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.
Gators point guard Nick Calathes, 25, is an NBA rookie this season after spending the first five years of his professional career playing overseas in Greece and Russia. On Thursday, Calathes was named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for February after throwing down 10.7 points, 4.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game. He scored 10+ points and registered 5+ assists in six-straight games, becoming just the fourth player in Memphis Grizzlies franchise history to do so. Calathes posted a career-high 22 points with five rebounds and three assists on the first day of the month and set other career marks throughout the 28 days as he filled in as a starter. He registered career-bests of seven rebounds on Feb. 11 and four steals and two blocks on Feb. 12. Calathes is proving that he belongs in the league. A more lucrative contract than the two-year, $1.3 million deal he signed this summer is in his future.
Another former Florida player making waves in the NBA these days is Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah who on Thursday registered his third triple-double of the season, second in a three-game span. In the third season of a five-year, $60 million contract, Noah has attended back-to-back NBA All-Star games and is currently playing like arguably the best big man in the league. Averaging 12.0 points, a team-high 11.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game (second-most on the Bulls), Noah is helping Chicago gets its money worth. His play hit another level early last season, and Noah is finally receiving the recognition he's long deserved.
The men's basketball team will not be the only one hosting festivities for its seniors over the weekend as No. 2 Gators gymnastics kicks things off with Senior Night on Friday in its final home meet of the season. Florida hosts West Virginia at 7 p.m.in its second-to-last match of the regular season before preparing for a slew of postseason events that last nearly an entire month from March 22 - April 20. UF is hoping to bounce back from a tough loss to Alabama last week, its only defeat of the season, after it honors Alaina Johnson, Mackenzie Caquatto and Lauren Rose early Friday night.
Opening up SEC play over the weekend is No. 1 Florida softball (22-0), which is hosting Ole Miss for a three-game series at Pressly Softball Stadium. The Gators first two games will be tough to catch as they go head-to-head with gymnastics and basketball, respectively, on Friday and Saturday. Sunday's series finale, however, will have a first pitch at 11 a.m. and be aired live on Sun Sports so those that wish to check it out (locally or within the state) will have the opportunity to do so. Head coach Tim Walton has done a great job rebuilding his roster and turning around Florida's fortunes, and the Gators are primed to continue their hot start in league play.
Respecting the history of Gators athletics on Friday, the University of Florida F Club and Gator Boosters, Inc. will be inducting eight former student-athletes into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame. Headlining the inductees are Gator Greats Keiwan Ratliff (football), Mike Stanley (baseball) and Aury Cruz (volleyball).
The 2003 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Ratliff was well-known as a three-way player who saw time on offense, defense and special teams. He set school records for interceptions in a season (nine) and single game (three) at Florida while recording more punt return yards (860) than anyone else in program history. After leaving UF, he spent 10 seasons in the NFL but made his greatest impact from 2004-07 with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Stanley was a three-time All-SEC selection and remains one of the best players in school history. During his time with Gators baseball, he ranked in the top 10 all-time in batting average, hits, runs scored and games played. He helped lead Florida to four SEC Championships - two regular season and two tournament titles - and went on to spend 15 years playing on a total of six different MLB franchises. Stanley's best years were with the New York Yankees where he won a Silver Slugger Award (1993) and was named an MLB All-Star (1995). He also caught Nolan Ryan's final no-hitter in 1991.
A four-time AVCA All-American, three-time SEC Player of the Year and the 2000 SEC Freshman of the Year, Cruz to this day holds school records for kills (1,815) and points (2,118.5). She is second in the Gators' history books in kills per set (4.58), attacks (4,096), aces (220), aces per set (0.56), digs per set (3.33) and points per set (5.53). She also led Florida to its first-ever NCAA Championship match, an event UF lost to USC.
Also being inducted Friday are Jenny Gladding (softball), Justin O'Neal (men's tennis), Colleen Rosensteel (women's track & field), Sarah Yohe (soccer) and Harrison Wilder (swimming/booster).