Battle of Humphreys launches SEC action


Published: Friday, January 6, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 6, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
When Florida plays at Georgia in its Southeastern Conference opener, the result could come down to a pair of Humphreys.
Lee Humphrey, Florida's starting shooting guard, ranks fourth in the NCAA in 3-point field goal accuracy, shooting 55.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Billy Humphrey, one of Georgia's first guards off the bench, ranks third for the Bulldogs (10-3) in scoring and already has earned Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week honors twice.
The two Humphreys will meet for the first time Saturday at Stegeman Coliseum, where No. 5 Florida (13-0) will look to extend its school-record best start to 14 straight wins.
"Georgia is a basketball team that's much improved from the 3-point line," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "There's no question that offensively they are a lot more explosive than they were a year ago."
The addition of freshman guards Mike Mercer and Humphrey have helped Georgia in that area. The Bulldogs are second in the SEC in 3-pointers made (98) and fourth in scoring offense (76.3 ppg).
"Our entire freshman class has added depth of talent to our team and our program," Georgia coach Dennis Felton said. "The biggest difference is that we have more players and more answers to put in the game."
Mercer and Humphrey both get considerable minutes off the Georgia bench behind returning starters Levi Stukes, Sundiata Gaines and Channing Toney. Humphrey, a 6-foot-2 guard from Dacula, Ga., leads Georgia in rebounding at 5.2 per game to go with his 11.1 points per game.
"He can shoot and pass and handle the ball," Felton said. "But what's been impressive so far has been his feel for the game, his poise, his instincts, his level of composure. You don't see that always with freshman."
That Humphrey ended up at Georgia was a result of some patience. Humphrey, Mercer and Louis Williams all played for the same Georgia AAU team, but Felton only had two scholarships available for the three players. Felton initially chose Mercer and Williams, but when Williams opted to declare for the NBA Draft, a scholarship opened up for Humphrey.
Felton had to wait and wonder if Humphrey would accept another scholarship offer.
"I was always concerned," Felton said. "We wanted him. He also wanted Georgia. That was the prevailing factor and it made it easier, but there were a few anxious moments."
The path was different for Lee Humphrey, who contemplated red-shirting his freshman year . He arrived from from Maryville, Tenn., looking more like a student manager than a Division I athlete.
But Humphrey displayed his shooting ability by sinking three straight 3-pointers in a December game against Eastern Kentucky and eventually worked his way into the starting lineup when Christian Drejer left midseason for a professional contract in Spain.
After shooting 37 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore, Humphrey has flourished in a starting role as a junior. Donovan recently declared Humphrey was as good a shooter as he's coached at Florida - a list that includes Mike Miller, Brett Nelson, Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson.
Donovan has been as pleased with Humphrey in his role backing up Taurean Green at point guard and his defensive ability.
"He's one of our most underrated defenders," Donovan said. "He's not the defender maybe Corey Brewer or Taurean Green is because of their speed and quickness, but he's very solid. I think that's an area for him that kind of goes unnoticed because he shoots the ball so well."
You can reach Kevin Brockway by calling 374-5054 or by e-mail at brockwk@gvillesun.com.

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