Lee struggles for consistency

Florida coach Billy Donovan made senior forward David Lee, left, sit the final 12 minutes Sunday in Tallahassee.

The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 12:42 a.m.

The worst part of Sunday's loss to Florida State for Florida senior David Lee wasn't the final 12 minutes he spent on the bench.

It wasn't even the postgame chiding from coach Billy Donovan, who proclaimed "I can't shoot the ball for him," after Lee attempted just one shot in the first half.

The worst part for Lee was watching the film of his performance the following Monday.

"It's awful because you can't get it back," he said of his 4-point, 2-rebound afternoon. "Especially it being my senior year. That's the last time I'll play Florida State, and the biggest disappointment is that it was one in the loss column for us."

Time is running short for Lee, who came to campus as a McDonald's All-American with the promise of filling voids left by forwards Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem. Lee has been steady, if not spectacular, but the agile, 6-foot-9 lefty forward has left the Gator Nation wanting more. More scoring. More rebounding. And more consistency from the lone senior on the Florida roster.

Through his first 11 games, Lee has averaged 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, close to his season average of 13.3 and 6.8 as a junior. His field goal percentage (.541) is down slightly from the .563 he shot last season.

Beyond the numbers, Lee has looked hesitant at times in the post and was clearly outmuscled by Florida State frontcourt players Alexander Johnson and Al Thornton.

"I'm still confident about my game," Lee said. "I thought I had a very poor performance against Florida State, and that set me back a notch now. The biggest thing is moving on and just doing whatever I need to do to help the team win."

With Matt Walsh out four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain, Florida may need Lee to raise his production now more than ever. It will be looking to Lee and Anthony Roberson for leadership and production heading into Saturday's Southeastern Conference opener at home against Arkansas.

"This all of the sudden isn't my cue to be Allen Iverson," Lee said. "But at the same time I need to realize that I am a senior and that I need to step up. Sometimes I just kind of go with the flow instead of taking over the game."

Lee lost 12 pounds during the offseason in order to adjust the style of his game. Last year, at 253 pounds, Lee felt like he couldn't get up and down the floor and jump as well as he did before putting on the weight.

He also spent the summer working on his mid-range jumper in order to play more with his face to the basket. But thus far, his perimeter game has been inconsistent, forcing Lee back into backing into the post at times.

"I feel confident doing either thing," Lee said. "I have to do a better job of adjusting to the way teams are playing me. With Matt out, that's the first team that made a concerted effort to front the post, and to give extra help down there.

"More than anything, I should have found a way, whether it was offensive rebounding, or flashing high and taking guys off the dribble, I should have found a way to get more shots. I need to be more aggressive."

Then there's the issue of feeding the ball into the post to Lee. Donovan has acknowledged that his guards need to do a better job of looking for Lee during the rest of the season.

Donovan would like to see Lee focus more on his rebounding during the SEC season. With that, Donovan believes, the points will come. Last year, Lee opened the SEC season with a double-double, finishing with 21 points and 14 rebounds in a win at South Carolina.

He has two double-doubles through his first 11 non-conference games this season.

"David has had a really nice career here," Donovan said. "David is a good kid, and David works hard. I think that a lot of times people look at the stat sheet and see how many shots he's getting. That's not really David's game. David is a terrific passer and a great rebounder, and David needs to be evaluated and judged by how well he rebounds the basketball."

Donovan envisions Lee as more of a 10-rebound a night player than a 20-point per night scorer.

"He has the capability, as a senior with his athleticism, that if he gets 25 to 30 minutes a night, he should be anywhere between 11 to 15 rebounds every single game," Donovan said. "We need him to do that for us on a consistent basis."

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