Basketball

Mount Rushmore: Gators Men’s Basketball

Photo by Streeter Lecka / Getty Images

Florida Gators men’s basketball dates back to 1915, thus it’s no surprise to see that the program has had some amazing talent on the hardwood.

Although most of the success didn’t come until the Billy Donovan era, Florida is one of the most storied programs in all of college basketball’s history. A program that boast two national championships, five Elite Eights, nine Sweet Sixteens, and 30 NBA players.

While creating a Mt. Rushmore of Florida Gator hoopers, I figured we needed to set some boundaries. This list will not feature any one-and-done players, any one year Gators, furthermore this list is based solely on their time with the University of Florida. Professional career will not be taken into account.

See also: UF Volleyball Mount Rushmore

Neal Walk (1967-1969):

Consider Neal Walk the first all-time great Gator hooper. Walk, a 6’10 center remains the only player in program history to have his jersey number (41) hanging in the rafters was legendary.

In his junior season, Walk averaged an unbelievable 26.5 points a game to go with an unmatched 19.8 rebounds per contest. The following year, Walk averaged 24 points and 17.8 rebounds to lead Florida to its first ever postseason appearance.

Walk graduated from UF as a two time AP All-American, and to this day is still the program’s all-time leading rebounder (1,181 rebounds). Walk was drafted second overall in the 1969 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns and enjoyed a seven year NBA career before playing a few years overseas. Neal Walk passed away in 2015 at the age of 67.

Udonis Haslem (1998-2002):

Despite being undersized and playing center, 6’8 Udonis Haslem never let that slow him down. He posted some of the greatest career numbers in Florida Gators history.

As a sophomore, Haslem anchored the post for Billy Donovan’s National runner-up squad. Those Gators went 29-8 that season before losing to eventually NCAA champ Michigan State. That 2000 squad also featured the likes of Mike Miller, Matt Bonner, and Brett Nelson, all of which garnered considered for the Florida Gators Mount Rushmore.

Haslem posted better career numbers than anyone else on that team, as he was rankes third all-time in scoring at the time of graduation. Plus, Udonis posted 120 career blocks and an impressive 831 rebounds. As a senior, Haslem put up 16 points and over eight boards a game as he earned his third All-SEC selection.

After his time as a Gator, Haslem has enjoyed a 16-year NBA career, primarily with his hometown Miami Heat. He is a three time NBA Champion, and the Heat’s all-time leader in every rebounding category.

See also: UF Soccer Mount Rushmore

Vernon Maxwell (1984-1988):

Gainesville’s own Vernon Maxwell led Florida to their first two NCAA tournament berths. Maxwell opted to stay home for school after earning Mr. Basketball honors while attending Buchholz High.

Maxwell finished his collegiate career with 2,450 points in 130 games, most in program history.

Mad Max posted career averages of 18.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, and three assists, Maxwell completed his career as a three time All-SEC honoree and only the second Gator to ever post 20 points a game average twice in his career.

Maxwell had a fairly dominant NBA career that spanned thirteen seasons. He was a two-time NBA Champion with the Houston Rockets.

Editor’s note: Maxwell’s stats over the final two years of his career have been expunged by the University after it was revealed that he had received impermissible benefits. Despite this, his stats warrant inclusion in any non-UAA sanctioned Mount Rushmore.

The ’04s (2004-2007):

Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, and Tauren Green (and Jack Berry) make up, arguably, the greatest recruiting class in NCAA basketball history (despite being ranked #8 at the time).

As Freshmen in 2005, the class of 2004 joined a talented Billy Donovan squad that would eventually see eight players make NBA rosters.

As sophomores the four led UF to their first National Championship as the top four scorers. At the celebration in the O’Dome they announced their desires to return to school and attempt to repeat, which they did.

It is impossible to just choose one of these guys since their stats weren’t really different in terms of scoring. Horford and Noah led the team in rebounding and Green ran the point. Brewer did a little bit of everything to help the team win. The 2004 recruiting class set the bar for Florida basketball, they are the standard, they are the model, they are the image of Florida basketball.

Florida has a long tradition of great basketball, and I know I left so many great names off. I considered nearly 20 different Gator legends for this piece, but decided to choose these ones for various reasons. Whether it was for success, statistics, or for taking the program to unprecedented heights, these were my choices for the Mount Rushmore of Florida men’s basketball.

Disagree with the list? Think we forgot someone? Let ChompTalk know what you thing and be apart of the Gators conversation!

*Inspired by Steve Russell’s radio show, Sports Scene, we have opted to determine the Mount Rushmore of each UF program that we cover. Let us know if you agree or if there are any omissions.
Also, we chose to omit coaches intentionally and will do a totally separate post on the top coaches at UF.

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