Under normal circumstances, the struggles of guard Tre Mann would be a non-issue for a team with depth at both guard positions.
But, unlike most freshmen, the Gainesville native not only signed with his hometown university — he arrived on the Florida campus with a mountain of expectation, too.
Through eight games this season, Mann has yet to fully realize his potential on the court — although the Gators and coach Mike White have plenty of reasons to be cautiously optimistic rather than concerned.
“Yesterday he was pretty good. He’s got to be aggressive, got to be confident. He’s thinking a lot. He’s such a good natural scorer,” White said of Mann. “In his defense, we’ve got him playing three positions, and he’s a freshman, so that’s not always the best recipe. But we’re trying to provide him opportunity to steal minutes as the one, two and three — our two and three are interchangeable, but he’s got to learn all our spots and all of our actions from multiple positions.”
As it turns out, Mann’s current situation — a high-volume scorer in a reserve role — isn’t dissimilar to Noah Locke’s freshman campaign. Stuck behind established players at the two-guard position last season, Locke came off the bench in his first four games before usurping the slumping KeVaughn Allen in the starting lineup. Rather than grow discouraged at the reduction of scoring opportunities, Locke bided his time — and, most importantly, hit shots when it mattered.
In those first four contests last season, Locke went 7-for-17 from behind the 3-point line, giving UF a needed boost offensively. His start at UF was a far cry from that of Mann, who connected on just two of his 12 3-point attempts over the same span to begin his inaugural season of collegiate action.
Similar circumstances, although the results have yet to align. That hasn’t stopped Locke from providing Mann with a shoulder to lean on in the early going, however.
“I think I might talk to Tre Mann almost every day about my situation and his, and I tell him, whenever I see he’s down or feeling some type of way, I go and talk to him. It’s almost literally any time I see him looking down I go talk to him,” Locke said.“I just tell him ‘I was literally in this same exact situation as you’, and I tell him ‘Nothing ever is going to be given to you, nothing’s going to be easy for you and, like, something that you want, you’re going to have to go get and take it for yourself, you’re not just going to be in there and not really going as hard, thinking that something is going to happen’.”
A lesson better experienced rather than taught, perhaps, yet an important one nonetheless: in life, there’s usually someone else who wants the same thing, and they just might want it more than you do.
Often that can serve as a wake-up call, or at the very least an indication one must work harder than they did previously.
But when the light eventually does turn on, and the work ethic matches that of the will — well, Locke can relate to that, too.
“I just give him certain different tips of how Coach White wants things to go, just life things, I just try to help him as much as I can, because I know I was in that situation and I know exactly how I felt. I felt like the same exact way he was feeling,” said Locke, who set UF’s freshman 3-point record. “I had my father and my older brother come to me and talk to me, just keeping it real with me, just keeping it honest and telling me the things I had to do. Having them, it made me feel that much better and I’m just trying to give Tre those things also, and I feel like it’s helping him. I feel like, especially yesterday, it helped him a lot, too.”
UF (6-2) plays at No. 24 Butler (8-0) at 12 p.m. Saturday on FOX.