The reigning SEC Sixth Man of the Year, redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith has been a model of consistency for the Florida Gators over the last month.
Consider this: Finney-Smith is averaging team-highs of 16.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game since Dec. 8, all while hitting 56.0 percent of his field goals and 43.2 percent of his threes during that eight-game stretch.
Through the first half of Florida’s season, Finney-Smith is more accurate than sharp-shooting junior guard Michael Frazier II and simply more effective than anyone else on the Gators’ roster despite the fact that he missed two games and was severely limited in five others after suffering two hairline fractures in his non-shooting hand. He said after Saturday’s game that he feels close to 100 percent healthy.
“He has put together a stretch here where he has been a lot more consistent,” said head coach Billy Donovan on Monday. “Now, whether he can do that for the remainder of the season remains to be seen. He has never done it before, even for this amount of time where he has put together consistent games. That has not been his M.O. since he has been in college, and hopefully he has taken a step in the right direction to doing more of that.”
Donovan is right, of course. Finney-Smith was sporadically effective during the 2013-14 season despite his year-end honor. He rebounded at a high rate and moved the ball well but was neither an efficient shooter (.370 from the field, .293 from beyond the arc) nor ball-handler.
Finney-Smith’s shooting issues can be attributed to his occasional laziness with his shot form, according to Donovan.
“There are times when he doesn’t follow through, there are times when he’s a little off-balance and sometimes his legs aren’t under him. [I’m] trying to get him to be a consistent guy, in terms of his reps that he gets up to the basket, that it’s a good consistent rep where he shoots the ball in a fashion and in a way that gives [the ball] the best chance to go in,” he explained. “I think his focus to detail on that has been much better this year than it has been in the past, and it needs to continue. I think the one thing about Dorian is he is not a guy that takes a lot of bad shots. He’ll actually pass up some shots that you could see him taking for ball movement or player movement or getting someone else a shot, and I have always admired that about him, and I love that in him.”
Donovan also loves how Finney-Smith moves without the ball and can move it around the court to his teammates, noting that the transfer from Virginia Tech has a “very gifted basketball I.Q.,” which contributes to his versatility.
Finney-Smith is also a team-first player who tried to play that role so much during his first season with Florida that he worried more about whether he would fit in and play well than how many minutes he saw on the court.
“He is really about as ultimate of a team guy that I have ever coached and been around. He is very much more concerned about the team than himself,” Donovan explained. “He never wanted to hurt chemistry, and at times last year we needed him to do more. I am not so sure if he ever felt comfortable or that giving him more and doing more would have been the best thing for our team.
“He has always been a pass-first guy and an unselfish player. He has a good feel and knows how to play the game. I think this year, there has been more pressure placed on him from me to be a little more aggressive and to do more, and he has done that and I think that is the one encouraging part, at least so far.”
While Donovan is “hesitant to say” that Finney-Smith “has it all figured out,” due in large part to his need to prove that he can continue to be consistent on a practice-by-practice and game-by-game basis, there is no question that he is on the right track.
The Gators may only go so far as Finney-Smith takes them this season. At 2-0 in league play, Florida (9-6) is off to a nice start against its Southeastern Conference opponents but still has a long way to go to be legitimately considered for a spot in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
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