Florida has a rich history of elite athletic programs. Although there are more than 500 student athletes at UF, only 133 of them identify as Black or African American.
This Black History Month, the Florida Gators men’s basketball program is bringing awareness to the sacrifices and contributions Black athletes have endured in historically adverse situations.
“Black History Month is definitely important,” junior guard Will Richard said. “I feel like it’s something that should be celebrated every month, but for us, it’s just showing ways to go just get back to the history of Black history.”
Having a strong work ethic and being dedicated to living out his dream is something Richard strives for every day, he said. He chose a quote by Harriet Tubman that was posted on the team’s X account for Black History Month acknowledging that every great dream begins with a dreamer.
“I feel like it relates to me just having a dream and just knowing that you can accomplish it with a passion and just a drive and [you can] work hard to accomplish anything,” Richard said.
Gator sophomore guard Riley Kugel was raised by an African American dad and a white mom. He said both of his parents have played a vital role in his life and have allowed him to experience both sides of the ethnicities.
“Me being half Black, it definitely plays a big role in my life just because I get to experience both sides,” Kugel said. “Black History Month is just a great month to celebrate and just be around my fellow brothers.”
Having a role model to look up to can pave the way for dreams to come to fruition. Kugel grew up emulating the legendary Michael Jordan from a young age.
Looking up to prominent Black athletes like Jordan inspired Kugel to reach the status of a high-level Division I basketball player at a prestigious university.
“I look up to obviously the greats like Michael Jordan,” he said. “They all played big pieces in my life just being a basketball player as it is so I can definitely say that.”
Junior guard Walter Clayton Jr. has also looked up to African American basketball players throughout his upbringing. Black athletes have been prominent at the sport’s highest level, which has allowed Clayton Jr. to idolize some of basketball’s all-time great players.
“Our race is just progressing continually, you know being recognized as a great month,” he said. “Who I look up to is LeBron [James], Michael Jordan and people of that stature.”
Clayton Jr. is a half-white half-Black basketball player. Growing up a mixed racial player, he has first-handedly seen the progression of diversity in the world of sports, he said.
“I think in the world, there’s always gonna be racism,” he said. “I think we’re just kind of getting to a better place [in the world]. People of color are coming into more positions of power.”
Contact Max Tucker at email@example.com. Follow him on X @MaxTuckerUF25.
Max Tucker is a junior transfer student at UF. After obtaining his A.A. in Journalism from Santa Fe College in 2023, he chose further his education at Florida's College of Journalism and Communications. Max is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Journalism with a specialization in sports and media. He enjoys golfing and going to the beach with his friends in his free time. Max will be covering the Gators Golf teams this Fall for The Alligator.