Gators Can Make More Than Hoops History

More than a week later, it still resonates – as cool as it is incongruous: Florida Gators, National Champions. In BASKETBALL.

Some perspective.

University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan didn’t sell his soul for this team, as good as it is. Athletics Director Jeremy Foley didn’t have to budget bail money for any of Donovan’s players. And Donovan didn’t have to scour the ranks of junior colleges looking for “student-athlete” itinerants. In 10 years, Donovan has brought the program to the level where he can choose attitude as well as recruit aptitude. Both were more than manifest at the Final Four.

The Gators also play a style that would be appreciated by James Naismith. This is no shuck-and-jive outfit, but a well-schooled squad that understands the art of the pass and the concept of the team. Call it the enlightened self-interest of unselfishness.

But the ultimate sports success begets a certain inevitability. There’s precious little time these days to actually savor the celebratory moment. After being feted by fans and the President of the United States, the Gators are now confronted with what they do for an encore.

Obvious questions are begged.

With no senior starters, how good can this team get? With all the variables of luck and parity, can it repeat?

Or will it dismantle itself? The professional ranks are beckoning to three Gator starters, Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer, all of whom are sophomores. None of whom are impoverished, notably Noah.

An ongoing storyline this season has been Noah, Horford and Brewer — plus sophomore starting point guard Taurean Green — sharing the same apartment as well as outlooks on life. They valued the campus experience. Chemistry on and off the court was their mantra.

That will now be tested, especially with Noah, who seems to be morphing from “colorful”, “exuberant” and “charismatic” into look-at-me boorishness.

The Gators have already made hoops history. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if they also made a statement?

As in a triplicate reply that the hip-hop lounge act known as the National Basketball Association would just have to wait. That there really was allure to a college diploma and remaining in Gainesville as national champions with the formidable challenge of repeating. And, most importantly, that it was too tempting to resist the opportunity to send a message to every budding athlete with professional dreams that a university was much more than a thinly veiled apprenticeship for the pros.

The ball is in their court.

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