MUST READ, IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE 2013 SEASON, PLAYERS & TEAM
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 of the Washington Wizards stood out on Friday and Saturday night of NBA All-Star weekend, scoring 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting (draining four three-pointers) as his team won the Rising Stars Challenge 142-136. Beal improved to 2-0 in his two appearances in what was formerly known as the rookie-sophomore game. On Saturday, the NBA's eighth-ranked three-point shooter (.430) participated in the shootout and made it all the way to the finals against San Antonio's Marco Belinelli. However, despite Beal shooting exceptionally well in the event's first few rounds - well enough most years to win the event - he was unable to match Belinelli's insane tiebreaker round total of 24 points and instead finished second in the event.
As the Eastern Conference All-Stars pulled away Sunday night in the big game, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah got a good amount of court time. He played more minutes than any other reserve (21) and was +3 on the evening with eights point on 4-of-5 shooting to go along with five rebounds and five assists. Noah stayed in as the East made its run late in the game and absolutely made an impact in the result during his second-straight NBA All-Star appearance.
The future of Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper is very much up in the air as the unrestricted free agent is still dealing with fallout from the firestorm video of him using a racially charged word last offseason. Cooper, who had a career year with 47 receptions for 835 yards and eight touchdowns - double the catches, more than double the yards and nearly triple the scores of his previous best season, will likely learn about his fate at the 2014 NFL Combine when team representatives are expected to meet with his agent. It will certainly been an interesting situation for Cooper, who proved that he deserves to be a well-paid receiver but will likely have to take less due to his off-field mistake. It is obviously easier for Cooper to remain with the Eagles (and take a bit less money) than it would be to find a team willing to pay him more and also believe he can fit in with a new locker room immediately.
On the subject of locker rooms, Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey being named in the Ted Wells report regarding the harassment of Jonathan Martin may affect more than just his future with the franchise. A number of NFL sources told the Miami Herald that they expect Pouncey to receive a suspension of 1-4 games along with a fine and possibly some other form of punishment such as taking sensitivity training or participating in an anti-bullying campaign. Pouncey should be amenable to whatever punishment is handed down outside of a suspension considering his character is in major need of some public relations help. Not only is he dealing with this Martin situation, some still question Pouncey for never apologizing after wearing a "Free Hernandez" hat with his brother (on behalf of Aaron Hernandez) shortly after his ex-teammate was arrested. He has shown an incredibly poor lack of judgment since entering the NFL and has done nothing to try and smooth things over.
Right in the middle of the 2014 Winter Olympics, many Florida fans who followed the dozens of former Gators that competed in the 2012 London games may have realized that there is no one representing the school this year (expect NBC announcer Cris Collinsworth, of course). Speaking with the only former UF student-athlete to win a medal in the Winter Olympics on Saturday, former bobsledder Steve Mesler told me the only real opportunities for non-winter athletes in these Olympics are in events such as the bobsled, skeleton and luge, where athletes can use some of their other gifts to try a new sport. He spoke with me at length about how hard it was for him to work his way to the top of the mountain but noted that his career as a decathlete at Florida was a huge reason why he was able to be so successful and win a gold medal in a sport he had only taken up a decade earlier.
Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino threw out the first pitch in Friday's season-opener for Gators baseball. On Saturday, he spoke with the Associated Press and said he is completely prepared to become his team's opening-day starter at catcher. "To get up there and have 50 games under your belt, it's just nice to know. You know what to expect," he said. "You know what kind of work you need to do and the kind of work you need to put in. It makes the transition going into this year a little bit easier." The No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft played in 50 games in 2013 after dominating the minor leagues. He struggled a bit, hitting just .214 with 49 strikeouts in 173 trips to the plate, but also flashed the big-time power that the Mariners saw when drafting him. If Zunino can find his stride, he will be a big part of a Mariners team that is trying to make some noise in 2014 after signing second baseman Robinson Cano away from the New York Yankees in the off-season.