Mann competing for Gators starting point guard role

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
Tre Mann

Tre Mann’s decision to enter his name in the NBA draft raised a few eyebrows at the time, but it was all business as usual for the Gainesville native; he wasn’t trying to leave the program for another, despite what the rumor mill may have said otherwise, nor was he convinced his game was ready just yet for the professional stage. 

His sights set on Florida’s starting point guard role, Mann was simply gathering the information necessary to take his game to the next level in 2020-21. 

“The transferring thing never came to mind, I don’t know where that came from. I really just wanted to test the waters and see what I needed to work on for this year, see what I needed to improve on,” Mann said. “I talked to a couple of NBA teams, they told me what they wanted to see, so that’s basically all I wanted to do. And once I got that information I came back, and now I’m trying to apply it this year.”

After a preseason injury derailed his adjustment to the collegiate level, Mann improved enough by SEC play to be a consistent contributor in the backcourt for the Gators — although he never fully lived up to preseason hype for reasons not entirely on Mann, and he would finish the season shooting just 27.5 percent from behind the 3-point line. NBA scouts gave him clear, if not blunt, advice on where he should improve his game as a sophomore. 

“They told me my percentages have to go up from last year, which is obvious. They told me that they want to see me come off ball-screens more tight and play downhill, make plays out of the ball-screens,” Mann said. “And then they want to see me defend pretty well.”

Although the COVID-19 pandemic kept players away from the program, interrupting the typical development routine in the process, Mann still managed to find ways to improve his shooting. 

“I just got a lot of reps in over the little break we had,” Mann said. “My dad told me some stuff that I didn’t really notice. It’s basically just little stuff, like since I grew and got stronger, I really can’t shoot the same shot that I’ve been shooting my whole life, so he basically just told me that, so I’m working on that now.”

Early indications are it’s paying off. The program’s Twitter account posted a 36-second video Monday of Mann knocking down eight consecutive shots from long range, and rumblings coming out of camp say Mann has emerged as the frontrunner to win the starting point guard role over Tyree Appleby and Ques Glover, though UF coach Mike White admitted it’s changed almost daily through the early going. 

“It’s up to those guys, they're fighting it out. I can't tell you right now. I mean, we've had a couple of practices where, if we put the starting lineup on the whiteboard after practice it would have been Tre Mann who won the starting job that day,” said White. “And we've had a few where it’s been Jacques (Ques) Glover and we've had a few where it’s been Tyree Appleby. These last two, three practices, Tre Mann's been really good.”

It’s taken more of a team-first mindset, in addition to a familiarity with Florida’s offense, said Mann, and it’s required him to play more on the ball this season than he did as a freshman. 

“I just learned a lot from last year, learned a lot from Andrew (Nembhard),” Mann said. “I’m just more comfortable at the point guard spot now. I feel like I’m able to tell guys where to be because I know where I’m supposed to be and where they’re supposed to be, so that helps me out a lot. It’s been nice. The point guard spot is still up for grabs right now, so I’m just competing and trying to get that spot.”

Now standing at least an inch taller than he was during his senior year at The Villages — he’s now 6-foot-5 in basketball shoes, which he said helps to see more over the defense — Mann is not only vying to start for the Gators this season: he’s looking to live up to the five-star ranking in Florida’s more up-tempo offensive system. 

“Tre’s more of a playmaker point guard, he creates space for others,” said Gators forward Keyontae Johnson. “I feel like the up-tempo will help him a lot, because he has a lot of craft with his dribbles and everything, so pushing the ball up the court he might hit a side-step, create a lot of space and get his shots open as well, so I feel this is the type of speed he wants to play, and he’s been working all summer for it.”