Coming off a 14-point loss at Butler that Florida men’s basketball coach Mike White acknowledged was the team’s best offensive performance of the season, the fifth-year UF head coach revealed the offensive game plan has been overhauled just nine games into the regular season.
“I haven’t come out and said this, but we completely revamped what we’re doing after the first, maybe, three games. We spent the entire fall preparing and banking on being able to execute this kind of stuff offensively. It was not in our best interest. We cut our losses and revamped,” White said. “We’re getting better with what we’re doing right now, which is what we should’ve started doing July 1. We gave our guys a lot of freedom offensively. We were running a lot of freelance, old-school passing game, where there aren’t many rules or set calls. It’s about screening for each other, using screens, reading screens, so on and so forth.”
Boasting a No. 6 ranking in the preseason, the Gators (6-3) envisioned a selfless, free-flowing offense featuring five players capable of making open shots. That has yet to happen for a Florida team looking to incorporate nine new players, including five freshmen, in the mix.
“When the lights were on, with a bunch of young guys and on TV, we didn’t respond well to that amount of freedom. As I’ve said a few times to friends and family, it was like watching six year olds in a soccer game. We all know how that looks — with everybody chasing the ball. In practice, we were back-cutting, we were unselfish screeners, and we were curling,” White said. “Then, under the lights, there was a lot of ball-cutting and not a lot of screening. So we decided we needed to add a whole lot of structure quickly, and we could hold more guys accountable in terms of spacing and where the ball should go and who is screening, who is coming off a screen. But that stuff takes time. We have to continue to improve on what we’re doing.”
With conference play around the corner, time is something the Gators don’t have — if they hope to live up to preseason expectations, that is. With just a trio of contests remaining until conference play begins Jan. 4 against Alabama, it’s no secret Florida has much work to do.
But graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr., one of several players who arrived in Gainesville expecting to compete for a national championship rather than simply postseason eligibility, hasn’t lost hope. After consecutive competitive practices after some time off reinforced Florida’s offensive aptitude, the Gators once again feel they have the offensive personnel to compete with the best of them — if they can play under the bright lights that is, of which there are plenty in the Barclays Center.
“I don’t think there’s a ceiling on what we can become. I think we’ve got to work every day and it’s not something we can talk about or envision without being able to work every day. If we do that, we’ll get to where we want to go,” Blackshear said. “I’m confident in myself and I’m confident in these guys beside me. We’ll get to where we want to go.”
What: Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational
Who: Florida vs. Providence
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850