The Bull Gator: Corey Brewer has a NCAA and NBA title now. Which former Gator is next?
One Eyed Willy: Well, just as a quick rundown for those of you who may not know, there are currently eight former Florida players in the NBA. They are as follows: Matt Bonner (Spurs), Brewer (Mavs), Udonis Haslem (Heat), Al Horford (Hawks), David Lee (Warriors), Mike Miller (Heat), Joakim Noah (Bulls), and Marreese Speights (76ers). Interestingly enough, seven of these eight players played in the postseason this year with only Lee’s Warriors missing out.
But looking back at your question, there is a little bit of a trick to it in that you ask which former Gator is the next to have both a NCAA and NBA title. That immediately eliminates Bonner, Haslem, Lee and Miller from the discussion as these guys never won a title at UF – although Bonner and Haslem already have NBA titles to their credit. Between Horford, Noah and Speights, I would have to say that Noah has the best chance on winning a NBA title. For much of the year, the Chicago Bulls were the best team in the Eastern Conference and although they sputtered against the Miami Heat in the Conference Championship, they are still very much in-line to make a deep run again next year. Especially if Noah is able to stay healthy next year and get into a better rhythm than he seemed to be in toward the later part of this last season. In my opinion, Horford and Speights have a ways to go before their respective teams can make that jump from a playoff team to a championship contender.
If you were to take the UF title part out of the equation, I would say that Haslem and Miller have the best chance of any former Gator player to win a NBA title in the near future. As much as I would like to, it’s still hard to pick against the Heat going forward, even with their collapse against the Mavericks.
TBG: Men’s outdoor track finished third, women’s tennis won a National Championship, softball was the runner-up, baseball is headed to the College World Series, and lacrosse is well on its way to being a consistent national power. Should people be paying more attention to Florida’s “other” sports?
OEW: In a word: ABSOLUTELY!!! Look, I like football as much (or actually probably a lot more) than the next guy, but there are too many great UF athletic teams out there right now to hang your hat on just watching the football and occasionally the basketball teams. For a further rundown of just how well our “other” teams did this year:
Baseball: SEC Champions, on our way to Omaha for the College World Series (for the second year in a row)
Golf (Men’s): SEC Champions, ranked number no. 1 heading into NCAA Tourney, finished no. 5 in the nation
Gymnastics: Top 5 throughout the year, barely missed making it to the “Super Six”
Lacrosse: ALC champs, made it to Quarterfinals of NCAA tournament in only our second year (and beat national champion Northwestern in the process)
Soccer: SEC Champions, finished no. 12 in the nation
Softball: Made it to finals of College World Series and in the process scored the most runs ever in one inning (11)
Swimming & Diving (Men’s, Women’s): Finished no. 5 and no. 8 in the nation
Tennis (Men’s): Finished no. 9 in the nation
Tennis (Women’s): SEC and National Champions
Track (Outdoor, Men’s): Finished no. 3 in the nation and had a chance to win the NCAA title on the last event
Track (Indoor, Men’s): SEC and National Champions
Volleyball: SEC Champions, finished no. 8 in the nation
Actually, it would probably be easier just to name the sports we didn’t excel at this year: women’s basketball, women’s track, and football (side note from the ever optimistic TBG: hey, we won a bowl game). I think we even won the bass fishing national championship (yes, there is such a thing!) and my money is on us winning the ultimate Frisbee championship because I think we win that thing every year. Wonder if Jeremy Foley had a hand in hiring our fishing and Frisbee coaches?
So to make a short answer long, if you went to UF, then you really should support ALL of our athletic programs, not just football and basketball. Now if you are just someone who likes Florida football and never stepped foot in Gainesville, then I guess it really doesn’t matter. But do yourself a favor and watch some of these other sports the next time they pop up on your TV while channel surfing. After all, there is a good chance you may end up watching that sport’s next National Champion!
TBG: We are not as far away from the start to football season as we may think. What one thing excites you? What one thing concerns you? (And yes, I am aware there is definitely more than one of each.)
OEW: I am assuming when you ask me “what one thing excites me” you are referring back to the football team. If not, this post could get pretty weird pretty quick.
Taking that assumption into account, the thing that excites me most about the 2011 Gator football teams is the freshness of everything. Last year was a downright awful year. As I have said many times, the 8-5 record we had does not begin to illustrate just how bad last year really was. The offense was anemic, the defensive was like a sieve on many occasions, and the coaching staff seemed genuinely disinterested throughout the season. This year brings hope back to a team that had piles and piles of hope just 10 short months ago.
I am very excited to see how this new coaching staff does on the field. I think they are already proving that they can recruit with the best staffs in the country. Now we need to see what they can do between the sidelines. If I had to pinpoint one specific part of the team that I am most excited about seeing it would be the defensive side of the ball and more importantly the defensive line. I think we could have one of the sickest d-lines in the country and with Muschamp, Quinn, Young and Co. (sounds like a law firm!) back there coaching them up, I am anxious to see what kind of improvements we can make over last year’s squad.
I think the one thing that concerns is the same thing that concerns 99.99% of Gator fans out there. Will John Brantley be significantly better than he was last year? Notice, I didn’t say will he be great. Because we don’t need JB to be great. We just need a guy who can put up 20 TDs and only 7 INTs and manage the game in the crunch time without looking like he has no concept of the offense or looking like he has never seen a blitz before. Let’s face it…we aren’t winning the National Championship next year and chances are we won’t win the SEC. But we can certainly take huge steps towards improving what we saw last year. To do that, we need JB to step up, gain some confidence back, make the reads, and throw the ball to the open WR – preferably the WR that is past the first down line on a third and long. But that might be asking too much. Can Brantley be that guy? Unfortunately at this point, your guess is as good as mine.