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Florida's Mammoths in Motion (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday November 15, 2006 1:57PM; Updated: Wednesday November 15, 2006 6:14PM
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By Luke Winn, SI.com

We asked Scott Schiamberg, a senior associate at HOK Sport, which designed such venues as Camden Yards and the new stadiums for the Yankees and Mets, to match up the Gators' profile with a prominent, real-world architectural project:

Diamond Ranch High School (Pomona, Calif.)
Architect: Thom Mayne/Morphosis
Year: 2000

Mayne and Morphosis, like Florida basketball, only recently became a well-known commodity -- but now they're on the map to stay. The Gators have running big men and team chemistry, and Diamond Ranch -- maybe the most famous high school building in the country -- is large in form but blurs the distinction between building and landscape. It's a sleek, innovative, low-cost project that's now ingrained in pop culture, from car commercial backdrops, to print ads, to movies. Remember the high school in Orange County? That's Diamond Ranch.

The coach remembers Noah as a "6-10 or 6-11 [he's now 7-feet] skinny kid who ran the floor very well and played hard, with a lot of enthusiasm -- even though he was a little bit of a project." Noah was a gangly New York City kid who was referred to, almost exclusively, as the son of former tennis star Yannick Noah. "If you look back at Jo's [prep] career, he wasn't a guy who was highly exposed," Donovan said. "He was a late bloomer." Who happened to bloom into this year's frontrunner for the Wooden Award.

Horford, meanwhile, "was a guy with a strong body who had a good feel how to play, but he wasn't the runner he is today," Donovan said. "I'll call it like it is: When Al came in here, the thought process was, 'Maybe we need to redshirt him for a year.' We had other quality big men, and I hadn't been able to see Al's intangibles yet." Once Horford started practicing, the coaches' perception of him quickly changed.

BUILDING YEARS/LOCATIONS: 2004. Florida's Band of Oh-Fours (Noah, Horford, Green and Brewer) arrived when the Gators were on a streak of four straight first- or second-round NCAA tourney exits. Two years later, they brought home the school's first national title.

Donovan insists that the talent level of his recruiting targets hasn't decreased, but he also points out that when he recruited blue-chippers Mike Miller, James White, Kwame Brown and Donnell Harvey, he got them for four years, combined. The Oh-Fours are at 12 years and counting. "I'm not necessarily opposed to recruiting a guy who has the opportunity to leave [early for the NBA]," said Donovan. "But if the guy says, 'I'm going to leave after one year, and Florida is just a stepping stone,' then I'm not sure if it's the best fit for us."

DESIGN QUIRKS: Need a stunning example of the Gators' unselfishness? Every one of their starters finished last season with an assist-to-turnover ratio above 1-to-1, and the lowest assist total among that bunch was 72 (by two-guard Lee Humphrey).

WHY IT COULD BE FINAL-FOUR FUNCTIONAL: It already worked once -- and no one considered the Gators' dominance in Indy a fluke. They just have to stay hungry throughout the encore.

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