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By JOANNE KORTH
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 31, 2001
GAINESVILLE -- LaDarius Halton started his first men's basketball game in more than two years Saturday, but it ended the way every game does for him.
With the question:
"LaDarius, how is your knee?"
Halton used a medical redshirt last season because of a degenerative condition in his right knee that causes dead spots in the cartilage. There is no way to repair the damage, leaving Halton to grit his teeth through pain caused by bone rubbing bone.
So far, he is pain free.
And it's a good thing.
With injuries to starting guards Teddy Dupay (back) and Justin Hamilton (knee), Halton's playing time has increased. Saturday he started for the first time since his freshman season in 1999 and played 30 minutes of UF's 69-57 win against South Carolina.
"I have no pain," said Halton, who tied a season high with 11 points against the Gamecocks. "I don't know what I have to do to make people believe that. I haven't missed a practice in 30 days. I guess I have to go all season before people will stop asking about it."
Halton was a member of the 199 Fab Four recruiting class with Dupay, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller. His athleticism and scoring ability were obvious from the start, but he continues to work on the details.
"We just have to get LaDarius doing more of the little things," coach Billy Donovan said, "like blocking out correctly when we double team the low post, rotating correctly in the press. There are still a lot of little things he does that hurt us at times. But one thing he can do is score."
STRIKE THREE: Celebrities and members of the media will take their cuts at 65-mph rise balls in the Gator Softball Celebrity Swing at 10 a.m. Saturday at the UF softball stadium.
Players from the 2001 team and celebrities will be divided between two squads for a three-inning game. Among the celebrities scheduled to play are former quarterback Jesse Palmer, former Olympic track athlete Mark Everett and football defensive coordinator Jon Hoke.
Admission is free. So is humiliation.
HARDBALL EXHIBITION: The baseball team, ranked No. 13 by Baseball America, used a 15-hit attack to win the annual Gator Alumni Game 15-4. More than 50 former players participated, including All-Americans Perry McGriff and Josh Fogg. The competition will be a bit tougher Saturday when the Gators open the season against No. 4 Miami.
OLYMPIAN ALERT: The gymnastics team, ranked No. 6 by GymInfo magazine, hosts No. 8 Michigan and Auburn at 7 p.m. Friday at the O'Connell Center. Elise Ray, a member of the U.S. Olympic team that competed in Sydney, is a Michigan freshman.
IN THE SWIM: The Gators, ranked No. 10 by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America, will finish the regular season against No. 3 Tennessee at 2 p.m. Saturday at the O'Connell Center. Five men have met provisional qualifying times for the NCAA Championships in March: Carlos Jayme (50 and 100 freestyle); Ricardo Monasterio (500 and 1650 free); Greg Reeves (200 butterfly, 400 individual medley); Phillip Norris (200 breaststroke); and Bryan Kim (400 IM).
- Joanne Korth covers Florida athletics. Contact her at (800) 333-7505, ext. 7306, or by e-mail at Korth@sptimes.com.