Siler Went To Indy, Came Away Impressed

Most of the national media reports indicated Gator Nation clearly outperformed the other three teams in terms of fan support at the Final Four up in Indianapolis. For those of us relegated to watching on television, it was particularly clear during the Championship game. Gators from all over descended on the RCA Dome to see the greatest moment in Florida basketball history.

By now most of you are aware that Gator football Coach Urban Meyer cancelled Monday's practice in order to travel to Indy for the crowning of the Gators' first national champs in basketball. But you may not know that Florida linebacker Brandon Siler was among those cheering on the Orange and Blue.

"Coach said we had a day off and one of my friends had tickets so we went up there," Siler told me. "It was sweet, man. It's a nice atmosphere. I wish all of the rest of my teammates had been there to see what them boys did because I'm proud of that basketball team."

Florida Coach Urban Meyer said the fact that Siler made the trip to be with the basketball team for its finest moment was pretty typical of the junior from Orlando.

"I'm not surprised at all," Meyer said. "He's a great supporter and really loves them."

Of course, Meyer has been incredibly supportive of the basketball team and its unselfishness. He said he consulted with Siler among others, before holding the Gator hoopsters up as an example he wanted his team to follow.

"One thing I asked him and I asked a couple of other guys before I started making a big deal out of those (basketball) players is that they really do live right," Meyer explained. "That would be the worst thing in the world for me to start pumping them up and then I found out some bad things about them. I asked Coach Donovan and he told me the right things but I wanted to be sure so I talked with Brandon because he hangs out with a couple of them and he says they're really good kids."

Meyer has said many times he would love to see his team develop the kind of togetherness and chemistry that exemplifies the basketball team. Siler completely agrees, but he knows that it's easier said than done.

"With a football team it's a lot harder to make it happen than it is for a basketball team'" Siler said. "They have five starters and we have 22 starters not including any of the special teams. But it's the same principle. Guys just need to get together and figure it out. We need to be closer and stay together and play on one heartbeat."

Siler said being in Indianapolis you could sense there was something about the Gator team that the other squads couldn't match.

"They were so close together it seemed like nobody else could touch them," Siler said. "That's something that if our football team could match we'd be all right."

Even though player and coach were not sitting together in Indianapolis, that didn't mean they couldn't communicate throughout the championship game.

"He (Siler) texted me throughout the game," Meyer said. "We have this thing in our program, when you finally get a team to give in, it's called 'checkmate.' When Humphrey hit that last three pointer (to make it 68-53) my phone went off and I looked at it and it said 'checkmate'."

Brandon Siler played AAU ball with Taurean Green and against the other three "super sophomores" on the Gator basketball squad. He considers each to be a good friend, and he shares a pretty common view of Florida's effervescent big man Joakim Noah.

"Joakim is a crazy dude man," Siler told me. "He has a wild style, but he has a big heart."

Joakim Noah also coined the phrase "Gator Boyz Is Hot" late in the season to describe the way Gainesville has embraced him and his teammates lately. I asked Brandon Siler if he would like to see his team create the same attitude this fall.

"I hope so," Siler responded. "If the (football) 'Gator Boyz' can be anything like that basketball team, it would be something great."

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