This is what junior small forward/ shooting guard Matt Walsh had to deal
with towards the end of 2003. Not just any little nagging injury, Donovan
said Walsh is suffering from tendonitis under the ball of his foot as
well as a bruised bone. This translated into Walsh having no skin or
calluses under left foot and a sock drenched in blood.
Despite the injury, the gritty Walsh led the team in both scoring and
rebounds with 17 points and six boards and scored 13 points and four
rebounds in the loss to Manhattan. A couple months later, Walsh is ready
to play ball.
In 2003 the orange and blue faithful noticed a team that just could not
defend the other teams go-to-guy. Kentucky’s Gerald Finch, Vanderbilt’s
Matt Freije and Mississippi State’s Timmy Bowers were just a few of the
guys that torched the Gators. The departure of Justin Hamilton never hurt
so badly. This off season Walsh, ever so talented offensively, has been
focusing on priming his defensive game under new assistant coach Larry
“He brings a whole different defensive concept and tie that in with Coach
Donovan’s aggressiveness and press, I think it’s going to be great,”
Walsh said. “We have at least one, maybe two individual workouts a week,
and I’ve never had an individual defensive work out since I’ve been
With Walsh bumping up his defensive game, this could equate to ever more
minutes for the gritty junior.
“Defense is a lot about effort. And just a mentality and I think they’re
trying to build that mentality,” he added. “Plus, we’re learning the
fundamentals and we’re going be more disruptive this year. I don’t think
it can do anything but help.”
One area that Walsh needs to key in on is being less disruptive at times
on the offensive side of the ball. The ever gifted passer and slasher,
Walsh became turnover prone at times in trying to do much with the ball
and having it skirt away from him or being tossed out of bounds. By
settling down on offense and improving his 16 points per game average, he
could be an even bigger force in 2004.
Walsh needs just 107 points to join the 1,000- point club. Combined with
David Lee (already a member) and Anthony Roberson (56 points shy), UF
could have three 1,000-point club members for the first time since
2001-2001 when Udonis Haslem, Matt Bonner and Brett Nelson accomplished
the feat. Not bad company to be in.
Providing a much different look to opposing teams at the small forward
slot, Mohamed Abukar’s 6 foot 10 inch body could provide some trouble for
match ups. In 2003 Abukar’s season was marred by a shoulder injury that
affected him much of the year. With off season shoulder surgery and
increasing his weight 20 lbs, Abukar should be in full form when 2004
Abukar’s tall frame gives the Gators a perfect fit at the small forward
spot with his ability to nail the open three. He will be looking to drive
more to the basket with his added bulk in 2004. The lone drawback to
having a guy his size play the small forward position is that he
struggles in defending quicker crafter guys.
Freshman Corey Brewer was a high school McDonald’s All-American who
averaged 30 points and 13 boards as a senior. A swingman at heart, Brewer
will play the small forward and shooting guard position as 2004.
Brewer can hit the shot from the outside, but perhaps is strongest feat
comes on the defensive side. He provides the Gators with a strong
defensive presence thanks to his gigantic wing span and his ability to
defend on the perimeter. While he is far from being bestowed with the
next Justin Hamilton title, I believe he along with Taurean Green will
have the biggest impact in 2004 from the freshman point of view.
Under the tutelage of Larry Shyatt, the 6 foot 8 inch Brewer could prove
to be the next great Gator defender. The combination of Walsh (6’6”),
Brewer (6’8”) and Abukar (6’10”) provides Florida with plenty of options
to go with in 2004 at the small forward position.
Thursday will take a look at the shooters at the one and two positions.