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UF's Mike Miller focuses on game

By JOANNE KORTH, Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 1, 2000

INDIANAPOLIS -- Florida sophomore Mike Miller said the recent disclosure he had repeated conversations with a sports agent will not be a distraction in tonight's semifinal against North Carolina.

School officials made sure of it.

Jeff Kamis, a member of the school's sports information staff, stood beside Miller throughout a 20-minute interview session with local and national reporters. "I'm not concerned at all," Miller said. "I could understand if there had been a problem that it would have been a distraction. But there's no problem."

Kamis interceded when Miller was asked what he and agent Andy Miller, no relation, talked about during 20 phone calls since Sept. 1, one of which lasted 23 minutes.

NCAA rules do not forbid contact between agents and athletes, but do prohibit athletes reaching an oral or written agreement with an agent or accepting benefits before their eligibility expires. Miller told UF compliance official Jamie McCloskey he did not violate NCAA rules.

PEYTON SAYS GO GATORS: Florida had an unexpected visitor at dinner Thursday night -- former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning. "We looked up and we were like, "Oh, it's Peyton Manning,"' Florida forward Brent Wright said. "He just offered us good luck and said he wanted us to win because we're in the SEC. It feels kind of good knowing he's pulling for us."

UNHAPPY HOSTS: The Gators practiced Friday at Hinkle Fieldhouse, site of the climatic scene in the movie Hoosiers and home court of Final Four host Butler. The Gators beat Butler in the first round 69-68 on an overtime buzzer-beater by Miller. But the Bulldogs were hospitable, anyway.

"I'm sure they're a little bitter, but they left us alone," Miller said. "That just shows the class that Butler has."

LAST CHANCE FOR WEAKS: Even if Florida does not win the national championship, the Gators are so young they can always try again next season. All, that is, but one.

Guard Kenyan Weaks is the only senior.

"This is it for him," coach Billy Donovan said. "We need to play with a sense of urgency for that guy, because ... he doesn't get a chance to come back."

Weaks is the only player who has been in the program all four seasons under Donovan but is the only one Donovan did not recruit. His first three seasons were tumultuous, marked by suspensions for off-court problems. Many times he considered transferring, but he stayed on the advice of his mother, Karen Minter.

Boy, is he glad.

"I'm very excited about going to the Final Four," said Weaks, who blossomed into a co-captain. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime deal."

DOUBLE DUTY: Donovan, a senior guard for Providence in the 1987 Final Four, is the sixth man to play and coach in the Final Four. He joins Vic Bubas (N.C. State/Duke); Dick Harp (Kansas/Kansas); Bob Knight (Ohio State/Indiana); Bones McKinney (North Carolina/Wake Forest); and Dean Smith (Kansas/North Carolina).

UNC coach Bill Guthridge would be on the list, but for a technicality. Guthridge was on the Kansas State team that reached the 1958 Final Four, but did not play in a semifinal loss against Seattle.

"That was (coach) Tex Winters' fault for not putting me in," Guthridge joked. "We might have won that game. But I wasn't very good and obviously he made the right decision."

LANG OKAY: UNC forward Kris Lang, who sprained an ankle in the region final against Tulsa, practiced Friday and will play tonight. His presence will be vital to the Tar Heels' inside attack, their best weapon against Florida's intention to push the pace.

WIND SPRINT: North Carolina's coaching staff ran a sprint at the end of Friday's practice, the price for the Tar Heels scoring 128 points -- three over the requirement -- in a two-minute drill.

"We've got Phil Ford with a bad hip, Dave Hanner with hardly any knees, Pat Sullivan had back surgery a couple years ago, and I'm old," said Guthridge, 62. "So, it's an untimed down-and-back."

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