For the Florida Gators, it’s not about who starts—it’s about who finishes.
Many college basketball players would not want to be the sixth man, but at Florida, it’s become one of the best roles to have.
It started with Canyon Barry last season as he went on to be one of the Gators’ most valuable assets and eventually win SEC Sixth Man of the Year.
It looks as though junior guard Jalen Hudson has taken over the reins this season.
Mike White has toyed around with the starting lineup throughout the season, but he’s found one that works, and for the most part, ran with it. And that is one where Hudson comes off the bench.
Despite leading the team in scoring and shooting percentage with 16.5 points per game and a 47.6 field goal percentage (among players with 90 or more attempts) and being the most consistent high-volume three-point shooter at 41.7 percent, Hudson has started in just nine of Florida’s 19 games this season and come off the bench for seven of the last eight.
He is fourth on the team averaging 25.5 minutes per game, but many guys would still be bothered by not hearing their name called over the loud speaker before the game. It hasn’t fazed Hudson.
“I think when you’ve got character guys, it doesn’t become a big issue,” White said. “Jalen hasn’t allowed it to become an issue … I think it’s all overrated, and whether or not Jalen feels that way or not, he’s handling it the right way. He’s playing starters minutes. He’s finishing a lot of games. And if he continues to defend and rebound at a higher level, and if he continues to progress in those areas, he’s going to become a guy that’s harder and harder to take off the floor, whether he starts or not.”
For Hudson, it’s about taking advantage of every opportunity he gets, whether it’s from the tip or a couple minutes in.
“I just try to play my best whenever I do get in the game,” Hudson said. “Starting or not, I’m just going to try to play my best and bring my best effort. It’s been working so far, so I’m just going to continue doing that.”
Hudson has been a great addition for Florida, and he’s played a huge part in nearly every win this season.
His performances against Arkansas and Kentucky last week even earned him Co-SEC Player of the Week honors. He had 21 and nine rebounds in a blowout win over the Razorbacks, but really shined with 17 points, a couple of clutch baskets, five rebounds and the eventual game-winning block at Kentucky.
That play has been the focal point of a lot of controversy ever since, but Hudson replied, “No chance,” when asked if it was a foul.
Hudson’s defense has continually improved this season, but offense is always going to be where he is his most lethal.
While the rest of Florida’s shooters have often struggled to find their shots this season, Hudson seems to be the only one not struck by the curse. He’s had a couple games where he wasn’t at his best, but has still managed to score double figures in all but one game this season.
That’s been the difference in several games when players like KaVaughn Allen and Egor Koulechov were nowhere to be found.
“I’d say that opportunity is a big part of it,” Hudson said. “I’ve been shooting well and playing with a lot of confidence. Definitely Coach White has instilled a lot of confidence in me. Especially my teammates, as well. I’d say all of that together is probably just a big reason for my consistency.”
Whether Hudson remains the sixth man or returns to a starting spot, he will continue to be a key for the Gators throughout SEC play and into the post-season.