Humphrey enjoyed 'crazy' ride at Florida

Lee Humphrey was at Maryville High School recently for a Fellow of Christian Athletes gathering. Humphrey is big into the FCA. He's big into academics. And during his four-year career as a Florida Gator, the sharp-shooting guard was big on the basketball court.

Humphrey has been one of the SEC's best 3-point shooters over the past three seasons. And he set a record for most career treys (47) during the NCAA Tournament.

``It's been a pretty crazy ride for me,'' Humphrey said. ``Going to Florida, I never expected we'd win two national championships and I'd even have a chance to hold that record. It's pretty exciting.

``I think it's pretty cool to hold that record. For one thing, it means you played on a good team and won a lot of ballgames in the NCAA Tournament. It's also cool to know you had a big impact on the games.''

It was a storybook career for Lee Humphrey.

If only it had occurred 20 miles from his home in Maryville. If only it had occurred on the banks of Lake Loudon in Thompson-Boling Arena.

Humphrey grew up a Tennessee fan. He dreamed of playing for the Big Orange. But former UT coach Buzz Peterson opted to sign Dane Bradshaw, a point guard from Memphis, over the dead-eye Humphrey.

Peterson said an evaluator told him to get more players who came from a winning program. Peterson also told someone Bradshaw was a better shooter. Oops.

In retrospect, it was probably best for both parties that one ended up at Florida and the other at Tennessee. Humphrey wouldn't have beaten out Chris Lofton, who signed with Tennessee one year later. Bradshaw would have never played had he gone to Florida because there was no room for a 6-4 power forward when you had Joakim Noah, Chris Richard and Al Horford.

Humphrey said Florida began recruiting him his junior season at Maryville. Two Gator assistants came to visit in February of that year. The Gators were hot on his trail after he lit the nets during summer AAU competition.

Tennessee? The Vols never offered, Humphrey said.

Humphrey was disappointed. But he wasn't about to pass up a chance to play at a program like Florida.

Some knucklehead UT fans called Humphrey a traitor for signing with rival Florida and booed him when he returned to Knoxville for games.

How can you blame a player for signing with Florida when the local college doesn't offer?

That was UT's fault, not Humphrey's.

Humphrey had other offers. His second school of choice was Marquette. Stanford and West Virginia came in late.

But he couldn't pass up a chance to play for Billy Donovan in the SEC.

Interestingly, Humphrey never played that well against Tennessee, and the Vols beat the two-time national champions three of four meetings the last two seasons.

``I didn't really feel that much extra pressure,'' Humphrey said. ``I wanted to play well just because it was at home. I approached the game the same as other games. It seemed to work out that I didn't have my better games against Tennessee, but that's all right. Some games you're not the main guy. Some games you are.''

Humphrey was the main guy enough times during his Florida career – particularly in the NCAA Tournament – to endear himself to Gator fans, even though he wasn't nearly as highly regarded of a prospect as Noah, Horford, Richard or Taurean Green.

Humphrey compared the two national titles.

``My junior year, nobody had any expectations for us,'' he said. ``We didn't know what to expect from ourselves. We had a lot of confidence as a team. We knew we had some good talent but we were really going through a learning process and trying to build our identity as a team.

``This past year was different because of the media attention and the focus everybody put on us. Our biggest thing was focusing on being the best team we could become and take it day by day.''

In both seasons, Florida was mired in a February slump. But once postseason play began, the Gators played lights out. They have won 18 straight postseason games (six in the SEC tournament, 12 in the NCAA tournament).

``I've had a lot of people ask me which one was better,'' Humphrey said. ``I don't think either one was better. It's a different feeling winning when you're not expected to and winning when you're expected to. But the same level of excitement is there.''

Humphrey said his dream is to play in the NBA. If that doesn't happen, he'd like to play in Europe.

``I just want to keep playing wherever I am,'' he said.

Who would win a 3-point shooting contest: Humphrey or UT's Chris Lofton?

``I'm going to say Chris,'' the humble Humphrey said. ``I had a chance to hang out with him at an adidas camp in Atlanta this past summer and I was really impressed with him. He's a great guy and fun to be around. I'm really glad he's done well.''

Humphrey is also glad to see his favorite team as a youngster doing well.

``Tennessee has made really good strides,'' he said. ``They're a tough team. Anytime you play against them, you have to expect a tough game, especially the way they play. They play so helter skelter, you don't really know what's going to happen. You're on edge the whole time.''

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