Dwayne Schintzius spent his summer vacation confessing last season's sins: "I just kind of cracked under the pressure.... I couldn't do anything right. My mind wasn't into it.... I just took myself out of it mentally. I didn't care about the rest of the team. I just cared about myself and my stats." To those who saw the Gators' game against Pitt, in which Charles Smith outscored the 7'2" Schintzius 30-2, or to those who watched the SEC tournament, in which Schintzius refused to report back into the game with one second left in a 72-70 loss to Georgia, his statements revealed little that they didn't already know. But Florida fans, as well as pro scouts and coach Norm Sloan, will forgive Schintzius if he hews strictly to his promise of repentance. In flashes, he has displayed the skills of the best big men alive.
Schintzius's selfishness was merely one of many trespasses by the Gators last year. There were a bench-clearing brawl, allegations by former players of payoffs from two assistant coaches and a federal investigation into drug trafficking on campus, which prompted Sloan and three players to testify before a grand jury. This season, Florida loses the talented but troubled backcourt of Vernon Maxwell and Ronnie Montgomery, which may be just the facelift it needs. Forwards Livingston Chatman and Dwayne Davis, along with a dedicated Schintzius, could carry even an inexperienced backcourt all the way to the SEC title. This will be a revealing year for Sloan. Can he harness his talent, or does he need to use a leash instead?