Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Well-Seasoned Sophs; Florida's Roberson, Walsh Are a Year Older and Wiser as the Gators Open Tonight

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Well-Seasoned Sophs; Florida's Roberson, Walsh Are a Year Older and Wiser as the Gators Open Tonight

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael DiRocco, The Times-Union

GAINESVILLE -- Matt Walsh was exhausted. His body was bruised. His foot hurt. He was physically ill.

Anthony Roberson was sore all over. There wasn't anything that didn't ache.

Mentally, the two were just as worked over. They had trouble concentrating, and sometimes forgot assignments they had been completing all season.

That's exactly how they were supposed to feel at the end of Florida's 2002-03 basketball season. The college season is a grind, especially for two skinny freshmen who played nearly 30 minutes per game in a season that was nearly twice as long as their high school seasons.

They're also feeling exactly how they're supposed to feel at the beginning of the 2003-04 season, which starts against Montana State (2-0) at 7 p.m. today at the O'Connell Center: Older, wiser and better prepared.

"I was dead. My body was completely exhausted," Walsh said. "I was sick at the end of the year. My body completely broke down mentally and physically.

"This year, we know what to expect. We prepared our bodies better. My body feels so much better now at this point in the year. I feel so much fresher than I did even at this point last year."

Roberson said the same thing, a sign that the two may continue the trend of big-time players making big-time leaps from their freshmen to sophomore seasons in UF coach Billy Donovan's program.

That's what Mike Miller, the 2001 NBA Rookie of the Year, did. So did Udonis Haslem, who finished his career as the school's third all-time leading scorer. And Brett Nelson, Matt Bonner and David Lee -- three of the best players to have come through the program.

They all improved significantly in their second season, for the same reasons that Walsh and Roberson believe they're ready to make the jump. The transition from high school to college was tougher than it looked. There's more games, there's more offenses and defenses to learn, there's classwork, the play is much more physical and the players guarding them are better.

"There's nothing you can do as a freshman coming in," Walsh said. "You can't prepare any better than I could have."

Preparation is no substitute for experience, though.

"You come in as a freshman, and your body's not that mature," said Roberson, who will not play tonight because it's the final game of a three-game suspension he received for violating university rules. "You don't lift weights on a regular basis like we do here. Our bodies grew from last year. Our bodies took a lot of bumps and bruises last year.

"Now we know what to expect. That's the biggest thing that's going to help me so much. Last year, I was coming in with my eyes closed."

Even so, Roberson had a pretty good season. He was the Southeastern Conference's Freshman of the Year after averaging 12. …

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