As the most veteran and experienced member of the Florida Gators basketball team, Dorian Finney-Smith had a defined role in head coach Mike White’s program. He was expected to be a leader and a vocal one at that.
From the time White arrived in Gainesville, he made it clear what he expected of Finney-Smith.
Back in August of 2015, before the season began, White said of Dorian, “a guy that myself and my staff will look to for leadership and for a lot of communication.”
As the off-season progressed, White saw this communication coming from Doe-Doe, saying in November right before the first game, “[Dorian] is always doing the right things. He’s leading by example and he says the right things. Where Dorian has gotten a little bit better is calling guys out; freshmen who aren’t going quite as hard, or if he’s on a team in practice who is losing a drill or two he’s learning to be a little bit more positive.”
What White saw Doe-Doe gaining in communication though, he was losing on the court. So he went back to his senior leader/forward and told him to start focusing on the forward part, not the leader.
“We kinda got away from that, about three weeks ago, because I wanted Dorian just focused on Dorian,” explained White, adding “and worrying about things that we can control in terms of the things we just talked about, his intensity level, how hard he was playing. How well he defended. His motor. At what pace did he chase basketballs, offensively, defensively, on the glass, things like that.”
With this came a bit of humility, for White had admitted that this should have been his plan from the start, instead of pushing something on Finney-Smith that overtook basketball.
“It’s probably our fault, my fault as much as anyone, to fall into the trap where you put too much pressure on freshmen or you’re putting too much pressure on one of your players to do something that they’re not real comfortable with. Dorian’s been a great leader for us, but for me to put on Dorian that his number one focus should be leadership, I’m not sure that was in our best interest as a team or his best interest because we’ve got to have Dorian play really well. Some of these other guys need to worry about themselves and take care of themselves and not have Dorian babysit them so Dorian can worry about Dorian some.”
Babysitting went a step further for Finney-Smith who started to let his teammates games affect his own, instead of the other way around. This new — albeit old —role was a welcome one to the 6’8”, 220 lb. forward.
“It kind of like took a weight off my back,” admits Finney-Smith.
“I kind of was getting a little deflated when guys missed their assignment. It affects me, too. So he was just trying to tell me to focus on myself.”
Since this conversation between Mike White and Dorian Finney-Smith, the senior has seen a definite uptick in production, turning in three double doubles in the last four games.
In those same last four games, Doe has raised his points per game average from 13.1 to 13.6 while raising his rebounds per game average from 7.4 to 7.7.
This is thanks to an increase in minutes which White says turns around to even more production.
“I’ve been really proud of his effort these last three games,” says White. “He’s really played well. Some of it, is, also little factors, is foul trouble. He’s been on the floor more. But when he’s playing, and he’s not in foul trouble, and he’s playing well, we all know he’s going to play a lot of minutes, he’s probably going to lead us in minutes, which leads us to more opportunities to rebound the basketball. He’s playing hard and we need him to continue to play hard.”
Strangely by allowing Dorian to quiet down and focus on his game, it has caused an increase in his volume on the court; but this time, it’s organic.
“It’s funny as we’ve talked to Dorian less about leading, he has started to play better,” explains White, “and now he’s playing really well and you see him on the court in Oxford, chirping a lot to our other guys, leading. It’s just funny how those things work. It’s a little bit easier to lead when things are going really well for you and you’re playing well.”
Add Finney-Smith, “sometimes I’m still on the court and I still be out there probably talking the most but I ain’t got this image of how I want to be or nothing, I can just be myself.”
Dorian Finney-Smith will now continue to grow in his new role as the Florida Gators basketball team takes on Mississippi State on Tuesday the 19th. The game is set to tip at 7pm on ESPNU and as always join GatorCountry.com for full updates and coverage.