As I watched San Antonio’s Matt Bonner drain four 3-pointers the other night in a Spurs playoff victory against Memphis I was once again reminded of how Coach Billy Donovan has created an elite basketball program at Florida.
I think the perception of Gator basketball is that of a good, solid program but not one of the elite. I’m a huge Donovan fan and think of him as a guy who makes the whole better than the individual parts. Donovan is, indeed, an outstanding coach, but he recruits better talent than many of us realize based on the Gators currently playing in the NBA.
Florida has 10 players in the NBA, the 8th most by any school. The list includes all-stars David Lee of Golden State, Joakim Noah of Chicago and Al Horford of Atlanta.
It includes rookie star Bradley Beal of Washington and a rising star in 2nd-year pro Chandler Parsons of Houston. Denver’s Corey Brewer and Cleveland’s Marreese Speights are both double-digit scorers.
The three other former Gators are all valuable veteran reserves on perhaps the NBA’s two best teams. I mentioned Bonner, a 10-year pro and a sharpshooter off the Spurs’ bench. The reigning champion Miami Heat depend on the long-range shooting of Mike Miller, the dean of the Gator alumni in his 13th season, and the all-around play of 10-year pro Udonis Haslem.
Gators have made it to the NBA of a variety of ways. Beal (2012) and Horford (’07) were No. 3 overall draft picks. Florida’s other lottery draft picks are Miller (5th in 2000), Brewer (7th in 2007) and Noah (9th in 2007). Speights went 16th in ’08 and Lee was the 30th pick in ’05).
Parsons is perhaps the biggest surprise of the group. Although he was named the SEC’s player of the year in 2011, he wasn’t drafted until the 2nd round (38th overall). Bonner also was the 2nd round pick, taken 45th overall in ’03. Haslem was undrafted in ’02 but quickly became a starter and won his first ring with the Heat in ’06.
That’s impressive for a football school.
In fact, the only other so-called football school in the top 8 is Texas, which has 11 alumni currently in the NBA. The top 6 schools are all known for their basketball programs: Kentucky (20 NBA players), Duke (18), North Carolina (17), Kansas (14), UConn (12) and UCLA (12).
The college football world is awaiting the big decision: What will be the make up of the committee that determines which teams will make the four-team playoff starting in 2014?
What is the right number of people on the committee? 10? 12? 20? Fewer? More?
Who will be the people given the responsibility? Former coaches? Former athletic directors? Media representatives?
There will be a lot of hand wringing and burning of the midnight oil to make the final decision about who will make the decision about the four teams. The search for the perfect selection committee is a daunting task. In fact, it is an impossible task. There is no committee that can be selected that will be free of second-guessing and accusations of bias.
About the best we can hope for is to pick 12 honorable men with a great knowledge of college football who represent all corners of the USA. This is no time for political correctness. No women on the committee, please! As for the number 12, if that number is good enough for a jury, it’s good enough to select four football teams.
No active college presidents, athletic directors, coaches or media reps need apply. The men on the committee should be paid well. I’m not saying make them instant millionaires, but the compensation should reflect the significance of their jobs. That’s right, being on the committee should be considered a job. The committee should establish the criteria – how much weight in placed on such things as strength of schedule, margin of victory, etc. -- for selecting the teams. A strict policy should be established banning such things gifts from schools and conferences. In other words, no all-expenses-paid trips to Hawaii to talk business for two hours a day and party and play golf the rest of the time. The NCAA should pay for everything.
Each weekend during the season the committee should meet to watch all games live on TV or on tape involving potential playoff teams. Each week the committee should come to agreement on the ranking of the top 10 teams, but it should not make the rankings public until Nov. 1. (Obviously other sources – the Associated Press, USA TODAY, etc. – are free to have rankings and announce them whenever they choose.)
Now my best advice is to forget about the damn playoff until -- and if -- someone figures out a way to determine the teams on the field.
I find the older you get the more difficult it is to accept change. I suppose that’s true for most people. I’m not talking good or bad and right or wrong. I’m simply saying change isn’t always easy to understand or accept.
The world of sports has provided recent examples of what I’m talking about.
Athletes are mocked for talking about religion but are celebrated for talking about their sexual preference. TV cameras usually turn away quickly when an athlete brings up God, but Jason Collins becomes a media hero and gets a phone call from the president of the United States for revealing he’s gay.
Athletes who are addicted to alcohol and drugs are seen as victims and are sent to rehab and given second chances. A player, defensive tackle Kyle Love, was diagnosed with Type II diabetes this week and was almost immediately released by the New England Patriots. Love, an undrafted player in 2010, had started 14 games in his two seasons in the NFL. His release has been nothing more than a blip on the media radar.
Journalism, once a proud profession, is now often driven by twitter. Major stories are broadcast and printed based on the spontaneous, 140-character thoughts of athletes and fans with no fact checking.
A changing world indeed.
Maurice Jones-Drew is a helluva running back, but when it comes to leadership he gets an F.
MJD’s stance on his troubled teammate Justin Blackmon is to blame everyone but Blackmon and make excuses for the Jaguars wide receiver. The media, according to MJD, has blown this story out of proportion. Besides, according to MJD, it isn’t easy being young, rich and famous.
Absolutely MJD has a point. Who in his or her right mind wants to be young, rich and famous? The hardships must be overwhelming.
Seriously, I do understand the potential pratfalls facing someone such as Blackmon. I also know most people in Blackmon’s situation handle their lives better. I also understand Blackmon may be sick.
But coddling Blackmon by making excuses for him isn’t the answer. MJD should know that.
He would know that if he was anywhere near as good a teammate and leader as he is a running back.
Just in case you were wondering, Danica Patrick is still driving around in circles as part of the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit. You can spot her green Chevy somewhere near the back.
It seems like eons ago that Patrick was taking bows for winning the Daytona 500 pole and finished 8th in the race. Just about everyone in NASCAR racing was singing her praises as a legitimate competitor on stock car racing’s top circuit.
And the TV networks’ morning shows couldn’t get enough Danica. They were thrilled to talk about another barrier being torn down.
Trouble is, by NASCAR standards, Patrick can’t drive her way out town, much less beat even the journeymen who make up the back third of the fields in Sprint Cup races even though she has excellent equipment.
I have no problem with a woman in NASCAR. I simply want one who earns her way there.
Let’s put all of this quarterback speculation and worry to bed right now for the Jaguars.
Here’s what you do Gus Bradley: Hand the ball to Blaine Gabbert and tell him to go play; tell Chad Henne to stay ready in case of an injury, but otherwise to shut up and collect his paychecks.
The Jaguars rookie head coach actually is in a good situation. You’d have better luck finding someone who thinks JU is going to become a member of the SEC than someone who thinks the Jaguars are going to win more than 3 or 4 games.
I know Mike Mularkey was shown the door as the Jaguar coach before his wife had unpacked all of the moving boxes from Atlanta. He was in and out so fast you’d have thought he was a Kentucky basketball recruit.
But Gus has a get-out-of-jail free card for the 2013 season. He may even have a 2-year pass. He’ll likely need that much time to get the Jaguars back to respectability, but there’s still the possibility Gabbert is a late bloomer – although I caution Jaguar fans not to count on that.
So quit all these hemming and hawing about competition between the QBs. I actually think Henne is a slightly better QB than Gabbert, but in all likelihood we’ve seen Henne’s best – and that’s mediocre. There’s little risk in opening up the offense and letting Pretty Boy Gabbert sling it around in his third season just to see if there’s a chance he’ll ever resemble anything close to a 10th overall draft pick.
I’ll be surprised, even shocked, if that happens because Gabbert has shown me also nothing to indicate he can be a consistent winning NFL QB, but it’s worth the risk because there’s so little to lose.
Meanwhile, General Manager Dave Caldwell should have his scouts looking under every rock on every college campus for a QB to draft next spring. And he also should have his scouts closely monitoring any free agent-to-be under 30 years old currently playing in the NFL.
For the upcoming season, Bradley and his staff need to concentrate on developing his young defenders into a solid unit and building a competent offensive line. Stay the course with youth and speed. Find out if his rookies and such second-year players as defensive end Andre Branch and Will Rackley can play.
Prepare this team so when – if – a competent QB is found the team has a chance to make the playoffs.
Giving the QB job to Henne might get another victory or two for 2013, but, really, is there much difference between 2-14 and 4-12?
When history looks back at the 2013 Players it will tell us about another of Tiger Woods’ incredible conquests – his 78th PGA Tour victory in 300 starts – but the real story of this Players belongs to Sergio Garcia.
One of golf’s all-time underachievers, Garcia lost this tournament more than Tiger won it. I say that well aware of what an outstanding display of shot-making Tiger put on in the Tour’s flagship tournament. I also know Sergio was “only” tied for the lead when he dunked two balls in the water at 17.
But easily the most eye-popping moments belonged to Sergio, who played the final two holes 6 over par in one of the greatest collapses in Tour history.
Unlike most collapses, I’m convinced this one had nothing to do with choking. Just the opposite, in fact, and there’s irony in that. No golfer poor-mouths as much as Sergio, who has publicly said such things as he doesn’t think he has the talent to win major championships. Clearly he has the physical talent, but many agree he doesn’t have the mental capability.
Getting back to his tee shots on the par-3, island green No. 17, Garcia took dead aim at the back right pin. For at least an hour before Garcia reached the hole nearly every tee shot came up well short of the pin. Obviously there was more wind than the players realized.
Garcia had to feel he was in control of the tournament. He was playing beautifully. He became tied for the lead when Tiger double bogeyed the 14th with a tee shot that looked as if it has been struck by a 20-handicapper. Garcia, playing behind Tiger, seemed determined to put a dagger in the heart of a rival he personally dislikes more than any other. He wasn’t about to play the more conservative shot to the middle of the green and depend on his putter.
In his defense, No. 17 had been kind to Sergio. It was on that hole where he won the ’08 Players. Everything about the shot looked good – the flight of the ball was just left of the pin --until the ball fell short of land.
Nothing after that mattered. Not the second tee shot in the water at 17 or the tee shot at 18 which also went for a swim.
Garcia’s over confidence – indeed, his misguided determination to slay the Tiger in dramatic fashion -- left him humbled again by Woods.
Tiger’s victory speech should have included a thank you to Garcia because Sergio handed this championship to his rival.
It made for a great show.
The Players has hit 40 and is looking wonderful as it approaches middle age.
It never earned the label as golf’s 5th major championship, a distinction its creator, former PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman tried to cram down our throats, but it has unquestionably become the signature event on the PGA Tour, commanding the best field and offering the greatest reward.
Maybe the best way to explain it is this: The major championships belong to the PGA tours of the world, The Players is the American PGA Tour’s pride and joy.
In fairness it should be noted that 14 golfers who qualified for the Players aren’t playing. Some are dealing with injuries, but some, mostly foreigners, simply chose to take the week off. The Players doesn’t fit well in the schedules of foreign players who aren’t members of the PGA Tour. Remember when Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood, then neither a member of PGA Tour, said thanks but no thanks to playing in The Players?
Still, few if any tournament in the world boasts a stronger field. Certainly any golfer that moves ticket sales and the size of the television audience will tee it up.
And the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, site of the tournament for the 31st straight year, is almost as well known by golf fans as Augusta National. That’s particularly true of the last three holes, the “Somewhere Between and Heaven Hell Trio”.
It is the course, by the way, that causes some golfers pause when ranking The Players among their list of must-play tournaments. It is that rare course built in the last 40 years that doesn’t place a great premium on distance. The TPC Sawgrass course, like many of the great old courses, is more for shot-makers. Its target golf, not rip-it-and-grip golf. Phil Mickelson, for example, has even said he might not hit his driver on any hole.
Today’s golfers grew up blasting 300-plus-yard drives, carrying 3 or 4 wedges and putting on lightning fast greens. TPC Sawgrass is that rare “modern” course that makes the world’s best golfers use every club in their bags. The champion is truly the golfer who plays the all-around best golf of the week, not the guy with the hottest putter or the guy with the power to reduce the par-5s to par-4s. The champion is the guy who best manages his game, ignoring temptation for smarts. The list of former winners offers a potpourri of styles, from Tiger Woods, Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson to Calvin Peete, Fred Funk and Lee Janzen.
Who wins this week? Take your pick between A (Robert Allenby) and Y (Y.E. Yang). Okay, you can eliminate Joe Daley, the 2012 Senior Players champion, but everyone else in the 147-man field is capable of winning.
That’s one of the reasons The Players is beautiful at 40.