Dorian Finney-Smith playing at an elite level for the Gators

Florida’s senior forward had to be told to be a leader to start the season. Now he leads by example and the others follow.

Whatever has woken up Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida head coach Mike White wants more of it. The dynamic scorer and rebounder for the Gators has been on an absolute tear since the start of the SEC schedule. Mike White said it is likely a matter of confidence growing in his oldest player.

“That word is probably the answer,” White said of the confidence that has grown in Finney-Smith since the start of the season. “It’s like the chicken and the egg. I don’t know what comes first or causes the other. But, he’s playing with some offensive and defensive swagger.”

As the only contributing senior at this point, Finney-Smith has assumed a leadership role that he wanted to even earlier in the year.

“If I had to put it on one thing it might be Dorian deciding it is his last go around, and in order for me to be more consistent in games, and to play at that level of intensity that the staff and my teammates are asking me to play with… every day in practice I have to play at that level.”

Finney-Smith has five double-doubles in the last seven games and has been the most consistent player on the team. White says his strong play comes from the way he prepares for games now and it’s been going on for quite a while.

“He’s gone from having three or four pretty good practices a week to having five or six really good practices a week,” White said. “That probably started 6-7 weeks ago where he made a commitment that any time he was between the lines leaving everything he had on the floor physically, getting out of that comfort zone.

“He’s in incredible shape and a lot of it has to do with him just pushing himself. He’s falling into a few more open jumpers and he is shooting the ball so well. He was a fourth handler for us on the floor for us the other day versus West Virginia’s press.  He gives you so much versatility offensively, as well as defensively. He is playing like an all-league guy right now.”

The leadership didn’t come easy for the soft spoken senior. The staff wanted him to be outspoken with his teammates and keep them in line. That worked a bit, but it seemed to take away from his game. They then switched up and told him to be himself and see if they follow. Things worked out well in that regard.

 “I talked with Dorian earlier in the summer,” White said. “I had fifty conversations about leading He was having them with me and with the other staff. That was the focus we had.  At some point during the season we said these guys are going to follow you regardless. You need to worry less about everything that you are saying to these guys and let’s get you worrying about you being the best player you can be. These guys will follow in line behind you.

“It’s funny, as he started really playing better, leading became more natural for him. He started talking even without really having to think about it. Nothing was plotted. He was walking around sticking his chest out a little bit and it became really natural for him. Anytime he opens up his mouth now, you have a lot of guys locked into what he’s saying.”

Florida hosts Arkansas Wednesday night at 7 p.m. Eastern in a game that will be televised live on the SEC Network.

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