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Peep's intentions purely to play ball

Despite criticism, Anthony "Peep" Roberson says his focus is only to beat Kentucky.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH
Published March 6, 2005


GAINESVILLE - Anthony Roberson has heard the criticism. The talented Florida guard knows there are those who believe he's a selfish player, a guy who shoots too much and only worries about himself.

There were times not so long ago when he worried about it all. He wanted to be liked by everyone, respected as a player who's not afraid to take the game into his hands and who will do anything to help his team win.

Not anymore.

The 22-year-old Roberson has grown up and come to terms with the fact you can't please all the people all the time. And the Gators are the benefactors.

No longer worrying about outside forces, Roberson said he has felt more confident than ever to play his game. He has the stats to prove it.

The junior with the phenomenal 3-point range is averaging an SEC-leading 18.5 points (20.7 in SEC games). If Roberson can finish the season on top, he would become the third player in Florida history, and first since 1982, to win the league scoring title.

As the Gators prepare for their regular-season finale today, he insists his mind is focused only on finding a way to win against a Kentucky team he never has beaten. But if somehow he's atop the league standings in the end?

"It would mean a lot," Roberson said. "I think coming out of high school and into college you always want to have a great college career, that's what you tell yourself. For me to be sitting here talking about the scoring title, I can't say that it's not something I'd love to have. In two decades nobody's had it, so it would be a great accomplishment for me."

Nicknamed "Peep" by his grandmother, Roberson broke into the league three years ago and quickly made a name for himself, earning SEC Freshman of the Year honors. He has been at his best this season, scoring 15 or more in 17 consecutive games. He never met a shot he didn't believe he could make. But for those who criticize, consider this: During his career, when Roberson hits four or more 3-pointers, Florida is 27-5. The Gators are 22-8 in his 30 games with 20 or more points. He also is a career 85.7 percent free-throw shooter.

"There are certain guys who go out there to get shots because they are selfish and they have an agenda, but that's not Peep," junior guard Matt Walsh said. "Peep wants to win so bad sometimes he takes shots that may not be the best shots, but he wants to win so bad he thinks that's the best thing for the team. I think that's why he gets misunderstood maybe because of how many shot attempts he takes. But he's not selfish, I assure you."

He's tied for 13th on UF's all-time scoring list with 1,426 points. Coach Billy Donovan bristles at the criticism..

"As long as Anthony is taking good shots, we need him to be aggressive offensively and to try and score," Donovan said. "Roberson is a great player, a great kid and he's done everything I've asked him to do. I wish more people would ask me what it's like to coach him rather than criticizing his playing style."

The criticism is coming with less frequency these days.

"I think the one thing Roberson has done is he's been more of a leader," ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. "He's taken better shots. ... When they take good shots, they are really hard to beat."

If you listen to his teammates, it's about more than his shooting ability.

"His consistency has been great," senior forward David Lee said. "He hasn't had many nights where he's missed 10 or 15 shots, like he may have last year. But his defense and leadership have definitely gotten better. You can tell he's really grown up as far as giving intensity all the time on defense and as far as getting guys pumped up and ready to go."

The questions already have begun about Roberson's future. He pondered leaving early last season for the NBA and with the success he's having, he'll likely consider it again. He said he's not sure if this is his last game at the O'Connell Center, but he'll play like it is no matter what. And that scoring title?

"You know, when I leave here I would love to be remembered for something," he said. "When you're remembered for the scoring title, or anything in Florida history, you can't do anything but appreciate it and be happy about it."