OK, it took me a couple days to compose myself and let it all sink in. I’m now ready to talk about what my family and I witnessed in the Georgia Dome Monday night. Put simply, we saw possibly the best TEAM college basketball has ever produced.
The Florida Gators survived the gauntlet as defending national champs, taking everyone’s best shot all season, and emerged as the 2007 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Champions. I don’t just mean the university repeated as champs, I mean the same 5+1 guys that won it all last year, stayed in school, and made it look easy dismissing Ohio State for the Championship Monday night. Although they always played as a TEAM, their names deserve mention:
- Taurean Green
- Lee Humphrey
- Corey Brewer
- Joakim Noah
- Al Horford; and
- sixth-man-of-the-year Chris Richard
On the heels of dismantling UCLA for the 2006 Championship, at least four of those six could have been drafted by the NBA, with Noah and Horford potential lottery picks. Brewer grew up in a modest tobacco farmer’s home and his ailing dad could have been safer with a son in the NBA. Despite the millions of dollars within reach, the TEAM decided “if one stays, we all stay” — and they all stayed in school.
In an age when too many kids see college as a sports franchise instead of a school, these Gators signed up for another year of homework, tests and grades — in between more Brutal Billy practices and ongoing risk of injury. Why? Because Coach Billy Donovan and their families taught them what being a TEAM means. They lived together and played together, always looking out for each other and getting the ball to their best player: whoever was open for the best shot.
Opponents attacked the Gators differently each game and the Gators responded — sometimes with inside banging, sometimes by raining 3-pointers, sometimes on the backs of subs stepping up and sometimes, particularly this weekend, helping the Final Four Most Outstanding Player (Brewer) work some magic of his own. Brewer’s post-game quote about the MOP award sums up his focus: “It means a lot. But, you know, it’s all about my teammates. I’d give it to each and every one of my teammates if I could break it apart because if it wasn’t for those guys, what’s MOP mean?”
Playing as a true TEAM means that no one was a stats superstar — even though the Gators led the country in shooting percentage. Will that hurt them in the NBA draft? Possibly, but the commitment and teamwork they embraced will pay off for life. These lessons apply to family, friendships, business and sports.
I’ll end my post of praise with a huge thanks to basketball coach Billy Donovan, football coach Urban Meyer and Athletic Director Jeremy Foley (the real mastermind behind the Gators 2006-2007 basketball- football- basketball domination). The amazing accomplishments of the Gator Basketball and Football programs start with recruiting the right kind of role models to the coaching staff and teams. Congratulations to the coaching TEAM that made this all possible, from the biggest TEAM of all: The Gator Nation. GO GATORS!!
Other coverage of the Gators repeat includes: