Exhibition game gives look at five newcomers

With 14:51 left in the game, Mike White made two substitutions. He subbed out Andrew Nembhard and Keyontae Johnson, bringing in Ques Glover and Omar Payne to join Scottie Lewis, Tre Mann, and Kerry Blackshear.

Not a single player on the floor was on the team a year ago and four of the five are true freshmen.

The 2019 Florida Gators are good. They didn’t have their best game on Tuesday night in an 89-71 exhibition win over Lynn but they will get better.

“There were a couple that were a little rusty tonight,” White said of the freshmen. “They may be great next week and struggle two weeks later. When they start playing like sophomores all of a sudden you’ve got really good freshmen.”

That’s the goal of the preseason. Florida held its first scrimmage a week ago and wrapped up the preseason Tuesday. They started practicing about a month ago and the effort is to get the freshmen, especially on this team where they will have a great impact, up to speed quickly.

Scottie Lewis prides himself on his defensive prowess. He says it’s what separated him and made him a McDonald’s All-American. He was matched up against Jordan Allen, who was a bucket machine. The redshirt junior poured in 35 points on 13-of-23 shooting (9-17 3pt).

“We allowed him to get going but then he hit some tough guarded shots,” White said.

Lewis was far more critical than his coach.

“He scored 35 points in 32 minutes,” Lewis said of Allen. “I take full responsibility for that as someone who feels they are the best defender on the team. I have to do better and step up for my teammates. I let my teammates down and I’ll say that repeatedly. I have to take more pride and more ownership.”

That certainly doesn’t sound like a freshman.

White knows that his team can be special but for them to live up to the expectations this club has they’ll need the newcomers to produce. On Tuesday they scored 35 — led by Tre Mann’s 13 — on 52% (12-23) shooting and pulled down 18 of the Gators’ 42 rebounds.

Blackshear got in on the action as well. The graduate transfer from Virginia Tech tallied a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) and drilled two three-pointers. Blackshear was the biggest transfer on the market this offseason and he showed why. He’s a physical force down low, set screens and is more than athletic enough to roll and strong enough to finish at the rim. Not to mention that he’s been working all summer on his range.
The new players were introduced to the O-Dome and the Rowdy Reptiles on Tuesday. It was exciting to see the crew together on the floor all at the same time but, to them, it’s not new. They’ve been working together for a while and in their minds, they’re all one team.

“It was exciting being out there with my teammates, all-new environment. The Rowdies were great,” Blackshear said. “The start of college basketball is here. I’m excited about that.”

Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC