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Friday February 25, 2011 A cancer-free Schintzius returns to O-Dome for first time since his playing days

Updated: 8:53am, February 26

Former Gators center Dwayne Schintzius still remains a formidable presence.

And it’s not just because he is 7-foot-2.

Schintzius returned to the O’Connell Center on Thursday night for the first time since he last wore a UF jersey 21 years ago, watching Florida’s win over Georgia from his seat behind the Gators bench. Despite a life-threatening battle with leukemia last year, Schintzius looked healthy and was in good spirits.

His sense of humor remains intact. He wore a T-shirt with a graphic that read: “Hello, I’m Awesome.’’

Schintzius was introduced to the crowd in the first half and received a nice ovation. He has been hesitant to return to UF over the years after some off-the-court trouble during his college career. He went on to play in the NBA for eight years after leaving Florida.

Gators center Dwayne Schintzius

“I did come back for a football game, when they brought us back once, but never for a basketball game since the time I played,’’ he said Thursday. “Wasn’t sure if I felt right about it or [if] people would want me back. I do like coming back and I want to come back again.’’

A little more than a year ago Schintzius, 42, faced the fight of his life when he was diagnosed with leukemia and started undergoing chemotherapy treatments to attack the cancer cells.

Schintzius lost more than 50 pounds and spent several months dealing with the effects of chemo. He says he is now cancer-free and starting a new chapter of his life.

He is writing a novel and recently completed his first book, titled “Dwayne Schintzius’ Guide to Free and Easy Exercise for People on the go.”

“That was two years in the making. I’m about to start my first novel. I’d like to turn it into a screen play.’’

To help him become a better writer, Schintzius is reading William Strunk’s famous book “Elements of Style.’’

As you can see, Schintzius remains a lively character.

He also remains the only SEC player with more than 1,000 points, 800 rebounds, 250 assists and 250 blocked shots and is UF's fifth all-time leading scorer with 1,624 points. Schintzius starred at UF from 1987-89, helping the Gators make three trips to the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m very proud to be a Gator,’’ Schintzius said. “I feel like I helped start something. I don’t want to call it ‘The House That Dwayne Built,’ because that’s not true. I helped to build it. Makes me feel good where the program has come.’’

Florida coach Billy Donovan invited Schintzius to speak to the Gators after the game.

Donovan told The Tampa Tribune afterward that Schintzius is invited back any time.

“We’ve crossed paths through the years,’’ Donovan said. “One thing I felt bad about is because of some of the things that Dwayne went through while he was here there’s probably this feeling of, ‘Gee, am I really welcome?’ When I’ve gone to speak in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, that area, he always shows up.

“I love seeing him. He’s obviously gone through some medical issues and stuff. I wanted them to acknowledge him. He loves Florida. He is an important part of the program’s history. I think he felt like he wasn’t welcome here, but that wasn’t true. He needs to feel welcome here, regardless of what happened in the past.’’

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