Notebook: Finney-Smith gaining confidence

The college game has brought out one key flaw in Dorian Finney-Smith's game. The Southeastern Conference's Sixth Man of the Year can be too hard on himself. It started two years ago at Virginia Tech and has continued at Florida this year. If he misses shots early in the game, it can impact his confidence and alter how much he influences the game. It's a daily struggle for the Florida sophomore.

He struggled through a stretch where he hit one of 23 three-point attempts, coming to an end with a 3-6 night from behind the arc on February 25 at Vanderbilt. Since the start of the Vanderbilt game when that tough-shooting stretch ended, Finney-Smith has shot 10-20 from behind the three-point line.

It all comes down to his confidence, something he has struggled with since making an immediate impact at Virginia Tech two years ago.

"He has a very difficult time getting out of it because I think he's so self-critical that he gets so down on himself, he beats himself up," Billy Donovan said. "He gets to a place where he loses energy, he loses emotion and he loses enthusiasm. He's got to learn how to work his way through and out of those situations better than he does."

It's a similar struggle to the one sophomore guard Michael Frazier dealt with early in the season. Donovan and the Florida players had to talk the guard out of passing up on open shots. The same had to happen with Finney-Smith when he was struggling from the arc.

Early in conference play, Donovan could tell what he would get from Finney-Smith within his first two shots. If they didn't go in or he turned the ball over, Donovan usually saw "a downward spiral" follow the mistakes.

"He's got to be mentally strong enough that when the first couple of possessions don't go his way that he still stays the course in trying to fight through some of that," Donovan said. "That's been our biggest challenge as a coaching staff with him."

The more he hears it from players and coaches, the more it makes a difference.

"My confidence level is higher than what it was because I've been knocking down shots," Dorian Finney-Smith said. But my team has been doing a great job, even when I wasn't making shots they just stayed on me. And when somebody stays on your back and your whole coaching staff and team's got confidence in you, it just boosts your confidence."

The message is starting to get through since the Vanderbilt game. However, when the shots don't fall the next time out, Donovan still isn't sure how Finney-Smith will respond. He has handled it well in the last four games, but the shots have also been going in at that point.

If the shots aren't falling in the NCAA Tournament, Donovan hopes his sophomore is mentally capable of handling it.

"There's going to come a game where he gets into the game and next thing you know his first couple shots don't go down," Donovan said. "He owes it to himself and he owes to our team to be able to pull himself out of that. We need to help him with that, but he's got to also take accountability, too."

YOUNG SETTING AN EXAMPLE: Since Patric Young came to Florida as a freshman, he wanted to be well rounded. His career on the floor of the O'Connell Center wasn't the only important thing to him. The Florida big man wanted to enjoy his time in college.

So he started to be active. He went to multiple different sporting events, cheering on other Florida teams. He went to club meetings, fraternity and sorority events and made himself constantly visible on the Florida campus. Other students came to love Young's infectious personality, and there was rarely a time he wasn't busy somewhere on campus.

And it's still that way today. One day after Florida beat LSU on March 1, Young spent the day after splitting time between the softball and baseball fields, watching Florida play.

"I think he, maybe more so than anybody that's ever been in this program has taken full advantage of everything on this campus and what it has to offer," Donovan said. "From school, to things going on, to Christian groups, to going to church on campus, to mentoring people - all sorts of things - he has taken full advantage. Full advantage of the academic support system here, full advantage of the weight room. He's been a consummate student athlete."

Matt Bonner was the only other name Donovan could come up with that rivaled the impact and activity Young showed at Florida.

"I think he represents what college athletics is all about," Donovan said. "His education is very, very important to him. Going to class is very important to him. He's very active on campus, he's very active in the community. He's got a great personality."

Donovan has been the first to admit that spending his last four years with Young and the rest of the senior class has helped him become a better person. That time together is exactly why Donovan feels like Young will be a successful person whenever his basketball career comes to an end.

"God forbid something should happen to Patric physically and he was not able to play basketball again, I have no doubt that he would be just as successful at anything he wanted to do because he's that kid that he's taken advantage of the opportunity that's been given to him," Donovan said.

HILL SETTLING IN: Freshman point guard Kasey Hill missed three games with a groin injury, and Donovan has seen growth through that time. It showed on Saturday against Kentucky.

After Scottie Wilbekin came out of the first half with two fouls and over 10 minutes, Donovan wasn't sure what would happen. He wanted Wilbekin to stay warm and ready to come back in the game if Kentucky stormed back, but then the opposite happened.

With Hill running the Florida offense, the lead ballooned from seven to 21 points at halftime.

"He was really, really impactful on that," Donovan said. "But this is hopefully a great lesson for him to be able to learn and take the next step he that he needs to take as a player and play more to that identity that he was on Saturday than maybe he has been in the past."

The challenge from the coaching staff this week is for Hill to build on that performance and not revert back to his passive form before the injury.

"The thing I was most pleased about was that he played with a motor, he had energy, he was tough, he mixed it up physically, he tried to defend," Donovan said. For a while there the only thing he was really giving our team was open floor speed. He was giving nothing else. And this was a game where I thought he mixed it up."


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