The mid-week roadie started out like any other, with me perusing Florida basketball’s schedule to see if any home games coincided with one of my rare night’s off. One pretty important game did. The Kansas Jayhawks and their freshman phenom, Andrew Wiggins, would be coming into Gainesville on a Tuesday night, one I didn’t have to work. Wiggins is projected to be a number one draft pick; I projected myself driving to Gainesville to see him play my Gators before that happened.
I hadn’t made it up to Gainesville for a football game this season a) because of my availability and b) because the product Will Muschamp and company put on the field was record-settingly bad. Watching them on television was painful enough. But with Billy Donovan fielding yet another potential national championship team, the two hour drive to Gainesville to see them, and what many have called the next LeBron, was well worth the trip.
I’ve seen plenty of future NBA stars play against the Gators in my day, including Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Jackson, Jamal Mashburn, Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston, not to mention the Gator championship teams of years past. It was time to add Wiggins to that list.
I put the call into Brotha E for some tickets. Brotha E most recently became notorious for picking a Twitter fight with Stephon Marbury but that’s a story for another time. E informed me that students had been camping out all morning for tickets. It’s as if the circus was coming to town in the form of a 6’8″ 18-year old, already the talk of college basketball and the potential future face of the NBA. When E texted me an hour later that he had the tickets in his hand, it was music to my ears. Pack my bags, momma, I’m comin’ home.
Weaving in and out of annoyingly slow snowbird traffic on Interstate-75, I made it up to the motherland in an hour-forty flat. First stop: Lillian’s Music Store, a Gainesville institution, the establishment where I spent six years of my life and first learned how to tend bar. You all have them to blame.
After a few pre-game cocktails and time reminiscing with old friends, it was off to the O’Connell Center for tip. Despite the return of Gator guards Casey Hill and Scottie Wilbekin to the lineup (these two have yet to play together), the most anticipated matchup was between the soon-to-be highly drafted Wiggins and the very possibly undrafted 6’6” Casey Prather. Prather would have his hands full.
The O’Connell Center was rocking that evening, as loud as I’ve ever heard it. The blue-clad Kansas fans made their presence felt as did their basketball team, marching off to an early 10-3 lead. Both Florida and Kansas were coming off heart-breaking, buzzer-beating losses meaning whichever ranked team lost Tuesday night faced a losing streak uncharacteristic of either program.
The highly touted Wiggins got off to a timid start. A few ill-advised, long distance jumpers were countered by a few nice drives, a solid offensive presence and not a single miss from the free throw line. His sluggish start instilled the Rowdy Reptile crowd into chants of “O-VER-RA-TED!” That was until he got hot later.
The Gators took advantage of a nervous, and less experienced, Kansas team, rattling off a 21-0 run, nearly putting the game out of reach. The Jayhawks went a full seven minutes without scoring. Florida’s 1-3-1 zone defense forced a disorganized Kansas offense into 16 first half turnovers. Florida had 11 offensive rebounds and held Kansas to only 16 field goal attempts after 18 minutes in the first half. You can’t score if you don’t shoot. The Gators led 36-21 at intermission.
For most of the game, Florida made one of college basketball’s winningest programs, and their highly touted freshmen, look like they didn’t belong on the same floor. That was until the second half. Kansas made adjustments and Wiggins got hot. The Jayhawks eventually narrowed the once stout Florida lead to five points. Gator fans got nervous with each Wiggins jumper. He poured in 18 that second half but ultimately, the lead was insurmountable. Florida took home the victory. For much of the game, Gators senior guard Scottie Wilbekin looked like the best player on the floor. That was until Andrew Wiggins asserted himself. Wilbekin might not get drafted. Wiggins will soon make millions.
Wiggins is not the next LeBron – such comparisons are unfair – but he does have a bright future. He finished the game with 26 points and 11 rebounds, his first college double-double. He’s not quite NBA ready yet but he doesn’t have to be. Come June, he’ll make one NBA GM very happy.
Seeing the next big thing to hit the NBA was a good addition to my sports bucket list. Seeing my alma mater come away with a well needed win was even better.
Great game…the better team won. We will be a load in March with Chris Walker joining us shortly.
I cannot wait to see what Walker is going to bring to the table.
It takes a ‘team’ to win in the NBA.
The sooner the kids see that the better. And watching history is always good too. I was in the Staples arena the night Kobe sank 14 3’s to set the record… fun to watch
I had to look that one up, Tree, as I didn’t remember him having that record. I think it was 12 and not 14 but still, I never knew he had that. Pretty damn impressive.
The most impressive performance I ever saw live has to be Chris Jackson. His LSU Tigers came into Gainesville back in the day (’88) and he put up 53 points. The entire place was in awe that night.
He was so hot, he was literally taking two steps past half court, launching shots and they were going in.
Thanks for instilling the memories. I just found this on Youtube.
And oh yeah.
He was a freshman.
I’m glad you had a post-worthy roadie, Chris. Being a “school night” for me, I spent the game with Dickie V and Dan Shulman. Dickie was his usual effervescent and sometimes grating self. Awesome 21 to zip run, I’ve seen us on the wrong end of those often enough. As expected, the Jayhawks made their adjustments and their run, so it was very satisfying to see us close ’em out. Go Gators! I hope you can make it up here again soon.
I’ll keep you posted on my next trip up.
The seats were pretty good. Second level, sixth row. E definitely came through.
Those were two really good teams. It was good to see the experience of Florida shine through.
There are some really good teams in college basketball this year. Whichever is the last one standing will definitely be battle-tested.
I like the Gators’ chances, particularly if Walker is everything he’s cracked up to be. But I also like the chances of about twenty other teams.
Andre Wiggins is a great talent but I’m still going with Jabari Parker as the better player ! . That being said, there’s likely to be some great talent coming up in this upcoming NBA Draft . No doubt in my mind that the Gators will be on the top of their game when it comes to the NCAA Tournament as Billy Donovan always has his players ready to play .
The Gators “downed ” Kansas , with what I believe was a great deal of ease !
Spent the last few days going over my collection of old boxing fights (tapes) that I had been converting to DVD . One bout I reviewed with interest, was the title fight between Larry Holmes and Ken Norton , in which Norton defended his title against then challenger Holmes , who was 29-0 (19 KO’s) at the time . Unfortunately, we’re no longer privileged to see those type of fights within the heavyweight division .
A great talent in Andre Wiggins , but I have still got to go with Jabari Parker at this juncture as his all-round game is more polished than Wiggins’ .
A great win for the Gators over Kansas .
Your thoughts on last night’s game between the Broncos and Chargers ?
Trust is something that has to be earned and it says a great deal about the relationship between star player and a coach …..
Speaking of Kobe – Did I ever tell you that I am kinda related to him?…so I guess that means that you are, too! 🙂 pjd
Seriously – Our Gators looked awesome and they will be a handful in March! pjd
I was finishing law school in ’88 and went to a few of those games – Wonder what ever happened to D-wayne Schintius…did he go play in Europe? Recall the M and M (Maxwell and ___)boys from back then, too.
You should let Donovan know that whenever you attend Gator round ball games they win… See what that gets ya!
Today’s athlete more concerned about their brand image rather than the underlying social issues !
I haven’t seen enough of them (Parker v Wiggins) to judge. I’m holding out to see what Chris Walker can do when he suits up in a Florida uniform. Might he be better than both?
I wouldn’t say the Gators downed Kansas with ease. They had a hot stretch and were able to hold them off in the second half but things got a little too close considering the Gators went on a 21-0 run.
Holmes-Norton? Send me the DVD stat!!!
I knew the Chargers wanted that game but the Broncos should have wanted it also considering the Patriots might now hold field advantage.
Bring your gloves, Peyton.
Kobe’s a Baydin, PJD? Who knew?
And I do believe Dwayne Schintzius passes away a few years ago.
Unfortunately, Billy D is not answering my phone calls.
Perhaps I’m calling too much.
Sent you an email Chump. Let me know.
Jabari Parker is the ladle/spoon that makes the Duke Blue Devils tick and it has been that way all season long as borne out in the player’s and s team’s stats.
The Gators had the Jayhawks subdued in that game and Kansas simply didn’t have an answer at all .
A link to the Holmes Norton fight , which you should be able to upload to a , notebook , PC or smart phone .
Ken Norton was never the same after that fight because he was beaten , physically and psychologically by Larry Holmes . Larry doesn’t get the credit he rightly deserves because of his disparaging remarks about Rocky Marciano . Personally, if the two were to have ever have met at their best , Holmes would beaten Marciano without breaking much sweat . Larry Holmes had the best left jab in boxing that no one could match .
Left you responding comments on the two recent pieces on my site.
I currently love what the “Dallas Cowgirls “ are doing with their game as of present . Quite frankly, Dez Bryant crying after the Cowboys’ defeat are simply the least of that team’s problems . They Cowgirls lost to a Packers’ team that was without … Aaron Rodgers and several other key players . But yet , Romo and his teammates are trying to suggest that there are some positives to have come out of the contest. So typical of the Dallas’ quarterback , whose lack of leadership has routinely come into question , along with the mediocre coaching acumen of Jason Garrett .
Dallas’ 26-3 lead (after two quarters) disappeared as quickly as large lumps of fecal matter being flushed down a toilet bowl .
Let me wait for my guy to get back in town and we’ll go from there.
Tough loss for Dallas, Al. And there’s so much blame to go around. Romo, Bryant, defense, coaching staff. Brown stars for all of ’em.
Their Week 17 game against the Eagles should be a doozy, no?
It’s not a tough loss when you have a 26-3 lead and then blow it . The Cowboys are overrated , unimaginative and Jason Garrett cannot coach in the NFL . Plain and simple as that .
Dez Bryant , left the game crying , because his emotions got to him during the loss , simply shows he’s immature , overrated and overpaid .
Why were fans of the NFL subjected to that crap last night on MNF ? That’s three hours of your life, that you can never reclaim .
Florida takes on Memphis tonight in what ought to be a very interesting game . Your thoughts on that ?
I can assure you that Andre Wiggins and Jabari Parker are at the top of the heap in Men’s College Basketball at present . But as usual , while individual feats are thrilling . Nothing beats the NCAA Tournament and that’s what fans really get into , come March .
The NFC East could see a team with a sub 500 record winning the division and oust a team with a better record from making the postseason . What does that say about the NFL this season concerning the play ?
Still no word on David Price’s immediate or long-term future concerning the Rays . Yet, starting pitchers with less credentials have been on the move . Rumors are swirling that the Cubs and Mariners are showing interest in trading for the player.
Hype will be the death of sports and then some ….
If you get the chance check out ESPN’s latest 30 for 30 documentary series and the most recent episode entitled “Youngstown Boys ” . Fascinating piece that updates you on Maurice Clarett and others who were part of the team and many of the issues concerning the Buckeyes during that period , prior and subsequent .
Will you be watching the game tonight between the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat ? Precursor to the East Conference Finals for this season ?
Cowboys are a mess, Al, but that’s nothing new. They’ve been a mess for years.
Florida looked good last night, pulled away with the win. They’re rebounding is solid. I think they’ll be there deep in March.
I know the Rays don’t want to pay the big bucks that Price is due but they also aren’t just going to give him away. They’ll get a fair amount in return.
I didn’t catch the Youngstown Boys episode but I will and yea, I’ll be glued to Miami-Indy tonight.
Did someone actually remove Dez Bryant’s diaphragm , that it caused him to become so emotional in the Cowboys’ loss to the Packers ?
If interested ?
Hype will be the death of sports and then some ….
Which best, suits a crazed professional sports’ franchise owner?
The Heat got the better of the Pacers last night and it sets up well for the rest of the season when these two teams are liable to meet again in the regular season as well as in the NBA Playoffs .
The Gators are good enough to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament . They’re a very good defensive and rebounding team . Donovan simply does not get enough credit as a two-time national championship winning coach . He’s not talked about in the same measure , as the likes of Boeheim , Calipari , Pitino , Krzyzewski or even Bill Self. Is it because , the Gators aren’t seen as one of the more glamorous programs in College Basketball ?
If Billy Donovan were to win a third national title this season . Where would you rank him amongst the coaches over the past two decades ?
A swift decision has to be made by Andrew Friedman and Stuart Sternberg concerning David Price . Because leaving him limbo as they’re now doing makes no sense whatsoever . They had the chance to trade him before the end of the season and chose not to , when they could have got something considerable in return .
Rays’ news and their press releases .
Team’s transactions for November and December
So Robinson Cano doesn’t believe he got any respect from the Yankees ? Who’s wagging the dog here , his agent Jay z or someone else ? He’s getting $240 million from the Mariners , and that’ll get him all the damn respect he wants, even if Seattle aren’t in the hunt this season for the World Series .
Joe Lacob , owner of the Golden State Warriors may well make an unsolicited $600 million bid for the Oakland A’s .
Your thoughts on that ?
Over the past two decades, Al? Probably only behind Coack K at that point. Three titles is hard to argue with.
I think Price genuinely wants to stay with the organization. I just think he wants to give up potentially $100 million to do so.
I didn’t realize the A’s were for sale. Speaking of the A’s, where the hell are the Doin’ Work boys?