Walsh's ankle in bad shape

Ligament damage means the guard will likely miss the first 4-6 weeks of SEC play.

Matt Walsh collides with Sam Houston State's Ryan Bright as they go for the loose ball during the second half in the Stephen C. O' Connell Center Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2004.

DOUG FINGER/Sun file photo
Published: Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 12:39 a.m.

Matt Walsh's ankle injury turned out to be worse than originally feared.

Not good news for Florida, with the Southeastern Conference season fast approaching.

Walsh suffered partial ligament damage to his left ankle and will be likely out 4-6 weeks, Florida coach Billy Donovan confirmed Wednesday.

An MRI Tuesday night revealed a tear to the syndesmotic ligament, which connects major bones in his left ankle and provides stability in the joint between his ankle and foot. Walsh injured the ankle in practice Dec. 30 and sat out Florida's 82-69 loss Sunday to Florida State.

"Matt understands what he's up against," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "To keep himself in the right mindset, he's looking at this like one game at a time. He's going to try like heck to get back to play against Auburn, he's going to try to get back to play against Vandy. I think every week he's going to try to get himself back.

"But I also think that Matt's as realistic as we are. The doctors have told the coaching staff that this is a 4-6 week deal and he'll probably will not play the rest of the year without the pain in his ankle."

Said Walsh, "Obviously, I'm disappointed. I want to play as much as anybody. So I'm going to be out there helping the team to try to get us back on track."

Florida opens its SEC schedule Saturday against Arkansas. Road games against Auburn and Vanderbilt follow next week, and Florida will get another bye in late January during a three-game, two-week homestand against division teams Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina.

If Walsh heals faster than expected, he could be back in time for the meat of Florida's SEC schedule in February. Six of Florida's last 10 conference games are on the road, including road games at Mississippi State, Kentucky and South Carolina.

Donovan insisted Walsh won't return to the court until he's ready.

"This is something that needs a lot of rest and a lot of time," Donovan said. "Matt is a competitive kid and we'll not allow him to play until he can show a level that he can move and play with maybe some of the pain he's feeling."

Walsh, a junior 6-foot-6 shooting guard, ended December as Florida's leading scorer, averaging 16.0 per game. He was a second-team All-SEC guard last season, averaging 15.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

Walsh had started all 74 games in his Florida career prior to the injury.

Sophomore Lee Humphrey will continue to start in place of Walsh at shooting guard.

"It's going to be a big obstacle for us to overcome and a great challenge," Donovan said. "For me, this is just a microcosm of what life is all about. Everyone goes through adversity, everyone has problems, and the bottom line is how well do we stick together as a team, how well do we fight."

The focus will shift to junior point guard Anthony Roberson and senior forward David Lee for both scoring and leadership.

"We have enough players right now," Roberson said. "It's always going to be a team effort. We got 12 or 13 players and at any given time anyone can step up. Losing Matt will hurt, but we have to stay together and work hard until he gets back."

Kevin Brockway can be reached at (352) 374-5054 or by e-mail at brockwk@gvillesun.com.

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