For those who keep close tabs on Florida hoops, the backgrounds of UF’s senior triumvirate are well known.
There’s the one who wasn’t expected to stay for longer than a year or two.
And the one who almost left.
The last one transferred in after his first two years in college produced nothing more than a bevy of personal stats — and he too almost left.
By now, the Florida senior stories are well understood. They’re also unfinished.
Wednesday night is the last time for basketball in the O’Connell Center this season. It’s also senior night — and the number of achievements that wait to be celebrated are numerous:
A victory against Vanderbilt, an undefeated season at home, and an outright SEC regular season title.
Beating the Commodores isn’t as common a feat as one might expect for Florida (the Gators trail the series 60-64). An undefeated home season? That’s happened only once before.
Winning a SEC title may or may not seem like a yearly occurrence to some fans, but just in case there’s any questions, the Gators have only brought home six of those in the program’s history.
In other words, Wednesday is significant.
And at the center of it all will be Florida’s senior stalwarts, along with the coach who calmly guided them.
Somewhat lost in the midst of Wednesday’s impending senior salutes is the central character — Florida coach Billy Donovan.
It was Donovan who remained reassuring to Kenny Boynton, who, if you asked him four years ago, would say in March of 2013 he’d be in some random NBA city.
When Erik Murphy seriously contemplated leaving Gainesville, it was again Donovan who didn’t push in one direction or the other, but simply offered to help better Murphy as a person and player should he choose to stay.
Mike Rosario quickly butted heads with Donovan upon his arrival, but when Donovan firmly told the once-enigmatic guard to get his act together, Rosario almost overnight, fell in line.
The intricacies of their tales differ, but the common thread that bonds Boynton, Murphy and Rosario, is that they each stayed.
No longer able to bask in the afterglow of consecutive national championships won just a couple years prior, the Florida program had begun to fade when Boynton and Murphy arrived in 2009. The end of their freshman season marked the second year in a row the Gators were not deemed worthy enough to dress up for the Big Dance.
Since then, Florida has been to the tournament three straight years, with a fourth assuredly on the horizon.
Boynton currently sits in second place on UF’s all-time scoring list. Murphy leads the SEC in three-point shooting percentage. Rosario has a team-high 13 games this season where he’s led or co-led the Gators in scoring.
As a result of each players’ personal triumph, the Florida program has again blossomed into one of the nation’s best. UF is again a sexy destination for recruits, as well as a hot topic of discussion for analysts.
The seniors have left a positive and lasting legacy.
But the work is not done.
As one grows older, one of the benefits of passing time is gained wisdom and experience.
Each of Florida’s seniors have shown they can handle pressure in their personal plights. However, the question remains if they can do it as a team, in a game, with something on the line.
Neither of Florida’s two previously departed senior classes were able to make it past the Elite Eight.
As much magic that has been recaptured in recent years, there was still plenty left on the table — or perhaps more fittingly, the court.
Wednesday evening should be a memorable one for Florida’s departing players, but there won’t be a wealth of time for poignant reflection.
There is still much in front of this Gators team, as bigger moments lie just on the horizon.
For now, this senior story is still incomplete.