It’s expected for a team to start practice in the fall with excitement, but that emotion can only carry players through practice for so long. The Gators are now in the middle of preseason practices. The anticipation of the new season is long gone, but the eagerness for the season opener is still at least a week away.
The Gators are stuck in the middle right now with nothing to do but get stronger mentally to push through it.
It showed for the first time in practice on Wednesday. The Florida players looked like their legs were heavy, and they weren’t as sharp mentally as Florida coach Mike White saw them be in the early parts of practice.
“That the freshness can wear off,” White said before the Gators practiced on Thursday. “You have to dig a little deeper and continue doing those hard things you don’t necessarily like doing -- transition defense, blocking out, all the dirty work. We’ll get back at that. Defensively, that’s what we’ve spent more time on than anything. We’ve made strides. Yesterday wasn’t our best day, but hopefully we can make a big jump. We’re definitely a work in progress offensively.”
The Florida players agreed with White that Wednesday was a struggle and the group needed work. With a roster that’s leaning on multiple younger players and players in bigger roles for the first time at Florida, it’s not a surprise that they would need some time adjusting.
Redshirt freshman guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez wasn’t on the court when the Gators opened practice last season because of academic issues from high school. He didn’t go through preseason practices with Florida, but he agreed the Gators have to find a way to push through their recent fatigue issues.
"The first week of practice was really fun because everybody was excited about it,” Francis-Ramirez said. “But now everybody, our bodies are tired. We’re fatigued a little bit. We’ve got to push through it. When your tired you forget, you don’t know, you get lazy. That’s one of the things were trying to work on, trying to get better at."
The biggest thing White has learned about his team this preseason is that the depth on the team is where it needs to be. He sees a team that has at least three players at each position and should allow the team to press when needed but still keep players fresh for late in the second half.
As the Gators play more players, they’re continuing to work on communication. It’s something White and the new Florida staff has needed to push to the players. It’s not so much how frequently the players talk -- although that needs some work, too -- but more focused on how loud the players can be. White knows the Gators will be face some hostile environments this season, and with multiple soft-spoken players on the roster, they’ll have to be loud enough for teammates to hear on the floor.
Two of the most vocal players on the team are newcomers -- Francis-Ramirez and center John Egbunu, the loudest player on the team. It’s some of the returners that need to be more vocal.
“Dorian (Finney-Smith) as a fifth-year senior has challenged himself to become more vocal, to not only lead by example but to call guys out who need to be called out and get guys in the right positions at the right times,” White said. “We’ve challenged the point guards. Both of those guys aren’t extremely extroverted in Kasey and Chris, but they both know the game and they need to direct traffic at a high level. Overall, we need to do it by committee, communicate at a high level.”