Coach Cameron Newbauer runs practices in the same manner he wants to run his in-game offense: fast. Players are expected to hustle to and from every exercise. On fast-break drills, ball handlers make one quick pass to the outside and position themselves for a potential rebound.
Nearly eight months after he was hired to replace ousted coach Amanda Butler, Newbauer is set to test his offensive game plan Saturday afternoon at 4 when the Gators take on Georgia State at the O’Connell Center. The former Belmont coach said he wants his players to shoot often and play up-tempo basketball.
What may not be as fast, according to Newbauer, is the speed at which his team learns the fundamentals on both offense and defense.
“I think it’s a process on both ends of the basketball court right now,” Newbauer said after two weeks of drills. “We’re just learning a lot about what we can and can’t do on each end.”
When the Gators take the court on Saturday, they will be just 40 days removed from their first practice.
One major test for the Gators on Saturday will be how well — and how often — they shoot from outside. Last season, Florida shot just 413 three-point field goals, putting it in 12th out of 14 SEC teams. Of those shots, UF made 26.9 percent, 13th in the conference.
In his final season at Belmont, Newbauer’s team put up 753 three-pointers and connected on 37.3 percent of them. Those figures would be good for first and second, respectively, in the SEC. Newbauer’s philosophy of “chucking it from the cheap seats,” will be up against a Georgia State team that allowed 31.3 percent of its opponents’ three-point attempts to be converted last season.
High-volume shooting allowed Newbauer’s Belmont squad to rack up 77.6 points per game in the 2016-17 season, which also would’ve been good for first in the SEC. Though Belmont’s competition may not be on the level of SEC defenses, Newbauer and the Gators do have until New Year’s Eve to tool around with their mechanics before their first conference matchup against Auburn. Newbauer’s starting lineup is also in question leading up to Saturday’s matchup against the Panthers. Redshirt senior guard Simone Westbrook, who suffered a season-ending injury last year but figured to be one of the leaders on this year’s Gators squad, is no longer with the team.
Transfers Funda Nakkasoglu and Paulina Hersler will probably play large roles in the offense. The pair of guards from Australia and Sweden, respectively, were named in early practices as two of Newbauer’s frontrunners to crack the starting lineup.
Last season’s SEC Freshman of the Year, Delicia Washington, has a chance to build on her first Gators campaign as a starter as well. She scored just over 11 points per game and put up the second most shot attempts for the Gators in her freshman season. Haley Lorenzen, the 6-foot-3 senior forward, will have to make up for the loss of Tyshara Fleming, who graduated following the 2016-17 season and was a big presence in the paint. Lorenzen might be up to the task though, as she was second on the team last year with 38 blocks and was also mentioned as one of Newbauer’s potential starters early in practice.
You can follow Morgan McMullen on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin, and contact him at email@example.com.