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 basketball is currently getting prepared for its Sweet 16 showdown with the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles and will look to avoid becoming the latest top-tier team to fall to the Cinderella that is now the toast of college basketball. Florida will also have a bit of luck in its corner on Friday as center Joakim Noah will be in attendance at the game. Noah, whose Chicago Bulls are in town to face the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday afternoon, has been granted permission to return past curfew in order to go to a game that is expected to tip-off after 10 p.m. Eastern (if the game goes long, that is). It is unknown at this time if Noah will speak to the team at some point before the game but considering his pedigree it would certainly make sense if head coach Billy Donovan brought him in to talk to the team after shootaround.
Another note coming out of the Gators' last four days in Dallas, TX is how Florida had a pair of celebrity visitors at practice. Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle watched the Gators practice on Tuesday in SMU's gym and Texas Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski checked out the workout on Thursday at Cowboys Stadium. Carlisle and Donovan, who went out to dinner with their coaching staffs on Monday, were both members of the 1987-88 New York Knicks along with Sidney Green, the father of former UF point guard Taurean Green. The star-studded roster that year also included Patrick Ewing, Kenny "Sky" Walker, Mark Jackson, Gerald Wilkins and Bill Cartwright. After practice on Tuesday, the Gators went to the Mavericks game and watched Dallas pull off a close 109-102 victory.
Two late game-winners fueled Florida's women's programs to a pair of victories on Wednesday night. Gators women's basketball was facing elimination from the 2013 Women's NIT and trailed the Charlotte 49ers by four points with 1:05 remaining. After freshman guard January Miller drained a three-pointer, UF got a steal and junior G Jaterra Bonds was fouled on a shot attempt. She made the first to tie the game but missed the second; luckily, Florida grabbed the rebound and called timeout with 15.6 remaining. Coming out of the break, Bonds took the ball in the paint, spun inside and hit a short jumper with three seconds left that sent the Gators on to the Elite Eight. Florida celebrated with a full-team mid-court Gator Chomp at their fans in attendance.
On the diamond in Gainesville, FL, the No. 3 softball team was also looking at a tough defeat. On a nine-game winning streak against the in-state rival Florida State Seminoles, the Gators trailed 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh with two outs and was facing sure defeat. Suddenly, Florida began to mount an improbable comeback as consecutive walks put runners on first and second with senior Kelsey Horton at the plate. Horton swung in desperation on a full count and smacked the ball over to FSU's third baseman which promptly threw the ball over the first baseman's head and allowed two runners to score unearned. The game went into extra innings and the Seminoles were unable to score in the top of the eighth, giving the Gators another chance in the bottom frame. Florida wound up loading the bases on a double, hit-by-pitch and intentional walk only to see sophomore outfielder Brianna Little hit a walk-off grand slam home run in front of the largest home crowd in UF softball history (2,443). The Gators celebrated with Little at home plate and fell on top of each other in an impromptu dogpile.
Relationships mean a ton in the NFL and one between wide receiver Percy Harvin and his former offensive coordinator in Minnesota led in part to him becoming the newest playmaker in Seattle. According to NFL.com, Darrell Bevell is extremely excited about what Harvin brings to the table and what it may mean for the Seahawks' offense. "You can start thinking about all the things you can do with a player like that. And now the hard part is to harness the talent," he said. "It's easy to see what he can do on the field. … Percy's just a very competitive guy who wants to win and wants you to show him how he can help you win. I don't think he's selfish. He never asked for the ball [with the Vikings] - it was just however he fit in."
Safeties are becoming more and more important as the NFL moves from being a run-first to a pass-first league and Florida has two talented players who will be available in the 2013 NFL Draft. While Josh Evans continues to schedule private workouts (he has already had one with New England and has others already scheduled with Cleveland and the New York Jets), Matt Elam has been going around the media circuit as of late. In addition to filming a segment for ESPN's Sports Science out in Los Angeles, CA [I have an inquiry with ESPN to find out when the segment will air], Elam also appeared on the network's NFL32 program on Thursday to discuss his pre-draft process. Elam said that he has spent the off season training as a cornerback in order to improve his man-to-man skills and is doing his best not to think about the draft as it approaches.