Each day, a practice clip appears on Florida junior guard Jalen Hudson’s iPad or smartphone.
The clips sent by Florida basketball assistant coaches Jordan Mincy and Darris Nichols are designed to show ways Hudson can improve as a defender.
“It’s been helping and I’ve been getting better,” Hudson said.
Hudson is one of the most gifted offensive players on UF’s roster, with a smooth shooting stroke and ability to score off the bounce. But how much Hudson plays for the Gators in the 2017-18 season will depend on how committed the 6-foot-6, 196-pound transfer is to playing on both ends of the floor.
“It will all depend on his buy-in, his attention to detail, his accountability defensively and on the glass,” Florida coach Mike White said.
Florida made a run to the Elite Eight last season with a team that ranked fifth in the nation in KenPom.com’s adjusted efficiency defensive ratings. The Gators held nine teams under 60 points last season and two teams under 50 points.
White is working to build the Gators into that kind of cohesive defensive unit again this season.
“Jalen knows that,” White said. “He’ll be the first to tell you that his offense is in front of his defense. That said, it’s not that his defense is horrible. He just, offensively, he’s really good. He’s very talented, and he’s working on that buy-in. He understands it.”
A Richmond, Va., native, Hudson displayed his scoring prowess in two seasons at Virginia Tech. As a freshman, Hudson scored a career-high 32 points in an ACC Tournament win over Wake Forest. As a sophomore, Hudson scored 20 or more points three times, against Princeton (28 points in an NIT game), Louisville (27) and North Carolina State (23). Overall, Hudson finished fourth on the Hokies in scoring at 8.4 points per game, but opted to leave at the end of the season due to inconsistent playing time under current VT coach Buzz Williams.
“The coach I originally signed to (James Johnson) got fired at Virginia Tech,” Hudson said. “And so, I had another coach that came in and it was just kind of awkward playing for a coach. I didn’t really develop a relationship with him at all, so it was just kind of different. After my second year, I just decided it was probably best to just find somewhere else.”
Last year, Hudson practiced with the Gators while sitting out games per Division I transfer rules. When Chris Chiozza hit the dramatic shot last March to lead Florida to a Sweet 16 win over Wisconsin, Hudson was on campus, watching on TV.
“It kind of got tough at one point, halfway through the season you are like, man I’m putting in all this work and I still can’t play,” Hudson said. “But it’s for a good cause and I anticipated it coming here, so it’s for a good reason.”
Hudson has the size and versatility to play three different positions — point guard, shooting guard and small forward. He’ll add depth to UF’s projected starting backcourt of Chiozza and KeVaughn Allen, while pushing graduate transfer forward Egor Koulechov for the starting job at small forward.
“I think I can help, 1-2-3, so we’ll just have to see where they need me,” Hudson said.
Hudson said he’s out to prove this fall he can contribute on both ends of the court and doesn’t regret his decision to leave his home state.
“It was all about the best fit and this is a great coaching staff, great guys here, great everything here,” Hudson said. “I haven’t seen any downfall to Florida yet, so I’m excited.”
[VT coach’s named has been corrected]