As a graduate transfer, Florida senior forward Egor Koulechov understood there would be a learning curve.
Coming from Rice, the sharp-shooting Koulechov has spent the past four weeks in practice getting accustomed to a new system and new teammates.
Florida coach Mike White said the 6-foot-5 Koulechov has made a jump in practice over the past week since an intra-squad scrimmage.
“He had one where he really played well and he has played well since,” White said. “It’s funny how that happens you know. He kind of had his breakthrough practice and you say that but he is not a freshman. But as old as he is it still a new environment and it is a new locker room. And I think that he, his body language changed that next day coming into practice. I think he calmed down a little bit as though he felt at ease.”
Koulechov and another transfer, Jalen Hudson, are vying for the starting small forward spot vacated when Devin Robinson declared for the NBA draft last spring.
“You just go out and work hard, practice the best way that you can,” Koulechov said. “I guess it kind of clicked the last week and I’ve been getting a boost of confidence from my coaches, my teammates. It’s worked out.”
Koulechov, who shot an eye-popping 47.4 percent from 3-point range last season, said the adjustment has been easier because teammates and coaches have been helpful.
“The offense, it’s a little similar to what we did at Rice, systematically,” Koulechov said. “Defensively, there’s just different concepts, things that are done differently, that I had to adjust to. It’s nothing brand new but it’s still things I have to adjust to.”
Florida will begin a stretch of three scrimmages on Sunday with a closed scrimmage against FGCU in Tampa. Then, Florida will face Jacksonville University at Swisher Gym in Jacksonville on Nov. 2 (7 p.m.) in a charity game that will benefit hurricane relief. On Nov. 5, Florida have its final exhibition tuneup against Tampa (2 p.m.) at Exactech Arena.
White said he’s looking forward to the scrimmages to gauge the progress that the Gators have made on the defensive end of the floor. When practices began earlier this month, White said he felt the offense was ahead of the defense. Now, White said he’s not so sure.
“As a staff we’re wondering the same thing and that’s why you play these exhibitions and these closed scrimmages,” White said. “So we’re really excited for the next 10 days or so to find out some of those answers.”
Gak progressing, Johnson out
Freshman forward Chase Johnson (concussion) has been out of practice for the past week while recovering from a concussion. Sophomore center Gorjok Gak (knee) is starting to increase his workload in practice.
“He’s been scrimmaging a little bit in the half court and we hope by this weekend, he’ll start,” White said. “(Trainer) Duke (Werner) thinks that he’ll allow him to do some full court stuff. In the limited amount of time, he’s bigger and he’s stronger and he’s a little bit more confident based off of the experience he got this summer. So, he looks good.”
The injuries up front has allowed redshirt freshman forward Dontay Bassett to showcase himself in practice. White said that the 6-foot-9, 240-pound Bassett is projected to back up Gak and Kevarrius Hayes at center. Bassett sat out last season on a medical redshirt due to a stress fracture in his foot.
“He’s developed some and he’s a freshman of course, making freshman mistakes,” White said. “But I like his attitude, his work ethic, his physicality. He’s probably as physical as anybody that we have.”
Florida’s game against Cincinnati in the Never Forget Tribute Classic on Dec. 9 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., will tip at 6 p.m. and air on ESPN2.