White: ‘I’m holding my breath’ Gators can stay healthy

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Mike White
Florida head basketball coach Mike White. [Lauren Bacho/The Gainesville Sun]

Every time a ball hits the floor and players follow it, Mike White winces a little bit.
The Florida basketball coach is expected to field his deepest of his four Florida teams this season, but after last year, when he lost most of his frontcourt to injuries, White is a little paranoid about injuries.
“I’m just hoping we can remain healthy until November,” White said Thursday during the SEC coaches’ summer teleconference. “I’m holding my breath every time there is a loose ball and guys are hitting the floor, every time there is a mosh pit under the basket and guys are fighting for a rebound.
“We’re trying to be creative in the longevity of practice and the physicality, but we also know we did very very little contact in last year’s preseason and feel like it backfired a little bit from a defensive and rebounding standpoint. So healthier today hopefully we are as healthy in a month and so on and so forth.”
So go hard but not too hard.
If the Gators can stay healthy, this will be a team that can come at you in waves. The Gators add three freshmen, including highly-touted guard Andrew Nembhard; Jalen Hudson chose to play his senior year rather than enter the NBA Draft; and both Chase Johnson and Isaiah Stokes are on the road back to playing.
Johnson missed almost all of last year with a pair of concussions and Stokes the entire season after knee surgery. Add in the physical limitations of Gorjak Gak, who has surgery in April, (not to mention missing John Egbunu the entire season) and Florida was hurting on the frontline.
“Stokes is cleared to play in the half court, and he has done a lot of competing,” White said. “He’s gotta get in much better condition. We’re hoping that by November, he’s a guy who can go through a two-hour practice.
“Chase Johnson is terrific physically. He’s ready to go. And Gak is working his butt off, and they are very optimistic he could perhaps be back a little quicker than expected, maybe early September.”
If all goes well, the Gators would have a full complement of 13 scholarship players built around the nucleus of Hudson, KeVaughn Allen, Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes.
“There’s no question about it,” White said. “We’ll have a much better chance at healthy competition. More productive practices. More depth hopefully. We will be able to play a couple of different ways which we weren’t capable of doing last year.”
Last year, Florida reached the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament and finished third in a much-improved SEC that sent eight teams to the Dance.
The league only promises to be better this season with so many players choosing to return to college and some of the nation’s best recruiting classes coming in.
“It’s only going to make our league more powerful,” said Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew. “It’s a great compliment to our league (the players coming back) because they know the league will be better next year and they will be playing against draft picks on a nightly basis.”
One of those returning players is Hudson, who led the Gators in scoring last year.
“It’s big for our program and even bigger for Jalen to get the feedback,” White said. “He hears it from his coaches but it hits home when he hears it from the highest level. He’s gotta play with more of an edge. Be better on defense and rebounding. He’s gotta dig a little deeper.”

18 COMMENTS

  1. The one thing this program needs right now is for coach white to be happy. There are going to be some big jobs open soon and I’m sure his phone is going to be ringing. I have no doubt the gators have a top flight injury prevention program as health of the player is crucial do there is nothing to comment except again to remind anyone we can how lucky we are with this program and of course quite a few others too.

    • Not sure what you mean by “some big jobs open soon”. Unless it’s one of the Blue Bloods, UF is as big of a program as any of the others. Anything less than a Blue Blood school would be no better than a lateral move. Now, if you’re suggesting Coach K will retire “soon” and Kevin White might consider his son for the job, I suppose you could be on to something. Even though bf keeps insisting that 99% of the AD’s across the country wouldn’t want Mike White, Kevin White could be in the 1%.

        • Yeah, TA, I think you’re right. I’d never heard of the Iron Dukes before (thanks for the knowledge), but the AD’s son as head coach at Duke (or any school) could cause some problems. I was really trying to be funny and get in a little jab at bf. I’m sure Duke will be going after Tonya Bennett when Coach K finally hangs it up.

    • Just finish your third glass of Cabernet? White would never even be considered at a
      program bigger than Florida. Not even considered!

      White complaining about injuries last season in June! How soft of him. Had a dream last
      night that Bob Huggins was coaching the Gators this season.

      Even with a promising team, with a fake coach, the Gators will not compete with Kentucky
      and Tennessee.

  2. I don’t assume that we have as good of an injury prevention program as we might, continual improvements are needed. I don’t see White leaving UF any time soon. Not really worried if he decides that some other job is a better fit for him either.

  3. Definitely time for Jalen Hudson and Kevaughn Allen to step it up if they have any hope of making it to the NBA. They have to play at a high level more consistently and be team leaders. They cannot just show up one game and disappear the next game. They have to score night in and night out. I hope Jalen works on his free throws over the summer too. He missed a ton of points from the line. Nembhard looks like a guy who can step in right away and take over the point. Hopefully Stokes and Johnson can contribute in the front court and Hayes and Gak show some improvement. Hayes really needs to work on his strength he just got manhandled down low by a lot of teams last year. If they do then this can be a good team. Hopefully everybody stays healthy and I think the Gators could go far in the tournament again.

  4. I appreciate this update, a great reminder of what an especially great time it is to be a Gator. With renewed hope from Mullen and a powerhouse basketball schedule, mid- to late-fall could be really exciting.

    • Definitely agree, NWIA TB. I also appreciate the level of fan interest that produces multiple comments here, rather than a relatively empty comment section. While UF’s history in basketball doesn’t match UK overall, the program has been elite since the run to the 2000 NC game, and we should be excited and interested in seeing it continue. With what Sully has done for baseball, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be generating LSU-like enthusiasm for that program, too.

  5. Florida will be one of the best teams in the country next year. Tenn will be good. Auburn will be better. They just have to protect their players from slipping and falling in the huddle due to the pool of sweat emanating from Bruce Pearl’s under arms. Kentucky will be ranked the best team in the world again because of their 11 5 star recruits, Dick Vitale will orgasm over them on TV; they’ll still lose to Fla and then get yanked in the third round of the NCAA tourney . Calipari will bitch again about how young his team was , but he’ll get the credit for “developing” guys who would have otherwise been first round picks coming out of high school without him anyway.

    • That’s funny man. Pearl definitely sweats a lot. Man needs some heavy duty antiperspirant or something. He could get an endorsement from Right Guard or Old Spice. So true about Calipari too. Sick of his excuses. If the NBA changes the one and done rule he will have to change his scheme and actually develop some players who are not five stars.

    • Well, we can look at UF history to see how that may play out. If you assume Nembhard will be the starter, it could go the way of the 2007-08 team when Nick Calathes and Jai Lucas split time at the point as true freshmen. That season didn’t end well. On the other hand, Mike Okauru, who was recruited as a point guard, or at least a combo guard, and saw considerable playing time last season, could be the starter. In 2005-06, Taurean Green took over at point as a sophomore after seeing some playing time behind Peep Roberson the previous season. That season ended with the best possible outcome. Obviously, I’m not saying a NC is likely, just that there’s some reason for optimism, too.

  6. It’s nice to see a lot of comments about the Gator Basketball team’s prospects for next season. The thing I don’t understand is when a few so-called experts among the fan base think it is necessary to be so critical and pick apart a stomp-down good coach and team. I think we got really lucky or blessed to get a man like Mike White to rebuild the basketball program. As great as Billy Donovan was and is, we have to remember that his last season with the Gators was less than stupendous. I am grateful for the success the Gators have had with Mike White at the helm already, and I look forward to some great seasons to come as he gets more and more recruiting classes under his belt.