In 1994, guard Dan Cross helped lead the University of Florida men’s basketball team to its first Final Four in school history.
The Gators, who finished 29–8 during the 1993-94 season under head coach Lon Kruger, defeated UConn, 69–60 in overtime, and Boston College, 74–68, in Miami in the Sweet 16 to make history. They eventually fell to Duke, 70–65, in the Final Four.
“The University of Florida gave me the opportunity to live out my basketball college dreams, playing with great teammates who are now my best friends,” Cross said. “There are many disciplines that I learned from being a Gator and going to school with Gator greats that have carried over to life. Many life time friendships and business relationships developed so I am proud to be able to come back and give back to Gainesville.”
The two-time first-team All-SEC selection is once again giving back to the community that gave so much to him.
Next weekend, he will be directing the 4th annual Florida Get Down boys basketball tournament, which he describes as “the premier holiday showcase for top teams and players identifying up and coming talent.”
“I understand the importance of sports and the impact it can have on youth,” Cross said. “The game of basketball allowed me to see the world and receive a free education from the best University this side of Heaven, so it is my obligation to give back to the game that gave so much to me.”
St. Francis Catholic Academy will serve as tournament host of the event next Friday and Saturday, Dec. 30-31, with a total of 14 games.
“I have always been interested in hosting tournaments and being around the game of basketball in a healthy way,” Cross said. “I am blessed to offer opportunities to high school players and teams and expose them to high level competition that offers chances to get in front of college coaches for higher education and free scholarship.”
Four teams from Georgia and one from New York (Iona Prep) are on the schedule.
“Participating highs school teams and fans look forward to traveling from their cold climates to come to sunny Florida,” Cross said. “It is not a hard sell.”
Top players at this year’s tournament include Kris Parker of Crossroad Academy (Quincy), the No. 9 overall senior in Florida according to 247Sports, Christian Anderson Jr. of Lovett (Atlanta, GA), a University of Michigan commit Harvey Wilson of Oldsmar Christian, and freshman phenom Jermal Jones of Bell Creek Academy (Riverview).
Cross, whose son Daniel is on the UF football team and just earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism last week, said it hasn’t been difficult to get big name players to Gainesville because of his relationships and the University of Florida.
“It is all about the many relationships I have developed over the last 30 years of playing basketball,” Cross said. “So many of the high school coaches I know I have played against or they have seen me play so there is a level of respect and excellence that comes along with the Florida Get Down Showcase experience.”
The showcase allows his organization to say ‘Thank You’ to the community of Gainesville. It also allows Cross to bring exposure to the local high school teams by inviting top teams to Gainesville.
“Selfishly it also keeps me around Gainesville and the University of Florida,” he said.
The showcase’s motto is “Play the best to be the best.”
“My goal is to treat the players and coaches with a first-class experience so they will continue to come back and help spread the word,” Cross said. “Many players who have participated in our showcases are now playing high level D1 basketball including two of our current UF players Riley Kugel and Denzel Aberdeen.”
Area teams Buchholz, P.K. Yonge, and Williston, along with host St. Francis Catholic, will also be participating in the two-day event.
Top local talent at next week’s event includes guard Greg Maxwell of Williston and Jacob Sterck of Buchholz.
“This event is only in its fourth year and we have a lot of room for growth,” Cross said. “The support and sponsorships from the local companies make it possible for us to provide a well-run and organized holiday showcase where kids, coaches, players and fans look forward to making this a part of their holiday experience in Gainesville.”
Cross said it means a lot to host the Florida Get Down in Gainesville.
“I was blessed to experience and play in front of the best fans in college sports,” Cross said. “The Gator Nation is real. The support from the community has been great and I hope to continue to provide quality services and economic impact to the community. Thank you, Gainesville, for your continued support. It’s great to be a Gator.”
You can follow the tournament on Instagram and Twitter @FloridaGetDown and visit their website at FloridaGetDown.org for more information.
Florida Get Down Holiday Basketball Showcase at St. Francis Catholic Academy (Gainesville)
Friday, Dec. 30
11:30 a.m. – St. Francis Catholic vs. Strawberry Crest (Dover)
1 p.m. – Lake Worth vs. Potter’s House Christian (Jacksonville)
2:30 p.m. – P.K. Yonge vs. Bell Creek Academy (Riverview)
4 p.m. – Oldsmar Christian vs. Iona Prep (New Rochelle, NY)
5:30 p.m. – Eastside vs. Woodville-Tomkins (Savannah, GA)
7 p.m. – Crossroad Academy (Quincy) vs. Lovett (Atlanta, GA)
8:30 p.m. – Buchholz vs. Creekside Christian Academy (McDonough, GA)
Saturday, Dec. 31
10 a.m. – P.K. Yonge vs. Strawberry Crest (Dover)
11:30 a.m. – Bell Creek Academy (Riverview) vs. Woodville-Tomkins (Savannah, GA)
1 p.m. – Oldsmar Christian vs. Creekside Christian Academy (McDonough, GA)
2:30 p.m. – Williston vs. Lovett (Atlanta, GA)
4 p.m. – Iona Prep (New Rochelle, NY) vs. Crossroad Academy (Quincy)
5:30 p.m. – Buchholz vs. Lake Worth
7 p.m. – St. Francis Catholic vs. Eastside