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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.
Gators gymnastics is currently in Los Angeles, CA, preparing to compete in the semifinals of the 2013 NCAA Championship as the No. 1 overall seed. Florida is looking to advance to the Super Six (finals) for the seventh time in the last eight seasons in hopes of winning the program's first-ever NCAA title in the sport. Since gymnastics became an NCAA sport more than 30 years ago, only four teams have ever won the title - Alabama, Georgia, UCLA and Utah. UF has been as talented as many of those programs in recent years but has simply fallen short in the Super Six including losing by an excruciatingly close .075 points to UA last year. A title has been a long time coming for a Gators program that has been built into a national power by head coach Rhonda Faehn. This weekend is Florida's best opportunity to date to bring home a trophy in the sport.
A total of eight Gators will be competing in the 2013 NBA Playoffs. Starting from the highest seeds on down, guard Mike Miller and power forward Udonis Haslem will be suiting up for (1) Miami, which is taking on (8) Milwaukee in first-round action beginning on Sunday. Forward Matt Bonner and (2) San Antonio will open the playoffs against the (7) Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday as well. Forward Corey Brewer and (3) Denver will go head-to-head with power forward David Lee and (6) Golden State in a first-round series starting on Saturday. Center Joakim Noah, who is battling plantar fasciitis and was nearly ruled out for the season, will lead (5) Chicago into a first-round showdown with (4) Brooklyn starting on Saturday. Forward/center Al Horford and (6) Atlanta will go up against a hard-nosed (3) Indiana team beginning on Saturday. And finally, forward Chandler Parsons and (8) Houston will face an uphill battle against James Harden's old team, (1) Oklahoma City. That series starts on Sunday.
The esteemed Mike Mayock, NFL Draft analyst for the NFL Network, answered a number of questions for me on Thursday about Florida players eligible for next weekend's event. In addition to praising defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and safety Matt Elam, Mayock went out of his way to speak highly of linebacker Jon Bostic. "Bostic has been one of the highest risers in the draft, especially once the coaches get involved. The coaches really like this kid," he told me. "I think he was kind of looking like a late third-rounder. I was at Pro Day down at Florida. I had a chance to talk to a lot of coaches since, and it wouldn't surprise me if he went somewhere between about 60-75, late-two, mid-three."
Mayock was not high at all on tight end Jordan Reed or linebacker Jelani Jenkins but did have positive things to say about running back Mike Gillislee and safety Josh Evans. He called Gillislee someone "that does everything pretty well but nothing elite," noting that he possesses good size, can catch the ball and can be a "jack-of-all-trades and a special teams guy." Mayock said Evans is "a pretty good football player" and has gained some positive momentum as coaches have been able to watch him play alongside Elam. "He's a sneaky-good player who could ultimately, two or three years from now, elevate himself from special teams to competing for a starting spot."
One story that was somewhat overlooked this week was senior forward Jennifer George being selected with the No. 33 overall pick in the third round of the 2013 WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever on Monday. George became the first Gators women's basketball player drafted since 2009 and just the 17th player in program history to ever be selected in the WNBA Draft. Interestingly enough, she will not be the only person with Florida ties on Indiana's team. Former Gators head coach Mickie DeMoss is currently serving as an assistant on the Fever's coaching staff.
Rough financial times may be ahead for a trio of former Florida football players who appear to have been victims of two separate investment schemes red-flagged by government agencies. Former Gators defensive end Jevon Kearse and running back Fred Taylor both unknowingly invested in "an illegal Alabama Casino operation" spearheaded by former financial adviser Jeff Rubin, who was permitted access to the clients of agent Drew Rosenhaus. Current Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden is one of a number of professional athletes that appear to have been duped in a "potential $18 million scam" due to investments he made that were tied to Jade Management. That company was found to have investment ties with Success Trade, which "was ordered to halt fundraising last week after allegedly selling $18 million in fraudulent and unregistered promissory notes to 58 persons, many of whom were NFL and NBA players."
Several Florida teams are set to be competing over the weekend.
Lacrosse: The third-ranked Gators will be honoring the program's first-ever four-year senior class during Senior Day on Friday as Florida hosts No. 4 Northwestern. The ALC rivals and defending national champions have dropped three of the last four meetings against the Gators (including a conference title game in 2012).
Tennis: The No. 2 women's program and No. 17 men's team will each be competing in SEC Tournament action over the weekend. The women are looking to win their fourth-straight SEC Tournament title, while the men are hoping to capture their first since 2011.
Baseball: Florida is looking to extend its impressive six-game winning streak with a three-game weekend series on the road at Missouri. UF is just barely above .500 at 20-18 on the season (8-7 in SEC play) but can take another big step in this series.
Softball: The No. 3 Gators (42-5, 14-4 SEC) finished 3-1 in a four-game road trip over the last week and is now set to begin a six-game homestand. Florida takes on Longwood in a non-conference series over the weekend.