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UF freshman Ray Shipman appears to be breaking out of his shell. Can he be the vocal leader the Gators need?

GAINESVILLE -- We here at Gator Clause hate to interrupt the non-stop bashing of the men's basketball team with good news, but that's what we're going to do in this blog post.

Rayvertical It's time to offer proof -- even now in what seems like the darkest of hours -- that there is in fact something positive to take away from Tennessee 79, Florida 75. It might seem fairly insignificant to some, but freshman forward Ray Shipman of Miami Monsignor Pace appears to be turning into a success story in his first season with the Gators (21-8, 8-6).

Shipman, the state of Florida's 2008 Mr. Basketball, played 20 minutes against Tennessee and had five points, including a three-pointer. He played with more confidence than he has shown all season and offered proof to those that might not be too familiar with his game that there is plenty of unlocked potential in his 6-4 frame.

"My shots before haven't been confident," Shipman said. "That [3-point] shot was confident basically because I have been shooting more in practice. I felt like I was back in high school just playing ball again."

Before we take a closer look at Shipman's development on the court, it would be silly of me to not first mention something even more important. Shipman is succeeding in the classroom. The guy is taking college very seriously. How many out there reading this blog post right now would have considered taking calculus during the your freshman basketball season in the Southeastern Conference? Well, Shipman is doing just that and he has a 3.5 GPA.

And, hey, the guy is not only smart but he's also down to earth. Shipman's favorite class this semester? "I like wildlife [sciences], that's my favorite class," Shipman said. A crip course -- now there's something I can relate to.

OK, back to hoops. Shipman has been excelling in practice, which is leading to more minutes on the court. He scored an SEC-high six points in 17 minutes against LSU last week. Not bad for a defensive specialist, right? Wrong.

Shipman met with the press on Monday -- another sign that he's getting a little more comfortable with his surroundings -- and wanted to make one thing perfectly clear. He can play defense, but he is pretty good at offense, too. He indicated on Monday that he's about to start showing it.

Rayhorizontal "I feel like I'm getting a little more comfortable with the offense," Shipman said. "Because I'm not just a defensive player. It wasn't like that in high school. I understand the offense a little more now and I can get into the system."

Here's something else to get excited about. Shipman has been quiet all season, playing his role as a good little freshman, but that seems like it's about to change as well.

"I'm real impatient," Shipman said. "There has been some sleepless nights but talking on the phone with my parents and talking with Coach Donovan ... It's not hard, going from 25 points in high school to two shots a game, but ... When we're winning I'm not going to say anything, but we're losing and now I'm mad."

Let me place that quote in the proper context so no one misinterprets it. Shipman isn't defiantly mad. He is resolutely mad. As in, this thing needs fixing and I'm not just going to stand here and keep my mouth shut.

Florida needs SOMEONE to get angry and be a confident vocal leader. Why not Shipman?



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