Florida Basketball: The 10 Greatest Gators of the 2000s

Junior SkeppleContributor IIAugust 18, 2011

Florida Basketball: The 10 Greatest Gators of the 2000s

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    The University of Florida may be known as a football school, but the 2000s have been great to the Florida Gator basketball program.

    Led by Head Coach Billy Donovan, the Gators have won three SEC Tournament Titles, two National Championships and built arguably one of the best rosters in college basketball history in 2007.

    Some players who made the Honorable Mentions list could have easily been in the top 10.

    Lee Humphrey was the sharpshooter from three-point range for the back-to-back National Championship teams and he holds many records for the Gators. He holds the record for most three-pointers made in NCAA tournament play with 55 three-point field goals in 14 games. He also holds the school record for most three-pointers made in a season (113) and career (288).

    Justin Hamilton, Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton also made the Honorable Mentions list. Hamilton played for the Gators in the early 2000s. He ranks high in many statistical categories for UF such as steals and assists. Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton will be the veterans on possibly the best backcourt in the nation this upcoming season and were one game away from the Final Four in 2010.

    Nick Calathes ranks just outside of the top 10. He is easily one of the most talented players to ever play for the Gators but he did disappoint by leaving early to play professionally. There was so much Calathes could have accomplished. He was good, not great. Nick left us with some good memories, but there could have been so much more.

    As the 2011-2012 season approaches I thought it is only right we look back on the "Glory Days of Florida Basketball."

#10 Bradley Beal

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    I know he has not played a second yet for the Gators but this kid is the real deal. The Gatorade National Player of the Year can light it up from beyond the arc.

    Beal is a highly touted recruit headed to Gainesville from Chaminade Prep in St. Louis. I have not been more excited to see a prospect play than I am to see Bradley Beal take the court for the Gators.

    Beal is not only a good player, he is a good person and does lots of volunteer work. He works with the homeless through the St. Patrick Center and is also a goodwill ambassador for Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital.

    Bradley Beal will rock the O'Connell Center and fill up the stat sheet for the Gators.

#9 Walter Hodge

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    Walter Hodge may be a surprise at nine but he is really one of the most respected Gators ever by his teammates. He loved his teammates and left it all on the floor every night. Hodge was the sparkplug for the Gators—especially during their title runs in 2006 and 2007.

    "Big Shot Walt" shot 50 percent from deep during his sophomore year and was the pillar for an inexperienced team in the 2007-2008 season. Hodge's specialty was the corner three.

    Any true Gator fan knows the special role Walter played for the team during his time in Gainesville.

    Walter is now playing overseas for the United States Virgin Islands.

#8 Anthony Roberson

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    Anthony "Peep" Roberson was the bad boy of the first ever SEC Championship team for the Gators. Roberson would shoot from anywhere and always had something to say to his opponents.

    Out of high school, Roberson was a Parade All-American and one of the key players in Florida's first ever SEC Title run. "Peep" was an All-SEC selection his Junior season for the Gators, after which he left for the NBA.

    Head Coach Billy Donovan had this to say about his star point guard in 2002:

    "He's a nasty player, but from the standpoint that he's the kind of guard that will take it to the hole and go and grab rebounds against big men. He really brings a lot of toughness."

    Anthony Roberson has been a journeyman after his time at UF, playing for multiple teams in the NBA and playing some overseas. 

#7 Matt Walsh

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    If there was an all-time most hated Gators list voted on by their opponents, there is no doubt Matt Walsh would be on it. From his shaggy hair to his Playmate girlfriend, opposing fans could not stand when Matt Walsh walked into their gym.

    But his talent could not be ignored.

    Walsh was a high-energy guy and never afraid of sticking his neck in there to get to the hole. He made a living contorting his body in the lane, taking contact and getting right back up.

    Walsh was a big part in maybe one of the biggest wins in Gator history, defeating the Kentucky Wildcats in the 2005 SEC Title Game.

#6 Chandler Parsons

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    Chandler Parsons became the face of Florida basketball when his close friend Nick Calathes left school to go play professionally overseas.

    He did not disappoint.

    Parsons provided Gator fans with some exciting moments, highlighted by his 70-foot buzzer-beater to prevail over N.C State in Raleigh. His second game-winning shot of the season was a buzzer-beater that took down South Carolina in Gainesville.

    Parsons led the Gators team to an Elite Eight run and one win from the Final Four in 2010.

#5 Matt Bonner

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    Matt Bonner came to Gainesville as a relatively unknown commodity, but he left as one of the greatest players to ever sport orange and blue. The 6'10", 240-pound Bonner finished his career ranked in the top 10 in six statistical categories.

#4 Udonis Haslem

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    Udonis Haslem was a four-year starter for the Gators. He was a beast in the paint on the 2000 National runner-up team that lost to the Michigan State Spartans. "UDH" was the first real inside presence for Florida during Billy Donovan's tenure at the school.

    Udonis Haslem hit the two free throws that sent the Butler game to overtime, during which the Gators eventually won in the 2000 NCAA Tournament.

    Haslem currently plays for the Miami Heat in the NBA.

#3 Mike Miller

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    Mike Miller takes the three spot in our Top 10 Countdown. Miller will always be most remembered for his buzzer-beater in the first round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament against Butler.

    Teddy Dupay penetrated the lane then kicked it to Miller. Mike then drove with his right hand, avoided contact between two defenders and shot the floater that found rim but eventually went in. That bucket sent the Gators to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and eventually the National final.

    Mike Miller now also plays for the Miami Heat in the NBA.

#2 David Lee

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    David Lee was the heart and soul of the 2005 SEC Tournament champion team.

    Standing at only 6'9", Lee was one of the best finishers in the country during his career. He led UF in field goal percentage for three straight seasons and is second all-time in Florida history in that category.

    He currently plays for the Golden State Warriors.

#1 The 04's

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    Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford and Joakim Noah—or more affectionately known as "The 04's"—are No. 1 on our list.

    "The 04's" nickname came from the group being in the 2004 recruiting class. This group of friends took Florida fans on the craziest ride their three years in Gainesville.

    Their resume speaks for itself.

    3 straight SEC Titles, back-to-back National titles and individual accolades all around make them the most beloved Gator hoops players ever.

    Corey Brewer was the lockdown defender and the high flier of the foursome. His sweet stroke from deep made him a nightmare for opponents to try and defend. Brewer always drew the toughest defensive assignment and he would never disappoint. Brewer currently plays for the NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks. 

    Taurean Green was the on-court general and played his role to perfection. He could stick the open jump shot, command the offense and most importantly not turn the basketball over. Green was the glue that held this group together on the floor.

    Al Horford was the enforcer of the bunch. His big frame locked down the paint. His power dunks and intimidating blocks made the painted area a nightmare for opponents. Al plays for the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA.

    Joakim Noah is one of the most recognizable Gator players ever. His long hair and huge personality made him beloved by Gator fans and despised by opponent fan bases. Joakim Noah electrified the O' Dome every time he took the floor.

    These four headlined one of the most successful periods in Gator hoops, and truly made it great to be a Florida Gator.