The ‘757,’ that’s the area code and common name for a section of the state of Virginia, tucked away in the southeast corner. It encompasses Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton and Chesapeake to name a few notable cities. That’s where Florida forward Dorian Finney-Smith is from –Portsmouth to be exact.
“It’s a great area, a lot of shipyards,” Finney-Smith said. “A lot of great athletes come from that area. I love Virginia. I love the seventh suburb –that’s what we call it because it’s the seventh city. It’s the same area code.”
His college career began at Virginia Tech, just five hours away from home. After one season, the coach he originally committed to (Seth Greenberg) was gone. Finney-Smith followed suit and ended up in Gainesville, where he nearly signed out of high school before choosing Virginia Tech, giving Florida a boost in the front court in conjunction with fellow transfer Damontre Harris. Harris still hasn’t seen the court in a Florida uniform and won’t for the remainder of the season, but Finney-Smith has come on to provide Florida with a viable option as a sixth man that can be counted on. He averages 10.3 points per game but it’s on the glass where he makes a living (7.8 rebounds per game). He leads the team in rebounding per game despite starting only two games. For him, it’s all about giving the team a lift emotionally as well as in the box score.
“I try to come off the bench with lot of energy,” Finney-Smith said. “Try to change the game, affect the game any way I can. Even if I’m not hitting shots. Getting on the glass and playing defense. You know, get excited.”
He stresses urgency, never wanting to take a play off and staying aggressive on the offensive and defensive boards.
For a year the only place Finney-Smith could show that aggressiveness was in the practice gym, forced to sit out thanks to the NCAA bylaws. The inability to play in games is a situation that his younger teammate Chris Walker is all too familiar with. Fortunately for the 6-10 freshman, he will play Tuesday night against Missouri, but Finney-Smith spoke candidly about his first experience playing for the Gators after a full season of inactivity.
“The first game I played I was so excited,” he said. “But you also have to humble yourself, because you don’t want to come out there and deal with too much. Your focus is to play, but you just got to listen to the old guys —Patric (Young), Will (Yeguete) —they know a lot. Keep talking to them. They’re going to help you throughout the game.”
Tuesday night Florida will face its toughest test this season when the Missouri Tigers come to the O’Connell Center. The Tigers feature the SEC’s leading scorer in guard Jabari Brown (20.4 points per game) as well as the sixth leading scorer, guard Jordan Clarkson (18.9 ppg) and the conference’s 14th leading scorer another guard Earnest Ross (14.2 ppg). Those three are the top scoring trio Florida has faced in conference play this season. As a team, the Tigers rank fifth in the SEC in scoring at 75 points per game.
Finney-Smith thinks the Gators are up to the task of keeping the Tigers in check.
“I expect them to attack the whole game,” he said. “We’ve got to get back in transition. I know they got three talented guards that we’ve got to contain. Just got to come out there with a lot of energy as a team. It’s not just three guards. They don’t have just three guards. It’s our five against their five.”
And of course Finney-Smith coming off the bench as the sixth man, born and bred in the 757.
GAME NOTES: DeVon Walker, who missed the Texas A&M game with a hip pointer, is full go for Missouri … Casey Prather was held out of practice Sunday. He is expected to play but Billy Donovan said that Walker is further ahead in rehab … Prather leads the Gators in scoring at 16.2 per game … Michael Frazier has scored 65 points in the four games since going scoreless against Missouri … The Gators have held their last three opponents to 51 or fewer points and the last six to 301 total points (50.1 per game) … With a win, Billy Donovan has won 20 or more games for the 16th straight year, the third longest streak in the nation. Florida only had five 20-win seasons in school history prior to Donovan.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
MISSOURI (16-5, 5-3 SEC): Johnathan Williams (6-9, 223, FR); Ryan Rosburg (6-10, 250, SO); Jordan Clarkson (6-5, 193, RJR); Jabari Brown (6-5, 214 ,RJR); Earnest Ross (6-5, 228, RSR)
FLORIDA (19-2, 8-0 SEC): Will Yeguete (6-8, 230, SR); Casey Prather (6-6, 212, SR); Patric Young (6-9, 240, SR); Scottie Wilbekin (6-2, 176, SR); Michael Frazier (6-4, 199, SR)