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Lee improves his game


Published: Tuesday, January 13, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 12, 2004 at 11:41 p.m.
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Florida junior forward David Lee averaged 19.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in the Gators' victories over South Carolina and Tennessee last week.

DARON DEAN/Special to The Sun

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  • WHO: No. 15 Florida (11-2, 2-0) at No. 23 Vanderbilt (12-1, 1-1).
  • WHERE: Nashville, Tenn.
  • WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday.
  • ON AIR: 850-AM, Sunshine tape-delayed.

  • David Lee is accustomed to making shots. He did it last year when he posted the school's second-highest field goal percentage (64.8 percent) for a season.
    So far this season, he's doing it again.
    But this time around, Lee has a newfound appreciation for his efficiency. Instead of the layups, dunks and stick-backs Lee hit last year, he has moved his game farther outside without allowing his field goal percentage to suffer.
    On the season, Lee has made 64.2 percent of his shots. Lee was finally awarded for his fine play Monday when he received his first Southeastern Conference Player of the Week honor. Lee averaged 19 points and 9.5 rebounds in wins over South Carolina and Tennessee. In those games, Lee shot a stellar 68 percent.
    "I always try to be an efficient player," Lee said. "But last year when I hit a bunch of shots in a row it wasn't a big deal because it was just layups and dunks. This year, I've stepped out hitting shots from the outside. It's because of a lot of offseason work."
    Lee spent the summer working with shooting coach Chip England, who currently works for the Denver Nuggets, and reinvented his jump shot. Lee said in the past, his lower body wasn't balanced and he was shooting an awkward jumper off his left shoulder.
    Now, Lee has his feet under him and has moved his release point from his shoulder to between his eyes.
    "I had some basic things wrong with my shot," Lee said. "Once I started doing the right things and hitting (outside) shots, then my confidence came."
    Lee is second in the SEC in field goal percentage behind 6-foot-7 Auburn junior Marco Killingsworth. But if Lee continues at his current pace, he could find himself atop the league.
    Lee has hit 74.5 percent of his shots over the past six games and is bringing back memories of the final month of last season when he hit 72.1 percent of his shots.
    Still, Lee's numbers could be even higher if it wasn't for one bad game. Take away his 1-for-12 performance against Maryland on Dec. 10, and Lee has hit 70 percent from the floor on the season.
    "I'm still working hard because you never know when another Maryland game is going to come around," Lee said.
  • TIME OFF: For the third time this season, Florida has a week off between games. Coach Billy Donovan said Monday the break comes at a good time for his team.
    "One thing about our team with some youthfulness, having a week off right now is not a bad thing," Donovan said. "It's a good thing for our guys in terms of catching their breath. I really think I've pushed them really hard in terms of getting better and what we want. They've gotten better as a team, but there's room for improvement."
    The last time Florida had a week to prepare for an opponent was before its 87-73 win over Florida State on Jan. 3. Before that game, several players said it was the toughest practice stretch of the season.
    Donovan said Monday his team will practice with as much intensity this week as it did prior to playing the Seminoles. The only difference may be they won't practice as long.
    "I think that this time of year (practice) has to be very, very intense," Donovan said. "But I also think right now, it doesn't need to be as long as it was going into FSU. For FSU, there was no school in session, and I still felt our guys were not grasping what I wanted to use that week."
    The Gators are 2-0 this season after having a week off. Aside from their win over FSU, Florida beat West Virginia 70-57 on Dec. 20 after having seven days between games.
    Florida beat Tennessee 95-57 last Saturday and won't play again until a matchup at No. 23 Vanderbilt this Saturday. The Gators took Sunday and Monday off and will get back on the practice floor today.
  • RANKING UPDATE: Despite two wins last week, Florida dropped a spot to No. 15 in the Associated Press men's college basketball poll.
    Both wins came against unranked teams - South Carolina and Tennessee. Florida's next opponent,plays Saturday at No. 23 Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt (12-1), dropped three spots after losing 75-63 at Kentucky last Saturday.
  • TIDBITS: Lee is the second Gator to earn the SEC award this season, as Matt Walsh was honored last month. It marks the first SEC Player of the Week award for Lee and the 10th for a Gator player since the 2000-01 season. It is the second major weekly honor in the last three weeks for Lee. He was named ESPN.com National Player of the Week on Dec. 29 after going a perfect 16-of-16 in back-to-back victories over Northeastern and Eastern Kentucky.
    You can reach Brandon Zimmerman by calling 374-5051 or by e-mail at zimmerb@gvillesun.com
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