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Focus Is on This Season for Florida

October 15, 2006|From the Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Their national championship rings are stashed away, some in safes, others in drawers, a few back home with family members. Their commemorative hats and T-shirts are long gone too.

The Florida Gators are ready to move on.

A new season. A new team. A new task.

The Gators were to return to the court Friday for Midnight Madness, tipping off practice for the 2006-07 season, celebrating their first national title again and beginning their pursuit to become the first team to repeat in 15 years.

"We all want our rings and it means a lot to get them, but right now it's a new year and a new season and we're trying to get new ones," forward Corey Brewer said.

The Gators spent the last six months celebrating their title. They partied through the night after beating UCLA 73-57 in Indianapolis on April 3, received a raucous reception the following day at the Gainesville airport and relived the season's best moments in a championship salute in the O'Connell Center later that week.

It got better too:

* Brewer, Joakim Noah and Al Horford -- roommates who had been projected as first-round NBA draft picks during the summer -- decided to return for another season.

* Florida unveiled a new court, the same one on which they won it all. Officials purchased the floor from the NCAA for $70,000 and will play on it this season.

* The Gators visited the White House and were treated like celebrities in class and around campus, signing autographs and posing for pictures.

* They received the loudest ovation at Florida's spring football game -- yes, even bigger than the one for freshman quarterback Tim Tebow. They got an even more impressive welcome when they walked onto Florida Field to get their championship rings last month.

Players immediately took the rings out of their cases, put them on and wore them the rest of the day.

Most of them haven't touched the rings since.

They feel the same about all the other championship memorabilia.

Maybe they're being humble. Maybe they're truly focused on the future and not concerned about the past. Maybe they're just following coach Billy Donovan's lead.

"I don't wear mine," Donovan said. "It's something I'm going to have for the rest of my life to reflect back on. But that's in the past. It's been written about. It's been talked about. It's been well documented and I'm very proud."

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