Tre Mann didn’t expect to spend two seasons at Florida. A McDonald’s All-American and consensus 5-star recruit in high school, Mann believed that he’d be in Gainesville for less than a year before moving on to the N.B.A.
Instead, Mann’s freshman season was a struggle. After starting the first four games, he missed the next two with a concussion. He was moved to the bench for the rest of the year, averaging just 5.2 points per game and posting a negative assist-to-turnover ratio. By the time the Gators’ season ended, Mann had come to see that getting to the N.B.A. was no guarantee.
Feeling down, he found a familiar source of inspiration: himself. He began watching his own YouTube highlights. “I’ve been making plays my whole life,” Mann said. “Getting buckets for myself, getting buckets for my teammates — that’s what I do.”
Last June, as Mann was training for his sophomore season, he tested positive for the coronavirus. For two weeks, he lost his sense of taste and smell, along with about most of the muscle he’d put on after the season. With Florida’s facilities closed because of the pandemic, Mann found an open gym an hour and a half from his house in Central Florida, and drove back and forth every day to get back into playing shape.
When he returned to campus in the fall, he was surprised to learn that not only had he regained all of the weight, but that he’d also grown two inches. “I was feeling taller in all kinds of ways,” he said. On the court, he became Florida’s primary playmaker, leading the team in points (16), assists (3.5) and win shares (3.3). He also secured the Gators’ first-round N.C.A.A. tournament win over Virginia Tech with a clutch step-back 3-pointer in overtime.
“When I tell N.B.A. teams about my freshman year now, I tell them it was a blessing,” he said. “I didn’t transfer. I didn’t run away. I faced adversity, and I fought through it. I know I’ll face even more challenges at the next level, but I’m ready for them.”