Let’s review our countdown so far:
#10 Matt LaPorta sets career home run mark
#9 The ’04s Declare for the NBA Draft
Four members of the 2004 basketball recruiting class will be remembered in Gainesville folklore with so many other names synonymous with the Florida Gators. Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Taurean Green and Joakim Noah became icons as they carried the Gators to back-to-back National Championships.
The foursome not only won two titles, but they never lost an SEC Tournament game, capturing three tourney titles in their years wearing the Orange and Blue. No UF basketball player is more decorated than the ’04s.
Adding to the success of the basketball talents of the quartet, their charisma and playful attitude was second to none. They became best friends during their three-year stay in Gainesville, and after capturing the 2006 national championship, performed a skit during the O’Connell Center celebration, announcing their intentions to stay another year.
But that’s all it would be – one more year. They all passed on the chance for a three-peat in pursuit of the mighty dollar in the NBA. Just three days after capturing their second national title, all four ‘04s made their decision to leave Florida.
“I feel like the last three years have been an unbelievable experience,” Noah said. “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,” Brewer said. “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 happy to be in this situation with these guys,” Green said. “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,” Horford said. “It’s been a great experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
On a day the Gator family learned that its head coach Billy Donovan had officially turned down an offer to become Kentucky’s head basketball coach, four players that will never be forgotten rode off into the sunset.
“I’m happy and I’m sad,” Donovan said. “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.”
So many names throughout the years have captured the hearts of Gator fans. The ‘04s have not only secured a special place in Gator history, but they’ve left a legacy that will never be forgotten. From recruiting to championship banners to a new basketball court in the O’Dome, few have left as big of an imprint at the University of Florida.