Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
THEY’RE NO. 1s
In the 65-year history of the NBA and its collegiate draft, 33 players from the University of Florida have been selected -- but only 10 have had their names called in the first round. That first came in 1969 and was followed by a 21-year drought for Gators in Round 1. When the NBA Draft commences Thursday night, guard Bradley Beal, the most decorated freshman in school history, not only figures to be first-round Gator No. 11, but also has shot at going second overall, which would equal the highest a UF player has ever been drafted. Here’s a list of Florida all-time first-round picks in order of their place in the draft.
NEAL WALK (2nd overall)
Team: Phoenix Suns
Comment: The Suns lost a coin toss for the No. 1 pick to the Milwaukee Bucks, who took some guy named Lew Alcinder from UCLA. Walk played nine seasons in the NBA, averaging 12.6 points and 7.7 rebounds with some horrific teams in Phoenix and later in New Orleans with the expansion Jazz. Alcinder, who became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, is the league’s all-time scoring leader. Walk and Alcinder have remained friends since. The former often reminds the latter of those wins over UCLA in the ’06 and ’07 Final Fours.
AL HORFORD (3rd overall)
Team: Atlanta Hawks
Comment: The first of the beloved “04s” to get plucked from the ’07 pool, Horford went after Portland took Greg Oden (bad pick, in hindsight) and Seattle selected Kevin Durant (great pick) and has been a two-time NBA all-star. With a $12 million salary for 2011-12, he was also the highest-paid Gator in the league last season, despite missing a huge chunk of it with a dislocated elbow.
MIKE MILLER (5th overall)
Team: Orlando Magic
Comment: He was the lynchpin that put Billy Donovan on the national recruiting map, helping lead the Gators to the NCAA Tournament as a freshman and to the national championship game as a sophomore. In his first season with the Magic, Miller averaged nearly 12 points and four rebounds per game on his way to being voted 2001 NBA Rookie of the Year. Eleven years and four teams later, Miller may have played his final NBA last week in going 7-for-8 from 3-point range in Miami’s Game-5 clincher over Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals.
JASON WILLIAMS (7th overall)
Team: Sacramento Kings
Position: Point guard
Comment: The kid they called “J-Will” made pretty good hay of a 20-game career with the Gators. Williams, who followed Donovan from Marshall where he was Southern Conference Freshman of the Year, averaged 17 points and almost seven assists per game when he was kicked off the UF team after a third positive drug test. Those 20 games, plus some great combine and team workouts, were enough to vault Williams -- a virtual unknown -- into the lottery. His flashy game made him an instant star with a Kings team that was on the rise.
COREY BREWER (7th overall)
Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
Comment: Many believed Brewer’s game would translate best to the next level, but he struggled with a very bad team as a rookie and tore suffered a season-ending knee injury the next year. A midseason move to New York then to Dallas in 2010-11 netted Brewer a championship ring (with little court time to show for it), but he since found a niche after a trade Denver last December. He averaged 8.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and had some nice moments in the postseason.
JOAKIM NOAH (9th overall)
Team: Chicago Bulls
Comment: After being MVP of the Final Four and UF’s first national championship run, Noah was projected to go first overall in the 2006 draft. Instead, he joined Horford, Brewer and point guard Taurean Green in returning for a crack at a winning second straight NCAA crown -- which they did. Along the way, Noah’s stock slipped, even below his two teammates (Horford and Brewer); it also slipped below Yi Jianlian (6th to Milwaukee) and Brandon Wright (8th to Charlotte), but that’s another story. Noah, of course, has been very good with the Bulls, averaging 10.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.9 blocks for his career.
MARREESE SPEIGHTS (16th overall)
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
Comment: Some argue he left a year too early, having seen limited time as a freshman for the second national championship team, but Speights was taken before the likes of Roy Hibbert (17th), JaVale McGee (18th) and Serge Ibaka (24th). He averaged around 8 points in less than 17 minutes per game his first two seasons, but his liabilities on defense got Speights traded to Memphis in ’11-12. He averaged 8.8 points and 6.2 rebounds for the young Grizzlies.
DONNELL HARVEY (22nd overall)
Team: New York Knicks
Comment: Harvey, a fierce rebounder with virtually limited offensive skills (beyond dunking), was a reach for the NBA after his freshman year, but family circumstances warranted his early exit (alongside Miller) when the Gators stormed to the NCAA finals before falling to Michigan State. Harvey was traded four times in three years and signed/released by two other teams. He’s been playing overseas (Greece, Turkey, Italy, Puerto Rico, Bosnia, China and the Philippines) since 2006.
DWAYNE SCHINTZIUS (24th overall)
Team: San Antonio Spurs
Comment: Had he sucked it up and agreed to “sail under the flag of Captain Ahab” (Don DeVoe), Schintzius may have been the No. 1 pick in the ’90 draft. Instead, the 7-foot-2, All-SEC player quit midway during the season, following the firing of Norm Sloan and hiring of DeVoe. Went it came time for the draft, he was woefully out of shape, though still 7-2, so the Spurs rolled the dice. Schintzius bounced to six teams in nine NBA seasons. He died at the age of 43 in April due to complications from leukemia.
DAVID LEE (30th overall)
Team: New York Knicks
Comment: He was the steal of the ’05 draft, lasting until the final selection -- well after Fran Vazquez, Nate Robinson, Luther Head, Jason Maxiell -- of Round 1. As a rookie, injuries forced him into extra minutes and Lee seized the opportunity, going 10 of 11 from the floor with 15 rebounds in a game against Phoenix and grabbing 21 boards in a game against Washington. For his career, which includes the last two years in Golden State after signing a six-year, $80 million free agent deal, Lee has averaged 14.3 points on 48 percent shooting and 9.6 rebounds. He played in the NBA All-Star Game in 2010.