As the son of a postal carrier, Florida guard Craig Brown should he able to keep his cool when a dog is in hot pursuit. Bui growing up in Steelton, Pa., Brown once eluded a yapping mutt by jumping on the hood of a car and leaving a dent that cost his dad, Tom, $200. Though Craig also should have an innate affection for rain, sleet and snow, he lapped up the sunshine on a trip to Disney World as a kid and four years ago chose to become a Gator rather than stay in more hostile clinics closer to home.
Above all, a mailman's progeny ought to know how and when to deliver. In this, Brown is true to his birthright. During a span of 82 seconds late in the second half of the East Regional championship game in Miami on Sunday, the 6'3" Brown rained disaster on Boston College with three straight threes, helping the Gators to a six-point lead they never relinquished on the way to a 74-66 victory. Brown made each trey from the wing, with an opponent's hand in his face, shooting almost immediately after receiving a pass from point guard Dan Cross.
"I asked him if he was feeling it, and he gave me the nod," Cross said after the Razorbacks' win. "That was all I needed to hear."
During the same stretch Brown also pulled down a rebound and blocked a layup by Eagle center Bill Curley. In the regional semifinal last Friday night, Brown's three-pointer from the side in overtime sparked the Gators' 69-60 victory over Connecticut. His two-game totals: 38 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists.
"We knew the intangibles were there—the desire, the work ethic," Gator coach Lon Kruger said of Brown. "And yet Craig has taken it to the highest level he can. That's a very satisfying thing: to see a player play as well as he possibly can night after night after night."
In some ways Brown's emergence has mirrored that of Florida's. Alter Kruger arrived at the school in 1990, just as Florida was about to go on probation, Brown was his first recruit. Of course, recruit may be too strong a term. A Gator manager's brother knew a coach in Pennsylvania who had seen Brown...or something like that. "I think there was some guy who worked at a Foot Locker in there too," Brown says.
As a freshman, Brown bricked two free throws with five seconds left to lose a game to Texas by a point, a calamity that was rerun endlessly at the time on ESPN highlight shows. For weeks Brown was tormented by his failure, but then he sucked it up and worked tirelessly, and he has since become Florida's alltime three-point scoring leader, with 184 treys going into Charlotte. More than that, as the Gator captain, he has placed his personal stamp on the team. "If you mess up, he's the first one to get on you," says forward Brian Thompson. "And he'll tell the coach if you don't do what he says."
"It's just that I don't want us to slip up or lose concentration," Brown says. "I've been here long enough to know what we're trying to do."
Brown also tries hard to keep the Gators loose. When Thompson bobbled a pass against UConn that would have led to a sure deuce, Brown was quick to encourage him on the bench. "Jeez, Rockhands," he said, "will you please catch the ball next time?"
When the Gators cut down the net on Sunday, Brown was the last player to ascend the ladder, but he saved a strand for Kruger, who snipped it and then hung the twine around Brown's neck. In the history of Florida basketball, that rates as the most special delivery so far.
The deadeye Florida guard helped lift the Gators over the Eagles.