A few thoughts to jump start your Sunday morning.
PATRIC GETS HIS REWARD
For the past three years, Patric Young has passed up first round NBA money to come back to the University of Florida, which means he has passed up millions of dollars to be a Gator for four years. From a purely basketball standpoint, he wasn’t ready to play in the NBA after either his freshman or sophomore seasons. You could argue that he wasn’t ready last year, either, but he still would have commanded a first round selection and the guaranteed millions that go with it. By staying for his senior year, he took away all the incentive any NBA team has to select him in the first round. Without returning to school as a bargaining chip, there is no reason for any team to select him before the second round, where contracts are typically a third the value and without the guaranteed money.
But understand a couple of things about Patric Young. He does march to the beat of a different drummer and money has never been the motivating factor in his life. What motivated him to come back for his senior year was his desire to make it to the Final Four and go out with the same guys he arrived at Florida with as a freshman. Mission accomplished. He’s got the Final Four and he will walk the stage for his Florida diploma along with Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather and Will Yeguete.
There is one more reward, however, and that’s a national championship. The Gators are two wins away from hoisting the crystal trophy. What a finish that would be for Patric Young’s remarkable career that has seen him win the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year three times and represent the University of Florida at all times like the champion that he is. If he finishes his career with a national championship, Patric Young will have things that very few in the NBA will ever have – a college diploma, a national championship ring and the satisfaction that he was loyal to both his school and his buddies.
That is priceless.
A WORD OR TWO ABOUT THE COACH
I wouldn’t trade Billy Donovan for any basketball coach in the country. I believe that he is the best, not just at coaching the game, but preparing the kids who play for him for life beyond the University of Florida and basketball. Just about any kid who gets through four years of playing for Donovan is going to have a chance to make a lot of money playing the game somewhere in the world. Professional basketball is kind of like that Alan Jackson/Jimmy Buffett song: “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere.” Somewhere on the globe, if you want to play professional basketball, there is probably a league ready to take you, especially if you played for a coach like Billy Donovan.
This season we have seen Donovan at his best both as a coach and as a leader of young men. As a coach, Donovan took the Gators to an 18-0 SEC regular season, the first time that’s ever been done in conference history, then topped that off with a 3-day run through the SEC Tournament. Now 4-0 in the NCAA Touranment and riding a 30-game winning streak, the Gators are going to their fourth Final Four under Donovan and they will be the favorites to cut down the nets on April 7. This is not a team loaded with future NBA talent, so it is arguably the best coaching job Donovan has ever done.
All you need to know about Donovan as a leader and shaper of young men you can see in how he handled Scottie Wilbekin and Damontre Harris. By standing his ground and offering a tough love solution to complicated issues, Donovan has given Wilbekin and Harris a chance to grow up into responsible accountable young men. By extending a my way or the highway life rope to Wilbekin, Donovan transformed him into the best player in the SEC and tough as nails team leader that the Gators couldn’t have gotten this far without. When Damontre Harris saw his life collapsing, his first inclination was to run from his problems. Donovan let Harris go home at the semester break with transfer papers in hand to any place he wanted to go. Harris got home, thought things over, then called Donovan and asked for another chance. Donovan said yes, but only on his terms. Harris has practiced with the Gators but hasn’t played. Add him and his shot blocking to this roster and nobody comes close to the Gators but Donovan wouldn’t compromise. Someday Damontre Harris will look back at what happened as a blessing because of Billy Donovan.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Gators got their 36th win Saturday, which sets a new school record. The previous record of 35 was held by the 2007 national championship team … The win was the 120th for Florida’s senior class which means they’ve averaged 30 wins a season for the past four years … Florida’s 30-game winning streak is now tied for the second best streak in Southeastern Conference history … Michael Frazier II now has 117 3-pointers this season, which break’s Lee Humphrey’s single season record … The Gators have held 23 consecutive opponents to 69 or fewer points. Only Memphis (75) and Arkansas (82 in overtime) have broken the 70-point barrier on the Gators … Florida has won all four of its NCAA Tournament games by more than 10 points. Five of the last six teams that did this won the national championship … Billy Donovan is 35-11 in NCAA Tournament games, which is the most wins and best record in SEC history.
FLORIDA BASEBALL SWEEPS #4 LSU
It has been quite a week for Florida’s baseball team (18-9, 5-3 SEC). The Gators knocked off #1 Florida State Tuesday night in Jacksonville and followed that up Saturday by sweeping a doubleheader from #4 LSU. Florida got a two-out, walk-off homer from Justin Shafer in the bottom of the ninth to win game one and Logan Shore pitched 8-2/3 innings of 6-hit ball to pace the Gators to a 6-2 win in game two. In game one, Eric Hanhold gave up one run in the first inning then shut LSU down into the eighth when Danny Young came on to relieve. Aaron Rhodes picked up the win after getting the last two outs in the ninth. Casey Turgeon hit a third inning homer to tie the game at 1-1 for the Gators. In game two, the Gators scored a pair of unearned runs in the fourth inning and got a 3-run homer from Taylor Gushue in the fifth to back up Shore, who carried a shutout into the eighth.
THIRD PLACE NCAA FINISH FOR MEN’S SWIMMING
The men’s swimming team had a productive Saturday but the hot team in the pool was California, which blew past Texas to win the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championship in Austin, Texas. Florida scored 387 points, the most the Gators have come away with at a national championship since 1991, but it wasn’t enough to bring home the title. Florida’s Marcin Ciesak scored 57 individual points, best total at the championships, winning the 200 IM and 100 butterfly titles and finishing second in the 200 butterfly. In addition to Ciesak, Jack Blyzinskyj, Matthew Curby, Mitch D’Arrigo, Brad deBorde, Matt Elliott, Arthur Frayer, Christian-Paul Homer, Sebastien Rousseau, Corey Main, Connor Singorin, Eduardo Solaceche-Gomez and Dan Wallace won All-America honors.
The studio crew of Clark Kellogg, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley has been lights out. Moving Kellogg out of the booth and into the studio has proven to be a great move and the chemistry between Barkley and Smith is outstanding.
PARTING SHOT II
Instant replay is supposed to be there to help the zebras get it right, but the five minutes it took the zebras to determine the out of bounds call at the end of overtime between Wisconsin and Arizona was beyond ridiculous. Before they went to the monitors, the zebras huddled so the delay was actually more than five minutes. The NCAA needs to give the zebras 90 seconds to look things over and if they can’t figure it out, the original ruling stands.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Since the Gators took Memphis by storm to punch their Final Four ticket, it’s only appropriate that today’s music is “I’ve Been to Memphis” by Lyle Lovett and His Large Band. The Gators have certainly been to Memphis and now they have a Final Four date in Texas, which means the music starting Monday is all from Texas.