Mid-September Florida Gators basketball Insider Notes

Practice has been underway for a couple of weeks and while access to practice is totally locked down for wise reasons, trusted sources have been communicating what they’re seeing in the four walls of the practice facility. Here are some insider notes from the last few weeks.

1) Tyree Appleby has pretty much locked up the starting point guard role.

This isn’t a major surprise, but there was a bit of question regarding who would take over the starting point guard role with the departure of Andrew Nembhard and looks like it’s almost certainly going to be Tyree Appleby. Anyone who saw practice the last season while he was redshirting spoke highly of Appleby’s talent, particularly as a scorer, and the last few weekends of practice have confirmed it.

If it wasn’t going to be Appleby it was likely to be sophomore Tre Mann, someone who people have been speaking of really highly, even if his game isn’t going to usurp the fourth-year veteran Appleby for the starting role. Additionally, Mann has the perfect skillset as a sixth-man and now standing at around 6’5” could give the Gators more length at the wing.

Appleby plays the game with a lot of pace and has the ability to improvise and go get a bucket on it’s own, something that the Gators have been lacking over the last couple of seasons. Which leads me to…

2) The Gators will try to be less structured offensively.

Mike White has been trying throughout his time at Florida to implement a free-flowing dribble drive offense that plays through concepts more than specific plays but it hasn’t fit his personnel. His recent teams have been more suited towards structure, something that led White and the Gators to play a variation of the Princeton offense which the team was able to use to good success last year.

Even though the Gators looked good with the Princeton offense, this year the Gators are determined to get back to a free-flowing offense. Tyree Appleby is the perfect point guard for this–a player that is electric off the dribble and a threat to score at all times. His ability to collapse defenses will set the tone for the offense that requires individual creation, and around him will be some pieces that also look poised for success with this style of offense with an improved Tre Mann and the addition of Anthony Duruji, Samson Ruzhentsev, and Niels Lane.

3) Samson Ruzhentsev is SERIOUSLY impressing.

Freshman Samson Ruzhentsev, a Russian who played his high school ball at a Gators-friendly institution in Hamilton Heights, has by all accounts looked incredible in his time in Gainesville.

For starters, his shooting has everyone ecstatic. Coach White even said in a press conference that he hits shots “like Noah Locke,” something that is pretty high praise considering Locke is one of the best shooters in the country. Plus, let’s remember that Ruzhentsev is 6’7” and elite shooting at his height is about as valuable as something you can have in the modern game.

Additionally, his ability as a driver has been praised. He’s got a tight handle for a taller wing, something that really helps him when attacking a closeout when defenders try to take away his lethal three-point stroke.

Ruzhentsev’s ability as an offensive weapon has people around the program saying that he will get on the floor and play a big role this season–it will be impossible to keep him off. Minutes are going to be tough to come by on a team that’s looking incredibly deep and considering Ruzhentsev will be competing with Keyontae Johnson, Scottie Lewis, and Anthony Duruji for minutes (and perhaps Noah Locke and Tre Mann, to a lesser extent) it’s tough to imagine exactly how he’ll get on the floor for long stretches but if he is demonstrated the scoring ability he possesses he’ll need to be out there.

Additionally, there is another player that might throw a wrench into what people’s expected lineups are.

4) Anthony Duruji will demand small-ball center minutes.

Another player that is really impressing is Louisiana Tech transfer Anthony Duruji, a hyper-athletic 6’7” wing that’s as explosive as they come and also someone that can put the ball on the floor and hit the open three. He is someone who people in practice have been talking about since he got to Gainesville a year ago, and many say he’ll be pushing for starter-level minutes this year.

Duruji’s best position could very well be the “4,” though that is a position currently locked down by Keyontae Johnson. There is a chance that Duruji pushes out Scottie Lewis at three for Johnson to play there while Duruji takes the four but what’s looking more likely is Duruji playing the five in a small-ball lineup.

White likes small ball lineups with players that can switch and that’s something the Gators would have if Duruji was at the five. Duruji is pretty muscular and has good length, something that should allow him to hang with a lot of SEC centers.

Playing Duruji at center would make for some really fun offensive lineups and could make up for any deficiency the Gators have with interior defense or rebounding.

5) Optimism for college basketball being played is definitely there.

There isn’t a clear idea of what the most likely idea is but there is definitely optimism around the program that college basketball will happen.

An SEC-only schedule is looking most likely, something that could be a lot of fun from a fan standpoint. Yes, non-conference games and particularly the tournaments can be a lot of fun but if it was an exclusively SEC slate that would mean every game is against a really good opponent and there wouldn’t be any of the typical cupcake games every high major team needs. Games would have great intensity, and from a viewer standpoint it really would be a lot of fun.

Those are some of the tidbits floating around the program and it’s a reminder that college basketball could come soon!

Eric Fawcett
Eric hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His blend of sports and comedy has landed his words on ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @Efawcett7.