GAINESVILLE — Dan Werner arrived on the Florida campus four years ago and was part of a national championship team in his freshman season. Since then, he has played in back-to-back NITs in a career that has been filled with ups and downs.
In what has been his most difficult season, Werner has become fodder for nasty comments on Internet fan sites and has even been booed by the Gator student section this season.
Tonight, the New Jersey native will be honored in his final home game, and on Monday afternoon he reiterated that despite it all, he'll leave with no regrets.
"Ten years from now, I'm not going to remember what games we won or lost," he said. "We're just going to remember the people we've met and stuff here. I feel like I've built a lot of great relationships that I can take through my lifetime."
Werner started the first 16 games this season but fell into a slump he hasn't quite overcome and was replaced in the starting lineup by junior forward Chandler Parsons on Jan. 16. Although he continues to average 28 minutes, he's averaging just 4.7 points and has hit just four of his past 43 3-point attempts.
Werner, who has spent time this season with a sports psychologist as he tries to focus on positives, had his latest brush with public criticism when he passed up an open jump shot with time running out against Georgia on Saturday, instead attempting to pass to Vernon Macklin under the basket. The ball was knocked out of bounds with less than a second left and Florida barely had time to inbound and miss a desperation shot, losing 78-76.
"If I had to do it over again, I would shoot it," he said.
Gators coach Billy Donovan said he hopes Florida fans will honor Werner in the manner he believes he has earned.
"He has been a guy that maybe hasn't been the most athletic or most talented guy, but he's one of the smarter guys I've coached," Donovan said. "I think the one thing I can say about Dan, and people are talking about this all the time, as fans you always feel good about a player or a team as long as they give their very, very best. And Dan has always given his best."
MEYER'S RETURN?: Spring football practice begins in 15 days, and the Florida players are preparing for drills with or without coach Urban Meyer. QB John Brantley, senior DE Justin Trattou and OL Mike Pouncey had an informal meeting with the media last week, and if they had any indication about what's going on with Meyer, who is taking a break to address health issues, they weren't giving the information away.
"I can't really say either way, I'm not sure," Trattou said when asked if Meyer will be at spring practice. "I know he's got to take care of himself and his family first. I talked to him briefly a couple of weeks ago, a month ago. We definitely would love for him to be there. But we know he's going to do what's right for him and we've got to go either way, so … "
Brantley said he has not spoken recently with Meyer, who just returned from a vacation in Hawaii. Asked if he's confident Meyer will be on the sideline on Sept. 4 vs. Miami of Ohio, Brantley said he's not sure.
"Honestly, I don't know," he said. "Like I said, I haven't really talked to him too much. I just hope he takes care of himself."
Pouncey said he talked with Meyer last week and Meyer was feeling much better. But what about Meyer's return?
"I really don't know, I know he's getting better and better each day," Pouncey said. "We're just waiting to go from there. I wanted him to do what's best for him."
Antonya English can be reached at email@example.com.