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May 24, 2013
In order to make sure Florida Gators-related news stories don't fall through the cracks, once or twice a week Orange & Blue News will keep you up-to-date with the latest goings on in the world of University of Florida athletics.
Gators were named to all three of the NBA's regular-season team awards in the same season for the first time in school history. Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee, on Thursday, was selected to be on the All-NBA third team, making him just the second Florida player to receive the honor (Al Horford, third team, 2010-11). Last week, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah received his second career All-Defensive team nomination, this time on the first team. He remains the only former Gators player to be voted onto the team. Two weeks ago, Washington Wizards guard Brad Beal was a near-unanimous (28-of-29 first-place votes) selection for the All-Rookie first team. He is the sixth player in school history to be chosen to that team but just the fourth to garner first-team honors (Horford, Mike Miller, Jason Williams).
After becoming known as one of the most clutch athletes in school history, Florida senior tennis player Lauren Embree is simply expected to win every time she steps on the court. Despite not being injured, Embree has struggled at the 2013 NCAA Championships over the last week, losing in straight sets during the Gators' Final Four match and again two days later in the first round of the singles tournament (she was the No. 1 overall seed). In fact, all three of Florida's singles competitors lost their first-round matches, leaving the No. 11 duo of Embree and junior Sofie Oyen as the only Gators left standing (in the doubles tournament). Embree/Oyen won their opening-round match-up 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 on Thursday and advanced to the event's round of 16 on Friday.
The Florida athletic department took a big step to improve the men's tennis program when it hired Bryan Shelton to be the team's new head coach before the season. The Gators made another big addition to the program on Friday when they announced that former All-American Mark Merklein, arguably the best men's tennis player in school history, will be returning to Florida as an assistant coach under Shelton. Merklein won two individual national titles with the Gators (one singles, one doubles), was named SEC Player of the Year in 1994 and was both a three-time All-SEC pick and four-time All-American selection. He is a member of the UF Athletic Hall of Fame and has been earning his coaching chops in college tennis recently, spending the last two years as an assistant at Michigan.
One off-season acquisition that could pay off big-time is the Seattle Seahawks' acquisition of wide receiver Percy Harvin. In desperate need of talent outside the hashmarks, Seattle picked up a game-changer with top-end speed who has already proven to be a difference-maker in the NFL. The Seattle Times on Thursday noted that Seahawks players and coaches are already impressed with Harvin even though all he is doing right now is participating in organized team activities. "His talent level is unbelievable, off the charts," said quarterback Russell Wilson. "He brings an explosive mentality to the game, which a lot of our guys already have. But to have him is truly tremendous. He's a guy that's been one of the best football players in the National Football League for the past several years."
Refreshed after participating in the 2013 NBA Combine, Florida forward Erik Murphy is back in Las Vegas, NV working out and training ahead of the 2013 NBA Draft. Murphy got through the combine without any red flags and even caught fire during a few drills, at one point draining 18-of-20 threes during a session. While he only met with a handful of teams during the combine in Chicago, IL, he and his agent have 10 visits set up across the country. Murphy told me on Thursday that he expects to add a few visits to that list and hopefully visit with two-thirds of NBA teams before the process is complete. With the draft about a month away, Murphy's stock is right where it should be as a mid-to-late second-round pick. One way or another he will have the opportunity to make an NBA team next season, what he must do now is prove that he is worth selecting late in the draft rather than being signed as an undrafted free agent.
Stress injuries are tricky and that is exactly what Beal has been dealing with since the end of the season. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft missed the final nine games of the season (as well as 20 of the last 25) after it was revealed that he had a small fracture in his fibula. His original recovery timetable was set at six weeks, but Beal is not fully healed and is likely to undergo additional X-rays in the next week or two. He has not been able to participate in any basketball-related activities since being shut down and needs to see significant healing in his fibula before he steps on the court again. Either way, Beal should be ready to go for the 2013-14 season. He simply may not have the time to work on his game in the off season to the degree he had originally hoped.