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 InsideTheGators.com, 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 InsideTheGators.com 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. OwlScoop.com 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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SIX BITS: track, swimming, gymnastics, tennis

1 » Capturing five events while taking home two NCAA automatic-qualifying marks, No. 2 Florida Gators track and field had a great weekend at the Texas A&M Challenge. Junior heptathlete Gray Horn and junior transfer jumper Will Claye each registered the qualifiers, with Horn registering a personal best 5,747 and Claye posting a season-leading 16.86m/55-3.25 in the triple jump. The duo joins sophomore jumper Omar Craddock, who has already registered his own automatic qualifying time.

2 » No. 5/8 Florida men’s/women’s swimming and diving swept the No. 7/10 Tennessee Volunteers on Senior Day at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Saturday. The men won 198-101, while the women were victorious 180-120. According to the University of Florida, “The 97-point victory for the UF men is the most lopsided win over UT in school history, while being the most points scored by the Gator men and the largest margin of victory in a one-day dual meet since a 208-88 conquest over Florida Atlantic on Jan. 26, 2001. The 198 points were the most in a one-day SEC dual meet since outscoring South Carolina 248-68 on Oct. 27, 2000, which was also the last time the men…had a 90-plus point margin of victory in SEC competition.”

Both teams also faced the Indian River State College Pioneers on Sunday and were victorious 165-120 and 157-106, respectively.

3 » Facing the No. 13 N.C. State Wolfpack (1-2) and No. 23 Penn State Nittany Lions (1-4, 0-2 Big Ten), No. 1 Florida gymnastics (5-0, 2-0 SEC) won the fifth annual Gators Link to Pink meet on Friday. The Gators posted 197.50 points compared to 195.3 for the Nittany Lions and 194.075 for the Wolfpack. Florida won all five events with freshman Alaina Johnson capturing four (vault, uneven bars, floor exercise, all-around) and sophomore Ashanée Dickerson bringing home one (balance beam).

4 » No. 2 Florida women’s tennis (2-0) swept a pair of matches over the weekend, defeating the Central Florida Knights (1-1) 7-0 and the College of Charleston Cougars (0-1) 6-0 at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The No. 1 duo of sophomore Allie Will and freshman Sofie Oyen won its doubles match during both contests. Also victorious in both of their singles matches were No. 7 Will, No. 22 freshman Olivia Janowicz and No. 96 Oyen. No. 28 freshman Alex Cercone won on Friday, and No. 30 junior Joanna Mather did not finish her contest on Saturday.

5 » No. 7 Gators men’s tennis (4-0) was equally successful with back-to-back wins over the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos 4-0 and N.C. State 6-1 in Gainesville. The No. 11 duo of senior Alexandre Lacroix and junior Nassim Slilam won its doubles match in both events. No. 4 Lacroix and Slilam each captured singles wins on Friday and Saturday. No. 52 sophomore Bob Van Overbeek also won singles matches both days, while No. 28 sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr. won his opportunity on Saturday.

6 » After starting the season strong, Florida women’s basketball (13-9, 3-5 SEC) dropped three-straight contests in mid-January but ended that losing streak with a 70-64 home victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide (11-10, 0-8 SEC) on Thursday. Freshman guard Jaterra Bonds and sophomore forward Jennifer George each scored a team-high 12 points in the victory.

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