When Ray Shipman came to UF in the summer of 2008, he had expectations of becoming the big man on campus. Shipman was Florida Mr. Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year in 2008 and came to UF surrounded by much hype. Like many other college students, his perception of what college life was like came from sensationalized depictions in movies and television.
“You watch movies, and girls are throwing themselves at you. It’s like that, but not to that extent,” the UF sophomore shooting guard said.
Shipman recently declared his intentions to transfer out of UF in hopes of more playing time, but his two years in Gainesville give an interesting look into what dating is like for an athlete at Florida.
In high school, Shipman never had a girlfriend, but he was no stranger to the company of the opposite sex. Coming to UF escalated Shipman’s womanizing to another level.
“When I first got up here, I was pretty bad,” he said. “Every girl wants to know who the new dude is on campus. Girls see an athlete who is tall and dresses nice, and they like that type of stuff. Most of the time, girls come to me.”
Shipman meets girls mainly through Facebook, where he says they’re often more open and comfortable, clocking in more than 60 female friend requests a day.
“If they fit the part, I would send them a message and see where that goes,” he said.
And Facebook wasn’t the only way Shipman was meeting girls. He was balancing texting anywhere between five to 10 girls at a time and lining up potential hookups via his teammates.
“A lot of the older players show you around. If my teammate is with a girl and it’s not really serious, they end up switching to me,” he said. “And now that I’m older, I introduce them to the new players. Some teammates of mine, some other athletes, they don’t really care [that girls hook up with other players]. That’s not my type. That’s nasty. But some freshman [players], they’ll hop right on it.”
The promiscuity of those groupies is a reason why Shipman is a big proponent of safe sex. He said not wearing a condom is “just stupid” with all the health risks that come along with casual sex, which can be just as common on the road.
“A girl will hit you up when they see you’re coming to town. They’ll try to come to your hotel room,” he said.
Nothing is out of bounds for some girls who Shipman said are only interested in one thing: sleeping with an athlete.
“There are girls that go out there for athletes. They do that intentionally,” he said. “Maybe it’s the crowd or the games.”
But the ladies who often hook up with Shipman’s teammates run the risk of becoming well-known inside those players’ social circles.
“Girls get reps,” he said. “Sometimes I feel sorry for girls because they don’t know it.”
And as an athlete gets more reps on the field of play, they deservedly get more attention as their skills elevate to higher levels. Shipman says that he can see the same correlation in his dating life.
”The Caucasian girls tend to notice the basketball players more,” he said. “The African-American girls don’t really know if you score or not,” Shipman said. “They go on the basis of ‘He’s an athlete. He’s attractive.’ But then the better you get, they start noticing. It’s a big difference.”
However, not all girls let things like points, rebounds or playing time stop them from their pursuits.
“Some girls don’t even care what you do, as along as you’re an athlete. They don’t care how many points you score,” he said.
Dating girls who are attracted mainly to fame and status is not without its repercussions. Shipman explained that girls becoming attached is a common problem.
“That’s been a really hard thing for me. You can tell when she is trying to get to that next step,” he said. “Usually I try not to get too attached. You’ve got to let the girl know that it’s not serious, that you don’t want to be tied down. They usually catch on.”
But not every girl takes rejection so easy. Shipman’s car has been vandalized four times since he came to UF.
Whether it was the difficulty of removing scratches on his car or just the maturity that comes with age, Shipman is no longer the philanderer that he was during his freshman year. Because of his escapades, he started to earn a bad reputation. He is now dating one girl exclusively, and it is quite serious.
“I got attached to the girl I’m with now. That caught me off guard,” he said.
Athletes like Shipman are often lionized for their on-field accomplishments and charged with the responsibility of being role models for the community. But what’s often forgotten is that they’re only kids. They’re teenagers just like the rest of the Student Body.
They’re playing the same game off the field as their fellow students — just with different rules.