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LAST SEASON: 19-14; lost to Wyoming in NIT semis.
GOODBYE TO: Excuses. The Gators have five returning starters
SUPPORTING CAST: g Andrew Moten; g Ronnie Montgomery; f Joe Lawrence; f/c Kenny McClary.
INTRODUCING: 7'2" freshman Dwayne Schintzius, who went from 210 pounds to 245 in the first six weeks of school.
SEE YOU IN THE SUPERDOME IF: Schintzius can rack up half as many points as calories.
Vernon Maxwell does not like alligators, even though he has been surrounded by the scaly, scary creatures all his life. Maxwell grew up in Gainesville, Fla., fishing in dark sloughs where the gators gambol, and his house is only four miles from the Florida campus, home of the Gators. "I still don't like gators," says Maxwell.
Having established that, it also must be pointed out that Maxwell is the Gator most unloved by Florida's rivals. And for good reason. The 6'4" junior was fifth in the SEC last season with a 19.6 points per game average and has hit for double figures in 41 consecutive games. But saying that Maxwell is a shooter is like saying an alligator is just another reptile. Maxwell is also an outstanding ball handler, and coach Norm Sloan claims he is the quickest player he has ever coached.
"If he doesn't make it in the NBA, he can go to the NFL," says Sloan, an endorsement that makes his guard cringe. Maxwell was an all-state defensive back, but he is not eager for a future filled with tight ends rumbling at him. "I don't want to sacrifice my body," he says.
With Maxwell—plus Andrew Moten, the other half of the M & M backcourt—the Gators have been clawing their way upward, winning 18 and 19 games in the past two seasons. "And we've beaten Kentucky two out of five," says Maxwell. "I love playing them. It seems like I always get a dunk against them."
Dunks and a flair for the flamboyant are Maxwell trademarks. Last season, after he led Florida to a 54-53 win over Southwest Missouri State in the NIT, earning the Gators a trip to New York City, someone produced a tuxedo jacket, top hat and cane. Maxwell donned the formal duds and sat atop a basket as Florida fans celebrated underneath.