Spending most of your season on the bench can be emotionally draining for athletes.
Freshman Kowacie Reeves averaged below 10-minutes of playtime this season. He witnessed season-changing moments from the bench, like the 30-foot heave from guard Tyree Appleby against Ohio State.
The season went on and time on the court trickled in, earning 24 minutes in the 87-62 victory over Stony Brook.
The Macon, Georgia, native maintained his patience while the Gators slipped to 9-5. His teammates knew he’d get his chance and told him to keep his hustle.
“(Teammates) just always believed and never gave up,” Reeves said. “They never doubted me. They always said, ‘Just keep your head down and work. Eventually, everything will fall into place.’”
Reeves impacted the Florida Gators offense from the moment his sneakers stepped foot on the hardwood on Jan. 12.
The freshman’s shot release is now smooth as butter, and he’s used it to shoot 54.5% from beyond the arc since getting the starting call.
Reeves is keeping his humility as the Gators prepare for a home tilt against the Vanderbilt Commodores. The Gators are in the bubble for the NCAA tournament, but Reeves feels that Florida is on the come up.
Head coach Mike White only speaks highly of Reeves regarding his attitude on and off the floor.
“Kowacie has got a high level of maturity beyond his years,” White said. He's been the same exact kid every day since he's been on campus.”
White had similar praise in a press conference on Tuesday, but also refers to Reeves having to earn more time on the court.
“He’s got a ways to go,” White said. “His future is really bright. If he continues to work and remains with his level of humility, which will be shocking if he doesn’t because he’s about as consistent, despite being the youngest.”
“I think we’re slowly but surely getting back to our same physicality, edge and competitiveness like we were in the beginning of the season,” Reeves said. “I think it's just good for us off the court as well. We’ll worry less about all the other outside stuff. We just focus on winning, staying together and trying to come up with wins.”
The team found a way to stick together Wednesday when Florida remarkably built a 14-0 run to climb back and topple Mississippi State 80-72.
Challenges continue to pile up for Florida, but Reeves and the team know to take it week by week.
“I try not to look too far in the future. I try to just focus on the present. If you just do what you’re supposed to do, everything should take care of itself,” Reeves said. “You got to take it one game at a time, as a team, and just be prepared to compete.”
Florida takes on the Vanderbilt Commodores inside the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Saturday afternoon. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. and will broadcast on SEC Network.
Contact Jesse Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352.