INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Florida coach Billy Donovan lifted the national championship trophy above his head Tuesday, his eyes red after an all-night celebration with players, coaches, family and friends.

He would gladly do it again.

“I’ll remember this for the rest of my life,” he said.

This was indeed special because Donovan never expected this much this soon from his young Gators. And who knows how soon it will happen again: three sophomores, including multidimensional forward Joakim Noah, have to decide whether to return for next year. But on Tuesday, the Gators were still celebrating their 73-57 victory against history-rich UCLA in the NCAA championship.

They played stifling defense and overwhelmed the Bruins with dunks, layups and long-range shots. It was a refined version of “Billyball” – not simply running and pressing and putting up 3-pointers, but mixing and matching strategies to beat the next opponent.

It also was the perfect way to cap Donovan’s first decade at Florida, where he made basketball matter in a football-frenzied town that used to show the fourth-string running back more love than the starting point guard.

“What happened is significant in basketball in the state of Florida, is significant to the University of Florida,” Donovan said. “I’ll remember these 10 years in terms of trying to build things and create a level of consistency.”

But can he keep Florida there?It might depend on Noah, guard Corey Brewer and center Al Horford. All of them could jump to the NBA draft even though they have repeatedly said they intend to stay for at least another year.

“I don’t think anybody’s ready to leave yet,” teammate Chris Richard said. “Everybody loves each other and we want to come back and try to repeat. We’ve proven that we’re the best team in the country and we’ll be the best team again coming into next year. We have a great chance to repeat.”

Duke was the last team to repeat, winning titles in 1991 and 1992. Florida might have a shot, but only if those three return.

Noah said last week that the NBA was boring and that he had no desire to leave college. He also has no financial worries since his father is former tennis star Yannick Noah, who has since become a Reggae sensation overseas. Brewer might not have the same luxury. His father has diabetes and heart problems, does not work and has trouble getting around.

Horford, meanwhile, also has famous family ties. His father, Tito Horford, played two seasons at Miami before jumping to the NBA. He spent three years in the NBA, then bounced around several European and South American leagues. Tito Horford has told his son he doesn’t “want Al to make the same mistakes I did” by not developing his game.

“I’d like to win another one,” the younger Horford said Monday night. “I don’t know about the group. I guess we’ll have to sit down and talk about everything. I think we want to win another one, and most likely I’ll be back.”

Donovan’s players have had mixed results in the NBA. Mike Miller and Donnell Harvey left school early after the team lost in the 2000 championship game and were first-round picks. But only Miller has flourished in the league since.

Last year, guards Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh opted to turn pro but neither got drafted. Walsh is currently out of the league, and Roberson has played sparingly for Memphis.

Could Noah, Brewer and Horford be next?

“Nine hours after we win, people want to talk about the future and I understand that,” Donovan said. “I think we’ve got a different group of kids. I believe in my heart that all those guys will be back. I think they’re having too much fun, they’re enjoying playing together too much.

“The kids in our program could get a whole lot better, could improve, and I think another year in college for those guys – or two (years) – would prove to be valuable for them rather than someone getting a chance or an opportunity (in the NBA) and those guys sitting on the bench and not having a chance to develop.”

The three sophomores don’t have to rush to any decisions. Underclassmen have until April 29 to declare for the draft, then have almost another three months to remove their name from consideration.

In the meantime, the festivities are just beginning.

The Gators (33-6) were scheduled to arrive back in Gainesville later Tuesday with thousands of adoring fans waiting to greet them.

They intended to return to school for a day before traveling to the White House on Thursday to be congratulated by President Bush.

Then it’s off to a final party, a full-fledged celebration back in Gainesville in front of a packed house on their home court. It’s essentially a weeklong parade.

“Certainly a big challenge as we move forward is going to be handling what’s happened,” Donovan said. “Because in reality, the 2005-2006 season is over with, the University of Florida won a national championship and how do we handle it going forward?

“That is a big challenge, in my opinion, right now and not something that will be embraced or taken lightly.”

AP-ES-04-04-06 1453EDT