Tempo And Ball Security Will Decide Starting Point Guard Role

“We’ve had a couple practices where if we put up the starting lineup on the whiteboard after practice it would have been Tre Mann who won the starting job that day.”

That was head coach Mike White on Wednesday talking about a topic everyone wants to know about–who will be starting the season at point guard. Though Mann was the first player to get recognition, he wasn’t the only mentioned as a victor from practice.

“We’ve had a few where it’s been Jacques Glover and we’ve had a few where it’s been Tyree Appleby.”

Lore of Tyree Appleby dominating practices during last season as a redshirt transfer had expectations high that he would be quarterbacking the starting unit but after a season where Mann worked his tail off in the gym and grew a couple of inches, it looks to be him.

Even though White made the comment regarding Mann winning some individual practices, he wasn’t quite ready to make the claim that he was the unquestioned starter.

“It’s up to those guys. They’re fighting it out.”

While it looks like Mann is the leader in the clubhouse, the role might end up going to the player that can thrive in the style White is looking for his team to play.

“We’d like to, as a team, again potentially, get out on the break a little bit more.”

That wasn’t the first time the fast break was alluded to by White, who had a rather bold proclamation earlier in the press conference.

“We’re gonna play faster, and our tempo–I think our increase in tempo will be amongst the national leaders.”

If the Gators were to get near the national leaders in tempo, that would be a monumental shift in pace considering the Gators were 237th in possession length. However, if he was suggesting that they could jump in tempo more than just about anyone in the country that is possible, given that they’re coming from pretty low in that metric.

Transition play being one of the deciding factors in who starts, if history is an indication, would be heavily in favor of Appleby. With Cleveland State Appleby was a terror in transition using his speed to pressure defenders to backpedal before using his lethal pull up game to hit threes. As an overall transition ball handler (combining his offense as well as his assists) he was in the 72nd percentile nationally at a robust 1.4 points per possession, a number made even more impressive by the fact it was on 163 possessions, or over five possessions per game.

For the record, the Gators had only 263 as a team last year. The entire team, combined.

Appleby ran 163 just on his own.

Florida’s transition issues last year weren’t about converting fast breaks, they were actually quite efficient at scoring when they did run, it was about generating them. Appleby has not only proven he can score and assist in transition, but he has proven he has the ability to create those opportunities.

Mann struggled a bit in transition, ranking in the 32nd percentile nationally. Looking through the tape there were times he demonstrated poor decision making in transition, but he was also the victim of occasionally pushing the ball on the break only to realize none of his teammates joined him and he was forced into tough situations.

Glover also was prone to bad decisions and turnovers on the break, something to be expected from a freshman. And you see, that’s the thing when it comes to evaluating Mann and Glover–they were freshmen. You can point to a bunch of numbers that show inadequate play at times, and the film shows just as much, but these aren’t going to be the same players in 2020-21 as they were in 2019-20.

Another element that will play into Coach White’s decision making regarding point guard play is ball security.

“Offensively, if you’re going to play fast you’ve got to slow down mentally. We’ve got to value the ball at a higher level. If we’re going to be a pressure team and play with a ton of energy when we get the basketball, we’ve got to calm down.”

That dovetailed off a comment earlier he made regarding his point guard’s assist to turnover ratio, a statistic White is a big fan of.

Once again, past history would be in Appleby’s favor with this one. His assist to turnover ratio of 1.6 is solid and is drastically better than Mann (0.6) and Glover (0.5) who both had drastically more turnovers than assists as freshmen.

This will be an interesting one to track because according to sources as much as Mann has been impressive in practice it hasn’t been his traditional point guard abilities. His talent at getting to the rim and finishing and hitting shots from deep has been what has turned heads but his passing hasn’t jumped off the page. Mann never demonstrated high level distribution ability, and it looks like that part of his game isn’t quite developed. Of course, if he is really scoring the ball at an elite level he doesn’t need to be a great passer but if he is anything short of tremendous as a scorer he’ll need to be able to put teammates in positions to score.

Point guard play has, and likely always will be one of the most important positions on a basketball team and for the first time since the combination of Kasey Hill and Chris Chiozza it looks like the Gators have multiple viable options. That speaks to the depth of this team and the competition for minutes could drive each player to be at the best of their abilities. We won’t know until November 25th against Maine who the starter will be but if this press conference was any indication it looks like Tre Mann is going to get the call, though savvy vet Tyree Appleby will be right behind him looking to get into the mix.

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.