PARTING THOUGHTS: 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.
Gators center Patric Young, point guard Scottie Wilbekin and forward Casey Prather all failed to be selected on Thursday night during the 2014 NBA Draft. Though character concerns and lack of height were notable issues facing Wilbekin entering the draft - and Prather dealt with his own shortcomings including being a late bloomer and not having a jump shot - Young was projected to be selected in the draft, supposedly early in the second round. Instead, he joins his Florida teammates as players looking for homes this summer. Young certainly hopes a team will step up and make a commitment to him, though whether that will happen remains to be seen. The Houston Rockets and New York Knicks are two notable franchises that have expressed plenty of interest in his services. According to agent Matt Ramker, Wilbekin has already committed to working out for two teams in Summer League action. He will join the Memphis Grizzlies in Orlando, Florida, and the Philadelphia 76ers in Las Vegas, Nevada.
A couple of reports from newspapers in South Florida, both sourcing a member of the Miami Hurricanes athletic department, confirmed that the team has come to a firm agreement with the Gators to play a home-and-home basketball series in each of the next two seasons. Florida will host Miami at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center this November before travelling to Coral Gables in the fall of 2015 for a return game. The timing works out great for UF, which will be unable to play home games in the O'Dome during the non-conference portion of the 2015-16 season; the Gators will barnstorm across the state playing designated home games at various venues likely including stops in Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa. Florida is 45-22 all-time against Miami on the hardwood with the schools last playing a home-and-home series in 2004-05. The Gators and Canes have met just four times in the last 23 seasons, all since 2002.
Thursday's announcement from Florida of a new student pep rally called "Rally in the Swamp" was met with some skepticism from fans, especially seeing as it will be held a full week before the team's first game of the season. The event, which will be held at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 24 at 8 p.m., will feature head coach Will Muschamp, select players, pep squads and the mascots. The Gators claim that students will be able to "learn some of the great traditions" while getting ready for the season opener against Idaho on Saturday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. Former UF coach Urban Meyer held an informal, while nevertheless scheduled, pep rally prior to his first season with the program; it was then that he introduced himself to the students and instructed them on his desire to have Florida sing the fight song after games. In later years, Meyer held special preseason events at The Swamp that were also met with much acclaim. Muschamp followed suit with the orientation-style events, but the concept lost steam over the years. Perhaps this is the school's way of reviving the concept.
Offensive coordinator Sean McVay of the Washington's NFL franchise was quite complimentary of former Gators tight end Jordan Reed in a recent conversation with his team's website, noting that he will have a major role for Washington not just next season but in the future as well. "He's going to be a key player in our offense," he said during minicamp. "He's an elite route runner for the position, and he still competes with the toughness. He's got great feet, so he can cover guys up in the run game. … He's done a great job this off-season, so he's in position to have a great year." [Related: Making the Leap - Reed]
Racking up some dingers in the last week, Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino has blasted four home runs in his last five games dating back to June 20. He is now third among MLB catchers in homers, first in the American League, despite batting just .231 with an on-base percentage of .288. Zunino has also flashed a tremendous glove during his time in Seattle and has been rubber-stamped in as ace Felix Hernandex's preferred plate minder. At 23 years of age, Zunino has plenty of room to grow and should be given the chance to do so at the MLB level with the Mariners.