In this edition of Five for Friday, InsidetheGators.com takes a look at some of the biggest stories surrounding the Florida Gators heading into the weekend.
1) BASKETBALL TO PLAY ON A VESSEL IN NAVY/MARINE CORPS CLASSIC
Florida basketball will open their 2012-13 season a little differently than they have in the past as it was announced Friday that they will take on Georgetown in the inaugural Navy/Marine Corps Classic on Nov. 9 off the coast of Jacksonville, FL. Following in the tradition of the Carrier Classic, which featured North Carolina and Michigan State going head-to-head on a U.S. Navy ship off the coast of San Diego, CA last Veterans Day, UF and GT will square off in one of three games set to be held on ships that Friday. "Just being able to do this in our own state, in front of the people who wear the uniform and protect the freedoms we have in this country, I just think it's a great honor and I truly appreciate that they would want our program for a game like this," Donovan said in a school release. "It'll just be an incredible experience."
The Gators had to shuffle their non-conference schedule a bit in order to fit in the game against the Hoyas. Florida postponed its contest against Richmond until 2013-14 and moved their away game with Yale to Jan. 6. UF is also competing in the Global Sports main Event, SEC/BIG EAST Challenge and Orange Bowl Basketball Classic next season. The Gators will take on four opponents in the GSME, host Marquette on for the Challenge on Nov. 29 and have a yet-to-be-determined opponent for the OBBC on Dec. 29. Florida is also set to play Wisconsin, Florida State, Arizona and Kansas State among others in non-conference competition next year.
2) BALL FULLY CLEARED TO RETURN TO FOOTBALL
The Gators football program announced Friday that linebacker Neiron Ball has been fully cleared to return to the team after missing all of the 2011 season. "LB Neiron Ball has passed his final medical checkup and has been fully cleared to participate in football activities," the school sent in a release. "Ball was diagnosed in Feb. 2011 with a hereditary congenital vascular condition. It was a non-football related medical issue."
Ball announced back in March that he was cleared to play football again but head coach Will Muschamp noted soon after that he had a few more hurdles to overcome until he would officially be back on the field. He was hospitalized last February after a blood vessel in his brain ruptured but released a few days after surgery. Though he missed the entire season, Ball is believed to be in football shape as he has been able to participate in some organized team activities over the last few months. With junior Buck linebacker Ronald Powell sidelined for the foreseeable future after tearing his ACL in the 2012 Orange & Blue Debut, Ball will have an opportunity to get on the field right away for Florida.
3) ZUNINO BRINGS HOME THE DICK HOWSER TROPHY
Gators junior catcher Mike Zunino became the first player in team history to be presented with the Dick Howser Trophy (the college baseball equivalent of the Heisman trophy) after being announced as the recipient of the 2012 award by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on Friday. "It's a great honor to be recognized as the top player in college baseball," Zunino said at the ceremony. "I just want to thank the Dick Howser committee, the college baseball writers, the University of Florida, Coach [Kevin] O'Sullivan for giving me the opportunity to play here, my fiancée Alyssa, my dad and mom. Thanks for everything. I'm so grateful that I had this opportunity, and it is something I am always going to remember."
The Dick Howser Trophy has been presented annually to the national college baseball player of the year since 1987, but Zunino is just the fourth SEC player to win the award and first since Vanderbilt pitcher David Price in 2007. He was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners this month (making him the highest-drafted player in team history) and leads Florida in home runs (19) and RBIs (64) while also batting .322 on the year and fielding his position at a .994 clip.
4) WALKER SAYS ROSARIO WAS DOWN BUT NOW BACK UP
Though his workouts may be few and far between, former Florida point guard Erving Walker had one on Thursday with the Boston Celtics and hopes to be the apple of at least one team's eye either in the second round of the draft or after it is completed. He would most likely be forced to sign an undrafted free agent deal if he is picked up at all.
Walker recently spoke with ESPN's Andy Katz about the Gators and the team's chances of making noise next season after being eliminated in consecutive Elite Eights. "They've still got Kenny Boynton, Patric Young, Erik Murphy, and I expect big things out of Mike Rosario,'' he told Katz. "Mike got down a bit with me and Kenny being there and Brad [Beal] coming in. But he practiced hard and competed with us and will be a great scorer. They'll be right there to make a run at the Final Four.''
5) ...WELL THAT WAS FAST
Cleveland Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta has yet to find his stride in Major League Baseball and was given his latest opportunity to stick with the team as an injury call up at the start of June. Unfortunately he was unable to prove that he deserved to stay in the bigs, going just 2/11 with two strikeouts in the three games he played.
Though that is a very small sample size in which to judge LaPorta, the team is still a bit down on him after a 2011 season in which he hit just .247 even though he struck 11 homers and hit 53 RBIs spread out over 385 plate appearances. Cleveland is simply looking for more consistency from him at the plate, a trait which could lead him to get called up again when the rosters expand prior to the postseason.