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Florida Sports

Dolphins QB Jacoby Brissett prepares for life after the NFL

By ROB MAADDI
AP Pro Football Writer
Jacoby Brissett has experienced everything in the NFL from starting to playing behind Tom Brady, Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers.
Brissett is already preparing for life after football, though he’s not done playing.
The 28-year-old quarterback signed a $7.5 million, one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins last month. On Wednesday, Brissett became an investor in a venture capital fund co-founded by two-time Super Bowl champion Malcolm Jenkins.
Several other NFL players, including Duron Harmon, Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty, Jordan Matthews and Rodney McLeod also have invested in Broad Street Ventures.
“I didn’t want to be in a situation where I was broke when I was done,” Brissett said on the AP Pro Football Podcast.
Brissett reached out to Harmon and McCourty, former teammates in New England, for advice.
“I grew up where I would never see this amount of money in my life, so how can I expect to know what to do with it?” Brissett said. “Knowing that, I kind of leaned on Devin and Duron because I knew they obviously made more money than me. I could lean on them and say: ‘Hey, how did you navigate this? How do you go about this?'”
While he looks toward the future, Brissett is excited about going home to play football and reuniting with Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who was an assistant coach for the Patriots in Brissett’s rookie season. A native of West Palm Beach, Florida, Brissett is slated to be the backup to Tua Tagovailoa. He replaces Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started seven games for Miami last year.
“That was my deciding factor was the opportunity to compete no matter where I went,” Brissett said. “I have no expectations going in there. Just to go out there, compete, play my best, get better every day, hold myself to a starter-caliber player in this league no matter the situation. I’m looking forward to the challenge, looking forward to the opportunity to grow.”
Brissett started two games as a rookie after Jimmy Garoppolo was injured.
Both QBs were filling in for Brady, who was suspended the first four games. He was 4-11 as a starter for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017 when Luck was injured. He went 7-8 in 2019 after Luck abruptly retired.
“Coming into the league and that’s your first experience of what NFL football looks like,” Brissett said about winning a Super Bowl with New England in 2016. “Tom set a standard every day at practice along with a lot of other guys, and you saw how it all meshed together. For me to come into the league and that’s my first experience as a young player, as a young quarterback, playing with the greatest quarterback of all time, it was a monumental experience in learning that I will never forget.”
Brissett had his best season two years ago playing for Colts coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, who is now Philadelphia’s head coach. Brissett threw for 2,942 yards, 18 touchdowns, six interceptions and had a passer rating of 88. He also ran for four scores.
He had high praise for Reich and Sirianni.
“When you talk to Nick and you start talking football, you kind of see his personality,” Brissett said. “Unbelievable dude. He knows football. He loves football, a guy that’s going to be prepared for everything. One thing about Nick is he thinks of every situation possible. I think that will set him apart from a lot of these coaches because I’m sure he’s going to call the plays there. I’m excited to see how it goes. We’ve always talked about him getting that opportunity to be a head coach. I think he’s going to be one of the good ones in this league.”
Brissett expects Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts to have success under Sirianni. Hurts started four games as a rookie last season.
“The best thing about it is Nick is going to teach him,” Brissett said. “Nick is a great teacher. He understands players. He knows how to get his information through to the players so that the player understands it. So I think that will be the best thing for Jalen and any quarterback that’s playing with him.”
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Florida Sports

USF’s Alexis Yetna heads to Seton Hall as graduate transfer

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. (AP) — South Florida forward Alexis Yetna is headed to Seton Hall as a graduate transfer.
Pirates coach Kevin Willard announced the move on Wednesday. The 6-foot-8 Yetna, a native of France, spent the last four years at USF, where he will earn his bachelor’s degree later this semester.
“He is a great addition to our frontcourt. He’s physical, crafty and a ferocious rebounder,” Willard said. “He has tremendous touch around the rim, but is also capable of shooting from the perimeter. We think he’s a perfect fit for our system.”
Yetna averaged 12.3 points and 9.6 rebounds while shooting 54% from the field and 37% from 3-point range as a redshirt freshman in 2018-19. He finished that season with the most rebounds by a South Florida and American
Athletic Conference freshman, and second-most in school history.
After missing the following season due to injury, Yetna returned to the court this past season and was averaging 10.5 points and 7.6 rebounds on Jan. 10 when the Bulls had to go on pause due to COVID-19. He finished the season with averages of 9.5 points and 7.3 rebounds.
Seton Hall posted a 14-13 record this past season and failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
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Florida Sports

Louisville lands ex-Florida guard Noah Locke as a transfer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville has announced that former Florida guard Noah Locke has transferred to the program after an impressive perimeter shooting career with the Gators.
The 6-foot-3 Locke averaged 10.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game as while starting 24 of 25 contests as a Gators junior. He made a team-best 57 3-pointers on 141 attempts and averaged 2.3 made 3s per outing to rank fifth in the Southeastern Conference. Locke’s 217 3s rank ninth in school history.
The Baltimore native joins a Cardinals squad that made an Atlantic Coast Conference-low 5.4 made 3s per game and were its second worst shooting from behind the arc (31%).
Louisville coach Chris Mack said in a release that the program is excited to add a player of Locke’s caliber to the backcourt and added, “his college experience at the SEC level has him prepared to provide a huge boost for our program.”
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Florida Sports

AP source: RB Bernard agrees to 1-year deal with Buccaneers

By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Running back Giovani Bernard has agreed to a one-year contract with the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity Tuesday because the move, adding yet another offensive playmaker for Tom Brady, had not been announced.
Bernard was released this month after spending the first eight seasons of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals, who drafted him in the second round in 2013. In addition to rushing for 3,697 yards and 22 touchdowns, the 29-year-old has 342 receptions for 2,867 yards and 11 TDs.
With the Bucs, he joins a talented collection of playmakers that includes running backs Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones and Ke’Shawn Vaughn; receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller, and tight ends Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard.
The Super Bowl champs will return all 22 starters next season. The addition of the versatile Bernard bolsters the team’s depth.
Bernard started 10 games for the Bengals last season, averaging 3.4 yards per carry and finishing with 416 yards and three touchdowns rushing while adding 47 receptions for 355 yards and another three TDs.
Overall, he started 30 of 115 games he appeared in with the Bengals and has never had fewer than 30 receptions in a season.
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Florida Sports

Olympic baseball qualifying in West Palm Beach, St. Lucie

By The Associated Press
The United States’ delayed second chance at qualifying for the Olympic baseball tournament has been moved to the spring training home of the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals and the exhibition ballpark of the New York Mets.
The Baseball Americas Qualifier will be played on the east coast of Florida in West Palm Beach and Port St. Lucie from May 31 to June 5, the World Baseball Softball Confederation said Tuesday.
The tournament originally was scheduled for March 22-26, 2020, in Surprise and Tempe, Arizona, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Former Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia will attempt to qualify the U.S. for the Olympics with a yet-to-be-announced roster of minor leaguers and released players. Only players not on 26-man major league rosters and injured lists will be eligible.
Scioscia is the third U.S. manager this Olympic cycle following Joe Girardi and Scott Brosius.
The U.S. plays the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Nicaragua in Group A, and the top two teams advance to the super round along with two teams from Group B, which includes Canada, Colombia, Cuba and Venezuela. The top team from the super round joins Japan, Israel, Mexico and South Korea at the Olympic baseball tournament, to be played from July 28 to Aug. 7 in Fukushima and Yokohama.
Second- and third-place teams advance to a final qualifier in June in Taiwan, which will include Australia, China, Netherlands and Taiwan.
The U.S. was three outs from qualifying for the Olympics in November 2019 at the Premier12 tournament in Tokyo when it wasted a ninth-inning lead and lost to Mexico 3-2 in 10 innings.
Baseball is returning to the Olympics after being dropped for 2012 and 2016. Cuba won the gold medal in 1992, 1996 and 2004, the United States in 2000 and South Korea in 2008.
Baseball is likely to be dropped for the 2024 Olympics in Paris and then restored again for 2028 in Los Angeles.
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Florida Sports

MLB’s 2020 rookies debut all over again with fans in stands

By JAKE SEINER
AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Trevor Rogersí major league debut was only about half what he expected.
“A lot of jitters,” the Miami Marlins left-hander recalled. “And a lot of cardboard cutouts.”
Rogers, like the other 211 players who made their big league debuts in 2020, got an unusual introduction to baseball’s top level — a pandemic-shortened season when fans were almost entirely banned from the ballpark. Now, many of those players are back in the majors, and all those cutouts have been replaced by limited-capacity crowds that are still some of the biggest those rookies have seen.
“It has been amazing,” said fellow Marlins youngster Jazz Chisholm Jr. “I feel like every day is a new opening day for me because I’ve never had the chance to play with fans in the big leagues.”
Chisholm and Rogers both broke in with Miami last season, part of an up-and-coming club that overcame a season-stalling coronavirus outbreak to end a 16-year playoff drought.
Rogers admits the fans momentarily threw him off his game. The 23-year-old made his first start this season against St. Louis on April 5 and trailed 3-0 after his first inning on the mound. Mechanical issues were part of the problem, but he also acknowledged having those debut jitters all over again with 4,605 fans at Marlins Park.
“I was overeager, for sure,” he said. “Hearing the noise of the crowd, the talking, the chit-chatting, the cheering and booing and all that good stuff, it was something I had to get used to again. It definitely got the heart rate going a little faster.”
A first-round draft pick in 2017, Rogers adjusted just fine in his next turn — a Sunday matchup against two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom in New York. He outpitched the Mets’ ace in a 3-0 victory, aided by a stunning homer from Chisholm off deGrom’s 100 mph fastball at the letters.
With his bright blue hair and extravagant jewelry, Chisholm’s eagerness to perform for an audience isn’t much of a surprise.
“I love having fans out there,” the infielder said. “I love hearing them talk their trash, I love the compliments, I love everything the fans bring to the game, the energy. It does it all for me. It gives me goose bumps getting ready to go out there and play a game.”
Business isn’t quite as usual in the big leagues. After filling stadiums with cardboard likenesses of fans last year, teams have begun allowing limited fan access, with an average crowd of roughly 10,000 per game. For players coming from the minors, those crowds are already about as big as they’ve seen — Triple-A parks generally average 5,000-9,000 patrons per game.
For some, the return has been well-timed.
Yermin Mercedes has been a breakout star with the Chicago White Sox, becoming the first player since at least 1900 to open a season with eight straight hits — over his first four major league starts, no less.
The 28-year-old has seemingly cemented himself as a fan favorite in less than two weeks. He’s been greeted by huge cheers when he comes to bat, and he posed for photos near Chicago’s dugout last week with a fan wearing a custom No. 73 jersey with “Yerminator” stitched on the back.
“They love me right now,” Mercedes said, adding: “I’m feeling comfortable, I’m feeling great, because I know I have people behind me.”
Those crowds are easy motivation for players trying to work their way back to the bigs, too, like Colorado Rockies right-hander Ryan Castellani. The 25-year-old was called up off the taxi squad for his first major league start last Aug. 8 and delivered four no-hit innings against Seattle.
“From a selfish perspective, it was awesome,” he told The Associated Press. “I mean, I love getting called up pitching, it was a great game. But from a family perspective and all that, I would say it was a little bit of a disappointment.”
Castellani ended up pitching in 10 games, all a little bittersweet because his family couldn’t come see him in person. He’s been with his wife since high school, meaning she’s been with him through his entire career. But she — like the rest of his family — had to watch from afar.
He made sure to collect mementos, including at least a half-dozen balls from his debut and more from his first victory a couple of weeks later. He distributed those to family, friends and influential others, including Rockies assistant director of player development Chris Forbes, who scouted and drafted him.
Castellani is working out at Colorado’s alternate training site, waiting for his next big league chance. He’s grateful to have had something of a soft open last year — “it was just baseball, there wasn’t any distractions,” he said — but he expects it to feel different the next time he toes a major league mound.
“That first game in front of, like a huge crowd, huge ballpark, having family in the stands, that’ll be, I feel like, just as good, maybe even better, than my debut,” he said.
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AP Sports Writers Pat Graham in Denver and Steven Wine in Miami contributed.
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Florida Sports

Florida lands 4th transfer as CSU’s Fleming formally commits

By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida landed its fourth transfer in two weeks on Monday when former Charleston Southern guard Phlandrous Fleming Jr. formally committed to the Gators.
The 6-foot-4 Fleming averaged 20.1 points and 7.4 rebounds as a senior last season with the Buccaneers. He was named the Big South’s Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight year.
He announced his decision on social media. Fleming will be a graduate transfer for the rebuilding Gators, who got recent commitments from Penn State guard Myreon Jones, Kansas City guard Brandon McKissic, and Boston College forward CJ Felder as coach Mike White retools his roster.
Florida also targeted Furman forward Noah Gurley, but he chose to transfer to Alabama.
White’s newest additions likely will give Florida a starting lineup that consists entirely of players who started their college careers elsewhere.
Teams across the country are dealing with defections and rebuilds as players take advantage of lenient NCAA transfer rules and a portal that’s ballooned to about 1,200 guys seeking new places to play.
White has enjoyed more success with transfers than high school recruits, landing Jalen Hudson, Canyon Barry, Egor Koulechov and Kerry Blackshear since replacing NBA-bound Billy Donovan in 2015.
The core of Florida’s current team includes three transfers: big man Colin Castleton (Michigan), point guard Tyree Appleby (Cleveland State) and forward Anthony Duruji (Louisiana Tech). Castleton put his name in the NBA draft in hopes of getting feedback on ways to improve. He did not hire an agent and is expected to stay in school.
Florida turned to the portal again to replace six players who left the program following a second-round loss to Oral Roberts in the NCAA Tournament.
Guards Tre Mann and Scottie Lewis entered the NBA draft with plans of hiring agents. Shooting guard Noah Locke, forward Omar Payne, backup point guard Ques Glover, and reserve forward Osayi Osifo left the program in hopes of finding more playing time or a more prominent role elsewhere.
The Gators signed one recruit for their 2021 class — talented guard Kowacie Reeves.
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Florida Sports

Penn State transfer Jones, team’s top scorer, picks Florida

By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Penn State’s leading scorer is heading to Florida and could be a huge help right away.
Guard Myreon Jones announced his commitment to the Gators on Wednesday, joining fellow transfers Brandon McKissic from Kansas City and CJ Felder from Boston College as new additions for coach Mike White in Gainesville.
The 6-foot-3 Jones averaged 15.3 points last season and scored in double figures in all but two of the Nittany Lions’ games. He closed the season with 10 consecutive games in double figures and finished as the Big Ten’s 10th-highest scorer.
He shot 39.3% from the field and 39.5% from 3-point range.
He chose Florida over Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss and others. The Birmingham, Alabama, native was the top prospect in the state in 2018. He landed at Penn State after de-committing from Memphis after Tubby Smith was fired.
He will have two years of eligibility remaining with the Gators.
The trio of transfers likely will give Florida a starting lineup that consists entirely of players who started their college careers elsewhere. Teams across the country are dealing with defections and rebuilds as players take advantage of lenient NCAA transfer rules and a portal that’s ballooned to about 1,200 guys seeking new places to play.
White has enjoyed more success with transfers than high school recruits, landing Jalen Hudson, Canyon Barry, Egor Koulechov and Kerry Blackshear since replacing NBA-bound Billy Donovan in 2015.
The core of Florida’s current team includes three transfers: big man man Colin Castleton (Michigan), point guard Tyree Appleby (Cleveland State) and forward Anthony Duruji (Louisiana Tech). Castleton put his name in the NBA draft in hopes of getting feedback on ways to improve. He did not hire an agent and is expected to stay in school.
Florida turned to the portal again to replace six players who left the program following a second-round loss to Oral Roberts in the NCAA Tournament.
Guards Tre Mann and Scottie Lewis entered the NBA draft with plans of hiring agents. Shooting guard Noah Locke, forward Omar Payne, backup point guard Ques Glover and reserve forward Osayi Osifo entered the transfer portal in hopes of finding more playing time or a more prominent role elsewhere.
The Gators signed one recruit for their 2021 class: talented guard Kowacie Reeves.
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Florida Sports

Former Florida State star charged in double shooting

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Former Florida State star football player Travis Rudolph was arrested early Wednesday morning in South Florida for a shooting that left one man dead and another wounded, authorities said.
Rudolph, 25, was charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder, according to a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office news release.
Deputies responded shortly after midnight to a double shooting in the Lake Park area, officials said. One man was transported to a local hospital for treatment, while the other was found dead a short distance to the south in West Palm Beach, authorities said.
Investigators identified Rudolph as a suspect in the shooting and arrested him a short time later. Officials didn’t say what led to the shooting or why Rudolph was a suspect.
Rudolph was Florida State’s leading receiver in 2015 and 2016 and left the team early to enter the NFL draft in 2017. He went undrafted but eventually signed with the New York Giants and then the Miami Dolphins. He also spent time with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. The team released him Wednesday.
Rudolph gained national attention in 2016 when a video of him eating lunch with an autistic student during a team visit at a Tallahassee middle school went viral. Rudolph’s father died a year later after a gun accidentally discharged at a West Palm Beach strip club.
Rudolph was being held without bond. His first court appearance is scheduled for Thursday. Jail records didn’t list an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

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Florida Sports

Florida’s Medal of Freedom goes to FSU great Bobby Bowden

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Bobby Bowden, the former Florida State football coach who led the Seminoles to two national titles, received the inaugural Florida Medal of Freedom at a ceremony Wednesday hosted by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Bowden, 91, is one of college footballís winningest coaches. He coached Florida State from 1976 to 2009, winning national titles in 1993 and 1999.
“I appreciate you giving me this honor. I will cherish it the rest of my life,” Bowden said after the governor and other speakers hailed him for his work not only as a coach but as a mentor to the hundreds of young men he assembled for his teams.
The state’s medal of freedom recognizes “any person who has made and especially meritorious contribution to the interest in citizens of the state and culture public and private endeavor.”
Bowden left Florida State under a cloud because of an academic cheating scandal that prompted the NCAA to strip the team of several victories.