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.”