Tuesday's Take: Free Scottie Lewis
Three blocks and two steals.
Freshman Scottie Lewis terrorized the Miami Hurricanes this past weekend in the Charleston Classic. His performance aided UF in a 78-58 victory over the in-state rival to advance and ultimately win the tournament in Charleston.
The stretch of three games in South Carolina were by far Florida's best games of the season, showing legitimate potential for the first time. Lewis showed flashes of why he was so highly recruited, ranking as the No. 7 player in the country.
Lewis is still raw on the offensive end. He is a streaky shooter and is sometimes all over the place. As he progresses and he polishes his dribbling and shooting touch, he is simply too athletic to not be sensational on that end of the floor.
But on defense? Lewis is an NBA player, right now.
He showed that against Miami, and he shows it in the eye test. His closing speed when players have a step on him, his quick hips and his bounce is nothing short of special.
So, what should Florida do with its phenom? What should coach Mike White do with his guard that wasn't even starting at the beginning of the year and occasionally is reckless offensively?
Just let him work and get the hell out of the way. This is a guy that will make mistakes early. He will make bad turnovers, he will have poor shooting nights like he did against Xavier when he shot at an abysmal 14 percent.
But he can't improve on that if he doesn't get tons of minutes. These are the types of growing pains you have to allow him to play through. Look at Kentucky every year. The Wildcats typically have a starting five of Scottie Lewis-caliber players.
And they make tons of mistakes early in the year. They do things like lose to Evansville, which UK did a few weeks ago. But coach John Calipari allows them to struggle through it. He allows them to make all of those mistakes and ultimately, he allows them to grow.
White has not been in this predicament before. He has not relied on a freshman phenom so far in his tenure at Florida. And honestly, with everything the Gators returned this season and with the arrival of Kerry Blackshear Jr., he doesn't necessarily have to, if he doesn't want to be elite.
But if he wants to cut the net in Nashville for the SEC Tournament? If he wants people like us to pick Florida to claim a national title when we fill out brackets in march? If he wants to perhaps make those brackets come true?
Free the freshman.
Championships in college basketball take special performances. They take somebody taking the top off of a team and just going off from time to time. The man for that job is the freshman from New Jersey. And ultimately, if you want Lewis to play like the lottery pick he could be, you have to let him work now. This is the time for development; This is the time for growth.