Help wanted: Again, it's up to Humphrey

Published: Saturday, January 8, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 7, 2005 at 11:36 p.m.
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Sophomore guard Lee Humphrey will start against Arkansas for the injured Matt Walsh.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
Florida sophomore guard Lee Humphrey received a pleasant reminder of home over Christmas break.
The reminder came courtesy of his dad, Tony, who drove his brown 1967 three-speed jeep down from Maryville, Tenn., in order to trade vehicles with his son.
"I love that jeep," Humphrey said. "It's the first car I learned to drive when I was 15 years old. We had a hill by my dad's middle school and we would practice out there. Then, we went inside the gym and shot some hoops."
Humphrey will likely be doing more shooting than driving today, when Florida opens its SEC schedule against Arkansas. For the second straight season, circumstances have thrust Humphrey into a starting role.
As a freshman, Humphrey replaced Christian Drejer as a starter when Drejer left for a professional contract in Spain in mid-February. His highlight in 11 games as a starter came in March, when he hit a fade-away baseline shot to beat Alabama 75-73 in double-overtime in the second round of the SEC Tournament.
Today, Humphrey is starting in place of Matt Walsh, who is out at least four weeks with a high ankle sprain.
"It is kind of strange, the way it's worked out," Tony Humphrey said. "But Lee is the kind of kid who can handle it. He's always been pretty calm."
The challenge will be difficult, not only because of what Walsh brings in scoring, but in energy and emotion. Walsh had started every game since arriving at Florida and was one of the three go-to guys last season when Drejer left. Now, only Anthony Roberson and David Lee remain as proven scoring threats.
Humphrey filled in admirably scoring-wise with 15 points in his first start this season, but did commit three turnovers against a swarming Florida State defense.
"I don't know if it's my job to fill Matt's role emotionally," Humphrey said. "He's still on the floor with us, and he still gives us great leadership from the bench. I just have to step up the way I play and just fill the role coach wants me to fill."
Humphrey overachieved as a freshman, when he rose from the last spot on the bench to a starter. Physically, he filled out, and it helped that he set a Florida freshman record by shooting 43.9 percent from 3-point range.
This year, the threes have been harder to come by. Humphrey is shooting 33 percent (13-39), in part because the reputation he created last season has resulted in more defensive attention.
"Last year, early on, I got some really good looks," Humphrey said. "Most of my shots were wide open. I know I still had some good looks this year that I just haven't knocked them down."
Humphrey showed signs of breaking out of his 3-point drought early against Florida State by sinking two straight, but finished 3-8 for the game.
"They've felt good most games," Humphrey said. "I've just been a little bit off. Even in warmups and stuff it's felt pretty good when I'm shooting the ball. I just have to keep shooting."
Florida coach Billy Donovan agreed. "I'll tell him when he's shooting too much," Donovan said. "We need him. That's what he does. Lee Humphrey is a very good 3-point shooter. Do what you do and do it well. Be aggressive. I have enough confidence in Lee that he'll take good shots and he'll make good decisions."
Defensively, Humphrey will face as difficult a test, matching up against Arkansas 6-foot-7 sophomore guard Ronnie Brewer. Brewer, who finished second in SEC freshman of the year voting, is leading Arkansas is scoring at 16.2 points per game.
More than likely, Florida freshman Corey Brewer will get the assignment to guard his namesake, with Humphrey taking on 6-5 forward Olu Famutimi. Either way, Humphrey goes in with a size disadvantage, which means he will likely get help off the bench from freshmen Taurean Green and Cornelius Ingram.
"We're going to need all of our guys," Donovan said. "It's not just going to be a case of Lee Humphrey replacing Matt Walsh. Taurean Green is going to have to contribute. Cornelius Ingram is going to have to contribute."

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