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October 25, 2011

Two for Tuesday: Tebow & Gator Basketball



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MORE FLORIDA FOOTBALL: Rainey reflects on Georgia | Muschamp: Brantley practicing, probable for UGA | Football Midseason Superlatives | ITG Midseason Football Roundtable | Comparing Ronald Powell to other overall No. 1 rated prospects | Former Gator Max Starks talks making the biggest decision of his life

Inside the Gators featured columnist Adam Silverstein touches on two Gator related subjects to start the week.

Loyal Following

Unlike some who either had not attended a Miami Dolphins game before or simply had low expectations as to the number of supporters Tim Tebow actually has, I for one was not at all surprised at what occurred on Sunday at Sun Life Stadium as Miami took on the Denver Broncos.

In order to sell tickets and try to endear University of Florida alumni to the Dolphins franchise, the team held a Gator Day celebration to honor the 2008 national championship team at halftime of the game. They planned this, of course, the day that Denver was coming to town even if the team did not know that Tebow would wind up being the starter at this point in the season.

For those who may not be aware, Florida has the largest alumni base of any school in South Florida. Neither Miami nor Florida State nor any other major national college has more alumni in the region. So when Tebow ran on the field at the start of the game, threw two touchdown passes and ran in a game-tying two-point conversion, Gators fans, Broncos fans and Tebow supporters were quite vocal and could not be ignored.

I had the unique opportunity to enjoy the game both as a member of the media (I did some work pregame) and fan (sat in a seat during the contest) and can tell you that from 10 a.m. until kickoff (1 p.m.) I counted more than 1,000 Tebow jerseys and/or t-shirts with a relatively even proportion of them Broncos and Gators. The support for the man was undeniable.

The one time that Miami (and I'm talking Hurricanes, not Dolphins) fans voiced their displeasure with any consistency was during the halftime celebration, when former head coach Urban Meyer was booed so loudly that he paused in the middle of making a statement to the crowd declaring his 2008 Florida team one of the best of all-time. I was told after the ceremony that Meyer and his family expected to be booed heavily - but it still obviously caught him slightly by surprise.

The nearly 20 players in attendance appreciated the gesture that the organization made, and members of the Pride of the Sunshine who I bumped into said they enjoyed their time at the game. South Florida media, though they understood the reason for Gator Day, gave the Dolphins grief prior to and following the game.

There may have been differing opinions as to whether or not a team should have invited fans into the stadium to root against their product, but the end result is that the promotion was a success from a financial and public relations standpoint because they opened themselves up to an alumni base that previously had no connection whatsoever to the organization.

Gators Shut Out

The Southeastern Conference on Monday released the media's picks for the preseason All-SEC team and predictions for player of the year and conference champion.

It should be no surprise that Kentucky and its forward Terrence Jones were predicted to win the league and player of the year honors, but many of my Twitter followers were slightly up in arms that no Florida players were listed on the All-SEC first team.

Gators senior point guard Erving Walker and junior guard Kenny Boynton earned All-SEC second team recognition, which in my opinion is exactly where they belong heading into the 2011-12 season. Walker, for as many big shots as he makes, has yet to prove that he is consistent while handling the ball and making decisions (such as not driving the lane when two players each a foot taller than you are standing there).

Boynton, though he played top-notch defense against some of the best players in the nation last year, is such a streaky shooter and inconsistent penetrator that he has yet to become the all-around player one needs to be to earn a first team nomination.

The other issue is that one of them would have had to supplant Vanderbilt's John Jenkins or Mississippi State's Dee Bost on the first team. Though I'm not sure I believe in Vandy long-term, Jenkins (19.5 points, 40 percent shooting from downtown) certainly deserves to be there. So does Bost (15.3 points, 6.2 assists), who came on strong last year after missing the first (non-conference) half of the season.

Just like head coach Billy Donovan and forward Chandler Parsons did last year, the Gators will have their opportunity to prove the media and coaches (who are also unlikely to put anyone in their preseason first team) wrong by outplaying their opponents on the court.


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