White looking for winning formula

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Florida senior guard Jalen Hudson hasn't been able to regain control of his game early this season. [Alan Youngblood/Staff photographer]

Florida men’s basketball coach Mike White reiterated Monday his frustrations regarding the team’s current showing, although he’s not in the practice of blaming the players.

Instead, after a 1-2 showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament last week in Paradise Island, Bahamas, White will look to continue tinkering with the formula to success when the Gators take the court at 7 p.m. Tuesday against North Florida at Exactech Arena in the O’Connell Center.

“We should be better than we are. But I’m frustrated with myself, too,” White said. “We’ve got to be more disciplined, we’ve got to play harder, we’ve got to be tougher.”

The Gators relegated Jalen Hudson to the bench in favor of freshman Noah Locke following the team’s 65-60 loss to Oklahoma, and Locke responded with his first double-digit scoring performance in the team’s 72-49 win over Stanford the following night. But White said it wasn’t necessarily an indictment of Hudson’s performance; simply put, the entire team has been put on notice. When White and the Gators coaching staff meet prior to tip-off, the starters will be determined by hustle rather than seniority.

“We could change it every game. I don’t care,” a noticeably frustrated White said. “Minutes will be rewarded upon you doing your job for Florida to win, not for you to win. Not for you to score, not to see how many shots you can get up, but for us to be the best team we can be. I’ll play walk-ons. I don’t care.”

As for Hudson? White admitted the senior is “in a tough place” after a surprisingly shaky start to the season.

“This wasn’t what Jalen was expecting. It wasn’t what his teammates or I were expecting, either. He’s got to find a way to get himself going, and we’ve got to keep challenging him and communicating with him. It’s clear, it’s been laid out to him, the expectation, whether he was a senior or a freshman. But the fact that he is a senior there is an even higher level of expectation for him to play with a lot of intensity, to be an accountable defender and rebounder, and to lead by example,” White said. “I can’t put my finger on one thing, in terms of why he has struggled with a high level of intensity. And not just in games, but it’s been in practice.”

For now, Locke’s intensity has him in position to usurp a portion of Hudson’s minutes — although there are noticeable consequences that come with playing a freshman in a large role. After Florida struggled in a nationally televised tournament, White is optimistic a smaller stage will help get Florida back on course. But White isn’t mincing words: the first month of the season didn’t live up to internal expectations.

“I just think another factor with this team is when the lights are on and we’ve got people in the stands and you’re on TV, I think at times we’re having guys try and do things that they don’t normally do in practice. Focused on things that they’re normally not focused on,” White said. “We’re on ESPN and we’re playing a high-measure team, and now we’re focused on this, that and the other. That’s not what good teams do, and it’s a process with every team. I was hopeful that this team wouldn’t have to go through this process, we wouldn’t be having to send messages to guys. But that’s not where we’re at right now.”


Today

Who: North Florida (2-4) vs. Florida (3-3)

When: 7 p.m.

Where: O’Connell Center

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850


PROJECTED STARTERS

FLORIDA

Keith Stone; F; 6-8; Jr.; 5.8 ppg; 4.7 rpg

Kevarrius Hayes; C; 6-9; Sr.; 6.8 ppg; 6.2 rpg

Andrew Nembhard; G; 6-5; Fr.; 8.0 ppg; 3.0 rpg

KeVaughn Allen; G; 6-2; Sr.; 8.0 ppg; 1.7 rpg

Noah Locke; G; 6-3; Fr.; 6.7 ppg; 1.2 rpg

NORTH FLORIDA

Noah Horchler; F; 6-8; 210; Jr.; 14.4 ppg; 11.2 rpg

Wajid Aminu; F; 6-7; 190; Jr.; 8.7 ppg; 4.2 rpg

Garrett Sams; F; 6-7; 195; Jr.; 14.0 ppg; 4.7 rpg

JT Escobar; G; 6-2; 183; RJr.; 10.3 ppg; 2.0 rpg

Ivan Gandia-Rosa; G; 6-1; 190; Jr.; 9.2 ppg; 3.0 rpg

NOTES: Florida and North Florida square off for the fourth consecutive season. … The Gators have taken all seven meetings in the history of the series, including three under coach Mike White. … KeVaughn Allen has a pair of double-figure outings against UNF, including 18 points while shooting 4-for-7 from 3-point range to go with 5 rebounds in last year’s meeting. … The Gators rank 2nd in the SEC in scoring defense (61.8) and turnover margin (+5.0). … The Gators have scored 60 or fewer points in all three losses, and Deaundrae Ballard is the only Gator averaging double figures at 10.2 points per game off the bench. … After battling injury-induced frontcourt depth issues all of last season, Florida found itself in familiar territory again last week as Isaiah Stokes (knee) and Chase Johnson (concussion) both missed the Battle 4 Atlantis and Gorjok Gak (knee) has not yet returned from off-season knee surgery. … After having four assists and four turnovers in his debut, freshman point guard Andrew Nembhard posted 31 assists and five turnovers over the next five games. … Noah Locke moved into the starting lineup for a pair of games during the Battle 4 Atlantis. Nembhard and Locke became the first true freshmen duo to start for Florida since Kevarrius Hayes and KeVaughn Allen started five games together in 2015-16. … Ballard scored 61 points through the first six games of the season after totaling 60 over his previous 24 appearances during his freshman season.

— Graham Hall

15 COMMENTS

  1. ”After battling injury-induced frontcourt depth issues all of last season, Florida found itself in familiar territory again last week as Isaiah Stokes (knee) and Chase Johnson (concussion).” -Gatorsports.com
    That is THE STORY! WHY? WHAT THE HELL’S UP WITH THAT, again? What’s been done the last TWO YEARS to correct it? Are their TWO SCHOLARSHIPS worth all this, again!?!?! Chase is too damn FRAGILE apparently for DIV. I BASKETBALL. Because when your starting line-up is only 6 foot 5 inches, it’s a good thing Florida is playing who they are tonight… but only for tonight, it is the SEC, not LA. TECH!

      • Instead of getting on his case I think we ought to encourage him to evaluate his continued participation in college athletics. Concussions are a serious deal and not worth the future risk. It looks obvious that Chase is susceptible to concussion. He should take a good hard look at the consequence of continued participation.

        • Dude, what the heck do you think Chase Johnson has received for going on TWO SEASONS!?!? Just maybe we can get him another look. Maybe from North Florida or Santa Fe. And please don’t LECTURE ME about concussions, either.
          I have paid my dues, and made it what it is TODAY for kids like Chase! Because when I laid KNOCKED OUT COLD for 5 minutes on a football field in N.E. PARK (16 Ave), I was simply told, ”You only got your bell rung.” And I PRACTICED the next day. So yea, I get the seriousness of concussions.

          • My main point, unlike this story, is the Gator B-ball team’s struggles are NOT all on Jalen Hudson. He is the sacrificial lamb, in this story, for Mike White and his staff’s lack of healthy big men on this year’s team… again! The average height of his starting lineup tonight is (I did the math) 6′ 5″.
            And all of us in prior generations who only “had our bell rung” made it better for today’s athletes. Now that’s an “evolution” I can believe in.

  2. Mike White is in over his head. All these excuses being made for him are ridiculous. It’s year 4 and this will be a .500 team, most likely.

    I love the narrative that they need “toughness” and somehow the problem is he doesn’t have “HIS” players.

  3. All I see is that when Hudson starts or enters a game, the level of team execution (a lot less team movement and quick passing) and intensity is or goes way down. And scoring is more challenging for the team and Hudson. When Hudson exists the floor, there seems to always be a noticeable increase in team execution, movement, and quicker team passing. And usually more points being scored as a result. I think one of the reasons is that Hudson does not move well without the ball in his hands and always seems to catch and dribble first rather than looking for a quick pass to an open teammate for a better shot. He catches and immediately puts the ball on the floor, looking first to create his own shot and not helping to create a shot for a teammate with a pass instead of a dribble. And, if Hudson is open when he catches the ball, he has difficulty going up with his shot without first dribbling the ball. And, when he does that, he often dribbles into double teams and is not a good passer off the dribble. And again, when that happens, the team seems to be watching him and standing around waiting on him to force or make his shot. And K. Allen is now doing all of that, too. As a freshman, A. Allen would catch and shoot the ball. Now, he has learned bad habits from Hudson. But at least Allen plays with intensity on defense and while rebounding. But Allen needs to also catch and shoot more, particularly from downtown instead of driving into the lane and double teams, or simply passing up wide open shots. But overall, the team stands around without much movement. And Hayes’ lack of offensive skills in the paint hinders the team as well. No one hustles more than Hayes, but he is NOT a starting center. He should be a defensive spark coming off the bench as a power forward. But White really has no option at center, I guess, with Stokes and Gak injured. And Johnson still having concussions is sad. He just needs to give up basketball.

    • Good analysis, Swampy. Maybe Hudson feels pressure to produce points, because he figured to be the team’s best offensive weapon. Hope it’s not a selfish concern over his draft status. I think Allen simply hasn’t found a way to blend his skills by remaining aggressive without taking shots from others, so he’s just shied away from shooting. Shooting poorly hasn’t helped him, either, or the entire team, for that matter. Maybe they can shoot their way out of the funk.

    • Excellent! Allen has lost his way. Even when he has an open drive to the basket he hesitates and doesn’t take it as I’m screaming at the TV – drive to the basket. Hayes is indeed not a true center and needs to play off someone inside because he hustles etc. and you would think that since we basically have no inside game that Coach White would play two of our bigger guys at the same time – for part of the game since we have injuries to Gak and Stokes like Bassett and Hayes which would help Hayes a lot. Makes no sense to me! Hudson may need a presence inside too to take the pressure off him so he has more room to manuever and shoot and drive to the basket.

  4. I think Coach White gives them so much information as he prepares them to practice and eventually take the floor for a game that they play a mental game that impedes their actual playing. There is a point in the season that they ” get it ” they play the game and the shooting and games come easier.