Dorian Finney-Smith is leading the Florida Gators

When Michael Frazier left school early last year, the Gators lost their leader.

Even though Frazier was hurt and off the court at times, he was the vocal leader the team turned to in big moments.

One of the first things Mike White did when he took the Florida job was push Dorian Finney-Smith to step into that role. He has been quiet in recent years, leading by his actions but often staying quiet in practices and team meetings. That has changed this offseason. 

“I know these guys in the locker room," Finney-Smith said. "I played on a good team and I played on a team that wasn’t very successful, so I kind of know how a good team looks and how a bad team looks. You’ve just got to come and take it day-by-day. You just have to work hard day by day. You can’t look ahead to the next year. You got to focus on today. Right now, that’s just getting gym.”

So that’s where Finney-Smith has lived. The senior has taken up residence in the Florida basketball facility this offseason, working with the coaches and helping the freshmen get accustomed to college basketball.

The team will lean on Finney-Smith this year on the floor. His decision to come back for his senior season gave the Gators a boost, and the fifth-year player brings valuable experience to the team’s huddle.

“Dorian's been our best player, and that was expected,” White said. “We're going to continue to challenge him to be more and more vocal and to lead. He's always led by example. He's a guy that the rest of our team looks up to, especially between the lines.

“He's been there and done that and played significant minutes on the Final Four team. He has put up big numbers at times in a very, very competitive league. Especially our new guys look to Dorian for that leadership.”

Finney-Smith had a decision to make during the offseason. No one would have blamed him if he decided to leave early after averaging 13.1 points and 6.2 rebounds last season, but the team’s 16-17 record didn’t set well with him. Finney-Smith said he came back to “finish what he started” and didn’t like the thought of leaving the program after a year where they missed the NCAA Tournament.

"It was big for him coming back,” junior point guard Kasey Hill said. “He's the oldest guy on the team. He's the leader of the team. We look up to him. It was really big for him to come back."

The return to Gainesville meant change for Finney-Smith. The new coaching staff required an adjustment from everyone, but the senior likes some of the changes White implemented. The new staff is more hands on with the Florida players, sometimes even working out on the court for them to see the correct way to do something.

The speed is also important. Florida will play fast this fall, and to prepare the players, White and his staff are running practices at a quick pace.

“We really haven’t put in any plays yet, so it’s been like really fast when you’re not playing with any plays,” Finney-Smith said. “We’re pressing. We’re getting up and down now. Guys are getting in great shape. We look good as a team so far.” 

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