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Shipman grows restless with defensive role

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Posted: Tuesday, March 3, 2009 12:00 am

The transition from high school to college hasn't been an easy one for Ray Shipman.

In just a few short months, the state of Florida's reigning Mr. Basketball has gone from offensive superstar to defensive role player.

Shipman is probably the Gators' best athlete, and on a team struggling to find a respectable vertical leap, UF coach Billy Donovan has used the freshman as the one player who can help his team match up physically with the bigger, quicker bodies of the Southeastern Conference.

"For Ray, understanding the impact he could make defensively and then understanding that on the offensive end of the floor he may not be a priority or an option. That's been the big learning curve," Donovan said.

The adjustment to his new role didn't come as fast as Shipman thought or hoped it would.

"I knew coming in, but I didn't know it would be like this," Shipman said. "I thought I would be able to get a little more into the offensive system."

The team has routinely relied on Shipman to slow down opponents' best offensive players. It's a role he has tried to use to his advantage.

"Do whatever you can do to get on the court," Shipman said. "You can't score on the bench. If you're out there, things are going to happen."

Though he has excelled as the team's defensive stopper, the 6-foot-5 forward wants people to know there's more to his game than steals and rebounds.

"I'm not just a defensive player," Shipman said. "It wasn't like that in high school. My offense is just as good."

Shipman is averaging 3.8 points per game this season and is often all but overlooked on offense.

"It's probably not totally fair for Ray in a lot of respects," Donovan said. "There is a change and a shift for a guy who was a leading scorer to this kind of role."

Shipman admits it can be frustrating at times but said he understands he can best help the team in other ways right now.

"I'm real impatient," Shipman said. "Going from 25 points (a game) in high school to getting two shots a game, there's been some sleepless nights."

Shipman has shown signs that he can be solid scoring options in recent weeks. His ability to attack the rim is a dimension that has been sorely missing from the Gators' offense this season.

Shipman followed up an athletic baseline drive and reverse layup late in the second half against Tennessee with a deep three in front of the UF bench on the following possession.

"My shots before haven't been confident. That was confident," Shipman said. "I felt like I was back in high school, like I was playing ball again."

Coaches have pointed to former UF swingman Corey Brewer as the blueprint for Shipman's development.

Brewer, like Shipman, was used primarily as a defensive specialist as a freshman before going on to become a starter and one of the nation's most dynamic players.

"They always use Corey and an example," Shipman said. "I'm tired of hearing Corey's name."

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