Apr 15, 2012, 8:12 PM EST
When the Florida men’s basketball team finally reached its first NCAA tournament in 1987, Dwayne Schintzius was its center. He was the man in the middle for the next two appearances. He also was just the second McDonald’s All-America the program ever landed, helping set the stage for the current state of the Gators as one of the game’s best programs.
Schintzius died Sunday from respiratory failure related to months of complications from a second bone-marrow transplant, the Tampa Tribune reported. He was 43.
At 7-2 and 275 pounds, Schintzius was a force for Florida. He’s the only SEC player with more than 1,000 points, 800 rebounds, 250 assists and 250 blocks in his career. He’s still fifth on the school’s all-time leading scorer list despite leaving halfway through his senior season due to clashes with interim coach Don DeVoe. That stormy departure left him unsure about his Florida legacy.
In 2011, he attended the Florida-Georgia basketball game, his first appearance at the O’Connell Center since his playing days. He was introduced and shown on the video board. As he waved to the crowd, he was greeted by a thunderous ovation.
“That meant a lot,’’ Schintzius said that night. “No matter what happened, I’ve always been proud to be a Gator.’’
“I think he felt he wasn’t welcome here, but that wasn’t true,’’ Gators coach Billy Donovan said. “He is an important part of this program’s history. He needs to feel welcome here, regardless of what happened in the past.’’
Schintzius later played nine seasons in the NBA, snagged a role in the movie “Eddie” – “Ivan make basket!” – and remained just as famous for his mullet as he was for his career. (Seriously. How glorious is that thing?) Not to mention Derrick Coleman’s “Whoop-de-damn-do” quote from their Nets days.
He was diagnosed with Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia in 2009, received multiple treatments and was even declared cancer-free in January of 2010, but recent complications required another transplant..
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