Gator Nation Mourns the Passing of Dwayne Schintzius

The wild child with the crazy hair Dwayne Schintzius lost his battle with Leukimia on Sunday.

He was the 7'2" mountain that had the mullet to end all mullets, affectionately known as "The Lobster". He helped put the spotlight on a Florida basketball program that was previously only a footnote in the school's athletic program. He starred on the NBA basketball court and even in the movies, with Whoopi Goldberg no less.

Schintzius wasn't appreciated by the Gator Nation as he should have been. Of course, before him, few basketball players had really been admired. That rarefied air was always reserved for football players like Steve Spurrier.

Before Schintzius's huge frame arrived on campus, the Gators had never been to the NCAA Tournament. They went each of his three seasons (1986-1990) at Florida. They had never won the SEC Championship, but with big Dwayne in the middle they finally achieved that honor. He was an outstanding player, ranking 5th all time in points, was among team leaders in rebounding and free throw percentage while still holding the team record for blocked shots.

Unfortunately, his Florida career ended in controversy, after Norm Sloan had been forced to resign at Florida because of an NCAA investigation, Schintzius quit the the team because of the harsh treatment by interim head coach Don DeVoe.

"No one can argue that Coach Sloan and Coach (Monte) Snow were easy to play for," he had said, "To them you had to accept the coach as the absolute authority and their word as final; but that does not mean I must sail under the authority of Captain Ahab (DeVoe). If you can play for Coach Sloan, you can play for almost anyone, almost anyone."

It wasn't the first run in with authorities at Florida. In November of '88, he was suspended for four games when a student at a Gainesville nightclub claimed someone over 7 foot tall had beaten him with a tennis racket. In the 1988 SEC Tournament, Schintzius refused to go back into a game, causing a blow up between him and Sloan. In July of 88 while trying out for the Olympic team, he was investigated by Federal Drug agents but no charges were ever filed. He skipped Devoe's first practice with fellow Gator Livingston Chapman and was suspended by the University in 1989 for a fight at a fraternity.

"What he did for Florida basketball was as much as anybody's ever done," Gator Broadcaster Bill Koss told the Tampa Bay Times, "It's hard to manufacture size, and he had great size and a great presence. But underneath that was a young man trying to figure himself out and I think he went for years trying to figure himself out. I really liked Dwayne. I always felt like he was underappreciated."

The Brandon High Behemoth went on to be a first round pick in the NBA draft, Florida's first since 1969, drafted by the San Antonio Spurs. From 1990-99, Schintizius played with six NBA teams but battled injuries throughout his professional career.

In 2009, Schintizius was diagnosed with a rare and typically fatal form of luekimia but a bone marrow transplant from his brother Travis helped fight the disease.

He was taken aback by the outpouring of support he received after his condition was announced publicly.

"I never knew there were so many people who cared about me," he had emotionally told newspaper reporters.

He was declared cancer free in 2010.

Unfortunately, when the cancer returned in 2012, another marrow transplant was unsuccessful in turning the tide. He lost the battle Sunday at 2:45pm, passing away from respiratory complications. He was 43 years old.

Despite his wild child nature and the tumultuous end of his Gator career, Schintzius is still regarded as one of the players that put Florida basketball on the map. He will always be remembered for his size, his talent and of course, his hair.

"He was my hero," His father Ken Schintzius told the Tampa Bay Times, "He never complained. He never said, 'why me?' He just, you know, when they (doctors) asked him to do something, his answer was, you know, whatever it takes. That was his motto. He was a good son. He was a good person."

"There probably aren't many people who had a life like my brother did," brother Travis Schintzius told the Tampa Tribune, "He was an amazing guy with a huge heart. He knows how many people loved him. And especially the last few years, he loved a lot of people right back."

He'll certainly be missed by all in Gator Nation.

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