“I’m a laid back dude,” Dorian Finney-Smith admitted candidly as the Florida Gators forward began explaining his biggest challenge this year. As the veteran on a basketball team that returns few players with in-game experience from last year, the redshirt senior is tasked with taking up the mantle of leadership left behind by past household Gator names such as Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, and Michael Frazier II. The former transfer from Virginia Tech now in his third season of play for the Gators, Smith is challenging himself to “just be more vocal.”
Citing his laid back nature as a potential difficulty in making that goal a reality, Smith remarked that being vocal is what he needs to do to be more of a leader on the team. When asked what he’d learned from the leaders of the past Gator squads, he mentioned that the aforementioned Young “was vocal- him and Scottie. And also, they led by example.” Described by Coach White as “our best offensive player” and as “the guy who players look up to,” it appears that if Smith can take his own advice and increase his vocality, he will have all the tools to establish himself as the leader in this new era of Gators basketball.
Asked if he considered jumping to the NBA instead of playing his final year for the Gators, Smith told the host of media members “that’s one my dreams, to play in the NBA. You know, whenever you’ve got that opportunity, you just want to think about it. So I was just thinking about it.” He admitted that he had been on the fence about the situation, but said he decided the best decision was for him to come back.
Then came Coach Donovan’s shocking news that he was going to be the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Smith immediately took up the leadership role and called all of his teammates to make sure all of them were feeling alright after the news dropped. The day after Donovan’s announcement, he and Smith had a “very emotional” conversation over the phone in which the ex-Gator head coach reassured the senior that “they were going to find a great coach” that was going to help him with his dreams. “I trust Coach D,” the Florida forward said. And it’s clear to see that trust found its way over to new head coach Mike White.
Smith, like many of the other players on the roster, did not hide their excitement over the new coaching staff. Smith went on to talk about how the assembled staff is very hands on and involved on the court during practices. Mirroring the senior forward’s sentiments, Sophomore Forward Devin Robinson even went so far as to describe White as a “young Billy D.” That’s obviously exciting considering what the legendary ex-Florida coach was able to do in his nearly two decades as the head man of the basketball program.
When Smith was asked if there was anything in specific that helped him buy into Coach White and his staff quickly, he immediately mentioned their closeness. “They’re family guys,” Smith remarked, “and that’s what Florida’s about. You know, a family. One big happy family. And if we can play for each other on the court, we can be as good as anybody.”
While the Gators are taking a family-oriented, play each week for each other mentality, certainly the aspect of the new staff Smith has to be most hyped about is the newly installed, high-octane, offensive playbook. An aspect of the new game plan that Smith and others mentioned multiple times was potential for getting down the court and scoring the opposing team into submission. With the role of leader he has taken on, the up-tempo offense now installed, and a coaching staff that truly cares about their players, Dorian Finney-Smith should be able to easily surpass 1,000 career points and be the heart of this team that his teammates know he can be.