump. Junior Will Claye and sophomore Omar Craddock will also compete in the triple jump. Other Florida athletes participating in the NCAA Indoors include Clay (long jump), junior runner Dumisani Hlaselo (mile), junior Gray Horn (heptathlon), Lovett (60-meter hurdles), McGee (mile), sophomore Tony McQuay (200-meter dash, 400-meter dash), senior Kemal Mesic (shot put), senior Terrell Wilks (60-meter dash). The Gators will also field men’s and women’s 4×400-meter relay teams.

4 » Former NFL head coach Mike Ditka, speaking with Chicago Sun-Times, provided his opinion on the future of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Ditka only had good things to convey about the second-year pro. “People talk about the combine, about body fat, 40 times, bench presses, how high you can jump. That’s great, but how do you measure heart?” he said. “People talk about Tim Tebow like he can’t do this or he doesn’t have this throwing skill. But all that matters is can he lead you from Point A to Point B. I like him. You cannot coach character. You cannot coach leadership.”

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Florida men’s track & field wins SEC Indoor title

No. 1 Florida Gators men’s track and field captured their sixth conference title and first since 2004 on Sunday, winning the 2011 Southeastern Conference Indoor Championship with 148 total team points.

Florida took down the No. 5 Arkansas Razorbacks (136.5), No. 2 LSU Tigers (98), No. 17 Alabama Crimson Tide (65.5) and No. 24 Georgia Bulldogs (55.33) at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, AR.

Junior running back and sophomore sprinter Jeff Demps captured the SEC 60-meter dash championship with a 6.55, one-hundredth of a second faster than his record-setting time from the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships. Joining him with SEC titles were junior Gray Horn (heptathlon), junior jumper Christian Taylor (triple jump), junior Dumisane Hlaselo (3,000-meter run), senior Kemal Mesic (shot put), freshman Eddie Lovett (60-meter hurdles) and two members of the women’s team – junior Fidela James (20-pound weight throw) and freshman Cory McGee (mile run).

Horn’s heptathlon title is the first in school history, and Hlaselo’s 3,000-meter title is Florida’s first since 1993. Taylor’s triple jump title is his third-straight. The Gators finished held the top three places in the triple jump with junior Will Claye and sophomore Omar Craddock following Taylor for silver and bronze.

Florida has two more meets next month before competing in the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships March 11-12.

Photo Credit: GZTrackField

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FOUR BITS: Honor roll, Claye, Loeffler, Mitchell

1 » Forty-six student-athletes attending the University of Florida were named to the 2010 Southeastern Conference Fall Academic Honor Roll on Wednesday in a release by commissioner Mike Slive. The football and soccer teams led the way with 19 players apiece receiving the honors; volleyball added the other eight. Notable players on the list include senior punter Chas Henry, senior defensive end Duke Lemmens, senior DE Justin Trattou, redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis, freshman quarterback Trey Burton, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. and redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins. Florida’s total of 46 was tied (Vanderbilt) for third-best in the SEC, following South Carolina (79) and Georgia (47).

2 » Florida Gators junior jumper Will Claye has joined sophomore sprinter Jeff Demps and junior jumper Christian Taylor on The Bowerman’s 2011 watch list. Awarded by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), The Bowerman honors the sport’s best overall athlete each year.

3 » Left without a job when new Gators head coach Will Muschamp decided not to retain him as quarterbacks coach, Scot Loeffler has found a new position as offensive coordinator and QB coach of the Temple Owls under former Florida offensive coordinator now Temple head coach Steve Addazio. Loeffler is the sixth assistant coach with a Gators connection to be hired by Addazio for his first staff. He joins Owls defensive coordinator Chuck Heater, wide receivers/special teams coach Zach Smith, offensive line coach Justin Frye, defensive line coach Sean Cronin and strength and conditioning coach Frank Piraino. first reported the signing via Twitter.

4 » While Florida waits for redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario to complete his transfer season, Rosario’s former team, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, is benefiting from a UF transfer. Former Gators forward Jonathan Mitchell, now a senior, had a game-winning four-point play for the Scarlet Knights in their 77-76 upset victory over No. 10/9 Villanova on Wednesday. Check out the video by clicking here.

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SIX BITS: gymnastics, track, tennis, softball

1 » Don’t bother asking them to, because it does not look like No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (6-0, 3-0 SEC) plans to slow down anytime soon. Drawing nearly 7,000 fans to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Friday, Florida took down the previously undefeated No. 6 Alabama Crimson Tide (6-1, 1-1 SEC) 197.55-195.45. Gators freshman Mackenzie Caquatto led the team with two event wins (uneven bars, balance beam) and took the all-around title with a score of 39.575, while senior Maranda Smith captured the vault event and sophomore Marissa King won the floor exercise. Florida will be tested once again on Saturday as they face No. 4 Georgia on the road.

2 » Gators sophomore sprinter Jeff Demps and junior jumper Christian Taylor became the fourth and fifth members of the team, respectively, to automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships after posting strong individual showings over the weekend at the Virginia Tech Elite Meet. Demps recorded a 6.57 in the men’s 60-meter dash, the second-fastest time in the NCAA this season, during his first race of the year. Taylor won the triple jump with a mark of 16.61m/54-6 for the sixth-straight time in his last six competitions. The duo join jumpers junior Will Claye and sophomore Omar Craddock and junior heptathlete Gray Horn as Florida’s current NCAA automatic-qualifiers off the No. 1 men’s track & field team.

Read the rest of this post…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: gymnastics, track, tennis, softball

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