“Reduce the noise.”
That’s the mantra flying around the Gators basketball team as the 2020-21 season approaches. Florida is marching to a very different tune compared to the hum of amplified expectations last season. The Gators were ranked No. 6 in the 2019 Associated Press preseason poll at this time a year ago.
Sophomore center Jason Jitoboh spoke to the media on Wednesday and highlighted the importance of just picking up the echo of the locker room.
“Last year, we were ranked sixth, preseason,” he said. “And there was a whole bunch of noise.”
Jitoboh said the team is distancing itself from the outside chatter this year. No outside hype. No outside criticism.
“Don’t let anybody outside of our circle tell us what we’re capable of,” he said.
Now, instead of snatching onto outside buzz and running with it on the fastbreak, the Gators are working on speed of another kind.
Sophomore guard Ques Glover said he and his teammates are flying up and down the hardwood during practice compared to last season.
“I feel like this team is much more athletic,” he said. “We’re gonna play fast. We’re gonna be getting up and down, pressing and stuff like that.”
Glover said the team won’t run as many plays this year, but instead focus on playing a fluid game of basketball for 40 minutes.
On top of speed and defense, Glover said the Gators are honing in on improving team conditioning and getting in game shape.
A new member of the Gators’ inner circle who has impressed teammates with stellar defense and infectious energy is junior transfer Osayi Osifo. The 6-foot-7 forward logged his first two seasons of eligibility at Eastern Florida State College.
Osifo didn’t pick up a basketball until four years ago, but the Bedworth Park, South Africa, native has quickly propelled himself to a Division 1 roster spot.
Sophomore forward Omar Payne gushed over his new teammate.
“He has a high-motor presence,” Payne said. “Osayi takes pride in his defense.”
Florida allowed 66 points per game during the 2019-20 season, but additions such as Osifo and junior transfer Colin Castleton have Florida believing that number can take a dip.
Florida’s first chance to showcase its improved defense and speed is a Nov. 25 matchup against Maine in the Basketball Hall of Fame Bubbleville. Until then, the Gators will do their best to reduce the noise.
Contact Dylan O'Shea at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @dylanoshea24.
Sophomore Jason Jitoboh at last year's game versus LSU. This season, the Gators are focused on development and shutting out white noise.