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2000-2001 University of Florida Season Preview
Gators Gunning for UF Record-Tying
Third Straight NCAA Appearance

Moments after the most successful season in school history ended last year, a contingent of Gator faithful no doubt were already looking for an encore performance in Minneapolis, site of the 2001 Final Four.

After all, the 1999-2000 squad, which advanced to the National Championship game for the first time in school history, captured a share of the Southeastern Conference title and won a school record-tying 29 games, featured just one senior and would welcome back a cast of talented and more experienced players.

NCAA Finishing Touches
Game Score Run Final
Butler Trailed 58-54 with 1:26 left 6-2 60-60 in regulation
Butler Trailed 68-65 with 31.1 left 4-0 69-68
Duke Trailed 78-74 with 4:01 left 13-0 87-78
North Carolina Led 62-56 with 5:49 left 9-3 71-59

Less than a month later, the same giddy Gator fans who celebrated wins over Butler, Illinois, Duke, Oklahoma State and North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament, were having a change of heart about a repeat run at the National Title. In a span of two weeks in April leading scorer and sophomore sensation Mike Miller, along with ferocious rebounder Donnell Harvey, who gobbled loose balls off the glass at a school-record rate for UF freshmen, declared themselves early candidates for the NBA Draft. Florida's 10-man rotation, which suffocated opponents into submission with a relentless full-court pressing defense and high-octane offense, was down to seven.

The Florida faithful shouldn't fret. They are a pretty good group of seven. And then some.

"I like our team coming back," says fifth-year coach Billy Donovan, who is already the winningest NCAA Tournament coach in UF history. "If Mike and Donnell return for another year most people would think we are one of the teams to beat for the national title. Without them, we will still be a very good team. Mike obviously scored and did a lot of little things for us, while Donnell brought a presence to the backboard that we haven't had in a while. But, we have some very capable players waiting to step into new roles."

Revamped Offense Under Donovan
Year Scoring FG Pct. 3-Pt Pct. 3-Pt. Game Av. Att Wins
1995-96# 66.8 .429+ .315 4.64 7,896 12
1996-97 74.0 .450 .374* 8.47* 6,401 13
1997-98 76.1 .443 .400* 9.83*^ 7,724 14
1998-99 80.3 .473 .379* 9.32* 9,018 22
1999-00 83.8 .480 .363 7.19 9,783 29*
Key: #Prior to Donovan's arrival; + Lowest UF shooting percentage in 26 years; ^Led the NCAA; *Led the SEC.

The new roles start in the senior leadership. Replacing Kenyan Weaks, who finished his career second on UF's all-time three-pointer list with 198, will be seniors Major Parker and Brent Wright, both members of Donovan's first recruiting class. Parker, the first Gator to sign a national letter of intent with Donovan, will enter the season as the most experienced member of the squad with 94 career games under his belt. Wright has logged more minutes (2,179) than any current Gator and has started 61 of UF's last 70 games at the power forward spot. Both Parker and Wright share the same high level of emotional intensity that make them natural leaders both on the floor and in the locker room.

The supporting junior class features Udonis Haslem and Teddy Dupay. Haslem, who made the NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Team after posting the second best shooting performance (10-for-12) in the history of the NCAA Championship game, carries a no-nonsense warrior-like attitude in patrolling the paint. Haslem has given Donovan a legitimate option in the post and allows UF to rely less on the three pointer for the team to be successful. Prior to Haslem's arrival on campus, the Gators averaged 24.5 three point attempts per game. That number dropped to 23.8 attempts in Haslem's freshmen season and dipped to 19.7 per contest last season. While the Gators might be taking less three pointers per game, no one has taken -- or made -- more three pointers in the first two years of their UF career than sharpshooter Dupay. The undersized guard with a huge heart and certain sense of swagger in his game played most of last season with a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, but still ranked third in the SEC in three-point accuracy in league games. Dupay recovered quickly from his off-season surgery and will be at full strength in the fall. Redshirt sophomore LaDarius Halton returns to the court after sitting out the 1999-2000 campaign with a knee injury. Halton, who suffers from a degenerative condition in his right knee and had surgery in May of 1999, was one of the squad's most athletic and explosive players during his freshman season.

2000-2001 Gator Exclamation Points
  • Winning attitude…Florida rides the winning momentum of the first back-to-back Sweet Sixteen appearances in school history and has won a school record 51 games during the last two seasons
  • NCAA Tournament tested…Two years ago, no players on the Florida roster had NCAA Tournament experience…Last year, seven players entered the season with NCAA Tournament experience and this year nine Gators have NCAA Tournament experience
  • Senior leadership…With 186 games and 90 starts to their credit, Brent Wright and Major Parker bring UF its most experienced senior class under fifth-year head coach Billy Donovan
  • Homecourt advantage…Florida is 29-2 with an average margin of victory of 27 points per game at home during the last two years at the "House of Horrors"
  • Style of play…Few teams can prepare for the up-tempo, full-court pressing style of play that exhausts opponents into submission…Florida ranked fourth in the nation in scoring (83.8 ppg) and ranked sixth nationally in margin of victory (15.0 ppg)
  • Decline in Expectations…Despite playing in the National Championship game a year ago and returning as Southeastern Conference Champions, the bulls eye on the back of the Gators got a little smaller when leading scorer Mike Miller and leading rebounder Donnell Harvey declared themselves as early candidates for the NBA Draft
2000-2001 Question Marks
  • Frontcourt depth…Four frontcourt players (Brent Wright, Udonis Haslem, Matt Bonner and Bonnel Colas) are the options at the power forward and center positions
  • Rebounding…Florida improved from the worst rebounding team in the SEC in 1997-98 to the eighth best in the league in 1998-99, to second best in the conference and 19th best nationally last year…Gone is Donnell Harvey, who not only was the squad's leading rebounder, but made Haslem, Wright and Bonner better everyday in practice
  • Go to player…Mike Miller, who led the team in scoring in each of the last two seasons and Kenyan Weaks, who finished his career second on UF's all-time three point chart, are gone
  • Return to Health…LaDarius Halton, who sat out the entire 1999-2000 season with a degenerative knee condition, and Teddy Dupay, who had off -season surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, are looking to bounce back from injuries
  • Schedule…Eight NCAA Tournament teams are on the slate for 2000-2001, including a rematch with NCAA Champion Michigan State in East Lansing

Like most freshmen classes, the now-year-older sophomore class of Matt Bonner, Justin Hamilton and Brett Nelson, will be an improved trio. In fact during the grueling 37-game schedule last year, the group actually avoided weary legged, fade-down-the-stretch performances that most prep stars encounter in their first college season and were stronger when it counted most. Bonner, who began the year missing his first eight three pointers, led the team with his .478 three-point accuracy in league games and shot .591 from the field in the NCAA Tournament, second best on the team. Like Bonner, Hamilton struggled early in the season - missing his first 17 three pointers - but hit 14-of-33 (.424) the rest of the way. Hamilton, who started the last eight games of the year at the point guard spot, was 7-of-9 from the field in the NCAA East Regional semifinal and final games vs. Duke and Oklahoma State. Nelson was named UF's Most Improved Player at the annual team banquet after putting up the team's most consistent performance in the NCAA Tournament. Nelson, who was named to the NCAA All-East Regional Team, shot .519 from three-point range in the NCAA Tournament, averaged 11.3 ppg and had 21 assists with just 12 turnovers in the six-game stretch.

In two straight recruiting classes, Donovan tracked the United States - from New Hampshire to South Dakota to South Georgia for some of the nation's most coveted high school players. This year, some of the top prep players in the country were right in Donovan's backyard - literally. Orien Greene, from Gainesville and Bonell Colas, from Miami make up Donovan's fifth recruiting class in Gatorland. Greene, a 6-4, 186-pound combo guard, was selected Florida's Mr. Basketball after leading Gainesville High School to a second consecutive 5A state title. Greene averaged 15.8 points per game and 7.8 assists per game, but played within a true team concept. Colas, a 6-9, 196-pound forward, averaged 27.5 points per game and 12.3 rebounds per game at North Miami High School. Colas runs the floor well, can handle the ball and shows good range from the outside, but will need to add strength to his upper body to compete on the glass. "Both Orien and Bonell are great fits for our system," says Donovan. "Orien is an extremely unselfish and gifted player who could have put up a lot more numbers scoring in high school if he played on a less talented team. But Orien was a guy in high school who was more concerned with winning than scoring points - that attitude allowed us to be successful last year. Bonell has great skills for a big-man. He is athletic, has a good feel for the game and will fit well in our style of play."

Advancing to the Last Two Sweet 16s
Michigan State

Just as Donovan had numerous lineup options a year ago, the voids left by Weaks, Miller and Harvey will be filled with various options. Weaks, a third-team All-SEC selection as a senior, finished his career second on UF's career three point chart but developed into a more complete player in four years under Donovan. He also finished sixth in Gator history in steals and dished out 76 assists his senior year after giving out just 94 in his first three years. Miller joined former Gator great Ronnie Williams as the only players in school history to lead the team in scoring in both freshman and sophomore seasons. Miller finished his two-year career as Florida's all-time leader in NCAA action in eight statistical categories, including most points and rebounds. Harvey became the first UF freshman in 13 years to lead the team in rebounding and his 258 total rebounds on the year was a UF freshman record. Harvey, the squad's third-leading scorer who posted a team-best six double doubles on the year, also set a UF NCAA Tournament record for blocked shots.

Miller's spot on the floor could be filled by Parker, who actually started at the small forward spot for Miller in all of Florida's 1999 post-season games. Or with one of the deepest backcourts in the country, Donovan could utilize a three-guard lineup. With the ability to play a number of positions, any combination of Nelson, Dupay, Hamilton, Greene or Halton could be on the floor at the same time. Just as Miller's spot won't be filled by any one person, the Gators will collectively have to fill the void on the glass left by Harvey, who helped transform the Gators from the seventh best rebounding team in the SEC to the second best rebounding team in the league and the 19th best in the nation.

Florida will get an early jump on tinkering with lineup options when the team travels to France for a 12-day, five-game swing August 10-21. The returning players from last year's team are eligible to make the trip and the team can have 10 days of practice before the trip, starting July 31st.

A position-by-position look at the Gators in 2000-2001:
Point Guard
Brett Nelson, So., 6-3, 173
Justin Hamilton, So., 6-3, 192
Teddy Dupay, Jr., 5-10, 175
The Gators' triple-threat point guard lineup of Brett Nelson, Justin Hamilton and Teddy Dupay gives UF some versatility and flexibility in running the offense…Dupay began the year at the point and played most of the first 18 games of the season there, but was probably more comfortable at the two spot, where he started the last eight games of the year…Dupay was one of two players in the Southeastern Conference to be recognized All-SEC for both academics and athletics (he was named third-team All-SEC by the Associated Press and was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll for his 3.38 GPA in Sociology)…Despite playing with torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, Dupay made a team-high 62 three-pointers on the year, the sixth best effort in school history and his two-year total of 126 career treys is already fifth in school history…Hamilton began the year coming off the bench at the two guard spot, played mostly the point during the last 15 games and started the final eight contests at the lead guard position…Hamilton provided quickness and a strong man-to-man defensive presence in the back court…Hamilton had 29 steals in his last 19 games and dished out 24 assists with just 17 turnovers in his final 15 contests…Nelson became the first freshman in school history to lead the team in assists and steals in the same season and set UF freshman marks in steals (60), three point field goal percentage (.434) and free throw percentage (.852)…Nelson was much more comfortable in running the Gator offense late in the year, dishing out 29 assists with just 12 turnovers in the last eight games after having 81 assists and 89 turnovers in the first 29 contests…With more comfort, came more minutes as Nelson averaged 22.8 minutes per game in the NCAA Tournament after averaging 17.8 during the season.
Shooting Guard
Teddy Dupay, Jr., 5-10, 175
Justin Hamilton, So., 6-3, 192
LaDarius Halton, So., 6-3, 195
Orien Greene, Fr., 6-4, 186
Dupay and Hamilton can play both the one and the two guard positions…Dupay played most of the final 18 games there last year, while Hamilton spent most of the first 22 games there…When Dupay gets in a rhythm there are few better in the country from beyond the arc…He had a career high seven three pointers vs. Mississippi State, including five of them in a 3:28 span during the second half…Hamilton's quickness off the dribble and 38-plus inch vertical leap make him one of the squad's best finishers…After surgery to repair his right knee in April of 1999 sidelined him for the entire 1999-2000 season, LaDarius Halton hopes to return to form that made him one of the most athletic and explosive players in the Southeastern Conference as a freshmen…Halton started the first 11 games of his career at the two guard and made just three turnovers in his final 10 games after making 27 in his first 21…Orien Greene is cut out of the same mold as Hamilton and Halton - long, athletic and explosive…Greene, a Parade All-American, was a four-year starter at local Gainesville High School, which was 108-21 during his career after GHS was just 7-21 the year before his freshman season.
Small Forward
Major Parker, Sr., 6-4, 218
LaDarius Halton, So., 6-3, 195
Brent Wright, Sr., 6-8, 232
Orien Greene, Fr., 6-4, 186
Parker has 22 career starts to his credit, including three starts in the 1999 NCAA Tournament at the small forward position…His 6-4, 218-pound frame allows him to defend backcourt players, but his strength allows him to guard bigger front court players…Parker, whose lunch-pail attitude will pay dividends in the locker room, was 6-of-8 from the foul line in the NCAA Tournament and 5-of-9 from three-point range after shooting .309 from the charity stripe and .188 from beyond the arc during the regular season…Halton or Greene could also figure in at this spot if the Gators go with a three-guard lineup…Conversely, the Gators could plug 6-8, 232-pound Brent Wright at the three spot to give Donovan a bigger look with Matt Bonner and Udonis Haslem occupying the other frontcourt spots.
Power Forward
Brent Wright, Sr., 6-8, 232
Matt Bonner, So., 6-9, 222
Bonell Colas, Fr., 6-9, 196
Wright's ability to rebound and defend is a big reason he has 68 career starts to his credit, although his offensive game has improved each year…Wright shot .503 from the field as a junior after shooting .472 as a sophomore and .356 as a freshman…He also connected on .807 from the foul line last season after shooting .667 as a sophomore and .564 as a freshman…Wright's .570 field goal percentage in SEC action was tops on the squad and he averaged 9.5 ppg in conference play, third best on the team…Bonner has a knack for coming up with the loose balls around the basket and has the best work ethic on the team…Bonner's hard work showed up in the numbers - he shot .526 from the field during the second half of the season after shooting just .351 during the first half of the season…The former Valedictorian of his high school senior class was 4-of-5 from the field vs. Duke in the NCAA East Regional semifinal matchup…Colas has the physical ability to compete immediately, but the big question will be his strength…At 6-9, 196-pounds he has proven he can run, shoot and score after putting up a season-high 43 points against in-state rival Norland en route to averaging 27.5 ppg as a senior.
Udonis Haslem, Jr., 6-7, 260
Brent Wright, Sr., 6-8, 232
Matt Bonner, So., 6-9, 222
Bonell Colas, Fr., 6-9, 196
Although he received the least amount of publicity of Donovan's fabulous four recruiting class two years ago, Haslem is quickly developing into one of the top post players in the nation…The two-time All-SEC selection was 15-of-19 from the field at the Final Four, the third best shooting percentage in Final Four history (.789)…He averaged a team-best 14.2 ppg in NCAA Tournament action and his 85 points was a team record and third best among all players in the 2000 NCAA Tournament…Haslem learned to play more without fouling a year ago (committing a foul every 7.3 minutes after getting whistled once every 6.5 minutes as a freshman), but he will need to continue to improve with UF's lack of depth in the frontcourt…Wright has already spent some time at the five spot in his first three seasons in Gainesville, but he will be the first option there this year when Haslem is on the bench…Bonner, who played exclusively at the power forward spot as a freshman, will also see some time in the post.
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