Pro Gators blog: Lee steps up for Knicks

Published: Friday, January 23, 2009 at 11:56 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 23, 2009 at 11:56 a.m.

College football is done, and there's a break before the final real NFL game of the year (sorry folks, but the Pro Bowl isn't real football). Normally, that means it's time to get ready for a long winter of hibernation.

But don't pull out the blankets just yet. There's a lot of Gator in the Pros news. Let's round the bases:

I've been pretty outgoing in my admiration for the season that David Lee is having for the Knicks. He sprains his ankle Monday and barely makes it through the remainder of the victory over Chicago. He gets a little rest and then is assigned to guard Shaquille O'Neal Wednesday. Keep in mind that Lee gives up four inches and 119 pounds to O'Neal, and that's with two good ankles.

It's like Lee says in a commercial that plays regularly during Knick telecasts in the New York area on the MSG Network: "It's all in a days work."

Lee held his own against the big fella from Phoenix, scoring 25 on 12-of-21 shooting and grabbing 16 rebounds. As for Shaq, he totaled 21 points and 12 rebounds in the 114-109 Phoenix loss.

It's been typical this season for the Knicks, who aren't exactly brimming with big men, to put the 6-foot-9 inch Lee on their opponent's biggest player. Lee is a fighter, a scrappy guy in the mold that team officials want the Knicks to be known for.

The performance even got Lee a mention on Thursday's Howard Stern radio show on Sirius satellite radio. Stern, a Knicks season ticket holder and admitted fan of Lee, was talking about the team's performance of late when the Phoenix game came up.

"I like the Lee kid a lot," Stern said. "He's a big, scrappy guy, but the rest of the team ... not so much."

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Another former Gator that you can fairly call "scrappy" is Cleveland Indians minor league prospect Matt LaPorta.

LaPorta has made his rounds through the minor league system, finishing last season at Double-A Huntsville. The team knows that he's just about major-league ready and invited him to spring training.

It's not a stretch to think that he can make the club if he plays well through the early games.

On a recent Scouts Inc. ranking of the top 100 Major League prospects, compiled by Keith Law, LaPorta was rated as the No. 27 player looking for a call-up. Not too bad for the time being.

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When was the last time you had a Gator in the Pros conversation that involved soccer? I told you from the start that I'll be spanning the globe for former Gators, and here ya' go.

The new Women's Professional Soccer League held its inaugural draft last week, and three of the players picked are former Gators.

Recent senior Ameera Abdullah was nabbed in the fifth round, No. 31 overall, by the FC Gold Pride (Bay Area). The seven-team draft went through 70 picks and also featured Abdullah's classmate Megan Kerns, who was taken in the eighth round, No. 51 overall, by the St. Louis Athletica. UF grad Stacy Bishop just made it into the draft, and heard her name called at No. 69 by the Boston Breakers.

The league already featured former Gator Abby Wambach, who was awarded to the Washington Freedom during a supplemental draft featuring Olympic players.

League play is slated to begin March 29 when Wambach's Freedom travel to take on the Los Angeles Sol. A week later, Abdullah's Pride will host Bishop's Breakers in the league's first matchup of former Gator players.

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A lot of the pre-Super Bowl talk has surrounded the knee sprain that Steelers wide out Hines Ward is rehabbing. With a week's worth of coverage still left to fill, reporters are clamoring to every possible angle, hoping to find something new.

Former Gator offensive tackle Max Starks provided the latest insight. Starks said Ward played with a tear in his meniscus, not just a sprain, during the Steelers' last Super Bowl appearance.

"A sprained knee is a relative term, especially with the braces they have now, the technology," Starks said. "He might not be able to move as fast, but knowing Hines, I can't see him not playing. Maybe if somebody had a big tear, but to have a sprain and to have two weeks off, most guys can usually come back from that."

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And last, but not least, I want to thank all of you who e-mailed and posted on my last blog. Don't think it went unnoticed. I'm in the process of trying to catch up with as many of the players you requested as possible. Some of the former Gator basketball players are playing professionally overseas, which makes them difficult to get a hold of during the season. It may take a little while for some of them, but I'll get it done for you.

Keep the suggestions coming.

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