White takes look back, already reworking UF’s 2019-20 roster

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Florida coach Mike White follows the first half of the NCAA Tournament second-round game against Michigan last Saturday, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

In NFL terms, Mike White has some cap room.

The Florida basketball coach will see an overhaul in his roster after three players announced they would transfer this week.

White had his final news conference of the 2019 season Thursday, putting the wraps on another NCAA Tournament year for the program.

“It was rewarding in the end,” White said.

It will be a different team next season with seven scholarship players gone from this season’s roster.

Already, the Gators have made a move to get a big man. Jason Jitoboh, a 6-foot-11 power forward from Chattanooga, Tenn., announced Thursday he was committing to Florida. Jitoboh is a three-star or four-star recruit depending on the service and missed some time this year with ankle and foot injuries. (White could not speak on any recruits until they are signed).

The Florida coach, who will enter his fifth season at UF, was open about a wide variety of subjects during the mass interview with local media.

  • On the attrition.

Florida has had four players leave the program — Chase Johnson in December and Deaundrae Ballard, Keith Stone and Michael Okauru this week.

“It’s part of it, its college basketball,” White said. “Hundreds who have decided to transfer and hundreds more who will. Not surprising at all.

“None of them (this week) were a surprise. Chase was very unique, very different than these three this week. Both (Ballard and Okauru) would have liked to have played more this year and that’s what they are looking for.”

Florida now has six players on campus with three freshmen plus Jitoboh coming in. That leaves White with three more scholarships to work with.

  • On finding the next Gators.

White made it clear he’s looking for certain personalities as much as anything.

“Transfers, high school guys, we’re open to any type of guy out there who is a food fit,” he said. “You hope they would accept the role, hope they would put winning above any personal aspirations. Character guys who fit our culture.”

One goal is to find a power forward. Florida had to use Keyontae Johnson in that role at 6-foot-5 after Stone went down.

“We went all year without a true four,” White said. “We’re looking at what’s out there.”

  • On Florida’s lack of size.

Departed senior Kevarrius Hayes was a warrior for the Gators, but UF was one of the worst teams in the SEC in rebounding. Florida also struggled to get easy looks inside.

But White believes he may have the players to fill the void on campus with 6-9 Dontay Bassett, 6-11 Gorjak Gak and 6-8 Isaiah Stokes.

“Some people could argue we’ve got some size, we’ve got some height,” White said. “We’ve gotta get production from those guys.

“We have plenty of size, guys we just gotta get better up front. We’ve gotta get healthy up front. I can’t imagine anybody in the country has had more injuries than us up front. I’m not making excuses, but we have to get healthy up front.”

  • On chemistry issues.

White admitted it was a struggle with this year’s team to make players happy with so many playing the same position. That didn’t improve when Florida shortened its bench late in the season.

“Our culture wasn’t as good this year as it has been the last two years, especially two years ago,” he said. “We had some unhappiness in the locker room. It’s typical of college basketball, guys on the bench are frustrated.

“But off the court, zero issues.”

  • On Florida’s style of play.

Florida was one of the slowest teams in the country after starting out the season looking like a pressing, running team.

White figured out that this team couldn’t play fast and there was a better answer, even if it wasn’t as much fun to watch.

“We figured out how to play finally and that’s on me,” he said. “We finally found the best version of ourselves. We played as well as we could have played at the end of the year, except maybe a few possessions in the Michigan game.”

It was something new for White, who came to Florida with a reputation as an up-tempo coach.

“There are so many different ways to do it,” White said. “Just look at the teams in our league and how different they are. When I first got here, I had a style of play I would have liked to have played. Faster, up tempo. This year, I’ve never even been on a staff that played nearly this slow.

“We all had to adapt to a different style. At the end of the day, we were better because of it. It gave us a better chance. Experimented a little in practice and then we had to sell it to our guys.”
As coaches adjusted and asked their players to follow, the Gators were a team of great highs and numbing lows.

“We were like four or five different teams this year,” White said.

He’d like to be just one next season.

“I don’t know how we’ll play next year.” he said. “I don’t care. We want to max out, we want to get to March and we want to make a run.”

 

34 COMMENTS

    • The best coaches always do adjust to the players, so White deserves credit for that as well as turning around a .500 season. I still don’t understand why we continued to play soooooo slow when trailing by 3-4 scores with under 2 minutes, but in any case the article does give me hope that we will be more competitive and more fun to watch next year!

  1. Isn’t happy is an understatement. I find it hard to believe an offensive minded coach like White designed this offense. There seemed to be no plays called most times, alot of standing around, no weaves or constant passing until someone on the defense missed an assignment and thus not enough good shots. And I certainly know that Nembhard just continuing to dribble around trying to find an opening is not the answer and never worked. It didn’t work for Casey Hill either. Count me as one in the jury that is still out on whether Mike White has what it takes to handle this job.

    • I think the jury is out on whether any coach can do the job until they win a title of some type. I love the job Mullen is doing, but if after 4 years he hasnt gotten us to Atlanta, me and a lot of other fans will be questioning whether he can get it done here. It’s what us fans do 😎

    • Well, if these last two classes are the true signs of how he’s able to recruit, then I think he’s on the right track for the level of play that Billy Donovan instilled in Gator Basketball fans. I’ve always heard that one of the biggest factors of recruiting when the school isn’t a historical great of the sport (Bama in football or UK, Duke, UNC with basketball), is the relationships, and coach White probably didn’t have relationships with the players like he’s signed in his last two classes while he was at La. Tech. Those players just don’t go there. First class was a re-recruitment of the guys Donovan recruited, and the second class was probably guys who were more likely to end up signing for White at La. Tech. Let’s see how these 3 freshmen get better next year, how the new group coming in add to it, and then look at next year’s class…I think there will be a much clearer picture as to the future of the Men’s team.

      • I think you’re exactly right about recruiting to a non-blue blood school, Corey. I do think Donovan established Florida as a basketball school, but certainly not a blue blood. Blue blood schools can recruit to the name on the jersey; other schools recruit to the coach. When Donovan left, in large part, he took the Florida basketball brand with him, because the brand was him. Because of that, the recruiting process and timeline for the next coach was going to have to be exactly as you describe.

    • Sparky: My brother went to FSU. Please tell him how many national titles FSU has and how many the Gators have. Every year every Div. I team is rebuilding (exception was Vols this season). Gators have strong nucleus back with Nembs, Locke, et. al. They will be better in 2019-20. And, yes, Gator fan base would have chased Hamilton, but he made the Elite Eight this year. Oops, a misprint. Looks like the ‘holes lost Thursday. Not crying about that. Enjoy your posts Sparky.

  2. Auburn just beat UNC. They did it with guard play. They did it playing up tempo. They did it by driving the ball to the basket and not relying on 3 point shots and they did it without a big front court. We can do the same if Coach White stops playing a molasses offense and lets the players run. We might actually score more than 50 points. Just a thought.

    • Auburn shot 37 3’s and hit 17 of them to only 7 for UNC. That’s a 30 point differential on 3-point shots. Any way you slice it, they beat UNC by hitting 3’s, just like they’ve won every game since the start of the SEC tournament. They do run, but they also played 9 players for double digit minutes and another for 6 minutes, and that player provided 5 rebounds in those 6 minutes. In contrast, the Gators had essentially a 6 or 7 man rotation, and that’s not enough to run for any significant part of the game. I’d like to see them run more, too, but they just didn’t have the bodies to do it this season.

        • I appreciate the discussion, Joel, and I’d like to see the Gators run more, too. They did have bodies, but not enough suitable bodies, imo. Stokes isn’t much use in transition, and I don’t think Bassett would’ve been either. White tried to play Okauru and Ballard, but Okauru was ineffective, and Ballard eventually reverted to last season’s poor shooting. I don’t know if CMW wants to be a fast break team, but I’m pretty sure he’d like to play faster. Not being privy to what happens in practice, I have to trust CMW to have the best information to decide what style of play gives the team the best opportunity to win.

  3. Mike White has 3 NCAA Tourney appearances in 4 years. And that’s good, but until he PROVES he can get to the Sweet 16 and further, with HIS OWN GUYS, (Thanks Billy D for everything), I’m still waiting, my jury’s still out! Fact still remains that White’s best 2 years were with some of Billy D’s guys: Chesse, Prather, Leon, Patric Young, Egbunu, etc… But hopefully Coach White and staff will get it done this upcoming season, 2019-’20.
    Go Gators!

  4. If White wants up-tempo game, he needs to recruit players who can hit the catch-and-shoot-3 on the break. Oh, and he needs a solid 5-spot and a 6-7 or 6-8, 250 lbs. or more No. 4, along with a-Corey Brewer-like back at the no. 3 spot. Let’s see what else. Oh, a PG who can dribble-drive, then hit the 15-foot jumper and a No.2 who can spin on the pick-and-roll and hit the 3, or overload on a back-door screen for the catch-and-shoot.
    Easy. Hey, you know what. That type of team could play any offense. BUT THE HALF-COURT GAME OF 50 pts. per contest is BORING and not winning any SEC or National titles. The 3 pt.shot has changed college dynamics on offense forever. Wake up Mr.White.

    • Amen cattrick, and the Florida up-temp was devastating last year, in the PK 80 Tourney, to other teams. Florida handled Stanford, Gonzaga, and then lost to, yes, DUKE! And mainly because of (here it is, again!) Duke’s BIG MAN! Dukes’ bigs destroyed Florida in the paint. But my point is, the up-tempo needs the stamina of the players, and the will to run it all season (Coach White). But we’ll see!?!? And Florida slowing the game down, dribbling up to half court with ONLY half the shot clock remaining, like you said, it will NOT win any championships… EVER! Mike White, please just RECRUIT some bigs to go along with all the great guards you presently have. And lastly, I think K.J. would be an amazing ”swingman,” -if he could ONLY dedicate himself to that position all year long. Go Gators!

  5. Mike White is doing just fine. He and his staff worked had this season to keep this team in contention. They squeezed much more out of this team than what many fans here expected. It was a major transition year.

    I’m already looking forward to next season. We have some great young players coming into the program. Now we need our remaining bigs to get healthy and balance the infusion of front court talent. Go Gators!

  6. the one and done era looks to be ending soon, which should return to a game where what players that are left stick around a little more. that should help programs like florida, that do try to develop great teams. lets not fire the coach, once this all settles out i think he will look better and better to the fans.