The Florida Gators basketball team is set to return to campus for a revamp period on Sunday, two weeks after that they're set to begin on-court activities, the first time the team will be together in person since the coronavirus pandemic shut everything down back in March.
Florida will be down a couple of starters from last season with power forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. graduating and point guard Andrew Nembhard transferring to Gonzaga. They will, however, be returning plenty of important pieces to the team including Tre Mann who initially declared for the draft before announcing his return earlier this month.
Due to the changes in the lineup and overall adjustments the team will undergo heading into next season, head coach Mike White feels the changes could be for the better, allowing the Gators to play much faster with the players they have on the floor, something he is looking forward to considering the overall athleticism and speed on the current roster.
"Playing fast is really, in my DNA," White told reporters this week. "It's what I want to do, it's what our guys want to do, I know it's what fans want to see as well. At the end of the day, you've got to do the best with what you got. We've been able to attract some really good players here that have all been a little bit different.
"Going into this season. I feel like for the first time in a while, we'll have really a high level of speed quickness and athleticism and Bronco roster, and I think it will be very deep."
With the speed and athleticism of players such as Mann, Scottie Lewis and Keyontae Johnson, the Gators will be able to press much more than they did last season. Instead of playing a half-court play style in an effort to slow down the tempo of the game, the Gators can finally play to their strengths as a "run-the-floor" style team in 2020-21.
White says the team will have the mindset of being an "aggressive" team, something fans should be excited about heading into the next season.
While the team has benefitted greatly from a team-bonding and chemistry perspective through Zoom meetings over the past several months away from the facility, the monotonous and repetitive nature of the meetings has led to White canceling meetings last week to give the players a break prior to reporting back to the facility.
"I think these guys have grown a little bit we've had a lot of really good conversation, positive communication, high level of openness, and again, a pretty consistent approach to communication to the zooms and phone calls and texts," White said. "And if you listen to the guys, they'll tell you that they've been working their butts off, but they've all been on their own routines at home."
While White doesn't know for sure, Mann appeared to announce that he's jumped from 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-6 over the quarantine period away from the team.
"I didn't see that, I hope he's (6-foot-6)," White said with a laugh. "But, he was really good at (6-foot-2), he'll definitely have a chance to compete at that spot (point guard) for sure with a couple of the other guys. But, Tre's versatile of course, he can play on the ball, off the ball. He's a talented kid, and we're glad that we'll have an opportunity to work with him for another year."
Mann is currently listed at 6-foot-4 according to the Florida Gators basketball roster on their website.
Last season, Mann averaged 17.8 minutes per game and averaged 5.3 points per game with a field goal percentage of 35.6%, playing in 29 games, starting four. With Nembhard transferring, the Gators will be in need of a new full-time starter at point guard, and Mann should have an inside track to the spot heading into this year.
While collegiate sports are currently in limbo, White is still preparing his team as if it is business as usual - at least as much as possible.
"We just decided to stop (contemplating the season during COVID-19)," White said when asked if he thinks there will be a season this year. "Let's just be prepared. Let's assume that we're going to start on time and let's be positive and optimistic, and when we're ready to go - when the powers that be tell us if we can play, that we can practice that we can start workouts, whatever - we're going to be as prepared as any staff in the country."