After leading the team in both scoring and rebounding this season, Florida redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith was thought to be considering the possibility of passing up his final season of eligibility. Thursday it was announced by the school that Finney-Smith has decided to return to Gainesville for his final year of eligibility, giving the Gators some experience in the front court.
“I feel like we’ll have a great team coming back and we’re going to do what it takes to lift the program back and play basketball the Florida culture way,” Finney-Smith said according to the school. “I got better, but it was a learning experience being a leader. Now, I’m anxious to build on everything I learned.”
Finney-Smith, a second team All-SEC selection, averaged 13.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game for the Gators this season. Florida’s 16-17 record was their first losing season since 1997-98, and issues such as depth and inconsistency were present throughout. Florida adds USF transfer John Egbunu to the front court rotation next season, and they also have big men Noah Dickerson and Kevarrius Hayes as players who have signed a national letter of intent.
In total Florida has four commitments in the Class of 2015, with guard KeVaughn Allen and forward Keith Stone being the others. Among the other returnees Florida should have are rising juniors Kasey Hill and Chris Walker, with Michael Frazier II having already decided to enter the 2015 NBA Draft.
After being suspended three games for a violation of team rules, Florida redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith has been reinstated ahead of the team’s game against Tennessee on Saturday. Head coach Billy Donovan announced the news Friday afternoon in his press conference ahead of Saturday’s game.
Florida went 1-2 in the three games Finney-Smith missed, with the lone win coming at home against Vanderbilt February 18. Finney-Smith is currently averaging 12.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game this season, and for a team that has struggled offensively all season his return should help Florida moving forward.
And while Donovan did say that Finney-Smith has taken care of what he needed to in order to return, there’s still the need for the junior to step forward in the commitment department.
“He’s taken care of all his responsibilities and everything we’ve asked him to do,” Donovan said Friday. “I still feel like he needs to understand that when it comes to some of the choices he’s made there are other people affected by it. From my perspective, he’s got to earn back some trust from our team and show a higher level of commitment, especially being an older guy.”
Florida, which is 13-15 on the season, needs to finish strong in order to be considered for a Postseason NIT berth. The Gators have struggled with inconsistency throughout the season, one that they entered with hopes of challenging Kentucky for SEC supremacy.
Having lost seven of their last nine games ahead of Wednesday’s matchup with Vanderbilt, the last thing Florida needed was another personnel issue. However that’s exactly what head coach Billy Donovan has to deal with, as it was announced Wednesday afternoon that redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules.
Finney-Smith, who has started 20 of the 23 games he’s played in this season, is averaging 12.9 points and a team-best 5.8 rebounds per game.
Without Finney-Smith, players such as Devin Robinson and Alex Murphy stand to see even more minutes against the Commodores, who can throw multiple interior options at Florida. Both players will need to be more productive than they were in the first meeting between the two teams, a 67-61 Vanderbilt victory February 3.
Robinson and Murphy combined to account for eight points and four rebounds, with Finney-Smith (four points, four rebounds) struggling as well.