Gator Boys Grow Up

Two championships later, Florida's foursome has designs on the next level

June 11, 2007

By David Scott

Special to CSTV.com

 



David Scott

David is a contributor to CSTV.com's basketball coverage.
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They were recruited to Gainesville to be the Oh-Eights, wound up becoming the Oh-Sevens and for the past two years they have been nothing short of the Oh-Mys.

 

Alphabetically and talent-wise, the four University of Florida Gators who will be featured prominently in the NBA Draft on June 28 shake down like this: Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford and Joakim Noah. From largest personality to smallest, they'd probably go in reverse order. And the sequence for how their names will be called on that Thursday night in a couple of weeks is a bit of guess after Brewer, who should be a Top 5 guy despite reports of a poor strength and conditioning work-out at the NBA Pre-Draft Camp.

 

But before any of that shakes down, the Oh-Sevens (indicating the year they are leaving Gainesville as juniors although Green has still not signed with an agent) were asked to reflect a bit on the what-if of never having it so good again.


 

 

 

What if the back-to-back national championships and three total years under Billy Donovan (with a combined 92 wins against only 19 losses) were the basketball summit for the quartet? What if all the rest of their hardwood days are lived trying to recapture what was one of the greatest college basketball teams of the past 20 years?

 

"A lot of people that I talk to in the NBA say that college was probably the best years that they played," said Horford, whose father, Tito managed a 63-game NBA career in the late 1980s after two years at Miami. "Florida was a great experience, but I'm still trying to enjoy the game as much as I can."

 

Even so, the magic of Billy Ball is not lost on any of the Oh-Sevens.

 

"We had something special a Florida and we know we're not going to have that same thing ever again, probably," said Brewer, the Gator who busted onto the national scene with the Final Four Most Outstanding Player honor. "But it's going to be fun playing in the NBA with all different people and having to learn to adjust."

 

Even before they can do that adjusting, the Oh-Sevens have been able to share one last hurrah as Brewer, Horford and Noah are projected as lottery picks and Green has been testing the NBA waters, meaning he was playing in the Pre-Draft Camp in Orlando while the other three were mostly there talking (to the media) and getting measured (by the teams).

 

"We rely on each other," said Brewer. "We all talk, we're all like the best of friends and we like to mess with each other. We're all going through it at the same time so we all have something to talk about. It's a lot easier for us, I think you could say, because we always have someone to talk to and to pick each other up."

 

On the second night of games in Orlando, the Three Gator Oh-Sevens went to see the Lone Gator Oh-Seven, Green, play in his second game of the camp. Before they went over to watch, Brewer said he and the rest of his buds had teased Green that he better play well because they were coming to see him.

 

Green had his best all-around game of the camp that night and when he came off the court, his boys were right there for him. Same as it ever was. After that game, with rumors of Billy Donovan leaving for the NBA swirling, Green said, "If he was in the pros, I'd call him and make sure he drafted me," Green laughed. "And the rest of the guys, too. We could be the '07s in the NBA. I'm happy to be in this situation with these guys. These are my best friends, along with the other guys on our team. We've had experiences and a great run, and we've been with each other through it all."

 

"I definitely had some of the best times of my life playing with these guys and one of the major reasons was because we understood how important winning was to all of us," said Noah. "That's something we all understood.

 

"So am I scared that it will never be that good again? Definitely not. Man, I'm 22 years old, I'm going to the NBA, man. I mean don't feel sorry for me."

 

We won't, but we can take a few moments to be sorry for the end of the Oh-Sevens. Imagine if they had been Oh-Eights together going for a three-peat. . .

 

"All of that stuff we experienced as a group, I feel like it's only going to help us in the NBA," said Noah. "I don't think we would have gotten that anywhere else but at UF."

 

And with nobody else but the Oh-Sevens who will all soon be, very plainly, The Rookies.