Nonetheless, he went up the road to Gainesville to play basketball. And nobody would say he didn't play well. In his freshman and sophomore years Schintzius led the Gators to 46 victories and the only two NCAA tournament appearances they have ever made. Over those two seasons he averaged 12.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots. Yet the reign of Dwayne has been rife with controversy.
As a freshman, three days after a terrific performance against Purdue in the NCAA tournament, Schintzius accompanied Florida coach Norm Sloan to a press conference at New Jersey's Meadowlands, where Schintzius boasted of what he would do with his upcoming opponent, Syracuse's junior center, Rony Seikaly: take it to him, get him in foul trouble, beat him, etc. "I sat there," recalls Sloan, "and Dwayne basically took over the press conference. It was astonishing. At one point he said, 'I know I'm great; I just have to stop talking about it.' "
Seikaly proceeded to jump all over Schintzius's bewildered head, scoring a career-high 33 points to Schintzius's six in an 87-81 victory for the Orangemen. The emotional debris left behind by that failure—Schintzius was labeled the Mouth of the South, not to mention a big-game choker—affected him throughout his sophomore year. In an 80-68 loss to Pittsburgh on national TV, Schintzius spent most of the game hanging his head so he wouldn't have to watch Charles Smith, the Panthers' pivotman, outscore him 30-2. "Dwayne was so afraid of bombing, he could do nothing but bomb," Sloan says.
In the SEC tournament last March, Florida was trailing Georgia 72-70 with two seconds remaining and a Gator at the foul line. During a timeout before the free throw attempt, Schintzius refused Sloan's request to reenter the game for a desperation tip-in. According to Schintzius, "It was a misunderstanding. I had already taken myself out of the game mentally. There had been a fight, bad calls. I was bitching, moaning. I had gone into my shell. I was through for the night. I wasn't even in the huddle. I was looking at the girls in the stands. Coach says he said, 'Do you want to go back in?' I said, I beg your pardon?' I hadn't even heard him. He said, 'I thought so.' "
Says Sloan, "Dwayne froze up on me. He has this technique he's developed to block out people. He can be looking at you, staring, and he doesn't respond to anything. Hello? Is anybody home? Nothing, stoic. That's how he was that night. He'd never trusted coaches. I'd seen it before. It wasn't a big deal to him, but we had to have a talk after that."
On the flight home and in several meetings that followed, coach and player ironed out their differences. For one thing, Schintzius's hair ceased to be an issue. "He thinks it looks great," says Sloan, "but I told Dwayne he doesn't have to look at it from the back. I finally realized his hair was nonnegotiable."
The two also agreed that Schintzius would have to learn to cope with frustrations on the court and with the taunts and tall-jokes off it. "I know I should appreciate my height more than I do," Schintzius says, "but sometimes I can't handle it." Additionally, Sloan and his staff said they would try to "understand" Dwayne better.
This looked to be easier duty than expected after Schintzius had an encouraging off-season, when he almost made the Olympic team. During the trials, he gained weight (he is now a hulk of 265 pounds), strength, maturity, confidence and a sense of priorities while rooming with former Navy star David Robinson. "I had always thought I was too good to be coached," says Schintzius. "I was major cocky, the supreme one. Temper tantrums, loafing, negativism—I had all the bad-actor stuff. I just didn't care. But I worked my butt off in the Olympic trials and loved it. I was gung ho to play. I showed myself how good I could be. Last year at Florida we had a lot of guys out for themselves, including me. But that's over. I've grown. I know an NBA contract and a lot of money are out there for me if I shape up. And I will."
Which made it all the more shocking when, on the morning (2:15 a.m.) of Nov. 5, Schintzius emerged from a car outside the Animal House nightclub in Gainesville and wielding a tennis racket in a crowd, hit a Florida student named Paul Sullivan. Sullivan told police at the scene he wanted to press charges for assault, but Schintzius later apologized and the charges were dropped. Still, the university's office of student affairs found Schintzius guilty of violating the student code of conduct and suspended him for the first four games of the season.
Though Schintzius acknowledges his mistake—"I was just out for some crazy times," he says—the adults concerned have been less circumspect. Sloan was furious at the length of the suspension. Schintzius's father, Ken, a deputy sheriff in Hillsborough County, Fla., says his son suffered under a "kangaroo court," and Dwayne's mother, Linda, told The Orlando Sentinel, "Dwayne was just being typically 20 years old again. [He had been 20 for 21 days.] He just thinks college is fun, fun, fun."