7 Florida The talented Gators are thinking of what might be, not what might have been

Nov. 19, 2001
Nov. 19, 2001

Table of Contents
Nov. 19, 2001

College Basketball Preview 2001-02

7 Florida The talented Gators are thinking of what might be, not what might have been

Oh, what might have been for Florida. Coach Billy Donovan was set
to welcome one of the premier recruiting classes of all time
until 6'11" forward Kwame Brown, who had signed with the Gators
last November, decided to go straight to the NBA, becoming the
first player taken in the draft, by the Washington Wizards. As if
Donovan had needed a constant reminder of what might have been,
he then watched as Brown bought a house in Gainesville, just up
the street from Donovan's. The jilted coach doesn't hold a
grudge, though. "Kwame's going to be a great pro," he says, and
he and his staff even helped Brown get into shape over the

This is an article from the Nov. 19, 2001 issue Original Layout

Despite losing Brown, Donovan still has plenty of talent and
leadership, starting with junior guard Brett Nelson. Lots of
college players are gym rats who had a key to the gym in high
school, but Nelson was given the key to the St. Albans (W.Va.)
High gym by coach Tex Williams when he was in fourth grade. In
the 12 years since, Nelson has developed near-perfect shooting
form. "I've never seen Brett have a bad shooting day," says
senior center Udonis Haslem. "That's not to say he hasn't missed
shots, but I've never been able to say, 'Brett struggled today.'"

Nelson, who connected on 45.3% of his three-pointers last season,
led the SEC in scoring in conference play (17.9 points a game).
He also stepped in and ran the offense after point guard Justin
Hamilton went down with a season-ending injury to his left knee
last January. (In Florida's last seven games Nelson turned the
ball over just 12 times.) Now that Hamilton has recovered, Nelson
will move back to shooting guard. Throw sophomore Orien Greene
into the mix, and the Gators will hardly miss streaky guard Teddy
Dupay, who was stripped of his final year of eligibility because
of his alleged involvement with a gambler.

In the frontcourt, 6'10" forward Matt Bonner has the perimeter
skills of a small forward, and, says Donovan, "He's the most
conscientious, hardest-working kid I've ever been associated
with. His day is consumed by academics and basketball. That's all
he does." They aren't new obsessions. As a second-grader in
Concord, N.H., Bonner made good on his goal of reading 100 books
a month, and as he developed as a player, he let his sister,
Becky, who's a sophomore forward at Stanford, use a Wiffle bat to
guard him during backyard games. Matt has done well with both his
loves: He averaged 13.3 points and 7.7 rebounds a game last year,
and as a business major, he has a 3.96 GPA. He'll team up front
with the 6'9" Haslem--probably the best low-post player in the
SEC--and freshman David Lee, a 6'9", 224-pound forward from St.
Louis, who's the top recruit in the SEC.

So even without Brown, the Gators could make their third trip to
the Final Four in eight years. "You look at great programs, and
they have done it over 15, 20 years," says Donovan. "Our pocket
of success here has been very small. The big challenge is being
able to maintain it."

--Mark Bechtel

COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO A gym rat since the fourth grade, Nelson can beat teams with three-point shooting or pinpoint passing or by taking the ball to the hole.



COMMENT: The dismissal of shooting guard Teddy Dupay, who was
booted for his alleged involvement with a gambler last spring, is
latest black eye for Florida. In Feb. 1998, point guard Jason
Williams was kicked out of school after twice testing positive
for marijuana. Further, the NCAA recently reprimanded the Gators
for stretching the rules in the recruitment of former forward
Mike Miller, though no sanctions were levied.




SF Orien Greene 6'4" So. 3.4 ppg
PF Matt Bonner[#] 6'10" Jr. 7.7 rpg
C Udonis Haslem[#] 6'9" Sr. 16.8 ppg
SG Brett Nelson[#] 6'4" Jr. 15.3 ppg
PG Justin Hamilton[#] 6'3" Jr. 2.7 apg

2000-01 record: 24-7 Final rank (coaches' poll): No. 13
[#]Returning starter