Near-Gator rising in draft

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Three Florida players are expected to go in the first round of Thursday’s NBA draft.

The Gators nearly landed a fourth likely first-rounder two years ago, when point guard Javaris Crittenton narrowed his final two college choices to Georgia Tech and Florida.

Florida coach Billy Donovan had established some close ties with Crittenton’s AAU program, the Atlanta Celtics, by recruiting Donnell Harvey off the same team six years earlier.

But the 6-foot-5 Crittenton chose to stay close to home and play for Georgia Tech. After just a year of college, Crittenton opted to leave for the NBA, and his stock is rising.

Crittenton is projected as high as the second point guard taken in the draft. He could go as early as the 11th overall pick, staying close to home again with the Atlanta Hawks.

Could Crittenton have broken into the UF starting lineup ahead of Taurean Green or Lee Humphrey? We’ll never know, but it’s fun to ponder.

Incidentally, Crittenton won MVP honors at the 2005 Adidas Super Star camp in the summer of 2005. Another player who made the camp’s all-star team was Florida sophomore center Marreese Speights, who will get a chance to show more of his skills as a starter next season.