VAUGHT: Werner almost a Cat

Dan Werner readily admits he was close to playing for Kentucky before he finally went to Florida three years ago.

"I visited Kentucky and really enjoyed myself and saw myself fitting in there," said Werner. "But my high school coach told me never to go on a recruiting trip and commit at the time. If he had never told me that, or if I had not listened to him, I probably would have committed to Kentucky.

"I could have gone to Kentucky, had a great career and loved it there. But I love where I am now. I am sure Kentucky is happy without me and I am happy at Florida. It was not like there was anything wrong at Kentucky in my opinion. I just had some family in Florida and coach (Billy) Donovan turned out to be the perfect fit for me."

Now Werner will try to help the Gators take control of the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division race Tuesday when they play at Rupp Arena when the Wildcats try to break a three-game SEC losing skid.

"Obviously, everyone knows any game with Kentucky is a big game for us. This one impacts the standings in a big way. Kentucky has been the power of the SEC for so long that everyone, not just Florida, wants to beat them. That's just the way it is in the SEC," Werner said.

Last year the two teams went in opposite directions the final month of the season.

Kentucky got hot, finished second in the SEC East and made the NCAA tourney. Florida faded, missed the NCAA and was even booted out of its own practice facility by Donovan for lackadaisical play.

"We had some success at the beginning of last year and some guys thought they had winning all figured out," Werner said. "Coach told us we weren't good even when we weren't winning. Coach finally took away everything from us to make us battle back. We got thrown out of the practice facility and had to practice in high school gyms and the rec center. We had to wear our own clothes and wash them.

"At first, I was wondering what he was trying to prove. We didn't give up. But I saw where he was coming from. We were living on success of previous teams and not what we earned. Guys don't want to go through that again. At the time, I was mad at Coach, but now I think we are all thankful for it because it made us appreciate more what we had and taught us more about what it took to win."

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