“They’re proud people” – Florida Gators

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Three student fans in the lower bowl of Stegeman Coliseum on Saturday morning watched in amazement. The guy in the untucked Gator polo and the faded jeans on the court was losing 3 points after 3 points. The trio were so impressed, all dressed in Georgian clothing, that they collectively raised their hands and counted the consecutive marks out loud. Many times they needed both hands.

Four ! … Five! …Six! … Seven! …

“You should give this guy a uniform!” one shouted.

If only, right?

Turns out Lee Humphrey ran out of eligibility 15 years ago. Suffice to say, the former UF outstanding shooting guard has made the most of his collegiate experience. Onlookers seated in the seats were left gobsmacked when told the sniper on the floor was the all-time 3-point shooter in NCAA Tournament history and a member of the last team to win consecutive national championships. When he had thrown enough to sweat, Humphrey, 37 – who teamed up with Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Taurean Green to wear those 2006-07 NCAA crowns for coach Billy Donovan – went to take a seat at the midfield next door Mick Hubert and called the Gators victory over the Bulldogs.

“I think my favorite part is being as close to the action as possible without being a player or a coach,” said Humphrey, who scored 1,080 points and left UF as the program’s all-time leader in 3-point shooting percentage (.444), second all-time in all 3 marks and, most importantly, college basketball’s all-time leader with 46.1% shooting in 15 NCAA tournament games . “You can kind of relive your past life.”

This is Lee Humphrey Imugging in the front row with a few of his friends who teamed up for two really good Florida basketball seasons in 2006 and 2007.

Although Humphrey has called games for the past four seasons, this is technically his first as a full-time color analyst for Gator Radio Network broadcasts. He took a few turns as a rookie broadcaster in 2018-19 and 19-20, rotating with Mark Wise and Bill Koss. He was given the full-time green light for the 20-21 season, but most of those games were called remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions.

This season, Humphrey has been on the mic with Mick every game, with that run continuing Tuesday night when the Gators (18-11, 8-8) take on Vanderbilt (14-14, 6-10) on their regular-season road. final at the Memorial Coliseum.

[Read senior writer Chris Harry‘s “Pregame Stuff” setup here]

“I think Mick and I have developed pretty good chemistry,” Humphrey said. “I try to look at games now more from a holistic point of view, that of the coaches rather than as a player who is on the pitch and has to focus on so many things and be in tune with his role. As a broadcaster, I try to capture the atmosphere and flow of the game; look for the big picture and trends.”

 

How do you say “Humphrey” in Ukrainian? Like that.



Lately, Humphrey’s interest in those last two items – “the big picture and the trends” – has extended to certain events off the basketball court. When Humphrey, two-time SEC Athlete of the Year, graduated from UF in 2007, he embarked on a seven-year professional career overseas that took him to teams from eight different countries.

One of them was Ukraine.

In 2014, Humphrey was a member of BC Kyiv. It’s BC, like in “Basketball Club of”. He was one of three Americans on the team who traveled around the country and played in its biggest cities: Lviv, Odessa, Mykolaiv, Donetsk, Mariupol, to name a few.

Humphrey’s signed with the team in the summer of 2013, after stints in Greece, Poland, Germany and France. In time, his international career would take Humphrey to Hungary and Lithuania, but he loved Ukraine – its history, culture and beauty – best of all.

He and his wife Chelsea, then married for three years, moved into an apartment in central Kyiv, the nation’s capital, about a mile from Maiden Square, home of the then Ukrainian president and not far from parliament. At that time, the president was Viktor Yanukovych. It had been more than two decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, but Yanukovych was a pro-Russian leader who was pushing the country back in that direction, like Belarus, when the Ukrainian people were essentially divided 50-50 on their political allegiances. .

Half favored their sovereignty, and that half often publicized it in the form of civil unrest.

“I would say protest and revolution are in Ukraine’s DNA,” Humphrey said.

Ukrainian and American flags fly above a protest site near the Humphreys’ apartment.

This has been proven over the past week, but eight years ago dissent first surfaced in the form of protests, which were a constant in Kyiv. The Humphreys saw them every day, even hung out with a few and conversed with the locals. A giant barricade built by protesters has been a mainstay of the city’s main thoroughfare for months.

Sometimes Humphrey and his two American teammates would walk around the area. Rarely were they recognized as the local basketball stars.

“We weren’t exactly the Knicks,” he said.

In January 2014, anti-government protests turned violent in downtown Kyiv, with rioting on and off for two months, leaving 98 people dead and more than 15,000 injured, all within blocks of the apartment Humphrey. In late February, Yanukovych was ousted as president, with an election scheduled for May to choose his successor. In the meantime, Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken the aggressive step of annexing Crimea, a large strategic peninsula with access to the Black Sea and Sea of ​​Azov, and reclaiming it as part of his country. Ukraine elected Petro Poroshenko, who upon his inauguration sought to restore ties with Russia.

All this coincided with the separatist movements in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the east, on the border with Russia. It was the start of what helped pave the way for Putin’s invasion of the country last week and Ukraine’s brave resistance – for now – under elected President Volodymyr Zelensky. in 2019. The fighting and bloodshed is about to get worse.

Now living in Jacksonville, the Humphreys have three young children and have watched events unfold with a unique perspective. They are sad. They left pieces of their lives there. They left legacies there; Lee wore the homeland uniform and Chelsea as a tutor who taught English to professionals.

They feel bad for the people and for the place they once called home.

Lee and Chelsea Humphrey at a 2013 New Year’s Eve party in downtown Kyiv.

“It’s something we can’t even imagine with the life we ​​lead in the United States,” Humphrey said. “Ukraine is not a third world country, but it is a developing country trying to recover from the crushing blow of communism and the domination of the Soviet Union for all these years. proud people, with a strong heritage and culture. They want their freedom, their independence and a chance to thrive. It doesn’t surprise me that they haven’t backed down.”

Humphrey felt that perseverance eight years ago, firsthand, and tried to reciprocate, even if it was just by playing a game he loved.

“What the country was going through, I felt a connection,” Humphrey said. “I was playing basketball, but it was entertainment for the people there. I wanted to give it my all. I still feel something of that connection today.”

He can still shoot too.

About Kimberly Alley

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