The Florida Four: We’re Out

PhotoOh, Happy Day Donovan (center) says he’s staying. But Brewer, Noah, Green and Horford have played their last games as Gators./AP Photo

It’s way too early to choose the 2007 Story of the Year. And the Sports Illustrated editors haven’t even begun to ponder their Sportsman of the Year selection.

Sure, Tony Dungy is the early leader in the clubhouse, and the tale of this man of great faith – the tragic suicide of his teen-aged son one year before he becomes the fist black NFL head coach to win the Super Bowl – will be pretty hard for anyone to beat. But Diasuki Matsuzaka hasn’t yet led the Red Sox to the World Series. Vince Young hasn’t taken Tennessee to the Super Bowl. And Lord knows what’ll happen if Steve Nash somehow carries the run, gun and no-stun-defense Phoenix Suns to an NBA title.

That said, we’ve got another worthy candidate: The Florida Four. I’m talking about Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Taurean Green and, of course, the ever-ebullient Joakim Noah, a/k/a The Gator Gang.

Not for the reason you might think, However. Not simply because they won back2back NCAA titles, something no college basketball team has done in 15 years.

No, the FF should be widely and proudly recognized and celebrated for the collective sacrifice they made by deciding to return to school following their successful sophomore season. Defying convention and shunning millions, they chose instead to return to their Gainseville campus, have fun (and you KNOW they did just that) and, oh yes, try to make history.

They might not have felt it the time, but the decision to return itself made history. In an era when great (and not-so-great) college basketball players dump school for the NBA, they decided David’s Dollars could wait.

As sons of former NBA players, Noah, Green and Horford could afford to accept an allowance for another year. But the decision was a painful one from Brewer.

Back in the forgotten part of Portland, Tennessee, Pee Wee Brewer, Corey’s dad, once slaughtered hogs for dollars a day and ran a trash route. His mom, Glenda,was a teacher’s aid at the local high school. But last year, Pee Wee, suffering from diabetes and a weak heart, could no longer work. The family was living in a trailer. (They now live in a house through the graciousness of a long-time family friend; a deal apparently clear with the NCAA.)

Brewer could have no doubt put that NBA cash to good use. And he was tempted. If he’d chosen to go the others say they would have understood – and they’d have gone with him.

But Brewer didn’t. Nor did Green, Horford or Noah.

Now wunderkinds Kevin Durrant of Texas and Ohio State’s Greg Oden are trying to decide whether to stay or go. Despite the fact that most everyone believes they’ll be standing at the podium in June at the NBA draft, I won’t be surprised if either – or even both – decides to stay a kid one more year. In no small part because of the Florida Four. They made college cool again.

We won’t likely see the likes of them again. Recognize.

Photo AP Photo

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2 thoughts on “The Florida Four: We’re Out

  1. Tenacious says:

    Excellent piece…more than the FF foregoing the riches of NBA to stay in college. I believe it also says something about friendship. In this world where it is all about ME (which it is applauded and the norm unfortunately), it is refreshing to see young men who understand the true meaning of friend…and that will carry them a lifetime.

  2. Juan says:

    You said it all Tenacious.

    The friendship of this group of Gators is a beautiful thing. (I think perhaps that is why I found myself rooting for them.)

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