University of Florida

This Florida Gators guard is hoping his struggles are over after his recent success

Florida guard Jalen Hudson (3) attempts a dunk against Tennessee on Feb. 9, 2019, in Knoxville, Tenn.
Florida guard Jalen Hudson (3) attempts a dunk against Tennessee on Feb. 9, 2019, in Knoxville, Tenn. AP

UF guard Jalen Hudson was the best player on the court at Monday’s practice.

According to Gators men’s basketball coach Mike White, his team, which has lost its last three contests, had its best practice in about a month. And no one on the court played better than the senior guard.

If this were last year, when Hudson led Florida in scoring with 15.5 points per game, that statement might not have held as much meaning. It would have been expected.

But given Hudson’s struggles during the 2018-19 campaign (he only averages 6.7 points this year), Monday’s practice might foreshadow a turnaround for the Richmond, Virginia, native.

“Some guys that aren’t playing much came to work and not sulk,” White said of Monday’s practice. “They came to get better and help their teammates get better. And we had several guys who had a good practice. That’s what we you have to have every day.”

Hudson’s offensive struggles have mirrored the Gators’ issues as a team this season. They score just 68.4 points per game, which is next to last in the SEC.

White has said that his team’s problems on the court stem from a culture issue and an apathetic mindset from too many guys on the team.

But Hudson’s drop off from last year has been one of the most puzzling storylines of the Gators’ program this season.

Hudson’s had a few games (against Florida Gulf Coast in December and Tennessee on Saturday) where he’s looked like that leading scorer from a year ago.

He scored 15 points in the Gators’ loss to Tennessee, which tied his season high, and he’s scored in double digits in two of the last three contests.

One of the things that has helped is that Hudson has used his 6-6 frame to drive to the hoop to make for easier baskets.

“That’s one of the things I can bring to the team,” he said of his ability to penetrate. “Obviously we don’t shoot a lot of free throws throughout our games at all, so that’s one of the things that I want to kind of help us with, getting to the line and getting in the bonus, and just kind of extending the game as well.”

Hudson said it has been a mixture of off-the-court and on-the-court issues that have contributed to his problems this year. But he said he’s tried to stay positive through the adversity.

“It’s been tough, you know what I’m saying,” Hudson said. “Some of these things you don’t expect, especially in your last year, but just trying to fight through it. Adversity is pretty much how you handle it. Just trying to fight. Just trying to work on the good days and the bad days.”

White has mentioned before that Hudson brings a tremendous amount of energy and aggression to practice. It has just been a matter of getting that to translate onto the court. His teammates have tried to encourage him in that way, urging him to play with the same confidence during the game that he has during practice.

And that seems to have been working as of late.

White said that Hudson played a good offensive game against the Volunteers because he was putting pressure on the defense and attacking instead of taking “bail-out shots.”

And the fourth-year UF coach added that he hopes Hudson will use that to gain more confidence in the future.

“When he’s playing well, he’s a very talented offensive player,” White said, “and we’ll continue to remind him of that, and hope that he continues to gain that confidence back that he played with last year.”

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