It’s easy to understand all of the hoopla that surrounded the decisions of Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer to return for their junior seasons. Two would have been lottery picks and all would have been first round picks in June’s NBA draft. Instead they are back on the practice court to get ready for another campaign with the Florida Gators.
Yet we often overlook the four member of the Gator recruiting class known as the “’04’s”. (Pronounced oh-fours) Taurean Green is not going to get the NBA all gaga over his athleticism or quickness. He offers no thunderous dunks or spectacular steals. He doesn’t swat opponents’ shots into the cheap seats. Still, the Gators would find it harder to replace Green than any of his more gifted classmates.
Taurean Green played 1,302 minutes for the Gators last season. That’s the most of any player in UF history. Now official records only go back to 1975, but I’m pretty confident it’s the record. Since no Gator team played more than 27 games prior to that year, and there are just 40 minutes a game a player who never came out of a game would play just 1,080 minutes.
Green was second on the team in scoring (13.3), three-pointers (88) and steals (51) while leading Florida in assists (184) and free throw shooting (.864). He also had the most 20-point games for the Gators (eight).
Green also had what I called at the time the greatest 1-for-9 game in college basketball history in the NCAA Title game with UCLA. With the national championship on the line, Green played 36 minutes, passing out eight assists while committing just one turnover. His floor leadership helped the Gators to an astounding 21 assist/six turnover performance.
So now Taurean gets set for another year running the show, another year trying to lead the Gators to new heights and another year of rooming with the “04’s”. Taurean spoke with us media types about his summer and more.
MG: What has the summer been like since winning the title?
TG: It’s been crazy just going into stores and people recognizing you. Just getting look from people like, ‘wow, that’s Taurean Green or that’s Joakim Noah or Corey Brewer or Lee Humphrey’. It’s been a good feeling.
MG: What’s the strangest thing that happened to you? Anyone ask you to autograph a body part?
TG: No, but it happened to Corey Brewer though. We were downtown and that happened to him.
MG: What part?
TG: I won’t say that.
MG: Did he sign?
MG: So we hear you got a car this summer, so now you guys got wheels?
TG: Yeah, we got wheels. A (Chevy) Impala, 2003. Big Sid hooked me up. (That’s his father, Sidney Green) He surprised me with it this summer when I was home. One day he said, ‘c’mon now we’re going car shopping’. And I said for whom?
MG: Are you excited about another year of living together?
TG: Yeah, we’re trying to upgrade our living standards, trying to decorate a little bit more.
MG: Who’s in charge of decorating?
TG: Joakim’s mom did most of it.
MG: Did you wonder if all this would happen after they had chances to go pro?
TG: No, I told you guys they were coming back.
MG: You guys watched the NBA draft together, what was that like?
TG: It was tense, because a few guys who had the situation where they could have left and been in that draft but they decided to stay. I mean they’re happy they made the decision to come back, but it was tense.
MG: What do you think about the freshmen so far?
TG: The freshmen are good. They had a great summer and worked hard. They’re going to be really, really good.
MG: Expectations are going to be incredibly high for this team; how high are they inside with you guys?
TG: We’re back to square one. We have people doubting us still. Everybody says we’re going to have the bull’s-eye on our back, which we are. But we feel like we’re going to be attacking other teams. We’re not going to change what we do, we’re going to keep attacking and play the way we played last year only better, with more improvements.
LV: You guys had such a long season; how do you feel about getting back together and starting so early for the trip to Canada (next weekend)?
TG: These ten days are going to be good for us. The freshmen will get to learn some of the stuff that we do. They’ll get a better understanding. Then we get to go to Canada and play two games. I think it’s just good experience for the young guys and good team bonding for everybody.
MG: How much emphasis on shooting have you had this summer?
TG: When I was at home I shot almost every day with my dad. Then we came back here and played a lot of pick up and we shot sometimes. That was the emphasis, trying to get a lot of shooting in, trying to get the percentage up.
Last year Taurean Green shot just .366 from the field but a very healthy .384 from three point range. In the NCAA Tournament those numbers dropped to .275 and .257 respectively. In fact, in Florida’s last 17 games, Green shot better than 50 percent from the field just once. If he can get his shooting to improve considerably and reduce his turnovers, the NBA might have to pay a little attention to the under-appreciated member of the “04’s”.