Shaq a bobcat? It almost happened

Published: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 1:56 a.m.
When the football players of the year were being photographed on Dec. 23, I had the chance to talk a bit with Gainesville High School coach Rick Swain, and he passed along a very interesting "what if?" story.
It turns out that back in the late 1980s when one Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal was about to enter his junior year of high school, his father, Sgt. Philip Harrison, was set to be transferred from Germany to the United States.
While in Germany, Shaq had played for Ford McMurtry, who had moved to Gainesville and was an assistant to Swain with the Buchholz hoops team.
Swain said that the Daddy's daddy wanted his son to again play for McMurtry and was working on getting stationed in Jacksonville (Shaq and his mom would live in Gainesville). Unfortunately for Swain and the Bobcats, the situation didn't work out and O'Neal wound up averaging 32 points and 22 rebounds while leading San Antonio's Robert G. Cole High School to a two-year record of 68-1 and a state championship.
As for Buchholz...
"We got to the state semifinals and lost by something like six points to that Miami High team with (6-foot-8 future Kentucky center) Gimel Martinez and (6-9 future Florida State power forward) Doug Edwards," Swain said. "Just imagine what we could have done with Shaq."
HOOPS PHENOM STORY PART II: Jacksonville's Martin Luther King Classic contacted Akron's St. Vincent/St. Mary about bringing the LeBron James show to Florida.
Apparently, the conversation ended rather quickly when St. Vincent administrators mentioned the school would be requiring a $15,000 "donation".
I guess we'll have to wait until next year when James' NBA team visits either Miami or Orlando. As for the 6-8 phenom listing UF as one of his final five college choices, get real. The chances of him becoming a Gator (or playing in college at all) are about as likely as walking into Barnes & Nobles and seeing Anna Nicole Smith reading "War and Peace".
  • ALL-STATE SWIMMERS: The Pinch A Penny all-state swimming and diving team was named recently, and two of Gainesville's best were selected.
    Florida signees Ashley Carusone (Gainesville) and Kristin Gilliam (Buchholz), each winners of two individual state titles in 2002, were picked for the 12-person girls' team.
    Carusone was chosen for the third consecutive year, while Gilliam returned for her second time after a one-year absence.
    John Patton is The Sun's high school sports editor. You can reach him by calling 374-5074 or by e-mail at
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