"04's" Leaving UF
Billy Donovan's great 2004 recruiting class of Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford & Joakim Noah, all juniors with one year of eligibility left, will all leave the University of Florida to enter the NBA draft. They made their intentions known at the same press conference Billy Donovan held to say he was staying at UF. Here are some of their comments from the press conference:
"I'm happy and I'm sad. Happy, because I've never seen a group of kids grow the way these guys have grown, and sad that I'm not going to have a chance to coach them anymore. I've had a chance to meet with them and I've had a chance to meet with their families. They've made the decision to forego their senior years and to enter the NBA draft. I do not expect any of them back here next year. Their focus is on trying to further their careers in the game of basketball, and I know there will be a lot of talk about leaving options open, but the one thing I've always respected about the four of them is that when they put their mind to something they're usually very successful. The way I'm viewing this is that Monday night in Atlanta is the last chance I had to coach these four guys. As I look at them, they're the consummate winners, and obviously, at the next level, I think general managers, scouts and presidents of organizations are trying to help their team find players that can take the organization to a different level. The thing that's so unique about this group is that they're all different positions. Taurean (Green), for the past two years has really been our only pure point guard. Al (Horford) had some injuries this year, Corey (Brewer) and Joakim (Noah) had some illnesses. Knock on wood, the only one of the four to be completely healthy all year long and all last year was Taurean Green. The true success of a team can be defined by a point guard. I don't think there's a better point guard in the United States of America, and I think whatever team elects to take him in the draft will be getting the best point guard in the league. As far as it goes for Corey, you're looking at a wing player, having to defensively shut people down, and he's a guy that plays with great energy and can do so many different things. He is so versatile. I would say if you're looking for a wing player, he's the best one in the draft in the past two years. The two frontcourt guys â€“ Joakim last year took everybody by surprise and everyone thought that maybe his draft status was the number one overall pick, and then to come back and take on the challenge of this year, being under such a microscope, and having to battle and compete and help our team in a different way than he did a year ago, just a phenomenal competitor and a guy at seven feet with great skills. Still, I think his ceiling for improvement is way above his head. I think he's got so much growth. And again, when you think about the power forward spot or any forward position, Joakim as a competitor, you have to put him at the top of the list. And our last guy, Al, he's kind of a silent assassin, he doesn't really say a lot, and he doesn't show a lot of emotion, but as far as a competitor and a guy whose offense has grown and developed, and the way he rebounds and defends, his intelligence level, he's it. If I were starting a team with any of these guys, and I had a need at any one of their four positions, they'd be at the very top of my draft board. I can say this because I've had the opportunity to coach all four of them and I'm so thankful because we've been able to develop a close relationship and it's been a tremendous and a magical ride and I'll be one of the first ones to tell you that they're probably a little bit saddened that Lee Humphrey and Chris Richard and the rest of the team are not up here with them. This is not an isolated situation. These are the only four guys that have decisions to make about their futures, and their futures are to pursue the next level. I couldn't be happier for them and prouder of them. I'm just sad I don't have the chance to coach them for another year, and very blessed to have coached them for three."
"I feel like the last three years have been an unbelievable experience. I feel like not being able to play during my freshman year was really humbling. Last year, winning a national championship and going through having no expectations to all the expectations in the world, I feel like it's unbelievable and then coming back to school â€“ really, I feel like what we did was more than basketball. We followed our hearts. We didn't listen to what people had to say. We didn't listen to the expectations. I'm just happy to have met guys like this. This is something that we'll remember for the rest of our lives and I'm just so happy right now to be in this situation with these guys. This is something that we'll never forget."
"I'm happy to be able to go through this with these three guys up here. I feel like it's been the best three years of our lives up until this point. We've learned so much from each other, from coach and our teammates, it feels good now. Even though we're going our separate ways, we'll always be together. I'm just happy."
"I'm happy to be in this situation with these guys. These are my best friends, along with the other guys on our team. We've had experiences and a great run, and we've been with each other through it all and I'm just excited to share this moment with them."
"I'm very happy to have been able to play with these guys and coach. It's been a great experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything."
On leaving school early to enter the NBA Draft:
TG: "I feel that I'm ready for the next level, just talking to coach. We've accomplished so much here, and I feel that we came in together and we want to go out together."
BD: "(Taurean) is very humble, but I told him he needed to go based on the things that I was hearing, based on the fact that you look at a basketball team and so much is defined by the point guard and you look at how many point guards have had the chance to lead their teams to two national championships. There aren't many guys in that category. That's not taking away from the team. We're a team. We did it as a team, but one thing I've respected about Taurean is that he was probably looking towards me to help him, and I told him that I thought he needed to go. I think that helped him a little bit, he had a chance to meet with his mom and dad, and I gave him my opinion, which was that he, and not only Taurean, but all of them, needed to take the next step."
AH: "It was very emotional, I'm just excited about the opportunity to play with these guys and the coaches and the staff."
On knowing when it was time to leave:
CB: "I feel like we've done everything we could possibly do in college basketball, and then some more. It's been so much fun, but I feel like we all know it's time to move on and take new challenges. It's hard though, because we love each other so much."
On the difficulty level of this year versus last:
AH: "I feel like this year it showed the strength of our team. I feel like we had a lot of character development. We had some ups and downs. I always hear Jo talking about not getting too high or too low, and about living in the moment and take advantage of every opportunity we got, and I feel we were really able to do that."
On the juniors' character:
BD: "I think if you want to know why we won, you can see the commitment on their faces. That's why we won the last two years. It's because of their love for one another, their love for the school, their love for their teammates. They're emotional up here for each other, but they're emotional with the rest of the team too. It's not just these four guys and the rest of the team. They're going to miss Chris Richard and Lee Humphrey and Dan Werner and Walter (Hodge). It's the whole team, but the reason these guys have won so big is because of the emotions they're sharing right now. They're being real and they're expressing their emotions as a team. How many kids do you see that make an announcement to go to the NBA just break down and cry? Most kids are happy and joyful. That shows you the type of character I've had the opportunity to coach the last three years. They're different kids, and I think that's why we've won. We've been a team and it's been all about team, and we've helped foster the team."
On having reunions in the next 10-20 years:
JN: "Ten or 20 years? We're going to have a reunion tonight. Tonight will be a reunion. The last four nights have been reunions. We're going to keep it up."
On the timing of the decision:
AH: "We kind of already knew when the time was right. I think if one of us would stay behind, it wouldn't have felt right, it would have been different, but we all pretty much know it's time to do this."
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