The Florida Gators were the last team to win back to back NCAA Tournaments in 2006 and 2007. There were three NBA lottery picks from that team, Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer. All three of those players were part of the 2004 signing class along with Taurean Green. They were all roommates during their three year stay in Gainesville and the best of friends. They became known around the state as the “04’s”, perhaps a take-off of Michigan’s “Fab Five” of the early 1990s.
Al three of the front court players from that team were chosen in the lottery, two of them Noah and Horford, are still with the teams that picked them. Brewer was picked by the Minnesota Timberwolves and has bounced around a bit with stops in New York and Dallas before finding a home with the Denver Nuggets. Noah was drafted by the Chicago Bulls and is still one of their best players. He played in this season’s NBA All-Star Game, nearly recording a double double in just a few minutes in that game. Horford has also been to the All-Star game and is one of the best players for the Atlanta Hawks who drafted him.
All three of these players have panned out, which the odds were probably against. But the odds have never gotten the best of these three before. In 2004, the Kentucky Wildcats incoming class was rated over Florida’s, and it wasn’t even really close. In 205, these four players helped the Gators win their first ever SEC Tournament over Kentucky in the championship game, even though their roles were limited behind David Lee, Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh.
In 2006, Florida began the season unranked. But with the emergence of Noah, Brewer and Horford along with Green and his back court mate, sharpshooter Lee Humphrey, the Gators got off to a 22-0 start. They went into the SEC Tournament as one of a handful of teams that had a shot to win it, but they won their second in a row, beating the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Final. They then went to the NCAA Tournament as a number three seed and went all the way to school’s first national championship. Noah was a sure #1 pick as he was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
Coach Billy Donovan got his “Big Four” together after the tournament and told them they had a chance to do something special in repeating as national champs. Noah’s first reaction, understandably, was “I’m about to go get PAID!” But Brewer talked his mates into returning to school to go for the repeat.
They made their announcement at the championship celebration, sending the Gator crowd into a frenzy, but putting a target on their backs. At times, the target was huge as teams gave them their best shots. But when the post season came around, these gators ripped through the competition for their third straight SEC Tournament championship and second straight national championship. Then it was on to the NBA.
This is their sixth season in the NBA and it is safe to say that all three have made their marks on the game. All three are participating in this year’s playoffs and playing a major role for their teams.
Noah averaged 12 points and 11 rebounds per game for the Bulls. He was the second leading rebounder and fourth leading scorer on the team.
Horford averaged 14 points and six rebounds per game for the Hawks. He was their third leading scorer.
Brewer averaged nearly 15 points per game for the Nuggets in what has been his first real shot to contribute in the NBA. The Nuggets up-tempo style fits his game perfectly.
So it is safe to say that the Gator Boys are Still Hot. Altogether there are at least eight former Gator players in the playoffs with the Spurs Matt Bonner, the Warriors David Lee (who is now out with an injured hip), the Rockets Chandler Parsons, and the Heat’s Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem. There are probably not very many schools with that many contributing to playoff teams. The trio of Brewer, Horford and Noah will always be linked as the most revered of Gator greats.