Gators’ offense improving after early alterations

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Florida forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. plays against Butler on Dec. 7 in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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.”


Tuesday

What: Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational

Who: Florida vs. Providence

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.

TV: ESPN2

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

3 COMMENTS

  1. Takes a lot of courage to face and admit your master plan isn’t working 3 games into the season. Hopefully, he caught it early enough to turn the ship to avoid disaster. I can understand why he initially went with the freelance plan with all the athletes and 5-star talent he has on-board because they probably expected to be able to showcase their talent for the scouts. Otherwise, he might have had a bunch of disgruntled superstars. I’m glad he’s going back to working as a team with set plays. But then, coach White might be smarter than us all. It could have been his ploy all along to get what he wants by getting the superstars to buy-in after seeing how badly it could go during the first few games when they are selfish.

  2. “We gave our guys a lot of freedom offensively. We were running a lot of freelance…” -Mike White.
    And still, I hear most of the local sports talk guys say, “They’re a young team, mostly freshman and sophomores.” Well, giving these young players “freedom” may not have been the best offensive strategy. Structure is the key, and practice, practice, practice!
    Go Gators!

  3. Using “they are a young team” for poor offense is an excuse, not a reason. Didn’t Michigan start 5 freshmen, the ‘Fab Five,’? The 04 Gators started 4 sophs and a jr. enroute to the national championship. Now give a reason, like “the young players are playing like they are scared to make shots.”
    The point is that shooting 22% from 3 pt. land and 35% for all FG attempts won’t get you in the NCAA or make you a winning team. I do like the idea of set plays (weak side picks and double screens), but you gotta make open shots to win. As I understand the game, the team with the most points after 40 minutes is the winner. Therefore, if you get zero points, you can’t win. LOL. Lot of talent. Just come together.