White’s top recruit is already in UF program

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Florida guard Jalen Hudson drives past Arkansas' Anton Beard during the second half Friday of the quarterfinal game at the Southeastern Conference tournament in St. Louis. [Jeff Roberson/Associated Press]

Every time Florida basketball coach Mike White sees a graduate transfer player pick a new school, he flinches a little.

“We’re in a tough spot, because we can’t pull the trigger on anybody,” White said.

Not that he is complaining.

After all, he has a full roster of players ready for the next basketball season. That is, if guard Jalen Hudson decides to return.

Hudson declared for the NBA draft, but has not hired an agent, so he could decide to play one more year with the Gators.

And considering the success White has had with grad transfers Canyon Barry and Egor Koulechov, White has his eyes on potential replacements on the roster if Hudson chooses to turn pro.

“Our top recruit is Jalen,” White said. “I’m not about to tell him, ‘Why don’t you just go ahead and we’ll replace you.’ He’s working out here, working out with the guys he still considers his current teammates.

“I’d love to have him back, but if it’s in his best interest and his family’s best interest, I’m for it. He needs to take the feedback from the right people and that’s the NBA. We’re having some conversations (with players), but we may not have a scholarship.”

The good news for the Gators is that none of the players who were expected to return decided to bail out and try it somewhere else in this transfer world we live in.

And that was a bit of a surprise for White who is entering his fourth season as the Florida coach.

“We have a really good group of guys,” White said. “I thought, with a week left in the season, if you had asked me, ‘Will you have a guy transfer?’ Yeah, everybody has a guy transfer.

“I was a little bit surprised each one of our guys came in and when we talked to them about potential role next year not one batted an eye.”

Among the players who will be back is 6-foot-8 freshman Isaiah Stokes, who has continued to transform his body and is down 30 pounds since he stepped on campus.

“He looks like a different guy,” White said during his annual end-of-the-season meeting with the media Wednesday. “He’s working hard and feels better about himself.

“It’s a body-fat thing with him and all these guys. I don’t know what his ideal weight is and it may be an entire season before we find out.”

Stokes is one of the players Florida will need to step in as the Gators try to rectify a deficiency from this past season — the lack of an inside presence.

“I only would feel comfortable if we make a big jump,” White said. “If a game started tomorrow, it would be a deficiency of ours.”

There are numbers there, however, with Stokes, returning starter Kevarrius Hayes, Gorjok Gak and Chase Johnson back. Gak is out from four to six months after knee surgery and Johnson is still being handled with kid gloves because of two concussions last season.

Still, Florida has a chance to come at opponents with a dozen players next season. A lot depends on how this team progresses during the offseason.

“We have time so why not take advantage of it?” White said. “We’ll have substitutes for scoring and rebounding when you look at who we lost, but my main concern is consistency.

“At times we looked like a top-10 team (last season) and at times we looked like an NIT team. And the two guys we could count on for the most consistency (Koulechov and Chris Chiozza) are gone.”

After playing in six NCAA Tournament games over the last two years, White knows that the expectations remain high at UF, where championship seasons are considered a birthright.

Now that he has settled his staff with the hiring of assistant Armon Gates from Northwestern, the work toward the 2018-19 season started with a staff meeting Wednesday morning only hours after Gates flew to Gainesville on a midnight flight.

“The tradition of Florida was enticing and something I couldn’t pass up,” Gates said. “And also working with an amazing staff where everything is about, ‘WE.’

“I’m excited to join this family here.”

White? He’s just plain excited, especially with his best recruiting class on the way.

“It’s an exciting time,” White said. “I wish practice started tomorrow, I really do. I’m excited about what we could be.”

13 COMMENTS

  1. Well bf?!? I thought several players were going to transfer? And you also said that Stokes hadn’t lost any weight. 30 lbs sounds like he has! But none of your predictions were close the last month of the season, so why should your offseason be any better?

  2. I still think Hudson is going pro. Coach White is right though, it would be great if he decides to return because it would give them a proven scorer. I think he could improve his draft stock if he comes back and proves he can be a consistent night in night out scorer and improves his defense and free throw shooting. He left a lot of points on the floor due to his poor free throw average. I think he needs to get stronger too to be an effective two guard in the NBA. Either way you can’t blame the kid if he decides to go. Put yourself in his shoes. He can make good money as a pro in the NBA or overseas and that is his ultimate goal.

  3. ”At times we looked like a top-10 team (last season) and at times we looked like an NIT team…” -Best quote in story, and in fairness, the last 3 reg. season games were EXCEPTIONAL for U.F. B-ball and Coach White and his staff.
    ”White knows that the expectations remain high at UF, where championship seasons are considered a birthright.” -Worst quote of story. ‘”Come on, man” Really, Pat? You must be confusing U.F. with U.K.
    We want ”exceptional” b-ball, but championships in basketball a ”birthright”. Lighten up, Francis!

    • I happen to agree with Pat on the way fans think here. Have you read the comments on this site during the season. Very few fans are realistic with their expectations. They expect UF to compete for Championships every year. Nobody comments that it’s ok to when we lose. Nobody wins miserably more than Gator fans.

        • The thing is, the prototypical center just isn’t a recipe for success. I checked Villanova’s roster: not a single player of 6’10” or taller. Heck, Dmitri Hill and Udonis Haslem were solid back to the basket players, even though neither was anything like what would be expected physically from a center. And if muscle and suze mattered, Noah would’ve backed up Chris Richard. Winning, the only thing that matters, isn’t necessarily about filling up a roster checklist. What I’ve grown to admire about White’s (and Donovan’s, too) teams is the versatility of so many players and their buy-in on playing as a team.

          • You are right on NWIA TB. The NBA game has also evolved. Just don’t see too many dominating true centers like Shaq or if you are really old like me (Kareem Abdul Jabar) anymore. Guys like them could force defenses to change the way they defended by forcing double teams, but the speed of the game is so much faster now big guys like that can sometimes be a detriment because they cannot defend the stretch four guys you so often see now.

  4. I guess I may be in the minority, I hope not, but I think UF’s expectations should match that of UK and any other top basketball school. How else will we compete for championships. I will always expect the UAA to provide the best facilities and best coaching staff to make Florida Basketball second to none. It isn’t second to none. Go Florida Basketball! Go Gators!