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March 24, 2019 at 8:07 am #42362
Let me start with the 1st half of the round of 32 against Michigan. Florida’s lack of a big men in the front court showed up early and often (again). In fact, Michigan had dunk after dunk early on, and the paint was way too accessible for Michigan’s offense. But on the plus side, we Florida fans were hopeful with the 3’s made by Noah Locke, which literally kept U.F in the game for a short time. But when you’re playing a team like Michigan in the round of 32, a team that played in last year’s Final Four (and a #2 seed), you’re going to need more than a few 3 point shots. And while the refs made some really ”questionable calls,” Florida still got to the ”free-throw line ZERO TIMES” in the 1st half. ‘Nuff said! No driving to the paint, no cuts to the basket, no dribble penetration. Why not?!?!?
A great coach makes other things happen for his team, and get some points in other ways. You know, ”puts his players in the best position to succeed.” Or you could say, ”improvise, adapt, overcome.” But unfortunately I didn’t see that in Coach White and his staff’s 1st half coaching and game planning, or 2nd half for that matter. Actually, the U.F. Men’s Basketball coaching staff looked content with being 2-6 points down for most of the of the game. And ultimately U.F. went into halftime trailing Michigan by 4 points, only 4 points. But when Johnson, ”K.J.,” only has 5 pts in the game, Hayes only 8, and Allen in his last game as a Gator only had 8 also, then the round of 32 was as far as Mike White’s Gators would go… again.
And while I get that Coach Mike White is ”defensive minded,” I also have heard and seen with my own eyes (see: Billy ‘D’ & Coach Spurrier) that ”a good defense is a great offense.” I also understand the ”problems with Mike White’s big men,” that some here say ”he had no idea about, and it was unforeseen,” well to that I say, ”HOG WASH!”
Coach Mike White went through this same problem last year, that’s a fact! And his solution for this season was to ”hire a big man specialist.” Well, perhaps Coach White should now hire a ”rebounding specialist, a shooting specialist…” well, you get the point.
And my last point, Coach Mike White signed with the Univ. of Florida, a school building a storied Men’s Basketball program with 5 Final Fours, and too many Sweet 16’s and Elite 8’s to name for a 2 MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR contract. Furthermore, he signed with only FOUR YEARS experience as a Head Coach at Lousiana Tech, of all places. La. Tech is a place that a college basketball coach could play with 4 guards and a 6′ 9” forward starting lineup, and win. But this is the SEC, the place where the other teams have really BIG MEN playing basketball in the front court. See: L.S.U., U.K., and Tennessee.
In conclusion, many optimist Gator fans are ”putting all of their coach Mike White eggs into NEXT SEASON,” and to them I say, ”you better be right!” Because the new A.D. Scott Stricklin said, and I quote, ”I am going to make Florida sports fun again!” And this Men’s Gator Basketball team has been everything but ”fun” for the last 2 years. Which is half of Mike White’s career at U.F. The Univ. of Florida Basketball program will eventually regroup and survive. But, ultimately, will Mike White survive as Head Coach at U.F.?
March 26, 2019 at 6:26 pm #42407
gi, I think Mike White will survive as head coach. I agree with you that UF is a basketball school, but that only happened in the past 20 years because of Billy Donovan. Players didn’t come to UF to play for the Gators; they came to play for Donovan. When he left, I think he took the brand with him. For that reason, I think White had to establish himself first in order to recruit players to come play for him. First, he brought the JUCO transfer, Justin Leon, with him from La Tech. Then, he got 3 star big men, Bassett and Gak, and followed that with 4 star guys, Stokes and Chase Johnson. You can count 4 star, Keyontae Johnson, as well, because even though he’s only 6-5, he plays the forward spot. Now he has Omar Payne coming in, a 4 star who’s 6-9 with with a 7-5 wingspan and rated the 35th best recruit in the country by ESPN. As White continues to establish himself, he should be competitive for the best recruits.
The key will be whether or not he’s able to develop those players and win games with them. If he does, hopefully that will translate into some SEC rings and a trip to the Final Four. I think that will happen, but if it doesn’t, I’m sure Scott Stricklin will act accordingly.
I know some think we need 6’10 guys or 7 footers, but just for old times sake I looked up the listed heights for the front court players on the 2014 Final Four team. Patric Young was 6’9, Will Yeguete was 6’8, Casey Prather was 6’6, and sixth man, Dorian Finney-Smith was 6’8. If we can get skilled 6’10 guys, I’m all for it, but remember, Schuyler Rimmer, bless his heart, was also 6’10.
March 27, 2019 at 9:51 am #42411
Joe, thanks for the input and commenting here. I get it. But it NEVER hurts to put some fire to it (White) and test the mettle. In fact, it’s Scriptural. And the best basketball player I’ve EVER watched with my own eyes was EVEN BETTER under pressure, Michael ”Air” Jordan. Mike White is not a Billy ‘D’ and I get it. But he better get BETTER under pressure or the BRASS at U.F won’t take it much longer. Just check out Mike White’s record at U.F. against Top 10 opponents, it ain’t good! And last time I checked, the UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA boasts about ”being a Top 10 athletic program.” Take care, ”cool” Joe!
March 28, 2019 at 7:25 am #42428
You know, gi, I think your comment about the “fire” is on target. One of my first impressions of Mike White was that he was similar to Billy Donovan in many ways, but the fire wasn’t visible. I thought he was tough, but it was a quiet toughness, and to a large degree, it still is. I think you have to rattle the ref’s cages every now and then to get some calls to go your way, and Lord knows, this season the Gators and coach White needed a few more calls.
I also think you’re right about the UF brass. I’m sure Scott Stricklin will pull the plug when it’s appropriate. I like that Mike White runs the program the right way, and you don’t have to worry about him like a Bruce Pearl, or Kelvin Sampson, or Sean Miller, or Jim Harrick back in the day. I like that he’s bringing in top recruits and that the Gators are competitive with the better teams (for the most part), but at some point, you have to win some of those games. I think he can, but I agree he needs a very good showing, and soon, maybe a Sweet Sixteen next season.
Florida is a basketball school, because it’s an “everything” school, but there’s a difference in the football and basketball programs in that there’s been sustained success in football under multiple coaches. Players want to play for the Gators. The basketball program, thus far, has been Billy Donovan. Players wanted to play for him. I hope Mike White can sustain the success to point where players are coming to play for the Gators and not just the coach. Go Gators!
March 28, 2019 at 8:46 am #42429
Kid by the name of Jitiboh is hopefully about to commit to UF this morning. He is the 6’11” big man that we are all clamoring for. If he joins the guys already signed, our basketball team is about to get on a roll again.
March 28, 2019 at 9:03 am #42430
Again, I appreciate your input, Joe. I hope to see this forum light up with entries during the ”dog days of summer,” too. And I do think as of today, that long term, Head Coach Mike White is the right guy and will succeed here. But none of us are promised tomorrow, or ”next season,” and I love my Florida Gators (as much as some New Yorkers love their ”Yankees”). It’s all I’ve known for 50 years of life, and it’s all I have for serious sports intake. I can watch drag racing, the Daytona 500 & Talladega, Pro Basketball playoffs ONLY (esp. since M.J., Bird, and Magic are gone), and the NFL, etc… but my Gators in Football and Men’s Basketball are ”IT!”
And now my last image for U.F. basketball for ANOTHER YEAR is a ”beat down by Michigan,” …again! Ugh! But I’m glad to see them clear up ”3 scholarships” for some ”other players.” Now whether it’s a ”grad-transfer” like Koulechov, or another Barry (both successes), I just don’t know if that will work again. They did work short term, but I would like to see some long term big man development at U.F.
And if we’re honest, it isn’t happening (bigs’ development). I don’t know why a person can’t ”learn to catch a round ball.” (Albeit, I played basketball and wide receiver from little-league through high school, so…) But just see K. Hayes, God bless him and his future, and his great effort but… dang! And that falls onto the coaches, in my opinion. Period! And ‘IF’ the bigs that are there now, with all their potential (see Bassett, Stokes, etc…) still look they did this season, NEXT SEASON, then oh man, I hope that does NOT happen. Otherwise, Mike White will really be hearing ”the noise in the system,” like Coach Zook once famously said here in Hogtown.
Thanks again, ”cool” Joe!
April 6, 2019 at 1:50 pm #42567
GI, I think i’ve given you a hard time for your, what seemed like Coach White bashing after losses, as passion, but only after a loss….basically Mr. Monday Couch QB, but saying you do believe that he is the right guy, but would just like to see a little more fire in him on the sidelines and better big man recruiting, makes me want to give an apology to that.
I have seen Coach White get animated during games…maybe not to the extent of a Bruce Pearl, but reading his lips on TV, you can tell when he’s frustrated with either the players or officials inconsistency. He also seems more of the coach who likes to get up close to the ref when they’re near his bench and just get in their ears like a buzzing little gnat, just so they know that he’s watching and paying attention to them.
As far as this year, I also felt that he did the best with what he had, and that the lack of front court wasn’t so much from poor recruiting, but from poor luck. The roster started the year with 7 front court players, with the shortest one being KJ at 6’5″, and the expectations that they were all going to be ready to contribute this year when they couldn’t last year. Unfortunately, the same problems that nagged Chase Johnson, Gak, and Stokes continued throughout the season causing Johnson to leave, Gak to never see the court, and Stokes to take most of the season to really understand what it really takes to get on the floor. Then you add Keith Stone getting lost for the season with an injury, you now go from a potential 7 man front court rotation to a 3 man rotation with one a true Freshman, one a redshirt Soph. with very limited playing time, who i’m sure they were planning on more Jr./Sr. year contributions, and the only consistent Senior on the team this year, who excels on the defensive end, but is limited on the offensive end. I think any other coach out there would probably agree that coach White did a pretty darn good coaching job, but I would agree as a fan, that when you get the big bucks at the big schools, the expectations are high, so I can completely understand the critcism.
Hopefully Gak can finally keep that knee strong, Stokes continues his conditioning improvement, and Bassett grows more as a player going into his last couple of years. With Payne looking like a very solid signee in the frontcourt with his size and skill (at least what i’ve read), Jitobah can come in and spend the season rehabbing and getting back on the floor in practice so that he can 1.) Get used to playing a the quicker pace of college, and 2.) act as a big body that other guys have to go against. Of course, like going into last year, everything is hope and potential and we can only cross our fingers that the frontcourt injury bug has left the program for a while with this past season.
March 28, 2019 at 11:27 am #42433
I’m basically a Gator fan, first and foremost, gi, so I live and die with the Mighty Gators, just like you. Hate losing to anyone, and as far as I know, we’ve never beaten Michigan in basketball. I’m thinking we’re 0-3, all in the NCAA Tournament in 1988, 2013, and this year, unless there were some meetings before my time. I hope somebody takes Michigan out, so they don’t become the first school with multiple NC’s in all three major sports. I’m hoping Sully can get another CWS title first, so UF can snag that honor.
Thanks, Sparky, for the info on Jitoboh. A friend mentioned him to me in an email yesterday, but everywhere I looked it indicated he had little interest in UF. Glad he committed, but the news that he’s recovering from an injury and will likely redshirt next season tempers the excitement a little. I’m sure some will complain that it’ll be Egbunu, Stokes, and Gak all over again, and that is a legitimate concern. Hope he can recover in time to play, but if not, at least recover in time to get in a lot of practice time during a redshirt year.
I read where Payne, even though he’s “only” 6’9″, has a 7’5″ wingspan. It’ll be great, whether it’s Jitoboh, Payne, or both, to have a big man who can catch an entry pass without fumbling it and then have a reasonable chance of making a good post move to score. I appreciate what Hayes did, but he was really a career back-up player who was pressed into starting due to injuries and lack of depth.
March 28, 2019 at 4:30 pm #42438
I’ve noticed the national recruiting services have Payne listed as a center. I think all of us would love to see a true center playing again. CMW mentioned in his press meeting today that we basically played most of this season without a 4. I’m sure he wants some big men as much as we do.
March 28, 2019 at 5:01 pm #42439
Man, this is turning into a great forum, GI — despite not being a huge BB fan, per se. But like Joe Shiver, I’m a Gator first and foremost…..
Keep it going, bud. I’m not knowledgeable enough to comment with you cats, but I sure like to read it.
March 28, 2019 at 7:03 pm #42440
It’s always somethingParticipant
Finney-Smith and Hudson were two pretty productive transfers over the last few years, along with Barry and Koulechov. With four scholarships available, the attraction of a great fan base and a power conference in which to showcase skills, similar transfer talent should be on the way.
March 29, 2019 at 12:11 pm #42447
From my perspective, Mike White took a fundamentally flawed team and got a lot out of them this past season. He didn’t consistently get help from the seniors on the roster, although Hayes had a good year.
Just a few weeks ago many people were saying this team was bound for an NIT they didn’t deserve. They not only made the tourney but got past the first round against a good Nevada team.
Based on all the transfers, this is going to be a very different team next year. I have higher expectations for next season but will wait to monitor developments going into the season before making W/L predictions.
Thank you Gator Basketball for never quitting through all the adversity of the season. You made this Gator proud.
March 29, 2019 at 12:18 pm #42448
You make a good case, Ias. Reid Travis has made a big impact at UK this year. Hopefully, there’s another Travis waiting for Mike White. It’s interesting that Travis is listed anywhere from 6-6 to 6-8, depending on where you look and at what point in his career, but UK’s official roster lists him as 6-8. Also interesting that UK’s roster lists only two players taller than 6-8: Richards at 6-11 and Montgomery at 6-10. Except for injuries, UF would’ve had three players listed taller than 6-8: Gak at 6-11, and Hayes and Bassett both listed at 6-9. I know some will say, “But look at the difference in skill level”, and that’s the point I’ve been making all along. You can’t draw a line at 6-10 or 6-11, and say we have to have someone this tall. A couple of inches one way or the other aren’t enough to overcome a lack of ball skills. We need guys that are more skilled, so if those guys turn out to be 6-8 or 6-9, so be it. UK seems to be doing fine.
March 29, 2019 at 12:25 pm #42449
Forgot Chase Johnson on the list above, so it would’ve actually been 4 players on UF’s roster taller than 6-8.
April 6, 2019 at 2:02 pm #42568
Sorry about the ramble with the first post…sometimes you start typing and forget what you’re even talking about anymore. Hopefully it makes sense.
As far as the portal, 247sports has the transfer portal on their BB recruiting section, and they keep it pretty up to date. Of course when it comes to bball, it seems like every recruiting group (ESPN, 247sports, rivals, etc.) lists players differently, but you can narrow the search to PF and C, where there are currently a couple of former 4 star grad transfer Centers out there, including Daniel Giddens, who started at Ohio State with Matta, went to Bama after Matta got fired, and now is moving again as a grad transfer with Avery Johnson getting fired. He was the 10th rated C coming out of high school, and might be able to give a solid one season, but realistically, I think using the last two scholarships on any graduate transfer front court player would be well worth it. It’s almost like there’s nothing to lose, especially if that player has a lot of game time playing experience. I would think that even playing a lot of mid-major or even DII college ball minutes, even though it’s not necessarily Power 5 bball, is a much faster and tougher game than HS.
April 27, 2019 at 11:37 am #42846
Well, I am glad I got some entries on this topic. And I appreciate all those who dropped some of their thoughts and opinions. I am well past the loss in the NCAA Tourney.
I did have some concerns with Mike White having the same problems in the paint this season, as he had last season (2017-’18). But Stokes and Bassett could and should get some solid playing time next year, and increase their production. While K.J. was a real pleasant surprise this past season, and hopefully we’ll get more from him in the future.
The Gak situation, well, time will tell us all next season. I do wish Gak the very best, but he looked like he has played in chronic pain since he’s been a Gator. I do hope he has a healthy and more productive 2019-’20 basketball season.
Lastly, I think Nembhard comes back for his sophomore year; his foot work needs some more ”college experience,” in my opinion. I do see more offensive production out of the 2019-’20 Men’s Gator Basketball Team. Perhaps a run to the NCAA Tourney again, and hopefully farther than the last 2 NCAA Tourney runs: a round of 32 loss is getting old.
Sweet 16 or more! Go Gators!
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