Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

UF's History-Maker

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

UF's History-Maker

Article excerpt

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. --- On one side, there was a 14-man dog pile with hero Mike Miller on the bottom, getting mugged and getting hugged and screaming, "I LOVE YOU GUYS! I REALLY LOVE YOU GUYS!" to his Florida teammates.

There was UF senior Kenyan Weaks, his college career extended for at least another game, crying, thanking Miller, God-blessing Miller, saying he would savor the memory until he is an old man. "This," he said after the heart-thumping, fist-pumping 69-68 victory over Butler in the first round of the NCAA East Regional, "might be the happiest moment of my life."

Then there was the other side, where the Butler tried and tried and tried, but couldn't quite get it done. There were tears on this side, too, except these were tears of finality and tragedy.

"It was like the world had just come to an end," said Butler's Andrew Graves.

Butler's best player, LaVall Jordan, had a chance to be a hero, too. An 83 percent free-throw shooter, he stood at the foul line with eight seconds left and his team leading by a point. Just one of two would have been acceptable. Two makes and the Gators would need a trey to win. He missed both.

Jordan had just flown in from his hometown at midnight the night before. He'd been there all week to bury the woman who raised him. Her name was Jetha Jeffers and she was the great aunt who took over the child-rearing duties when his mother left him. She was 87 Sunday night when she died of complications following a stroke.

"She raised me like I was her own," Jordan said through misty eyes. "She taught me right and wrong."

He sighed.

"I guess that's why they call this madness, because you don't understand how or why things happen. What can I say? It wasn't my day to be a hero; it was Mike Miller's."

With apologies to Ringling Brothers, but this is why the NCAA Tournament is the greatest show on earth. It's because of the emotion and the devotion and the cheers . . . and the tears. Where else can a no-name school have a chance to show the nation it can play with a team from one of the power conferences. These guys were on the verge of supplanting Mr. French as the most famous Butler in American history. …

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