Had a chance to catch up with former Gator standout Udonis Haslem when the Miami Heat played the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night in Memphis, Tenn.
Haslem played a significant role in the outcome, scoring eight of his 10 points in the second overtime to help the Heat beat the Grizzlies 100-87 in double overtime.
A starter through most of his NBA career, Haslem has had to adapt this season to a role off the bench. But Haslem was ready to contribute when starting Heat center Jermaine O’Neal fouled out in the first overtime.
“It’s not been easy, it’s been difficult but you’ve got to be mentally tough,” Haslem said. “All this stuff I’ve been experiencing, all this stuff I’ve been through, this is easy. So I just look at it like that. The worst thing that happens to me is I come off the bench and I live a pretty good life.”
Part of the “stuff” Haslem has been dealing with of late is tending his mother who was diagnosed with cancer over the summer. It’s part of the reason why Haslem was unable to make it up to Gainesville this past summer to play pickup with UF’s current basketball players. Haslem has played against UF players in previous summers.
Some more comments from Haslem following Friday night’s game:
On the growing number of Florida players in the NBA and their success (Mike Miller, Matt Bonner, David Lee, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, Jason Williams, Chris Richard, etc.): “I watch the other guys, I cheer for those guys quietly when I’m not playing against them. There’s a lot of love there, a lot of respect for those guys and the things they’ve accomplished there and in the NBA.”
On Florida coach Billy Donovan’s ability to develop big guys for the next level: “Billy is a great coach, great coach, great recruiter. Coach Donovan, actually the second coach has taught me a lot me about basketball, Frank Martin (then at Miami High and now at Kansas State) taught me a lot and then Billy taught me about transition and the college game. When I got (to the NBA) I learned a lot from coach (Pat) Riley. So I’ve been fortunate to play for some great coaches.
“It’s second-nature, coming out of Florida, coming off the pick and roll, rolling to the basket. The thing I had to add to it was flaring back and shooting the jumper. Once I had that, it just made it a little tougher for guys to guard me.”
On following the current Gators: “I watched them (Thursday) night against Auburn. I watched them against Kentucky. I watched the close one against Tennessee. When I get a chance I watch them. They’ve lost some close games. It’s not like they haven’t been competitive. They’ve lost some close games to some tough teams. I thought they had it at Tennessee. I thought they had Kentucky at Florida, Kentucky pulled it out toward the later part of the game. Overall, they have a young team but I like where they are going. I like the guys they have coming in next year. I know Coach Donovan is going to continue to develop the talent that they have and make them better players.”
On playing in the Final Four 10 years ago and what made the 1999-2000 Florida team special: “We went 10 deep. That was why we were able to win games. We just wore people down. We had five in, five out, Donnell Harvey, me, Brent Wright, Matt Bonner, Mike Miller, Major Parker, Brett Nelson, Justin Hamilton, LaDarius Halton, Teddy Dupay. We went 10 deep. So we could just wear people down.”