Forward Dorian Finney-Smith didn’t hold back, instead laughing out loud when ESPN anchor analyst Seth Greenburg referenced the 2014-2015 Florida Gators basketball season as “a good season”.
“Well I wouldn’t say it was a good year last year,” admitted Doe-Doe.
Finishing at 16-17, well under typical Florida basketball standards, he’s probably right; alas it is a new year and a new season which brings with it all of the excitement of Christmas time.
Finney-Smith was talking to Greenburg because of this, as he joined fellow senior teammate Alex Murphy and head coach Mike White at the Charlotte ESPNU/SEC Network campus for SEC Basketball Media Days.
The message in front of the cameras remained much the same as the message given the past couple of months by this new program.
Lots of great pieces, but still a work in progress. We’ll play fast, but first we’ll perfect our defense.
It’s a solid plan and one that the team seems to be sticking to under White. They’re listening to everything he says right now, in fact, and luckily for the guys, some of what he’s saying is familiar. Because despite the transition from longtime coach Billy Donovan to new young guy Mike White, Alex Murphy assures fans that the turnover hasn’t been as difficult as originally feared.
“Coach White’s a different person than Coach Donovan. He’s got his own personality, his own way of doing things,” says Murphy.
“To be honest their styles are probably more similar than different. But Coach White has done a great job since he’s come in so far. He’s installed some of his way but he’s also kept the Florida culture and the Florida basketball program and he’s maintained a lot of things we’ve had in the past.”
One thing that he is implementing on his own though is an upbeat tempo that has his team constantly on the move.
While White admits that in practice so far, they’ve mostly stayed away from offense while still working on defense, his reputation precedes him and this Florida Gators team knows what they’re getting into, especially with the new shorter 30 second play clock coming into play this season.
“The way we’ve practiced is fast,” says Murphy. “Coach White wants to get up and down; create offense with our defense and play at a very fast tempo so honestly I think the clock will help us. I don’t think it’ll give us any disadvantages or concern us with being able to run our offense or get shots off because we want to play fast.”
One guy that will help them do this by creating a formidable inside presence is big man John Egbunu.
Finally eligible to play after sitting out his required year after transferring from USF, Egbunu has made a massive impression in a short amount of time and it has his teammates itching to see what he can do during game time. When asked to identify one player that would break out this season, Finney-Smith jumped right to John, pointing out that big physical inside was something they missed last season.
“I think John Egbunu will have a great impact this year,” he says.
“He had a great summer, been working hard, plays with high intensity and very athletic.”
Mike White pointed out Egbunu as well during a play breakdown, saying his presence would create multiple new opportunities for them.
This play was called “Hand” and is one White and staff ran at Louisiana Tech.
Bringing it to the Florida Gators won’t be difficult says White, as he has the men he needs to run his offense.
On this particular play, he says he’d have Kasey Hill or Chris Chiozza in the 1 spot; Kevaughn Allen or Brandone Francis-Ramirez in the 2; Dorian Finney-Smith “our best player” in the 3; Egbunu in the 5 and “any number of guys” in the 4 spot.
Despite all of the returning talent White sees on his court, there is still a dark cloud hanging over the Stephen C. O’Connell Center thanks to a dismal previous season. Add that to a new head coach, and the Gators were picked to finish 6th in the SEC by the media.
We’re less than a month until tip off now, with the Gators racing swiftly to the court to play even faster and quickly prove to everyone that the Florida Gators are back on top.