From his days as a point guard at Ole Miss from 1995-99, Florida coach Mike White has spent three decades in college basketball.
The third-year UF coach admitted that news of last week’s FBI probe into college basketball was “sobering.” But White does not view the scandal involving four assistant coaches and six major programs allegedly accepting bribes for recruits as having an impact on the health of the game.
“I feel for a lot of student-athletes involved and coaches and families, but I don’t think it’s going to be a huge factor in terms of how many people watch college basketball this year,” White said. “I don’t, again, going back to your term, just the overall health that I think of course there are some things in the sport that need to be addressed, like every sport.
“But we haven’t paid a lot of attention to it, to be honest with you. I’m sure you guys know a lot more about what’s going on than we do. We’re just going to keep doing things the way that we’ve been doing them here.”
White said the Gators are cautious when it comes to NCAA compliance in recruiting student-athletes. Florida landed a pair of commitments for the Class of 2018 this week in five-star point guard Andrew Nembhard and four-star shooting guard Noah Locke. Both are expected to sign National Letters of Intent next month.
“We’re not the only program that approaches it this way, most do,” White said. “That you want to be careful with everything that’s said and who you have relationships with, and how you go about doing what you do. As a staff, you want to be really familiar with the rule book, and you want to have an open line with your compliance department. Jamie McCloskey and Kim Green are really good at what they do. On a very regular basis, we’re in constant communication with those guys as a staff, meet on it a bunch.”
Stokes, Egbunu on mend
White said senior center John Egbunu and freshman center Isaiah Stokes, both rehabbing from torn ACL surgeries, are on track for a January return. But White said due to UF’s potential frontcourt depth, the 6-foot-8 Stokes could decide to redshirt this season and start play on the court in 2018-19.
“There’s still a decision to be made on whether he plays this year,” White said.
Said Stokes: “I would really like to play this season. I’m still not putting it all down but I just, I’m really trying to take every precautionary measure, I really don’t want to re-injure it. I’m just trying to take the safe route because I’m a freshman. I’ve still got time.”
Egbunu, who opted to return for his senior season instead of declaring for the NBA draft, admitted the rehab process has had some trying moments.
“It’s tough, but like I said earlier, it’s gonna make me stronger,” Egbunu said. “I continue to help my teammates and do what I need to do to help the best I possibly can.”
Gak banged up
White said sophomore 6-11 center Gorjok Gak has been held out of individual drills with a knee issue. Gak’s knee flared up after returning from the World University Games in Taiwan in late August, where he represented his native Australia.
Gak said he’s close to 100 percent and should be back soon for official practices. Florida is holding its first official practice Thursday.
“Doing some rehab, should be ready,” Gak said.
Florida graduate transfer Egor Koulechov confirmed that he did in fact make 43 straight 3-pointers during a summer workout. The 6-5 Koulechov shot 47.1 percent from 3-point range for Rice last season and is expected to provide perimeter punch for the Gators this season.
“It just happens sometimes,” Koulechov said. “You just work out. You just kind of shoot it. You get in a little zone. Then you miss like seven in a row and the next thing you know, you make 20. It was just one of those days.”
Florida senior point guard Chris Chiozza said Koulechov has carried over that shooting into the fall.
“In practice yesterday, we had a two-hour practice, he might have missed two shots,” Chiozza said.
White said what he’s impressed most about this season’s incoming freshman class is their work ethics. White said he’ll often find 6-6 swingman DeAundrae Ballard, 6-9 forward Chase Johnson and 6-3 point guard Michael Okauru in the gym, working on their games.
“One thing I can say across the board with our freshmen class, I’ve been blown away by the work ethic,” White said. “My freshmen class lives in the gym. They’ve been terrific in that regard.”
White said Okauru will need to “grow up quickly” to handle minutes as the point backing up Chiozza. Ballard, meanwhile, has displayed good scoring ability but still is adapting to UF’s system. Johnson has impressed UF’s coaches during fall workouts with his versatility and toughness.
“He’s competing every day with Keith Stone and Egor and those type guys,” White said. “He’s had some good workouts.”