Eric Fawcett

Insider Notes From Florida’s “Secret Scrimmage”

For the first time this year the Gators were able to throw on jerseys and take on a different team–a “secret scrimmage” with Miami that took place in Gainesville over the weekend.

While the NCAA has been loosening up rules about “secret scrimmages” (they used to be just that, secret–teams weren’t allowed to say they happened and faced theoretical consequences if news about them came out, leading to plenty of ghost stories about secret scrimmgaes that did or didn’t take place) but still they aren’t events that media and fans are allowed to be at. However, there were still internal people from both programs that were at the event who were happy, under the veil of anonymity, to share what happened.

Last season the Gators played against North Carolina in a secret scrimmage and you may remember there being some conflicting reports about what happened cycling through social media and forums. For that reason, I did my best to find sources from both programs and luckily the stories I heard matched up perfectly, so we can have a pretty good idea of ​​what happened. Here are some quick-hitting notes on what happened between the Gators and Hurricanes.

It’s customary in these games to play four 10-minute quarters with the score resetting after every quarter, a formality that gives the losing team a chance to say “well, actually…” with a justification of the game continuing to reset. However, it’s easy to keep track of the cumulative score, and that’s really what these teams are playing for. Ultimately the Hurricanes won the game 81-77 in the cumulative score, something I heard from both sides (unlike the Florida-UNC game last year where I heard several wildly different outcomes).

Some context–Miami is 42nd in the preseason KenPom rankings and Florida is 35th, so this would be expected to be a close game. This is where I’ll note that Kyle Lofton didn’t play, and while he’s fully expected to be ready for the start of the season and has been practicing pretty much in full, the Gators didn’t want to risk injury in a scrimmage . Miami definitely has the edge in continuity over the Gators bringing back a lot more key pieces than Florida does, so they would have an advantage in the first “real” game of the season.

In Lofton’s place was Trey Bonham who showed shot creation and shot making that has some people thinking he’s going to push for a starting role this season. There were definitely some learning experiences, especially with him going head to head with a stellar veteran guard in Isaiah Wong, but he performed well offensively. Defensively he still has to grow, and that was the weak point of his game in the scrimmage.

In fact, defense was said to be the weaker side of the ball for Florida. That won’t make Todd Golden, a primarily defense mind, happy–but without Lofton (a proven defense stopper) and a team of mostly transfers playing a Miami team with a lot of offensive firepower it makes sense that the Hurricanes would be able to dictate things a bit with their offense as opposed to Florida being able to set the tone defensively.

One of the areas that Florida struggled with defensively was rebounding, something that’s awfully concerning given that the Gators were one of the worst defensive teams in the country last season. This is certainly something to watch when the season begins as Golden knows that defensive rebounding will be of paramount importance for this team.

Part of the reason that Florida struggled defensive rebounding was because Will Richard (listed at 6’5” some places, 6’4” others) played stretches at the power forward spot. This is where he played a bunch of his minutes at Belmont, though the Ohio Valley competition is very different from high-major competition. Richard actually had solid rebounding numbers while playing small-ball four, but that probably shouldn’t be expected if he plays a lot of minutes there against SEC (or in this case ACC) competition.

The defensive glass may have been a struggle but the offensive glass was a strength. Miami isn’t huge or athletic and while they were able to get second chance opportunities off the Gators, they struggled to keep Florida from getting second chances on the other side of the floor. Colin Castleton, Alex Fudge, Will Richard, Niels Lane, and Kowacie Reeves were apparently threats on the glass and it was one of Florida’s strengths on the day.

Perhaps I should feel bad for not even mentioning Colin Castleton up until this point, but he was said to be a monster in this game who actually sat for a long stretch in the second half (or perhaps didn’t play at all, according to one source) to allow Florida to get more new guys into the game. Maybe it didn’t seem as important to bring up right away because he’s just a master of consistency. He’s been a big-time producer for two straight years and it looks like once again you can pencil him in for a 15-20 point, 8-12 rebound, 2-4 block games every time Florida takes the floor.

Joining Castleton in the frontcourt is LSU transfer Alex Fudge who has been the presumed starter at the power forward position, something that we can probably come away from this game assuming–at least at this point. Defensively he was said to be extremely impactful and he was the player that gave Miami the biggest problem as an offensive rebounder. While it was all good on the defensive end and on the offensive glass, he noticeably struggled on offense and wasn’t always a threat. Fudge was known as an excellent scorer in high school but struggled to get anything going offensively in his freshman season at LSU and it sounds like he is still adjusting his game to the college level.

Something that Miami saw that they didn’t expect was a number of pick and roll possessions for Myreon Jones who apparently looked significantly better as a ball handler and playmaker than he did last year when his ball handling episodes could be an adventure. He was said to have played a mature, sound basketball game and he looked like a leader. Oh, and most importantly–he knocked down shots.

I saved the best for last here as I think the most exciting narrative from this game was the play of Kowacie Reeves who “looked like an NBA player.” He was noticeably bigger from a physical standpoint and his game was much more aggressive than what he was as a freshman. Yes, he knocked down shots–but it was his ability to drive the ball down the lane and finish which was most exciting and the the Hurricanes struggled to find a matchup for him. A lot of people were hoping for or even expecting a huge leap from him and if this scrimmage was any indication, one might have already come.

That’s all for now, but the Gators will have another secret scrimmage against Jacksonville where we will hear more.

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