Cameron Newbauer spent the past six months preparing for Tuesday, but he still seemed shocked the day had finally arrived.
Speaking at the University of Florida women’s basketball team’s first media session of the 2017-18 season, the first-year Gators coach heaped praise on the team’s progression in the off-season despite the program overhaul.
However, with just six players returning with UF experience, Newbauer knows he won’t be the only one potentially experiencing growing pains before Florida opens the season Nov. 11 at home against Georgia State.
“Thankfully, we still have, after today, 28 more practices, because we are not ready,” Newbauer said. “I think our players are eager to get out there in front of the bright lights, but thankfully, it’s not tomorrow or today.”
But Newbauer did applaud the team’s unity throughout the transition from former UF coach Amanda Butler, whose decade-long tenure ended in March after finishing the 2016-17 season with a losing record despite a 9-4 mark heading into conference play. With all the remaining Gators, incoming transfers and signees having committed to play for a Butler-led program, the 39-year-old Newbauer knew the transition wouldn’t simply happen overnight.
“The first day it was a little anxious: good anxiety, bad anxiety, unknowns, not knowing what was going to happen, where we’re moving forward. Because anytime there’s change, it takes effort and it takes an open heart to welcome it and to move forward,” Newbauer said. “And so it took us some time, and once our players started to understand that we are who we say we are, once our staff was really in place and spent intentional time with these young ladies showing them what we’re about, who we are and how we’re going to conduct ourselves, once we showed them the model that they need to see and need to be, I think that made a big difference as well.”
The model Newbauer speaks of likely involves increasing Florida’s productivity on offense, which ranked No. 69 in the country last season with 70.1 points per game. Newbauer’s fourth season in Belmont, meanwhile, featured a three-point heavy offense that finished No. 13 in scoring. Belmont averaged 8.5 three-pointers a game last season en route to a 27-6 record, while the Gators shot on average of just 3.6 three-pointers a contest, good for second-to-last in the SEC.
In short, Newbauer aims to turn the Gators into a team looking to score from beyond the arc consistently, but the evolution won’t happen unless the team prioritizes the little things that go into college basketball.
“I’m a detail fanatic. The devil is in the details is what I believe, and if you don’t do the details, the devil is going to sneak up somewhere and get you for not taking notice of the details,” Newbauer said. “It’s everything, from picking up the trash in our locker room in our practice facility, to tucking in your jersey, to welcoming people in our gym with a handshake and looking them in the eye. Those details to me are first and foremost, the most important because that is who you’re and how you present yourself with the first impression. And our kids have bought into that.”