MUST READ, IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE 2013 SEASON, PLAYERS & TEAM
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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.
Guard Bradley Beal suffered what appears to be a serious left knee injury on Friday night after banging into an opposing player while setting a screen. Beal, who missed 26 games during his rookie season with ankle and leg injuries (the latter of which forced him to miss the end of the campaign and spend all offseason rehabilitating), has already missed 10 games this year due to a reoccurrence of the stress injury to his leg. Now it appears he may be out indefinitely and possibly for the remainder of the season. Washington Wizards head coach Randy Whittman noted in his post-game press conference that a precautionary X-ray was negative, but the MRI set to be conducted on Saturday will tell Beal everything he needs to know. It would certainly be a tough blow for Beal, who is averaging 19.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 38.1 minutes per game this season.
Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford joins Beal on the NBA's quickly-growing list of walking wounded. On Thursday night, Horford went to deflect an inbounds pass but suffered a complete tear of his right pectoral muscle while doing so. One of six players in the NBA to lead his respective team in scoring (18.6 points) and rebounding (8.4) per game, Horford is expected to miss the remainder of the 2013-14 campaign. It will be the second time in the last three seasons that a torn pectoral will sideline Horford as he missed 58 games during the 2011-12 campaign after suffering the injury to the same muscle on the left side of his body. Horford's 18.6 points and 1.5 blocks per game are both career-highs, and his 56.7 percent shooting from the floor is a career-best.
Two former Gators - Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden and Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey - have officially chosen to participate in the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl. Each receiving the honor for the first time in their respective careers, Haden and Pouncey become the 21st and 22nd Florida football players picked to the all-star game. Gators have now received 60 total nominations to the Pro Bowl and been selected to the event in 37 of the 44 years it has been held.
Haden is having a breakout season in which he has shut down numerous talented opposing receivers while registering 43 solo tackles and four interceptions (one returned 49 yards for a touchdown). Pouncey, after getting snubbed despite being one of the highest-rated centers in 2012, has once again played lights-out for Miami though he did miss two games due to an illness. Though both Haden and Pouncey play for teams in the AFC, there is no guarantee they will be on the same side when the game is played on Jan. 26, 2014 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, HI. The Pro Bowl this year will have rosters chosen in a fantasy-style draft.
On the subject of the Dolphins, which selected three former Gators in the 2013 NFL Draft, one of those three players is finally starting to come into his own. Linebacker Jelani Jenkins, a fourth-round selection, really struggled during training camp and preseason action. He was buried on the depth chart when the regular season began but has slowly but surely improved his play and is now seeing significant time on the field. Jenkins had been playing a lot of coverage linebacker early in the year but is now seeing time as an every-down player. "The speed of the game gets easier with more experience," he told the Sun-Sentinel this week. "I'm learning that I'm able to compete in this league. With every snap comes confidence."
Roster spots on U.S. Soccer teams are hard to come by, especially on the women's side, but Florida freshman Savannah Jordan has been named to the U.S. Women's National Team's under-20 roster and will complete in qualifying play as part of the 2014 CONCACAF U-20 Championship from Jan. 9-19 in the Cayman Islands. Should she and her teammates advance, Jordan will help represent the United States in the 2014 FIFA Women's U-20 World Cup from Aug. 5-24 in Canada. Jordan this season became the first freshman to be named SEC Offensive Player of the Year. She led the conference and was third nationally with 22 goals. Jordan posted the second-best single season for a goal scorer in Gators history (behind Abby Wambach, of course) and was also named as NSCAA All-American.